28 February 2009, Saturday
Air Canada 8118
Portland International (PDX)
Vancouver International (YVR)
Bombardier Dash 8-300
C-GETA at PDX
Since my last trip
, there have been some major changes in my life. I decided to chuck in my job that left me overworked and unhappy and headed back to university to finish up the degree I still hadn't finish after... oh, a decade or so since I enrolled!
Of course, late February and early March is still a time that school is in session and the only reason I ended up on this trip was to head home to Hong Kong to attend the funeral of my great grandmother (my father's grandmother). She was quite old, around 115 years old so it wasn't unexpected but nonetheless, it was still with a heavy heart that I headed home to Hong Kong for the first time in two and a half years.
I initially wanted to go back for less than a week but all of the tickets were too expensive if I chose to stay less than a week. I eventually settled on a US $860 fare on Air Canada, connecting through YVR
was also an option with a connection in NRT
but I wanted to avoid their poor food if possible. Not to mention that the prospect of arriving at HKG
at around 10pm didn't really appeal to me.
I was dropped off at PDX
around 8:45am by a friend and my girlfriend and headed over to the UA
counters with my one bag to check in. At PDX
handles the check in process for all AC
flights. The line was long but moved quickly, although there were some people who were a bit slow with the EasyCheck-in machines. I don't fault them for that but there weren't enough UA
staff to help people who needed assistance. I eventually made my way to an EasyCheck-in machine but had problems locating my reservation. I first tried scanning my passport, then entering my Mileage Plus number, and then the actual Mileage Plus card. After that didn't work, a credit card (Mileage Plus branded to boot!) didn't work and I eventually had to dig up the confirmation number off of my iPod Touch in order to pull up the reservation. I waited for a minute or two for an agent to take a look at my passport and tag my bags and after that it was across the hall to drop off my bag at the x-ray machine.
operates out of the E concourse, which they share with UA
. I suppose share is a bit generous. Basically, AC
only operates out of gate E6, which is located below the rest of the concourse. It's a holding room for various commuter flights that require one to walk to their plane. Since AC
only schedules Dash 8s into PDX
, they only operate out of this gate.
With this in mind, I proceeded through the security checkpoint located just outside of concourses D & E. It was a pretty quiet at PDX
on a Saturday morning, so security was a breeze. The E concourse hadn't changed much since I was last there (probably last April to catch a UA PDX
flight), although I did notice that the Laurelwood Brewpub was now open. As much as I love beer (and Laurelwood is pretty good), I felt a bit odd going there for breakfast. Since I had time to kill, I walked down to the D concourse which was a bit busier. I passed on the food options once again, partly because my stomach wasn't feeling too well. I did, however, go to Powell's Books and told myself that if they had anything by Anthony Bourdain, I'd buy it. Lo and behold, they had a copy of his writing compilation, The Nasty Bits
, which I gladly purchased.
Current advertising campaign to encourage people to fly directly from PDX to NRT, FRA or AMS. Sorry, not this time!
LH advertisement at PDX. Of course the gentleman in the picture is happy, he's got an empty seat next to him!
As much as I enjoy the old font, someone should probably update this
Well, at least these are new
N590HA leaving for OGG or HNL
N589AS pulling out of a gate at the C concourse
Too early for a beer...
I eventually made my way to gate E6, which was packed as multiple flights leave from this gate, including a United Express flight to LAX
that's operated on a CRJ. I felt bad for all of those people and sort of wondered why they would subject themselves to that. Our flight was delayed as our plane hadn't arrived from YVR
and while my notes mention that we only left ten minutes after our scheduled departure time of 10:10, it certainly felt longer than that. Once the plane arrived from YVR
and all the passengers were offloaded, it was a quick turn and soon I was walking out to the plane that would take us to YVR
, C-GETA, a Dash 8-300 that's been flying for almost twenty years.
Crowded gate E6, although this is before it got really bad. I absolutely abhor this gate
Covered walkway leading to our plane
Closer look at the fuselage of C-GETA
Boarding was pretty quick with the flight attendant taking a look at our boarding passes to confirm whether or not we could sit in our assigned seats due to her need to balance out the plane. I ended up seated next to a gentleman in 6C but since the plane was only about half full, I was given permission to move up to 5A
. Soon after, the recorded safety announcement came on and we taxied past the D & E concourses before making a 180 degree turn onto runway 10L and taking off. When off the ground, we quickly made a left turn to head north towards YVR
by way of the state of Washington.
Not much to note on this flight. The service, as expected, was minimal and involved a snack & beverage run. I declined both and thumbed through the inflight magazine, EnRoute
, and spent my time staring out the window. It was cloudy from about Kelso to the southern fringes of Seattle but once over Seattle, I could make out downtown and the Space Needle. Eventually we headed a little west, flying over the lovely San Juan islands and we approached the Lower Mainland. We made a left over Delta, near the Alex Fraser Bridge and then made a simple approach onto runway 26R. We didn't taxi long and soon found ourselves at the Transborder gates allocated for smaller commuter planes.
KPDX overview on a typically cloudy Pacific Northwest day
Propelling us towards Canada
Overflying Ballard, a cool Seattle neighbourhood located north of downtown
Flying over some of the San Juan Islands
Alex Fraser Bridge in Delta, British Columbia
I hadn't been in YVR
for a little over five years and had forgotten how long of a walk it is from where my plane had parked to where Canadian immigration was located. After quite a long walk, I arrived at a seemingly deserted Canadian immigration post. This obviously was not a busy time of the day for Transborder traffic to connect to other international traffic but the sense of desertion was only enhanced by the fact that YVR
seems to rely on natural light. Where I was and on this day, there wasn't too much of it so it made everything seem a bit dark. The immigration official was very nice and we had a nice chat about grandparents and great grandparents, along with what courses I was taking at university. He also asked when the last time I was in Vancouver was, which was about four years ago, although that was a land crossing. I was waved through and then proceeded down the escalators to the International concourse of YVR
Pictures at YVR during my layover
Shops at the International Terminal
Stream located in the International Terminal. Very nice touch
Large fish tank, which can be seen from further away in the picture above
Electronic departure FIDS. Also, a seven hour delay to start off your Mexican vacation doesn't seem like fun at all
Corridor at YVR
Poutine from the A&W. It was pretty good considering it was fast food and, you know, not in Quebec. For those of you not in the know, Poutine are fries topped with cheese curds and gravy. Good stuff that keeps a lot of doctors employed in Quebec!
28 February 2009, Saturday
Air Canada 7
Vancouver International (YVR)
Hong Kong International (HKG
)[/b] 18:45 +1
C-FIVQ at YVR
My layover at YVR
was not long at all and was actually the right amount of time. Enough time to not feel rushed and to be able to grab a bite and wander around. It seemed like at this hour there were a bank of flights leaving for various East Asian destinations. I was a little perplexed as to why two alliance partners, CA
would operate flights to PEK
at pretty much the same time. Oh well, after all they're the professionals, not me.
Gate 54 at YVR
Children's play area next to gate 54
CA A330 for PEK
Another view of C-FIVQ
Boarding was nothing remarkable and was called by rows, working their way from the back to the front of the economy cabin. I was seated in 22H on the aisle and initially only a young woman occupied the window seat, leaving the middle seat free. However, in front of us was a mother and her small child and behind us, the grandparents. The young lady ended up switching with the grandparents before the cabin door closed, so I did end up with people next to me. The cabin seemed to be in a good mood as everyone seemed to speak Cantonese and was helping each other out in terms of storing things in the overhead bins. I don't believe we had a 100% load factor but it was very close. Considering the economy and the fact that it was early March (post Chinese New Year and pre spring break), I thought that AC
should be happy with this. Then again, who knows what their yield on today's flight would be.
Down the jetway
I should also mention that this was my first time on a 777-300 and boy, she was a very beautiful plane. This was one of the reasons I elected to connect through YVR
(and a subsequent five hour layover on the way back) as opposed to fly through NRT
. I noticed how little the sides of the plane seemed to curve and how the bins barely seemed to be there. C-FIVQ had her first flight in late November, so she was still a very new plane.
Mood lighting on the 77W
The safety demonstration was given through the IFE and all announcements were made first in English, then French, Cantonese and Mandarin. Cabin crew seemed to be a fifty fifty mix of Chinese flight attendants and your Caucasian Canadian crew. Take off was completed on 26L and soon I settled in for a long ride over to HKG
IFE during a pre departure cabin announcement. Note the USB port on the left
Power port which didn't work, of course/
Anyone would frequents a.net is pretty aware of AC
's endless IFE issues. Mainly, there are complaints that it is slow and responsive. In addition to that, there are endless complaints about the moving map not working. A bit embarrassing to a company which touted its XMed planes with so much fanfare. To me, every thing seemed fine during the safety demonstration but once the system was switched on and I tried to see what television programs were available, I got this screen:
Unfortunately, I had this screen in front of me for the next thirteen hours of my life. My biggest complaint wasn't even that the system couldn't work but since, as I found out on my HKG
flight, turning off the screen involved an onscreen command, I could not even turn the darn thing off. Very annoying, especially when the cabin is dark and I'm trying to sleep.
I'm not one of those who cares about the IFE one way or another, although with all things being equal, I'd rather fly on a carrier that has it but it's not a deal breaker for me. Instead, I had my alternative IFE:
A good book, Anthony Bourdain's "The Nasty Bits" and some red wine
I also had the company of a couple magazines I bought at YVR
(Maclean's, Sports Illustrated's commemorative Montreal Canadiens centennial issue and The Hockey News' commemorative Montreal Canadiens centennial issue), along with peering out the windows located near the bathroom.
During the first beverage run, which took place not long after we reached cruising altitude, I mentioned to a flight attendant in Cantonese that I was having issues with my IFE and if she could come take a look at it when they weren't so busy. She came back by after the meal service and said that since only isolated seats were having an issue, they couldn't reboot the whole system. She mentioned that there were a couple of empty seats and that I was free to switch seats if I wanted to. I declined as I didn't want to end up in a middle seat for the remaining eleven and a half hours or so. They also made an announcement at some point about the system but nothing was ever resolved.
Red wine from the initial beverage run
For the first meal service I had the chicken, which turned out to be chicken in a red sauce on top of Orzo. Of course, as with all North American carriers now, there was no menu on an intercontinental flight. Tsk tsk. This bothers me to no end because you have no idea what you're getting until you peel the foil off. Accompanying the main was a beet salad and a berry cobbler. After that, I killed time reading and occasionally wandered around the plane.
The second meal came around six hours later and consisted of roast beef, potatoes and vegetables, along with a fruit cup. The food was somewhere between good and okay and definitely better than NW
catering. Blech. Finally, a snack was provided four and half hours later (or about an hour and a half before arrival) of a meat, cucumber and some cream spread sandwich, a small bag of apple slices and then a curry chicken Cup Noodle. I would say that cabin crew was alright about making water runs. Nothing amazing but they also didn't all just hide in the galley for the rest of the flight.
Snack, although without the Cup Noodles that came later
I should also mention that I ended up helping the grandfather next to me with the IFE, partially because his English wasn't very good and couldn't really navigate the system. It's a bit odd to me that there's no options to run it in any language besides English and French. He also wasn't given headphones when a flight attendant came around with those prior to takeoff, so I handed him mine since I wasn't using it. You know, since I didn't have an IFE. At some point the grandparents busted out a bag of chocolate chip cookies and insisted that I take two or three, which I thought was awfully nice of them. About an hour before landed, I also ended up talking for awhile with the gentleman directly behind me. We talked about Portland and Winnipeg, which was where he usually resided. Once again, a nice mood in the cabin probably partially due to the fact that we were all looking forward to returning home to Hong Kong.
We approached HKG
by flying south of Hong Kong Island and then making a right to line up with 07L on the northern coast of Lantau. We were greeted by a dark and cloudy HKG
and taxied for awhile to gate.
My impressions of the 777-300ER were very positive and I loved the plane. I can't wait to be on another one again. AC
was alright and outside of the IFE failing, the crew were fine, as was the food. I'd probably fly them over any of the American carriers, at least if I'm travelling from PDX
to any point in East Asia.
I should also mention that I did do the reverse HKG
six days after I arrived in HKG
. Unfortunately, I was running a fever and other fun stuff during the flight, so I didn't take any pictures or for that matter, really enjoy AC
's service. The IFE worked and I utilised it a bit. The food was decent but I have no recollection of two of the services. However, the congee (rice porridge) served prior to landing was exactly what I wanted and needed. Cabin crew was good about getting me hot water when I went to ask for some in the galley (for my Lemsips) and my seat mate (a nice man from Drayton Valley, Alberta) and I chatted for awhile.
HKG pictures (on three separate occasions over six days)
Arrivals Hall A
Leading to the buses
Do you know the way to Terminal 2?
HKG ceiling pattern
Main terminal building, airside
C-FITW operating as AC8 HKG - YVR
MF 737-800, a rare sight for this Portland resident
Thanks for reading!