Brought to you by the arrogant traveler.
Today is the second try to get from DPS to CPT via HKG and JNB. The first try was Friday when the flight got canceled due to mechanical difficulties. You can read more about that experience here. After two days in the excellent Conrad Resort (all expenses paid by CX) I was ready. Bring it on. To be safe I called HKG to ensure that they were flying a 747 with the new product on the route and of course they were.
Now some (albeit a few) people here do not seem to get or appreciate my rather sarcastic view on events that transpire every now and again but trust me: I am not a complainer. I am in Quality Assurance and have a hospitality industry past and therefore I may notice more or have higher standards. It never gets me down though. Always point out the mistakes with a smile. (And then ask for compensation which I always get). Since I like trip reports to be entertaining I will highlight the little and/or larger mistakes and annoyances once again.
Flying time: 4:25
Todays first mistake was that the aircraft that Hong Kong calls a 747 is in fact a 777 with regional style business class. Not the worst problem in the world but I was looking forward to my first flight in a CX 747 First Class cabin. This is an aviation enthusiasts website so I am relying on the sympathy vote here... I expressed my disappointment at check in and as they understood they promised to keep the seat next to me empty. I do prefer the 'old' or 'regional' J to their new business class product by the way. I am not claustrophobic but that new seat gives me the creeps.
Also the promised 2A seat for HKG-JNB (“Are you sure it is not broken this time? Yes sir, no worry!”) had turned to 2D again. I have requested that they change it (again) and they assured me someone will meet me in HKG to sort it out.
After a short wait for some administrative stuff to be sorted out CX tries to get me through customs without paying departure tax for a second time. The Indonesian government will have none of that and the CX employee courteously pays it for me.
The lounge is very busy this time. I notice that the food offering is exactly the same as 2 days ago, but that is of course no surprise. I was just in time to get a few shots of my plane arriving.
I will not elaborate on the lounge this time. For those that are interested, you can find pictures here together with story of the first attempt (http://www.airliners.net/aviation-forums/trip_reports/read.main/149716/). After a comfortable two hour wait in the lounge it is time to head to the gate. We pass through security very swiftly and I manage one picture of our plane before boarding.
I quickly found my seat(s): 16A and 16C. Nicely in the middle of the very busy first J cabin. I asked the purser if there were a lot of upgrades due to the equipment change but she said no. Must be a profitable route this. Besides the seat next to me there was but one other seat vacant: the one in front of me. Good, nobody reclining into me either. There is also a second, small J cabin behind the main cabin with two rows. That one was filled with children. I am not a 777 enthusiast. I know some people love the plane but I think it has no personality. Neither has this 777 but that is very much compensated by a terrific crew this time.
The only way a 777 cabin is pretty…
The seats are regional but not the old style regional with the manual controls. This one has electric controls. Still would have preferred the 747…
Leaving the gate
The airport was quite busy for such a small one. It was a mad dash of the gates to the one runway which we lost so we were behind a Thai Airways, a Garuda and Eva air. There were also some coming in. Made for some photo opportunities at least.
Bad quality picture but rare enough to include
After a fiery take off we head in a northerly direction towards Hong Kong. Our route takes us over Borneo and close to Manila. Flying time is about 4 hours and 25 minutes.
Views of Bali from the skies
The purser comes over and sits next to me. “So, Mr Henkybaby, I have heard about your misfortune. Don't worry we will make this flight a good one for you. Can I take your meal order now so we make sure you will have your choice?”. Now that is the kind of service I like. Not expect nor demand, but like. It shows consideration and makes the whole experience more personal. I order the beef if she can assure me that she can prepare it medium rare. She says she will do her best and I believe her.
I must say that the service during this flight was one of the best I ever had. It felt like sincere effort was put into my well being on board (and of all the other pax, mind you!).
Directly after take off we get a sate. I must say, as a Dutchman I have had much, much better.
About an hour into the flight meal service starts. I am served first, probably because they took special care of my steak. It is as medium as can be expected on an aircraft and very tasty. The purser comes by and inquires if the steak is to my liking or do I want to switch? I tell her I am happy.
Here are some pictures of the meal in question.
Main course did not look impressive, but it was nice
Desert was excellent
The best part of this flight is the scenery. I think it inspired me to start a new subject: cloudscapes. South East Asia is renowned for wonderful skies and today I got a special treat. Sorry that there are so many but I like each and every one of them.
That wasn't too bad now, was it? Which one is your favorite?
Unfortunately it became dark about one hour before our descent into HKG so I have no pictures of the landing. The CX planes our now fitted with nose-cams. The 777 has them placed right behind the nose gear. Interesting to watch. I do now understand how Star Trek (original series!) made some of their effects. Fly into a cloud at night with the lights on and what you see on the cam looks like you are flying into a vortex. Spooky stuff. Only just before touchdown the airport becomes visible. Still you get a false sense of hight. On the screen it looked like we were about 30 feet below the runway.
Nose came before take off
Flying time: 12:05
My next flight was scheduled for departure at 23:45 which means I had a couple of hours at the lounge. I needed to do some shopping too. Upon exiting the air bridge I noticed a sign with my name on it. CX kept its promise and had an agent waiting for me at the gate with a new boarding pass for seat 2K this time. He also advised me to use The Pier this time since it was much closer to my departure gate (33). I decided to follow his advise and forgo on the cabana's in The Wing. Last time I was in The Pier I noticed they had Day Break Rooms and I imagined them to be much the same as the cabanas. They are however nothing more than a room with a chair and a TV. Perfect for a little relaxing, but not for sleeping.
I used the room to repack some stuff in my suitcase to make room for the items I bought. After that it was straight to the showers. I like showering while in transit. Feels like such a nice perk.
Quite a powerful shower too!
Repacked and refreshed I went into the lounge to relax a bit. This process was made more difficult by the Chinese gentleman next to me who coughed every 10 seconds. A harsh, bark-like cough. I heard a lot of people in Hong Kong do that and I always wanted to sent them to a doctor… It sounds unhealthy. Here are some lounge impressions.
After an hour or so it was time to go to the gate. I had been looking forward to my flight in the new CX First and nothing was going to prevent me from flying it. Something some of you are aware of by now. The gate is quite near the lounge and after a short walk and very swift check-in I entered the plane. I must say that I was impressed but not overwhelmed. Maybe I made too much out of it after waiting so long and missing out a few times. Of six seats, four were occupied. Not a bad load in these times.
No overhead bins so storage is like this (or in the little closet next to your seat)
The seat I did not want and now use as storage. It will later become my bed.
And here is the pompous, arrogant elite traveler enjoying his victory over old style SQ J!
Here a picture of their J product. I do not like it.
A quick observation on the go… I think that the difference between CX J and F is big enough to warrant the price difference where as I find F and J with BA about the same in comfort. BA’s business class is too good for its own good. I would not be surprised if they will abolish F altogether.
I was a bit torn. Since my flight was cancelled and my schedule changed instead of having an overnight in Cape Town I would be there only nine hours. Very tiring trip in other words. On the other hand I wanted to maximize my CX F experience. After take off I decided on a movie and dinner. The seats had these huge 16x9 flat screens and that is great for movies. I started up ‘he’s just not that into you’ and had a little surprise. The movie was shot in 16x9 but compressed to 4x3 on the 16x9 screen… For those of you who do not know what that looks like: everything is compressed in width. Looks stupid. I asked the FA and she did not understand either. Who has the answer?
Luckily I brought my own entertainment, but I found it rather stupid. Ah well… Dinner it is. On CX you always start with caviar. The portions are getting smaller
Main course. Chicken something. Pretty ok for airline food. It was way past midnight and I did not really pay attention.
I had two glasses of champagne and one of white wine for good measure and I felt I needed some sleep. I went to change into my PJ’s (I look good in the CX ones) and the FA asked if she could make my bed. I asked her to prepare 2D for the night.
My comfy bed.
After taking some mood shots of the cabin by night I called it a night.
The flight was pretty bumpy at times and that woke me up but otherwise I had a pretty good sleep. Although the seats look much more impressive than BA F or LAN J and certainly than JALways old F, CX new first ranks after them. Maybe even after their old First. The seats are a bit lumpy as a bed. Not complaining mind you. I would jump at a new chance at them.
I awoke about 2 hours before landing. I felt that my body clock was a little out of whack and even though I had a good 7 hours of sleep I was still very tired. With the very long trip still ahead of me I needed breakfast. CX offered a choice between Western and Dim Sum. I chose the latter.
I started with some fruit
Next the disappointing Dim Sum
Accompanied by a nice cupper.
Breakfast service was a bit spotty. I had to call the FA a couple of times because they forgot stuff (like teaspoons, sweetener, etc) and because it took the forever to clean the table. I did not like their Dim Sum. It was very tasteless and nothing like the one I always have for breakfast in HKG.
Soon after breakfast we landed in JNB. It was still dark out but only barely. By the time I made it through customs (10 minutes) and out of the airport (another 10) it was light. I had planned 3 hours in JNB to have a good shower, change and have (another) breakfast at the arrivals lounge at the IC hotel. Although it still said ‘Premier Lounge’ on all their signs it turns out there is no more arrivals lounge at JNB. Somebody could have told me… Starting September the arrivals lounge will be at the airport but for now there is nothing. Bummer.
Picture during landing
BA6411 – operated by Comair
Flying time: 2:10
I headed down to the Comair check-in to change my ticket to the next available flight. That one left at 08:25. I needed to go to the sales desk to change the time, back to the check in desk to check in and upon entering the lounge I found out that I held a boarding pass for the 10:30 flight still. It took the lounge agent about 45 minutes to change the BP and she needed all kinds of information from me since nothing is apparently in the system anymore after the cancellation by CX. Which reminds me. The rebooking I eventually got is also against the rules. My AONE6 expired the day before my last flight commenced. Ah well, lets not be picky.
I had about an hour at the lounge at JNB (domestic). It is a Terraces lounge with no shower (grrrr) but a nice view.
Love to fly her
My plane (delayed by 40 minutes)
JNB domestic apparently does not do priority boarding but it all went rather smoothly. The flight was very busy but I did have row 2 on the starboard side to myself.
Although the skies were clear the flight encountered some very – almost disturbingly – hard bumps. Like going over a sleeping policeman at 90 mph. Out of the blue. Strange. I am not bothered by turbulence of any kind but I found this quite unique.
Otherwise the flight was pretty nice. Some good views and the service by Comair is always excellent in J.
I was lost in time at the moment and was served yet another breakfast. Catering at Comair is good so I took it. Jogging will come later.
Egg & Bacon thingy
I settled down with a newspaper. Sometimes it is very sobering to read foreign newspapers, especially of countries like South Africa or India, where violence is at a different level than in Western Europe. It helps to put our good fortune into perspective.
After the newspaper I decided to enjoy the views and I will let you join in
The weather in Cape Town was unseasonably warm and sunny. I have that effect on the weather. It made for a nice approach.
I was lucky with my delay. 2 days ago it would have been pouring with rain. I decided not to spend the day at the airport but overcome my fatigue, rent a car a see the world! No seriously, last time I was here I did not do table mountain and I wanted to have lunch at the hotel I missed out on. You will see why in a minute.
First Table Mountain.
Abseiling guide, not a half hearted suicide attempt
After spending 30 minutes on the top (where I was freezing since I did not bring a jacket on this trip) I decided that Camps Bay was a better place to be. I drove to the hotel, parked my car and myself in the sun by the pool and spend a wonderful afternoon there. My recommendation to you if you ever go to Cape Town.
My view for the day
Some pictures of the hotel
At 4:30pm it was time to head for the airport. Traffic is notorious and it took me about an hour to drive the 30 or so kilometers. Before handing in my rental one quick self portrait in the back window.
Flying time: 11:15
Customs at CPT was a mess. There were about 3 windows open and I was number 45 in line. I was however lucky since about 10 minutes after I arrived the line had tripled and one of the custom officials had to deal with a lady with an expired passport leaving two windows. In the line were about 30 Indian nationals who had (individually, not collectively) showed up way too late for their Emirates flight to Dubai. Yes, they have the tendency to get to the airport far too late. It’s a thing. At least, so I was told by the Emirates ground staff who tried to persuade customs to let them cut the line (as they were already doing but I was stopping each and everyone, cheered on by many pax in line). Customs would have none of that and even let the passengers who cut the line get back to the very end of it. I am so in love with that SA Custom Official lady. We exchanged big smiles. The Indian crowd was of course very offended since now they might not make their flight and loudly started discussing the inconsiderate attitude of the custom officials. My reply: be there on time and you will have no issues. Your fault, not theirs.
Anyways, after about an hour I cleared customs too and headed straight to the lounge to get my well deserved shower.
The BA CPT international departure lounge is a standard Terraces lounge without a view. Their national lounge is better.
By now I was really getting exhausted and could not wait to get in my seat and sleep. When the flight was called I was one of the first in line to prevent the wait in the air bridge. However, they have a new feature at check in: another security check (random). It was performed rather clumsily and I did not notice it was a check at first. Neither did some of the other pax. It seemed to be performed on F & J pax only....
I was approached by a youngster asking if I had a camera in my bag. I replied I had several and started to walk on. He stopped me again and asked me if I had a mobile phone in my bag (still no explanation why he was asking) to which I replied I carried more electronics than he could think of and started towards the gate again. He then became annoyed (why? He still had not explained himself) and said
“Sir, would you mind standing still and opening your bag?”
“Yes, I would. I want to get to my seat before the line forms.” I replied honestly.
“Sir, this is an extra security check.”
“Ah, now you tell me. Shouldn’t you have done that before?”
His female colleague was giggling and giving me a smile, apparently amused.
“You can have my bags and do with them what you like, but I want them back closed and in order and I will be keeping an eye on you. It took me forever to get everything in so unpacking is at your own risk.”
He started to get a bit nervous, unzipped one bag, had a formal look and closed it again. He inspected nothing. By now there was a line all the way up the long bridge and it took 10 minutes. I hate that.
Once in my seat I asked the FA to give me 3 bottles of water and told her that I would be her quietest customer today. "You can skip dinner and breakfast, just let me sleep." The very attractive and kind FA brought me my water and an extra pillow.
Soon my opposing passenger came to sit down. He was a very big dude and immediately started removing zits from his face and picking his nose. Yuck! What do you do? Nowhere to hide! I tried to stare out the window and miss his reflection, praying we be off the ground soon so I could close the partition. I think I did that the moment the wheels left the ground, much to his annoyance since he was also leaning over to watch the take off. Idiot. Ah well, I got my eye mask out, put in my ear plugs and everything after that is a blur. No pictures I am afraid.
I woke up 2 hours before landing because my seat mate had now resulted to violently moving about in his seat, shaking all four seats attached to each other. Since I was up I decided on the cereal part of the breakfast and a cup of tea. The tea was loop warm.
The view from 64K
Mr. Gruesome had decided he wanted a view and opened the divider. That lasted about ten seconds. He did not try again and it stayed closed the rest of the way. BA J is fantastic with the divider up. Only with the divider up. Unless there is a gorgeous woman on the other side…
Transfer to the lounge at T5 went smoothly although there was a very long line at security. The Fast Lane was not living up to its name with a lot of inexperienced people in it who took forever to get it right.
The lounge experience in itself was nice. I was really tired and had a long wait (last minute change meant I had to choose a flight midday or spent another 150GBP. I will survive in T5. I had a Spa treatment and a nice hot breakfast that they now serve in Galleries First. With so much time to kill of course there are pictures.
The lounge terrace
And some planes. Too tired to comment on them all. Shooting through the windows means they are not all excellent but I think you appreciate them just the same.
The only way it looks remotely impressive
BA can’t remember
Flying time: 0:50
At 13:10 my plane left for AMS. I was in 21D which is all the way in the back of the A319. The plane was packed. I have not sat in the back of a plane for quite some time but I noticed that there is much more shaking back there. Especially during take off and landing. Not bad, just an observation.
It took forever to deplane and by now I was longing for a new shower and my own home. Probably one of the longest trips I ever made but easily doable when travelling First/Business.
CX made a good recovery after their first impression. There are still some loose ends but I expect them to be sorted. Comair was great as always. The greatest disappointment was that the arrivals lounge at JNB was closed and the biggest surprise was the wonderful day I had at Cape Town.
Hope you enjoyed the long read and the pictures. Feedback is always appreciated, even when it is criticism.
[Edited 2009-06-10 01:13:08]
[Edited 2009-06-10 01:16:00]