Part 3: CX shines on HKG to DPS
This report is part of a long trip from Goa to Denpassar (Bali). Because it became to lenghty to post as one I cut it into three parts. This is part 3.
Part 1 can be found here: Kingfisher Y - Goa To BOM (by henkybaby Mar 2 2010 in Trip Reports)
Part 2 can be found here: Escaping India - BOM-HKG On CX J (by henkybaby Mar 2 2010 in Trip Reports)
This trip is part of my sabbatical. I am trotting around the globe for 5 months. So far I have been to Australia, Thailand, India and a brief stop in Hong Kong. It was now time to head for my beloved Bali where I will spend 24 days. I am traveling on a Round The World ticket by OneWorld in J.
Seat 88A (Business)
Load factor: 30% in J
Dep: 10:05 (actual 10:00)
I had to leave Hong Kong early (05:00) to prevent getting caught up in the Hong Kong Marathon they were holding that Sunday. I stayed at the ICH in Kowloon and that turned out to be right in the middle of the action. I was so tired the night before that I fell asleep at 09:00 anyways and I was up and ready to go at 04:45. Check out was (too) swift as was the taxi ride to the MTR Airport Express station. I got there at 05:15 and everything opens at 05:30 with the first train leaving at 05:53. Getting the first train out is actually not a bad thing. The lines at customs and security where almost non existent whereas there was quite a line 30 minutes later. The airport is essentially lifeless till 07:30. Shops are closed, so unless you have access to a lounge you will be very bored.
I headed straight to the Wing for breakfast.
I love noodles and dim sum for breakfast...
After breakfast I found out my flight was leaving from gate 62, which is next to the Pier lounge. Better to go there straight away. I had tried for a long time to get myself a seat in the F section of the plane (no F sold on this route) but so far I had been unsuccessful. My last two options where the gate agents or the purser. I wanted to be close. The Pier is a very nice lounge. I prefer it sometimes to the Wing because it is more relaxed and cosy. Depends on my mood I guess.
It was still a very long wait and I fell into the trap of going shopping to kill the time. I bought two watches...
I guess AF is cutting back on cleaning cost...
Soon they were preparing the flight for boarding. I tried to get my F seat, but they once again declined me the privilegde. I was by now getting to terms with the idea that I would not be 'upgraded' and that I was in for my first Upper Deck experience with CX. I had one more shot though, the purser.
My plane getting ready
A different perspective
I headed back to the Pier Lounge to collect my bags and when I got back they were already boarding the plane. CX strictly enforces the separation between premium pax and steerage so I could walk straight onto the plane. At the door I asked if I could 'please, please, pretty please' sit in F. The crew went around asking a ground manager and he came to explain to me that the crew levels today did not allow them to open the cabin since it was required that they had at least one crew member in that area. I gave up and headed upstairs. I must say that everyone was so friendly and accommodating that I almost felt I was now on the CX everyone always talks about but that I had never experienced (apart from one time in F).
The load factor was very low and on the UD there were 6 other pax. A nice British chap (the third officer on the Flight Deck) was talking to all the passengers and we had a very animated conversation about the disaster that is CX's herringbone business class. He told me they are going to replace it quite soon with a new product given that there were so many complaints. It is a design originally made for Virgin (they sued CX over it) and the story goes that the mock up that was approved by CX was 4 inches wider than the real product. In real corporate style they however continued installing the wrong product instead of admitting a mistake. A new chap is in charge of the new J product and I was told he was very hands on and the product is excellent and a major improvement on the current seats.
I found the seat not that bad this time. Rumour has it that the seats on the UD are longer than on the main deck because they are at less of an angle but I was told this is a fable. Having sat in both I also found my feet to end up at about the same point. The UD however feels a lot better, exclusive and is very private. Service is also excellent with two very attentive cabin crew catering to my every need. The purser (flight director or whatever CX calls them) also came up for quite a lenghty chat. That was a OW Emerald perk I guess since she did not talk to the other pax.
Well, I guess you get the layout by now.
The cockpit door was still open and having befriended one of the flight crew I asked if I could sneak a peek. I could tell that the captain wasn't too thrilled, but he thawed out pretty quicly.
Boarding had gone very quickly (light load in Y too I guess) and we were underway 5 minutes ahead of schedule. During the taxi I was thinking how much I always think that the ceiling of the UD cabin in the middle always looks like an escape hatch or sun roof... Maybe it is just me.
I tried to take some pictures during takeoff, but you really have a hard time looking out. I only figured that out before the landing and took a lot of picture then. Suffice to say I needed a massage after that.
Finally a flight to stay awake during. That doesn't happen to me a lot. Although I was still exhausted from my India adventure and the early rise in Hong Kong I wanted to experience the whole thing. They had Inglorious Basterds on the AVOD and that turned out to be an excellent choice.
Since the crew where all so nice during boarding I managed to drink 3 glasses of champagne even before takeoff. That made me a little light headed so I was glad when they started meal service. I made a picture of the menu.
I chose the salmon and the ling fish. The salmon presentation looked really good and it tasted similar.
After that the presentation of the main course was a little disappointing and I must say that it tasted rather bland too.
It was a partly satisfying meal and I decided to skip desert, although the lovely FA's kept asking me if I really did not want any. It really makes all the difference if you have genuinely hospitable people looking after you. That happens not quite enough on CX in my experience. On this flight they showed they can do it. I must say, if the service is this good everything else falls into place too. The seat became more comfortable and I was almost sorry to hear that we were preparing for landing.
The captain had expected to land about 10 minutes ahead of schedule but we had to take a slightly long approach which took us over Lombok. Nice views although my camera had better ones than I did personally.
I could not make heads or tails of the scenery. I have landed at DPS many, many times but everything I saw was unfamiliar. It turned out that we landed North to South. A first for me.
The landing was almost unnoticeable. I did not feel the plane touch down and for a moment I was even wondering if we had.
Home sweet home!
This aircraft has provided me with the best CX experience so far. It looks good here on Bali.
Being one of the first off the plane I was hoping for a short wait at VOA and customs. However, we were just behind a China Airlines flight and that means panicked tourists. It was fortunate they all stood in the same two lines, leaving a very short one for me at the end. It took 15 minutes and I was where I most wanted to be.
This was an excellent CX experience and I really wish they would deliver this service consistenly. I would then be tempted to choose them even if their hard product is inferior to BA (IMHO). Unfortunately I have had too many poor experiences for this one exception to make a difference. Compliments to the crew though!
As always: feedback is very much appreciated if only to discover people actually read this stuff...
[Edited 2010-03-02 04:30:54]