WELCOME TO MY 35thTRIP REPORT
will cover my trip to Fiji on the following itinerary:
- Bula Boeing # 1: Hong Kong to Nadi on Air Pacific in Tabua Class (B767-300ER)
- Nadi overnight stay
- Bula Boeing # 2: Nadi to Auckland on Air Pacific in Tabua Class (B747-400)
AROUND THE WORLD
In August 2011, I embarked on my first ever Round The World trip. Over 10 days, this 'boutique' journey spanned across five regions and included an ideal mix of airlines, of which some are the legendary tried and admired, and others of the more exotic variety. This will result in a total of four TR
's which will hopefully keep everyone entertained for some time to come.
Today's second episode, follows the following recently posted TR
by our beloved reporter Mr. SR
103, aka KLM Royal Dutch Airlines:
Cathay Pacific: Re-Discovering The Heart Of Asia (by SR 103 Nov 8 2011 in Trip Reports)
While I am used to traveling alone, it is always more enjoyable to have some company for part, if not all of the journey. Both SR
103 and myself are huge fans of Cathay Pacific so this created such positive energy perfect for this trip. In the end, and as per SR
103's fantastic cover on Cathay Pacific, they scored ultra-high (expectedly), and especially with that upgrade.
I have covered my beloved Cathay Pacific a thousand times, so it couldn't have been any more perfect than for it come from just the very person who inspired me to write my own TRs! So if you haven't done so already, please enjoy it before reading this.
My RTW path so far
Map generated by the Great Circle Mapper
- copyright © Karl L. Swartz
B A C K G R O U N D
It was a bit of a struggle trying to find an airline to transport me over this portion of the journey. In reality, it was Auckland that I needed to get to, and Nadi turned out to be an added bonus. As such, my initial flight search was based on options that would get me to Auckland in the most direct of ways.
If I were to skip the Hong Kong transit, Emirates would have been an option, but as EK
usually gets my fair share of the game, I wanted this to be an EK
-free RTW! Other options included Air New Zealand, Qantas, or even Cathay Pacific all the way.
Until one typical day, none other than Sam Chui simply said "try Air Pacific, you'll get on their only 767 which has never been revealed before, and they're so cheap." And his suggestion certainly did not disappoint. Air Pacific offered a perfect connection at Hong Kong, even all the way to Auckland. But since I was going to Fiji, it made sense to stay overnight and check things out.
Decision made, the next logical step was to hop online and purchase the ticket. On Air Pacific's website (www.airpacific.com), one can easily book an entire Fiji holiday including flights, hotels, and what have you. Out of all the islander airlines I have so far flown on, I found this website to be the most up-to-date and user friendly.
I was able to book my flight, including the stopover without any hassle, and purchasing my ticket was just as easy. However, considering that my fare was on the lower end of the scale, I was -for some odd reason- not entitled to pre-selecting my seat. But in the end it did not matter as the flight in Tabua Class -Air Pacific's theme for Business Class- was not full.
Ticket in hand, it was time to reveal Air Pacific! Of course, it is not my cup of tea to go on about being the first to cover an airline or a route, but I am more than happy to say that it is my first time on Air Pacific. Sam Chui had in the past covered this airline on the forum, and today, I hope this report will be as enjoyable as Sam's!
ORIGIN HONG KONG
Arriving Hong Kong at 11:35am on CX738, I had parted ways with SR
103 where I was to continue onto Nadi, and he stayed back overnight. I could have easily connected to Air Pacific by ways of an airside transfer desk, but instead I wanted to do this from its purest form of origin, i.e. the landside check-in counter.
As with Royal Jordanian, Kingfisher, Jet Airways, and Philippine Airlines, Air Pacific is one of those oddballs that uses Terminal 2 at Hong Kong International Airport. As off-beat as this Terminal may be, there can't be any better way to check-in for your flight, have a decent meal, watch planes, go to a museum, and watch a movie all within a few steps of walking distance from each other. Heck, you could even skip the check-in portion and do everything else if you liked, whether or not you were a traveler.
The check-in hall at Terminal 2
Inside The Discovery Centre at Hong Kong
From “Milk Run” to milked out!
Air Pacific is handled by Cathay Pacific at Hong Kong, which means that it is no different to checking in for a typical Cathay flight. There were a total of five counters allocated to Air Pacific, of which one was solely designated to handle Tabua Class passengers. Arriving at the counters at 1:55pm, I was instantly waived towards an agent as queues were at a minimum.
Air Pacific check-in counters
I was checked in within five minutes by a very efficient agent who managed to trace my connecting checked luggage, assign me a seat, print my boarding card, and prepare my lounge invite. All in all it was a very seamless process where I was then handed my documents, and also directed towards the Cathay Pacific Business Class lounge.
While previously traveling out of Terminal 2 on Jet Airways involved a maze of a walk/transport to get airside, I decided to take the more scenic route this time by walking towards Terminal 1 and accessing the airside facility through the immigration and security points from there.
At 2:35pm, I was at Terminal 1's immigration counters, where my boarding pass and details were verified at the document check station. While it wasn't an issue overall, It did seem like the agent had consulted with his colleague -in Cantonese / Mandarin- about my intention to go airside from T1 when I could have done so from T2
. But in the end it was a non-issue and I was eventually done with both immigration and security by 2:45pm.
Airside at HKIA
All of my experiences at Hong Kong seemed to be quite balanced from a congestion point of view. I had never at any time felt like the airport was too crowded, nor too deserted. It was always a comfortable equilibrium where I casually arrive at my gate with or without any stop in between, and without any problem.
In order to get to Gate 50, and Cathay Pacific's 'The Pier', I had to take the mass people mover that I find to be quite the attraction at HKIA. Perhaps it is the most efficient means to transport passengers in an otherwise tedious walking distance to the main gate concourses. And all of that in just a few moments as the trains run at an ultra-efficient regularity.
As the people mover is a centralized function, crowds can bottle-neck in this part of the airport
And a few moments later I was able to enjoy such views
After the usual walks, smokes, and the sighting of the celebrity jets, it was time for a quick courtesy visit at The Pier. Frankly, wandering around HKIA beats any of the world’s greatest lounges, but since I was here, I ought to say hi!
At 3pm, I veered slightly to the side of my straight shot pathway across the Hong Kong Terminal, arriving right across from the subtle entrance to the lounge. A lounge and its amenities can definitely show much what an airline is all about, and this case it isn’t all that different. Many airlines create bells and whistles to grandeur-ize the entrance to their respective lounges, whereas others –like good old CX
- like it simple, low-key, and straight to the point; in many ways this is what Cathay is all about anyways.
You can easily pass the lounge without noticing the almost camouflaged elevator/escalator designated solely for The Pier. However, a simple glance at the signage, and you will be assured that any step beyond this, will be typical Cathay quality all the way.
Friendly and welcoming receptionists greeted me with smiles at the entrance, however further into the lounge, things were looking a little grim. Not an empty seat in sight as everyone and their mother was sprawled across all the available seating. With The Wing under refurbishment at the time, it was evident that this lounge was used to accommodate for two. So after a quick walk around –coupled with the fact that I was not up for a meal yet- I walked right on out after snapping a few shots.
At 3:30pm, I headed towards the gate as it was almost –if not already- boarding time, and unlike my normal pace whilst traveling, I was definitely running behind schedule.
But I still had time for some pictures
Air New Zealand has called in
And so has Lufty
There’s always a seat for everyone at HKIA!
At 4pm, I was at gate 50, and true to my feeling, the flight was already bordering its Final Call stages, as I was about to join the remains of the queue. Or, another way to look at it would be that the queues associated with 767’s are simply no longer as large as they seemed to be back in the day.
Bula Boeing # 1!
Unlike some previous experiences, today’s ground staff is courteous and professional all the way. My boarding pass was scanned and ripped, after the usual document check, and the smaller stub handed back to me, all with a smile. And through the aerobridge to an experience spanking new for me!
Through the aerobridge
One of my favorite elements of the jet-setting experience –especially those that involve new airlines- is the welcome at door of the aircraft, and I was anticipating this one with much enthusiasm. Again, just like an airline’s lounge, the boarding welcome can not only reveal a lot about an airline, but it also sets the exact tone for the flight to come. My favorite one to date, is the welcome on SriLankan Airlines, and perhaps not much will come close anytime soon. But let’s see what this one’s all about anyways.
At Door 1L of the aircraft, there were two assigned for guiding passengers through the boarding process. To my right was a young Chinese lady –seemingly dressed in what I thought was Air Pacific’s ground staff uniform- that was predominantly tasked with assisting the Chinese-speaking passengers. To my left, was a chilled-out heavy-set gentleman from Fiji –the purser for today’s flight- dressed in a red flowery-top thrown casually over navy blue pants. Things were looking so chill and cool, with nothing to worry about; this is Air Pacific, and everything’s gonna be alright! Yeah man!
“BULA! .. Welcome on board!”
By 4:05pm, I was on board Bula Boeing # 1!
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