I booked my flights on lastminute.com for €700. It was weeks of day by day torture checking...one day LX @ €599....or VS....but finally with credit card in hand it came down to BA. EI would codeshare to LHR, & then a BA 747 would take over & whisk me off to HKG, where I’d meet Christian (MIAspotter) from BCN on QR. We also booked flights on 3K, from HKG – SIN. These worked out @ €300. I think. Ask MIAspotter!
The whole family had come out to see me off & we had a little birthday breakfast for my sister also in the Meeting Point cafe in T2 @ DUB. I wasn’t able to check in online or use the self service kiosks because it was a c/s so I joined the huge queue in T2 in front of the EI desks. It moved quick enough, only complaint was that a woman behind me whacked into me with her suitcase every time the queue moved! She apologised but still kept happening. Oh well. I got to the desk after about 10 mins & was checked in all the way to HKG! Was really cool to see the EI tickets with HKG printed on there...one can dream...
So I hugged all the family goodbye...even the lil bro...went through security quick enough & went straight to my gate as it was open. The gates in T2 seem kind of long & narrow, but are somehow spacious at the same time! Nicer than T1, but they could do with charging ports. I plugged my iPhone in to a random socket by the seats but nothing happened! Eircom provides free wifi hotspots. EI did the usual boarding by rows. The gate was packed & it got me thinking...will there be an equipment upgrade? A registration plaque upon boarding saying: EI-CPG Aodhán/St.Aidan” confirmed that, yup, we got an A321 instead of the A320!
Photo © Jay Selman - AirlinersGallery
EI 168 DUB - LHR
A321 EI-CPG Aodhán/St.Aidan (12.6 years old)
I was delighted to get a window seat, yay! And even more to be on an A321, the last time being EI-CPE in 2004, also on another BA c/s to LHR! Weird. Weather was crap in DUB, wet & windy, but it was no problem for Aodhán the Airbus. We popped out of the gloomy clouds after a short while & soon after a glass of Grandin Brut sparkling (€7.50, better value on FR!) wine popped into my hand. I lashed it back on the short flight, while the crew flew through their service in F1 pit stop time. I wasn’t hungry, having nommed a Sausage Eggworks Bagel from the Bagel Factory. After what seemed like 30mins (but was actually around 50) we were soon descending (along with loads of other planes) through the huge clouds. After landing there was a short taxi to T1, whereupon I glued myself to the window staring at all the plane porn LHR has to offer! QF A380s, SQ A380s, wow!! Because I was a transit passenger I had to wait until the full A321 deplaned. Oh god I was really bursting now from the sparkling wine! My heart sank when I saw “10 min transfer to the Flight Connection Centre” OH JESUS all I could think of was toilets....actually I must mention that along with myself there was a group in transit from the Niall Mellon Township Trust who were going off to South Africa to help build houses so fair play to them & I hope all is going well for them.
Dying again as I couldn’t find a toilet in the Flight Connection Centre, I hopped on the bus to T5, jumped off the bus, burst through the doors of T5...located a toilet...relief.....tears of joy!! I collected myself & went off through security where I was ushered into a priority queue, cool! The security check itself was quite busy but soon I was out into the bustling yet spacious T5 that I’d heard of a few years ago with such fanfare. I enviously glanced up at the BA Galleries lounge & then perused Boots & WH Smiths, buying crap that I had forgotten to pack! My purse now full of big thick English coins, I hung around downstairs where I charged up my phone (iPhone 3, ya know?!), keeping an eye on the FIDS. I headed off to my gate after 17.00 & was amused to see a driverless train to bring me to my gate. Nothing was happening at the gate so I wandered up to Starbucks & got a Mexican wrap, served by a friendly fella. Weird to spend a fiver in Starbucks & get change! I ambled around some more, until they started calling for boarding by rows from the rear. Having prebooked seat 52B I was one of the first of the Y class to board.
Photo © Phil Broad
BA 25 LHR - HKG
B744 G-BYGD (12.9 years old)
Dep: 18.40 (actually after 19.00)
Arr: After 15.00
I walked down the airbridge, trying to contain my excitement at flying on a 747 for the first time & my holiday. I grabbed a free newspaper just before boarding, feeling very posh at this moment (So what if it was a rag!?) and stepped on board, bewildered, with my boarding card. I saw the stairs to my right & of course was directed over to the far left! BA staff were friendly & welcoming. I dragged myself through Business & into my lowly domain: World Traveller. I got excited at the blanket waiting for me, & the amenity kit with toothpaste & headphones. When I flew Y in BA in 2004 they had socks & eyeshades. Hmmm. I sat down & was faced with my first ever PTV. Yay! I had booked my seat at a cost of €35 each way as there are only 2 seats so I thought it would be nice to have more space. Hmm again. My seatmate soon arrived, a nice Hong Kongese fella & his dad, who mistakenly sat behind me in an English blokes seat..who pointed out that he paid “25 quid for that seat”...I was thinking “whatever, pal, I paid 70 bloody Euro all the way!” Anyway the old dad & the cranky English chap soon became best friends, talking about Hong Kong & all that. As I settled in & waited for everyone to board, I noticed the musty smell of the plane, & how the lighting appeared yellowed from age.There were also stains on the wall underneath the window. Also didn’t BA used to have footrests..? We were delayed for quite some time, (as loud man behind me pointed out) due to an oil pump issue & traffic but eventually we crept up the taxiway to get out to HKG....finally it was our turn! The moment I was waiting for, a take off in a 747! I could barely hear the RRs as I was so far back so I just leaned back & enjoyed the ride. I noticed a kind of horizontal swaying motion as we climbed, is this because I was seated so far back?
After the seatbelt sign went off the cabin crew did a drinks run, also asking us what we wanted with our dinner. DRINKS! DINNER! My head was reeling from not having flown a full service carrier in years! A sparkling wine went down nicely & I got stuck into “Super 8” on the PTV, a film I was actually dying to see since the summer; so kind of handy that I was going to HKG, ha ha hu hu! Dinner was chicken or beef; I chose the chicken, which was Thai lemon chicken with rice. It was ok but a bit acidy. There was a little salad thing (don’t make friends with salad), a bun & a chocolate dessert which was delish. And of course 2 bottles now of sparkling wine to get through....
After "Super 8" I stuck on "Cars 2", which was cool if youre a car geek too! After this I was knackered & a little drunk & dehydrated, so when I saw the cabin crew doing water runs I nearly jumped out of my seat. They did juice runs through the night aswell. The plane was really hot! I could NOT sleep as my legs were absolutely killing me (I’m not tall-5’3) it was just the lack of nothing to rest them on. My seatmate had disappeared with his iPad to the back of the cabin, so I got up & did a few laps; up to the curtain & back, up to the curtain & back! I’m sure I looked insane & I kept tripping over stuff but ya gotta do what ya gotta do. I explored a bit more & found a water fountain recessed into the wall by the toilet, which kind of disturbed me; even more so when I drank it. I got back into my seat & did a few of the BA meditation exercises on the PTV . “Clench your buttocks firmly..” in a clipped English accent nearly had me in stitches & I’m sure my lovely seatmate was wondering what the hell I was doing. The exercise made my legs a little better but I couldn't sleep. I tried hanging my legs over the side of the seat. No dice. My poor seatmate had to put up with me shifting around all night. Turbulence was quite bad at times, didn’t bother me but the poor old dad was scared, shouting in Cantonese.
Cabin crew woke us up with brekkies, omelette or English breakfast. The f/a was very nice, he moved his cart back for me when I was coming back from the little girls room so I wouldn’t be trapped & then offered me “ Omelette or English breakfast Madam?” Ooh, it’s nice being called Madam. Nice as he was, there was something dour or sad about his voice. Maybe he was just tired. The omelette was comforting & I washed it down with an orange juice. Immigration cards were then issued & I was like “Oh yeah, totally forgot about those!” & wasn’t sure if I needed one; but my yet again lovely seatmate flagged down the f/a, got one for me, explained what to do & even lent me his pen! Aww.
As we descended, I could see mainland China...& it just looked vast. I also finally got to have a look at the RR powerplants in daylight. I nearly started crying as we got closer & closer to HKG....I couldn’t believe I was on the other side of the world & that I had done it by myself! Well...I was meeting MIAspotter...BA helped a lot....but ya know what I mean
Descending for HKG
Cheers Yankee Delta
We landed ever so smoothly & a huge black butterfly flew right up to the window. How auspicious?! Again I perved on all the plane porn in HKG...SQ...CZ...CX...KA...SU...wow. Like seeing celebrities! Immigration had big queues but we were dealt with quickly by the ladies in powder blue uniforms who directed us. As I walked through I saw “SARS Temperature Check” & it scared the crap out of me...was I going to get a thermometer up the bum?! Unharmed, I freshened up in the toilets with my trusty BA toothpaste (as were loads of other ladies ha ha!). A girls gotta try her best eh?!
I wandered into the baggage reclaim, where we had arranged to meet. I was all stressed because of the delay in LHR & he didn’t help by lying to me that he had been waiting for an hour! His flight had just got in before mine. I retrieved my embarrassing big pink suitcase (thanks sis) & we toddled off, babbling about our flights. We got our Octopus cards (must have!!!) & somehow found our way to Mong Kok. Falling out of the MTR station onto Argyle Road, with our massive suitcases, into the hordes of humanity, taking in the towering buildings & neon lights...is something we will never forget!!
Crazy brilliant Mong Kok
After 4 thrilling days in Hong Kong, including a trip to Macau, & a trip to Kowloon to find the old airport’s remains, we took a flight to Singapore. We booked with 3K. We took the Citybus to the airport, marvelling at the architecture that housed Hong Kong on the way. We dropped off our big suitcases in the storage facility at an eyewatering $900. It would have only cost $300SGD to check our bags on the plane. We got to the check in queue just before they were opened. Upon reaching the top, I was asked if I was pregnant! I said no, then added “I hope not hurhurhur”, not sparing my poor partners blushes . Anyway turns out the agent had to ask, as we were being “upgraded” to the emergency exit row! We went through security & then into the calm oasis of the gate. While using the free wifi, we were approached by friendly 3K staff who checked our passports & bp’s & who later remembered us in the queue & ushered us through to the weird buses, that have doors on the front.
3K 692 HKG – SIN
A320 9V-JSM (2 mths old!)
Our brand new A320 shining through the gloom (First pic in the database!!
Sleek KA A330 taxiing past...beautiful sound from those RRs even in taxi
Nice 3K cabin
It was extremely foggy as we hopped off the bus & admired our 3K bird, 9V-JSM, whom MIAspotter recognised as being a brand new plane. It’s not even in the database & had that new plane smell! I got scolded in Cantonese for trying to take pictures so I just scurried up the stairs & into my seat. We prayed for an empty window seat, but alas it was not to be. A baby behind us was screaming her head off, but it didn’t drown out the views we had of the new BA 748F right next to the CV 748F! I nearly wet myself. The fog was so thick, that looking down the runway whole 777s disappeared. After a 747, we were on our way to South East Asia. I got a nice cosy hot chocolate & himself got an iced coffee, both $3HKD. We weren't hungry & were looking forward to the hawker centres of Singapore!
Descending into Singapore, we could see lush, green landscape, different to the green of my Emerald Isle. We also saw the billions of boats waiting to get into port! We landed nicely & taxied,the humidity already steaming up our window; passing SQ A345s & JT 739s. We passed through the queueless security, where an Indian man chided me gently about the state of my passport (its been used extensively as i.d to get into pubs etc) & then wished me a pleasant stay.Awww. Then it was onto the MRT (confusing eh?!) to Bugis where our hotel was.
Pulling onto stand in humid SIN next to JT 739 & SQ 744
Roti Prata & lime juice for brekkie....God I miss Singapore!
Cow on wall of Sri Mariamman Temple
Birdies of Jurong
After 3 days of mesmerising Singapore (I will never forget walking the Colonial District after midnight, we had the city to ourselves...) it was time to head back to HKG. Leaving our hotel was interesting...pretty much held captive until we washed the towel & pillowcase, which I had got some make up on. Moving on...after our release it was up a back alley behind the Bugis Market...with a surprise shrine...& back on the good old MRT to SIN. Check in was friendly & we ran over to the other terminal to perv on SQ birds! DELIGHTED! Huge windows where we could see an SQ A380, A330 & heavies like QR 777s landing. As if this wasn’t enough, right next to it was loads of free internet! After buying me sis a t-shirt in the Hard Rock Cafe shop it was time to leg it back for our flight. The gate area wasn’t as nice as HKG....or even DUB....you were kind of encased inside glass!
Photo © Darren Koch
3K 695 SIN - HKG
A320 9V-JSM (6.5 years)
Our A320 hiding behind the jetbridge
Older 3K cabin
Our next 3K A320 was not as new as our last one, but still a nice place to be for the 4hr flight. We were “downgraded” & I thought legroom was a little tight. Himself was delighted that he got a window seat, & me too as it meant I could lean over without disturbing a stranger! Taxiing out to the runway, we saw an FJ 747, LH A380 & poor old Nancy Bird Walton. During the flight we entertained ourselves on iPhone apps: Angry Birds etc; & I also got some cool games from the Hong Kong Tourism Board! I had downloaded loads of ghost stories aswell. We were pretty hungry so we opted for the Vietnamese Curry from the JetCafe. They had none so we got the Japanese Curry, which went down well for $8 each, & soft drinks @ $2.50. I had snarfed down the chicken, potatoes & rice before MIA even peeled back the tinfoil on his so it must’ve been good! I also bought two 3K model A320s for $25 each. I was so enthralled in looking at mine that the cabin crew couldn’t give me my change back & had to resort to tapping me on the shoulder “MADAM! YOUR CHANGE!”! We got some good sleep & landed in HKG in the dark.
South China Sea sunset
Well this was a crazy evening...SIN – HKG –LHR –DUB for me & SIN –HKG –DOH –BCN for MIAspotter. We collected our suitcases & repacked everything, freshened up & then set off to check in at T1. Poor Chris was faced with pretty much the whole of Qatar in his queue, while my check in was quick enough; even while I think a trainee was learning on the job. I admire people throughout the world who try to pronounce my name (Aoife - too many syllables in there!). I was checked through all the way to DUB, given a wallet for my bp’s with LHR T5 Transit instructions; & best of all, a BA sticker to wear! It was to show I was on BA 26 & not the later BA 28 (on a lovely new 77W). Feeling special with my sticker, I sat & waited for him to be checked in. 30 mins later (!) we were strolling through security. There were only 2 desks open in immigration but we were waved over to a new one where my battered passport received its final HKG stamp.
Depressingly, we didn’t have much time to look around the airport as my flight would soon begin boarding. Remembering the dehydration from the last time, I ran miles away from my gate to buy bottled water, only to notice a food stand when I returned; D’OH! However as we were backtracking to my gate I noticed something tall & blue with a Pepsi like-logo disappear behind a building out on the ramp. We waited...huzzah it was a KE A380! We had so far seen nearly the whole collection...only missing the CZ & AF A380s! It parked right next to my gate, so we ogled it until I really had to join the queue. On the port side of my 747 was the BA 77W....sigh. I looked at the First nose section of the 747, all lit up & cursed those who would get such comfort on the long flight. Boarding wasn’t done by rows here, which I thought strange; as did an English lady who thought she had missed her row. I noticed 2 fellas walking to join the end of the queue wearing GAA jerseys....yay Irish people! That equalised my tally with Christian, he had found Spanish people on the MTR...even on the Skypark on top of the Marina Bay Sands...whereas I had only found one Irish ouldfella in the Raffles. Finally we reached the top of the queue where we bade our goodbyes.
Photo © Spencer Wilmot
BA 26 HKG - LHR
B747 G-BNLP (A whopping 21 years old!)
G-BNLP (courtesy of MIAspotter )
Another warm welcome on board, & this time I knew where to go! This was cancelled out by the fact that I thought my seat was on the aisle...even though yes, I had prebooked the window seat with more space; I thought it had been given away & I could just apply for the refund...but nah I was just confused.com from all the travelling already! My English seatmate was friendly enough & pointed out the window symbol by the K in the overhead seat numbers....”Just means you have more space” & offered to take it if I wanted the aisle but I was like *smack forehead ”OH YEAH! I forgot!” This plane was much older than G-BYGD but didn't smell as bad thank god. We pushed back on time & taxied past an AR A340 on the maintenance ramp. Taking off I noticed that weird horizontal movement again. I couldn’t see much of Hong Kong out the window as we were on the wrong side but looked at non descript lights anyway until we got up into the clouds.
Turbulence was really quite bad but I didn't mind. You could hear the wind rushing over the fuselage & we were really bouncing around! The drink service rattled on anyway. Sparkling wine of course, & I was asked if I would like that for my dinner. I said yes please & she got me another bottle. I was very impressed with the friendly efficient service. Chicken or beef? I took the chicken, sweet & sour. Usually I hate sweet & sour but this was lovely & I scoffed the chocolate dessert aswell. I got stuck into “Rio” on the PTV & was guffawing so loudly at one silly bit that my seatmate noticed & was laughing at me “Funny eh? Hahaha!”. I also watched "American Werewolf in London", one of my fave films. I was knackered after so I snuggled up in my blanket & QR eyeshade (supplied to me from a thoughtful benefactor ). It actually helped me get a good sleep, but me legs were still killing me the whole way through the flight. Next door was asleep so I didn’t want to wake him up to go for my walk!
We were woken up for brekkie somewhere over Denmark I think. I was given an English breakfast: eggs, sausage; it wasn't as nice as the inbound but still sustained me. There was orange juice & a little bun with jam on the inside. Shortly after a PA was made saying they ran out of English breakfast & only had the Asian option...I wouldn’t have minded eating it, didn't know there was a choice. My seatmate & I had a nice little chat, he was off to Devon I think, & I would be getting home before him! He had been trying to figure out my Dublin accent, as his wife was Irish. It was still dark & the captain came on saying we might have to circle for a little bit if we were too early; fortunately we landed after the curfew. We were informed as we taxied to T5 that G-BNLP had made a full automatic landing in the dense fog, you go girl! Hats off to the Boeing; it was a very smooth landing.
My neighbour kindly let me out ahead of him. I thanked the crew & headed off to the Flight Connections Centre (where I waited with the GAA jersey blokes who had found another Irish one) for the bus to Aer Lingus Land, i.e T1. After around 10 mins the bus came & even at 5am the driver was friendly & said good morning. It sounded like he was listening to the Adhan, which reminded me of Singapore & its mosques. A little truck not paying attention nearly crashed into us & the beeping & sudden jolt certainly woke me up! Walking through to T1 I felt very smug & worldly, travelling so far by meself etc. Of course at this point I went through the wrong security point & out into the exit! Nearly in tears I managed to find a security guy in the ghost town of LHR who showed me the right way to go. I had to get my picture taken going through passport check, never had that before.
Finally I was in the duty free area of T1. I wandered into WH Smith & spent €40 on a model BA 777 & 747. I tried to change my SGD$ into Euro, but the nice bloke advised me I’d be better off doing it in DUB as I wouldn’t have to put it through GBP£. I think he was trying not laugh at my jetlagged messy head. What else to do at 5am in LHR..? I sat down & charged me iPhone (& then started waking up everyone in Ireland with texts). A flurry of green uniforms appeared...my EI crew! I headed down to the gate. I can’t remember what time, it’s all a blur! Aer Lingus Land in T1 has a nice EI desk & Irishy stuff everywhere. When you get to the gate, it’s cold & it looks like a Soviet UFO. The windows are all weird; blurry & slanty but somehow I made out EI-DEE waiting outside.
Photo © Dmitriy Pichugin
EI 151 LHR - DUB
A320 EI-DEE Ultan/St.Ultan (7.4 years)
Dep: 7:50 (actual 8.10)
I boarded & said hi to the crew who seemed in fine form. I collapsed into 15D, praying the two other seats would stay empty. The captain announced a delay due to the bad fog. We were asked to fill up the exit row but I was feeling antisocial & wanted my own row! Why couldn’t I have gotten an upgrade on BA?! The GAA lads took care of it anyway.The seats next to me remained empty so I jumped into the window seat! I noticed