Welcome to another of my trip report. I have finished serving my mandatory 1 year 10 months in the army around 6 months back, but have always felt very lazy to start writing this report, until now. This trip was made in November 2010 with my family, on board Cathay Pacific from Singapore to Tokyo and back, with us arriving at Tokyo-Haneda on their official opening day (31st October) of their new (at that time) International Terminal. This report (Part 1) will cover the flight to Japan.
Cathay Pacific actually requires no introduction on this forum. As we all know, it is the flag carrier of Hong Kong, and it operates scheduled passenger and cargo flights to more than 110 destinations (including code shares and joint ventures) in 36 countries worldwide. It operates a fleet of wide-body aircrafts like the Airbus A330s, A340s, Boeing 747s and the B777s.
The airline was founded on September 24, 1946, by American Roy C. Farrell and Australian Sydney H. de Kantzow, with each man putting up HK$1 to register the airline. The airline made the world’s first non-stop transpolar flight flying over the North Pole in July 1998. They named it ‘Cathay’, the ancient name given to China, and ‘Pacific’ because Farrell one day speculated that they would fly over the Pacific (which they did in the 1970s). The airline grew bigger, and now, it is one of the world’s largest airlines, and it’s also the founding member of the ‘OneWorld’ Alliance. Just recently, 2 of their newly delivered aircrafts (B-LAN, A330-300 and B-KPY, B777-300ER) were the first to be fitted with their new premium economy class.
The usual end-of-the-year holiday period was approaching, yet no holiday plans for my family was made yet. Now, that’s my dad’s usual habit…waiting till the last minute, also to see if there are any special deals. All of a sudden, he announced to us that we were going to Japan for the first time (to Tokyo) and he had already booked the tickets. He mentioned that he found the cheap fares on www.zuji.com on its easy-to-use interface and it was to Tokyo-Haneda (HND), which was much nearer to the city centre than Tokyo-Narita (NRT). I believe that the cheap fares were due to the opening of the new route. I was aware of the opening of Haneda’s new International Terminal on the last day of October, so I asked when we were flying. His reply? A positive one: “31st October”. So we were actually going to get on board an inaugural flight, or so I thought. Upon further ‘investigation’, my joy was slightly short-lived as our flight was to be the 2nd flight to HND (CX has 2 flights to HND at that period) in the afternoon. To console myself, I thought of it as the FIRST afternoon flight, and that’s better than nothing . [Quite stupid]
To add on to my happiness, I managed to take leave during that period, and thus I was able to escape from an incredibly tiring event in army, while my peers were going to ‘suffer’. (I was only able to take leave because I applied a few months before, after that, once my superiors knew of the date for that event, no one could take leave anymore- He even asked me to reschedule my leave but of course, who would?)
Running a search through the forum, this should be the 2nd trip report on CX’s HKG-HND routing, though it’s the first to cover the Y class product on this route.
Please pardon the amateurish photos in this report, as I was quite a bad photographer at that time. I used my lousy DSLR (I have upgraded to a much better one last year) and a PnS. (Excuses again I know). (I did learn from all these mistakes though :p) Again, I’m trying very hard to recall everything but my memory’s failing me.
Our flight was to depart at 0815, so we had to be at the airport at around 0615 hours. All of us woke up at around 0430, did all the necessary stuff, and at around 0600 hours, we went down to the lobby to find our pre-booked cab waiting for us. This is one of the many perks staying near to the airport. In less than 10minutes, we arrived at the check-in counters.
As usual, most if not all Cathay flights use the counters at Row 1 of Terminal 1, at the side of the terminal closest to the SkyTrain to Terminal 3. I was not able to book any seats on their website beforehand for some reason, but I managed to snag myself my favourite window seat.
However, I wasn’t able to select any seats on the HKG-HND flight later on that day. We got our boarding passes, and proceeded to the airside.
We took the escalator up to the Kiliney Kopitiam where I had Mee Rebus for breakfast. As usual, it was delightful. After a hearty breakfast, my parents relaxed at the food court where the Kopitiam was, while I went to spot planes at the central apron.
Soon it was time to proceed to Gate D44 for boarding.
Date: 31st October 2010
Sector: Singapore Changi Airport (SIN) – Hong Kong- Chep Lap Kok International (HKG)
Cathay Pacific Flight: CX 710
Gate: D44 (T1)
Aircraft: B-HNN, B777-367
Delivered to CX: 24-11-2003
SDT (ADT): 0815 (0856)
SAT (AAT): 1155 (1231)
Journey: 3hrs 35mins
1st flight on B-HNN
3rd B777-300 flight
3rd B777 flight
1st time on CX 773
1st time on CX
Photo © Sneeze Lam
Photo © Sneeze Lam
The aircraft tasked with taking us to HKG is B-HNN, Cathay Pacific’s 9th B777-300. The aircraft had just arrived from CMB (CX 710 had the CMB-SIN-HKG routing).
Boarding was already supposed to commence, but yet, no announcement was made at the gate. That said, the other passengers just continued with their stuff, and no one made a fuss or anything.
At around 0828, 13 minutes after the scheduled departure time, boarding finally commenced. A long line started to form, but thankfully, though slightly chaotic, we were able to be one of the first to board as we were seated right behind at the rear of the aircraft. The flight stewards and stewardesses welcomed us on board cheerfully, and we continued on to the rear of our aircraft. The flight attendants, as expected, were more than just professional; they were seen smiling all the time, while helping some needy passengers. Blankets were then distributed. As with the CX regional products, B-HNN has the older in-flight entertainment system with personal TVs but no AVOD. Legroom was average at 32”, but I kind of liked the older seats, as they were pretty comfortable.
The pilot informed us through the PA system that they were apologetic regarding the delay, but it was due to the late arrival of the aircraft from Colombo. Load today in Y was 100%.
Pushback started at 0856, and the safety video was played. Though the aircraft was parked at a gate near the Runway 02/20C, a long taxi was still in store for us as it was the season for the departures from the 02 direction. We taxied past a Singapore Airlines B747-400, 9V-SMU, where it would leave the fleet half a year on.
We then reached the end of the taxiway, and we were the only one in the queue for takeoff. As we turned into the active runway, take-off roll commenced immediately.
Drink service started around ½ hour after pushback, at FL360, and I had my usual Orange Juice. Around half an hour later, the flight attendants began to serve us breakfast. 2 choices were available; they were the omelette and chicken curry. I chose the omelette, it was served with hash brown, bacon and a roasted tomato.
Barring the tomato, which I hated, I gobbled down everything. It was a most excellent meal to complement my earlier breakfast. Being the one with the huge appetite, my mum gave me another hash brown and it was down my throat in no time at all.
The flight attendants then began to clear up the meal trays, while I switched from the moving map to one of its movie channels. I started watching Sherlock Holmes: A Study In Pink. Though the screen was fuzzy, the movie was very entertaining, and it kept me glued to the screen until the 2nd drink service when I had the apple juice. We still had quite a while to go before landing, so after the movie, I took a nap. I woke up when the plane was descending into sunny but a slightly hazy Hong Kong International Airport.
We touched down on Runway 07L, which is the predominant runway (or Rwy 25R depending on the wind direction) in some good lighting conditions.
After a short taxi, we turned into Gate 67, signaling the end of the first sector. Now, we have 4 hours to spend before the next flight.
We followed the signs for transiting passengers, and pretty soon, we were up at the departures, having been cleared by the efficient officers. Up till now though, we still do not have our boarding passes for the flight to Tokyo. We went upstairs and queued up at the counters for transiting passengers to receive our boarding passes. However, as I received my pass, I found out that we would be seating in the middle section... No window seat for me, for this (kind-of) special flight! (Though most of the journey would be spent in darkness)
After that, we went to look for a place to rest and have our lunch. It was very crowded as it is lunchtime (Well, it would still be crowded even if it’s not during lunch time) but thankfully, we managed to find a seat. We queued up for yong tau foo. Though not priced cheaply, it was very tasty and well worth the money. I ordered another cup of orange juice to accompany my noodles.
Feeling full, it was time for me to explore the departure gates and do some spotting.
It turned out to be quite a lucky day for me, as I managed to log many new registrations, many of them being aircrafts in special one-off liveries. Below are some of the photos that I took during spotting.
I walked to every single gate in the main terminal due to the time available, but even so, I didn’t managed to capture every aircraft as boarding for my flight was soon announced. (No photos of my aircraft too as I was quite late for boarding)
Date: 31st October 2010
Sector: Hong Kong-Chep Lap Kok International (HKG) – Tokyo – Haneda International Airport (HND)
Cathay Pacific Flight: CX 542
Aircraft: B-HLK, A330-342
Delivered to CX: 28-10-1997 (24-01-1997)
SDT (ADT): 1610 (1610)
SAT (AAT): 2100 (2059)
Journey: 3hrs 49mins
1st flight on B-HLK
3rd A330-300 flight
3rd A330 flight
1st time on CX 333
2nd time on CX
Photo © YK
Photo © Andrew Hunt - AirTeamImages
Today (31st Oct 2010) is the day where Cathay Pacific launched the inaugural flight from Hong Kong to Tokyo Haneda Airport. Technically, CX did fly to HND a long time ago (when there was no Narita Airport yet). The airline first operated to Haneda in 1959, when it launched its Tokyo service. By 1978, it was operating four passenger flights a day and four freighter services a week before all international airlines switched their scheduled operations from Haneda to Narita that year.
Of course, ours isn’t the inaugural flight to Haneda. The inaugural flight was CX 548, departing HKG at 0845 hours and arriving in Japan at 1325 hours. So, while I was hoping that something different would happen, I very much predicted that nothing much would happen actually (After reading that CX isn’t a big inaugural fanfare type of airline).
At the gate, I found out that today’s flight to Haneda would be operated by B-HLK, another of their plane with the regional and older in-flight product. This particular aircraft had just arrived from Singapore, as I had spotted her in the morning. Boarding was done in a very orderly manner, and from what I see; the passengers were an equal mix of Chinese and Japanese. The flight attendants cheerfully greeted each and every passenger on board the aircraft. As I was walking through the aisle, I noticed that the cabin looks quite old and in fact, a little dirty. Then again, with this plane, the 17th A330 produced, at nearly 20 years of age, it would not be too easy to keep it extremely clean. I took my seat at 55F (a middle seat on board such a flight), hoping that no one would be seating to my right. As with the previous flight, this aircraft lacked AVOD unfortunately. I could do with a newer aircraft next time round. Load was around 90% in Y this time round. Once again, we were given our blankets. It was slightly squeezy in the middle with this 2-4-2 configuration.
Just before pushback, a steward came up to me.
Steward: ‘Excuse me, do you know Mr Ashiba (insert last name here)?’
Me: ‘Nope, sorry.’
Steward: ‘It’s okay, thank you.’
I suppose that the particular Mr Ashiba was supposed to be seated on 55G, the seat to the right of mine? Well, that would mean that I would have an empty seat next to me (well, nearly).
Though Cathay Pacific isn’t a Japanese carrier, they resembled one. With the punctuality that the Japanese were famous for, the first CX 542 flight push backed right on the dot at 1610. After the usual safety video was screened, B-HLK started taxi-ing towards Runway 07R for departure. (I was unsure of any other details, because I was not able to see what was happening outside). We lifted off into the Hong Kong skyline after the take-off roll.
Around half an hour after take off, the flight attendants came around with drinks and peanuts. I had apple juice yet again. I could see that this bunch of stewardess and stewards loved their job very much; they laughed and joked with some passengers, and attended to their every request promptly. Many passengers were certainly impressed with the service thus far; some had already asked for the feedback forms! We were then left to rest for another hour, before they came around again, this time with the dinner cart.
For some reason, we were the last to be served, and the stewardess came up to us and told us apologetically that only the Prawn (with rice) option remained, but we would have to wait for a while, as there was a lack of those too. I thought to myself, there’s a lack of food on board? How can it be? However, in less than 10minutes, the same stewardess came back to us with 3 trays. It was different from the usual economy class ‘packaging’. What was placed on our trays were not the usual plastic ‘casing’ that we usually see, but instead, we received our meals in porcelain plates, akin to those served in some Business class. The rice was in a shape of a bowl, so you could really see that that was not supposed to be in here, in Economy class. Not only that, it was piping hot. And it looked different from what the other passengers were having.
It looked average; I did not expect too much from the looks of it, but it tasted so much better than it looked to be. The prawns were really fresh, and the combination of the hot bun and the sauce was irresistible. Even the broccoli tasted nice, because I usually hated broccoli. I practically licked the whole plate clean. The wasabi that came with the soba was quite strong, so after a few mouthfuls, I gave that up.
When the stewardess came to collect the trays, she once again apologized to us regarding the delay in serving the 3 of us. I must say, I have never experienced that before. Just before we started our descent, the flight attendants came around and distributed chocolates (Toblerone) to each and everyone. The difference was that each one of them was encased in something (I don’t know what it’s called) that has the few words printed on it: Celebrating the New Service between Hong Kong and Tokyo Haneda Airport. 31st October 2010.
This is the only souvenir that has any signs of it being Day 1 of operation between the 2 airports. (Of course, the 3 casings are still with me till now). They then personally thanked us for flying with them on the first day. It was already dark outside, and lights were dimmed. Very soon, it was time for descent.
We touched down on Haneda Airport’s Runway 34L at 2059, 1 minute early. As this runway was situated in between the newly opened International Terminal and Terminal 1 (JAL), taxi was short towards Gate 108. As we left the aircraft, every member of the crew thanked us once again.
I must say, though I’m not happy with the plane (old, dirty), I was extremely pleased with the impeccable service on board. It more than made up for the slightly disappointing ‘software and hardware’ on board.
We made our way into the terminal proper. Well, it does have a different feel to it. It was quite an impressive terminal though it wasn’t the biggest. We cleared immigration quite fast and retrieved our luggage in no time at all.
We soon found the railway station, where we would be taking a train to Shinagawa station where our hotel (Shinagawa Prince Hotel) is located.
My first experience with Cathay Pacific is actually quite a good one, though I’m not a fan of their entertainment products for their regional products. Looks well worth the money though, especially the service and the food.
The next part of the report will cover the sights of Tokyo and it’s surroundings, as well as the flights back.
Thanks for reading,
Past trip reports
1. Aloha! From SIN To HNL/ITO (and Back) On CI And YV (Jan 10)
2. Flying The Classic 734 To Bali On GA (Apr 10)
3. A Great Way To Fly Indeed!- Pt.1-SIN-HKG on SQ 77W (Apr 12)
4. The Last Hurrah!-Pt.2-SQ748 Final SQ B744 Flight (Apr 12)