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Posts: 1974
Joined: Thu Mar 11, 2004 11:38 pm

Many Trips (A380s, NZ, USAx2, Sri Lanka, +more)

Wed Jun 27, 2012 2:34 am


It's been a while since I have written a trip report. My fault. I have taken many trips over the past six months or so, but never got around to posting them. I'll exclude some routine trips, in fact on some routine ones, I don't even take the camera out anymore (sad, I know). In most cases, I will let the pictures do the talking, feel free to ask questions. Let's get started.

First, the A380 trips. I'll preface by saying that while I do a lot of business travel from Hong Kong, my company has an agreement with Cathay, so I do not have the chance to the fly the A380. Some friends wanted to go to Bangkok, and we agreed to fly Emirates, it is usually the cheapest full service airline on the route anyways. Air Asia is usually the cheapest flight overall. I had been dying to fly the A380, so I booked us in row 51, along the left side of the aircraft, and being a plane geek, I demanded, and received, the window. My friend Dave, works for the same firm as me, and was fortunate enough to be sent to Brazil for work, and Emirates was the only sensible option, so he had flown the A380 (in business) a few months prior. At the time, the flight runs (HKG - BKK - DXB) and was an A380. There is second flight which is direct to DXB, but I am quite certain that this one was was downgraded from A380.

Here is the outbound flight (EK385):

Here is the inbound flight (EK384):

For that flight, I deliberately booked myself into the last window seat on the left hand side. The only complaints with Emirates were that the inbound flight was 1.5 hours late, and the IFE did not have as many TV shows as the new Cathay IFE. Or, that should read, TV shows I am interest in watching. My experience was that Emirates is a class act. I loved the room at my seat area, and under the seat in front of me, and that the seat was a real recline, not a slide down. Well done!

Pictures from Bangkok if you haven't been:

Next up, I had the opportunity to go to Singapore for work twice within the span of about a month. So I decided to book the second flight on Singapore Airlines, and specifically, the A380 flight from and to Hong Kong. I liked the idea of flying Singapore Airlines because I could book myself on the upper deck economy both ways. However, on the return flight, I was put into the lower deck.   It didn't matter because I was so tired from a hard night out, I would have slept even I was put into an overhead bin.

One thing I really like about Singapore Airlines, save the Singapore Girl, is all the flights I have been on have advanced IFE, unlike Cathay. On Cathay, if you are on an older plane, you are stuck with what amounts to just TV channels, and you have to wait for the programs to end, for it to restart, in case you wanted to watch more than one program. Terrible, a class airline like CX should fix this!

Anyways, I found Singapore Airlines to be ok, but not as good as Emirates. Shortly after I took my return flight, Singapore Airlines announced that they are eliminating upper deck economy, good thing I got in when I did. The seat space and area, were as good as Emirates, but the overall atmosphere, wasn't as nice.

Anyways, here is the outbound flight (SQ856):

And here is the inbound flight (SQ861), it was delayed a couple of hours:

And pictures of Singapore:

Point, Emirates.

I wanted to fly KE and QF, but need has not arised. Actually, I have been to Australia, but QF is expensive and I don't receive full miles for Cathay when I book in coach. If I get to fly them, I'll post them here.

I took a business trip to London, then went to the US to spend a week with the wife and in-laws in New York. However, I didn't have window seats on two of the four flights. One of the flights I was in World Traveller Plus on the 777-300ER, from JFK to LHR, and the difference was stellar. Especially, the seat & IFE.

The flight from LHR to JFK, BA175 (744):

Sorry, I threw in the picture from Hong Kong Airport Express in there, because I had just completed my MBA at Manchester Business School in Hong Kong.

The flight from JFK back to LHR, BA182 (B773ER):

Only passed through the city, but spent time around upstate NY. Here are some pictures:

Then we took a holiday to New Zealand. The focus was going to be on the South Island, as I had been to the North Island, 20+ years ago. For the trip, the plan was to fly from HKG to AKL, then on to BHE (Blenheim). From there we would drive to Christchurch, over to Franz Joseph, and on to Queenstown before flying back to Auckland to spend a couple of days before going back to Hong Kong.

The flight leaving Hong Kong was quite delayed, you can see a chap with his head in the engine, while we are still at the gate. The leaving flight was CX107:

Being late, meant we couldn't catch the earlier flight to Blenheim. We ended up taking our scheduled flight, a 1900D operated by Eagle Aviation. It is my smallest commercial flight. Though the flight was well over an hour, the windows fogged at cruise, but the takeoff and landing videos are quite cool. The takeoff roll was only around 20 seconds!

NZ2175 (B1900D):

The seemingly loose panel on the engine, didn't seem to have any effect on the flight. The South Island was absolutely stunning, probably the most beautiful scenery I have seen in a place, and it is safe to drink the water from the tap. I wanted to quit everything in Hong Kong and move to the lake country to open a cheese farm, if they'd let me. Anyways, I would have like to have had a helicopter trip report for you, but heavy rains prevented it, as I had booked a flight to the glacier at Franz Joseph. Oh well, I'll come back for sure. The people in New Zealand were super friendly too, everywhere we went. We especially loved the unsolicited advice on saving money which is randomly dispensed, our favorite being, 'if you pump the gas to $0.04, you can get that gas for free because we round down'. After trying a few times, I realised that this was only a game of chance, as it would be impossible to have squeeze the pump successfully to reach just a $0.04 mark.

Then after an amazing time in Queestown, it was time to rejoin the world and fly back Auckland. The flight leaving Queenstown, was awesome. There is a hill more or less in the path of the runway at takeoff, and after leaving the ground, we did a bank to the left, but the air coming off the hill, gently lifted the plane, getting a lot of 'woooh's' from the passengers. Soon, it settled and the flight was smooth on the way to Auckland. Most notably, Richard Simmons, was doing the safety briefing, yikes! NZ638 (733):

We spent a few days in Auckland before flying back to Hong Kong. Auckland was city, we witnessed a street brawl, and the hotel had the fire alarm pulled at 3am (which let us see the street brawl, so not a total loss). But soon it was time to call it a day, and head back to Hong Kong. The flight back was uneventful, except for one quick, awfully big drop over the Philippines, that was it. The rest of the flight was smooth. CX108 (B744):

Pictures from New Zealand:

The next trip was the annual trip home. The routing was HKG - LAX - PHX, then drive to Safford (SAD). Since US never launched the SAD flight, we'd have to rent a car. The Cathay portion of the flight was no problem, in fact, we arrived almost an hour early.

CX882 (B773ER):

Once in LAX, I quickly missed flying in Asia. No need to re-hash the joys of the shoeless shuffle, and the AA regional flights are at a remote terminal which is reached by bus. Our flight to PHX was late arriving from Austin, so we left almost 2 hours late. I was pretty tired, so didn't take too many pictures. AA3806 (CR7):

They didn't dim the cabin lights on landing, otherwise I would have filmed it. The exit row was a blessing on this flight (the agent was polite to me when I asked if we could have it, but she was snappy with others who were not so polite to her--you get what you give).

After a drive to Safford, and Christmas with the Arizona family, we ventured off to Sante Fe for a few days before dropping off the car in ABQ and flying Southwest to LAS, for the new year's bash with HK coworkers who were in town to celebrate. Southwest was on-time, and perfect, as usual--what a well oiled machine. WN769, (73G):


Sante Fe:

A funny story. I had originally booked UA via DEN for this route as it was pretty cheap and we could add to our Star miles, which we use every few years to upgrade to business class from and to Hong Kong. However, I received an email from UA, stating that the routing had changed from via DEN to via SFO. This is why I booked WN. I tried to cancel the UA, but they wouldn't let me. Whatever, thankfully, it was not too much. The flights were to leave ABQ around the same time, but we landed in LAS at around 3pm. If on the original UA flight it should have been just before 5pm. After all the delays, I checked on the UA side, we would have landed in LAS at 9pm! Aiyahh!

So we had a huge party at MIX watched the fireworks and then we were up early to catch a 7am flight to JFK. The others going to NY we catching the 4pm flight. But I didn't want to make my father in law come fetch us around midnight, unless we are flying to HPN which is near their home.

Thankfully, 7am flights on New Year's Day, are pretty empty and airports pretty subdued. It made for a pleasant journey. Here is the flight, AA258 (738):

Las Vegas:

By the way, the landing on this flight was one of the coolest I have even been on, we come in off the shore, quite low, and a series of turns align with the runway. It was awesome!

Vacation had come to an end, and not being a lottery winner, life cannot be a perpetual vacation. So sad. We gathered our things, and made our way to JFK to fly home. The flight home was uneventful, CX831 (B773ER):

One neat thing about that flight though, is that we flew straight over the North Pole, and down through China. It made it appear as though we were flying past Europe, in a sense we were. (Where are the diversion points though?)

A few other work trips, and on to Sri Lanka. We took the time off work, but didn't know where to go. We wanted to use miles so settled on Sri Lanka since we hadn't been. The flights route through Singapore, which has a rule that you have to exit the aircraft and spend money on duty free before reboarding. I think some flights route through Bangkok, but none of ours did.

Both flights were on-time and un-eventful, to be fair, 3 of the four legs, I slept like a baby.

Outbound, CX711 (B773):

Inbound, CX710 (B773):

Both flights had no AVOD... come on Cathay! But CX710, the 773 was so old it had manual seat controls! B-HNJ if memory serves. In case you are wondering, we booked in business class on miles (50k round trip), and the flights between Singapore and Hong Kong were full, and between Singapore and Colombo, not so much. I assume cargo does well on this route too.

Sri Lanka was a wonderful place with amazing people. And it's not developed yet, so you feel like you are in on a secret when you are there. Here are some pictures:
Keep on truckin'...

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