Air Macau Business Class ✈ A319/A321 ✈ BKK-MFM-TPE
Background: The Boeing 747 is my favorite plane, but since my initial trip to southeast Asia four years ago, 747 flying has been substantially reduced in the region. The majority of flights are now operated by A330 and other more common types. You can find the occasional 787, A350, or even a rare 747 on limited routes, but this year the routing I needed was Bangkok to Taipei, and nothing really caught my eye. I expanded my search to connecting flights as well, and came across Air Macau. Four years ago when I was visiting Hong Kong, I also visited Macau. I used the ferry services linking the two. The ferry was the best way to travel: fast, comfortable, cheap, and fun...But I always like to fly the local airline when I visit a particular destination. I hadn't gotten to fly Air Macau back then, but the airline had remained in the back of my mind ever since. Now, four years later, I was finally able to arrange a flight with them...make that two flights: Bangkok to Taipei via Macau. I knew very little about Air Macau and what to expect, but I was happy to finally be able to try out Macau's local airline. Please enjoy the reports, and I look forward to your comments.
Air Macau NX885
Departure: 10:35 (actual 10:32)
Arrival: 14:25 (actual 13:59)
Actual Block Time: 2h27
Actual Flight Time: 2h9
Seat: 1A Business Class
I was very excited for a rare and unique flight opportunity today, flying Air Macau. I proceeded to the Air Macau check-in area P, and the Business Class counter had no line. It took a long time for the agent to figure out how to issue both boarding passes and check my bag through to Taipei, but I was eventually issued the boarding passes, albeit on Economy Class paper. A little while later and finally I was in possession of nice Air Macau boarding passes on Business Class cardstock. I received a priority pass for security and passport control, and a lounge pass for the Miracle Lounge, right near my gate, Gate D5. I was assigned 1A for BKK-MFM and then 2A for MFM-TPE. I was done check-in by 08:30. Boarding was set for 09:50 and departure for 10:35.
At security passengers had to remove their shoes, and they had an American-style body scanner, but we were sent through a normal metal detector. I got my passport exit stamp and headed through the typical international terminal shopping mall. I went to the lounge across from my gate, which was currently occupied by a Scoot A320 for a flight to Singapore. Last time I was here, Scoot didn't even have any narrowbodies!
I went to the gate at 09:50, one level down. After walking down the ramps, my boarding pass was immediately scanned for admission to the gate area, instead of being scanned before entering the jetbridge. My aircraft today was B-MAN, an A319 dating to 2003. I had a seat to wait until boarding began at 10:05. They began by calling for Business Class, but nobody approached, so I finally did and become the first person onboard. I found four rows of 2-2 seating for Business Class on the A319.
The seat featured adjustable lumbar, a legrest, a small fold-out cocktail table, and what appeared to be individual IFE screens stowed in the armrest, except when you open the armrest, there was in fact nothing in there. The wide comfortable seats were stocked with a pillow (in Air Macau pillowcase) and blanket. Sometimes bulkhead rows see reduced legroom, even in the premium cabin, but I'm very happy to report that was not the case here. There was very good bulkhead legroom, three windows' worth of space, and there was even a little angled portion near the wall for your feet to rest. I was very impressed so far. It was a clean cabin, and I liked the Air Macau branding and logo on the headrests, and the Macau skyline on the bulkhead. There was lovely soothing piano music playing onboard.
The curtain to the galley was shut during boarding, until a flight attendant emerged with tray of pre-departure beverages, either orange juice, apple juice or water, an entire tray and I was still the only Business Class passenger. I selected an apple juice, in Air Macau logo glassware. Slippers were delivered next, followed by headphones. Ten minutes later, passengers were continuing to board, but there was still nobody else in Business Class. It took a long time, but eventually my hope for my second-ever private Business Class experience were dashed when we finally got five others: 1DF, and 2ACD.
I received a refill of juice, along with the presentation of Chinese newspapers and magazines. I accepted the new juice, but no newspaper or magazine for me. Boarding was shortly announced as complete at 10:20. The load was 6/16 in Business Class.
The menu was presented. There were two entree choices: stir-fried chicken in black pepper sauce with rice, or shrimp and seafood with noodles. Chicken for me. And a drink? A beer. I was not sure which beer it was going to be! The welcome announcement began in Mandarin...welcome to flight NX Ba Ba Wu
... ... ... ... xiè xiè
. I was able to pick up only a small bit of Mandarin. The message was repeated in English, and then Cantonese. The flight time was to be 2h50. But that's the scheduled flight time - I like it better when they announce today's
Pushback occurred early at 10:32. The safety video was shown on drop-down overhead screens, first in Mandarin with English subtitles, followed by the same video a second time in English with Chinese subtitles. I liked the part about the brace position, something which should be, but is pretty much never shown on the safety video. I also liked how it was just a safety video, not a music video or a high-production video with a hundred different employees for each different scene. Electronics were to be shut off for takeoff. During pushback I noticed China Airlines 747-400 B-18211 in the Sky Team livery. China Airlines Bangkok to Taipei is not reliably operated by the 747. CI834, in fact, was operated by the 747 only 10 times in the past month. Turns out it would have worked for me today, but the equipment operating these regional flights is often changed and rarely follows the schedule. When you're after a particular aircraft, unless you find a flight with a reliable historic record of operation, you can't rely on it. All in all it was a bit of odd luck to miss the 747 on the convenient nonstop BKK-TPE, but I have to say I was quite happy on Air Macau, in a very comfortable seat, trying a new airline that I'd wanted to try for several years. Plus I had managed to find a reliable China Airlines 747
flight later in my trip.
We taxied straight to the runway and were number 1 for departure. The onboard piano welcome music continued all the way from boarding to takeoff, a very nice touch. At 10:45 we began the roll and I immediately noticed that it was one of the most bumpy takeoffs I'd had recently. Other than that, it was a typical A319 takeoff. Actually, I hadn't flown any A319 in quite some time, so I guess I was not sure if it was actually typical. The seatbelt sign was turned off soon after takeoff, at which time I switched from shoes to the provided slippers. The flight attendants began making rounds with Air China Phoenix Miles membership forms. Indeed I was not earning any miles for these Air Macau flights today. I do collect miles for the three major alliances, and often get a great value out of redeeming them, yet I still find it worth it to take the occasional unique flight for no miles.
The view from 1A:
The curtains were shut to the galley and to coach. Hot towels, the exact number required for six passengers, were brought out. The towels were then collected shortly and tray tables folded out. Lunch was immediately served. The beer was Macau Beer Golden Ale: This is a craft beer developed in 1996 by a US brewer. The traditional European top-fermenting method, a strict selection of 100% malt and American hops makes Macau Golden Ale a unique beer with gorgeous aroma and rich flavor.
As a beer enthusiast who likes trying local beers wherever I go across the world, I was very happy to get Macau Beer on Air Macau. As Frank Zappa famously said, "You can't be a real country unless you have a beer and an airline. It helps if you have some kind of a football team, or some nuclear weapons, but at the very least you need a beer."
Airlines should always serve a local beer. Even if it's a terrible beer, I'd still prefer it to Heineken or some other global brand. I'm ok with KLM serving Heineken, but I'm not ok with other airlines serving it, unless it's a second option to their local brew! Anyway I was very happy with Air Macau for serving me this fine beer, and I was also very happy with the beer, which tasted quite good! Speaking of delicious, the meal was excellent. The chicken was perfectly cooked, in delicious black pepper sauce. The rice was good, too, and even the vegetables were excellent. The garlic bread was also very tasty. The bread basket had had three types of bread and rolls, and I had gone with the garlic bread, which I usually find to be excellent on flights in this region. And a glass of water was included on the tray, too; I always like to get a water without asking. Overall an impressive meal service!
Macau Beer on Air Macau - perfect:
The captain made his welcome announcement, surprisingly a native English speaker, Captain Thomas. "Welcome onboard Air Macau on this A319-100. We're at our cruise altitude of 33,000 feet, or 10,100 meters. Our routing today takes us over Laos and Vietnam. We expect to arrive at 13:50, or ten minutes before two." Now Macau is an hour ahead of Bangkok, but even so, that gives us a flying time of only 2h, which is very fast for over 1000 miles. "Macau weather is 23 degrees. Thank you for choosing to fly with Air Macau!" This was a very good message with detailed flight information, spoken in very fast English. There was no translated message provided!
The drop-down screen was in place again, showing various videos about Macau, and then some Chinese shows with English subtitles. A clock on the screen also displayed Macau time. Delicious meal service done, it was time to recline. I reclined the seatback and raised the legrest, and folded out the footrest as well. Really nice.
A new beer was soon offered and accepted. There was an inflight shopping announcement. I was really happy reclining, listening to music, and enjoying Macau Beer. The flight was already about half over.
Soon enough the captain was on again, expecting to land at 13:50 which was in about 25 minutes. Indeed we are going to have a two-hour 1,000mi flight! The descent began after the captain's announcement. The seatbelt sign came back on. Flight attendants made announcements about Macau immigration and the cessation of duty free sales. I was still surprised about the short duration of this flight. Then again, the best flights always go quickest. I had just finished the second beer, and hadn't even had time for the lunch water. Mints and pre-arrival glasses of water were now brought out. My old lunch water was removed, and a fresh water served. And a new hot towel to conclude the flight. It was a very high standard of service on a shorter-than-expected flight. And the soothing piano music came back on, so I discontinued my music for the rest of the descent.
On final descent:
We descended into thick smog, much worse than I recall when I was in Macau four years ago. We flew down over the water to the sole runway of Macau International Airport, built out over the water. Landing was at 12:54 (or 13:54 Macau time), but we had very calm braking and higher-than-expected speed down the runway. Turns out there is only this single runway 16/34 over the water, with a taxiway at either end to connect to the Macau mainland and the terminal area. We had arrived on 34 so we had to proceed to the end of the runway to the taxiway to get to the terminal. We taxied to the very last jetbridge gate 10, arriving at 13:59, with piano music playing the whole way.
Looking towards the terminal:
I left the plane, and presented my second boarding pass to the agent at the end of jetbridge. I was directed right for the transfer. I headed to the transfer security point, staffed with several agents, but no other passengers but me. I don't think many people utilize Macau as an international connection airport, but it was very easy! I was through security and right up to the departure gates by 14:10, an extremely fast international connection, less than ten minutes! My next flight, NX618 to Taipei, was to board at 17:05 and depart at 17:35. B-MAN, my A319 from Bangkok, was now to operate NX010 to Beijing, scheduled to depart at 15:30.
At the gate in MFM:
With B-MAO in the background:
Departing for Beijing:
MFM is a nice small airport with a single concourse. It is a clean airport with signs in English, Mandarin and Portuguese, and announcements in Mandarin, English and Cantonese. I had enjoyed my first-ever Air Macau experience, and I was looking forward to my second Air Macau flight!
My entry to the MFM Plaza Premium Lounge was a bit complicated without the typical Macau-issued lounge voucher (obviously not provided at my check-in in Bangkok), but after a quick phone call, I was allowed in to wait for my next flight, which is presented in the next post.