HOP!, Economy Class – ATR-72: Basel-Mulhouse to Paris-Orly

Folie1 map HOP_logo INTRODUCTION

Exactly one week after my return from Asia I’m off again. I have a meeting with the ICAO regional office in Paris, so at least it’s just a short trip this time.

GETTING TO THE AIRPORT

Transport: BVB bus line 50
Departs from: Basel SBB railway station, by the main exit
Frequency: Every 8 to 10 minutes
Journey time: 16 minutes
Fare: CHF4.20, one-way

It’s a lovely day for flying today, and it’s quite warm too. I’ve arranged to meet my colleague at 14h00 by the meeting point of the main railway station as he’ll be arriving from Zürich. Just in case you’re wondering, there are flights from Zürich to Paris, but they only go to Roissy, which is much further out of town, while we’re heading for Orly today. Secondly, my colleague has never been on a turboprop and simply wanted to give one a try. In any case, we make a brief detour to the Confiserie Bachmann for me to pick up a chocolate bun. And then from there we catch the bus line 50 to the airport.

CHECK-IN

Location: Departures level on the first floor, French side
Facilities: Self-service check-in machines and baggage drop counters
Counters: Dedicated Air France counters

Once we are inside the terminal we cross into the French side, which is where the Air France check-in counters are located. The flight from Basel to Paris Orly can be booked as an international service from Basel to Paris or as a domestic service from Mulhouse to Paris. Obviously the latter will only cost you a fraction of the price of the international service. Strangely enough, if you look up the flight on the Air France website, you will find that, according to the timetable, the departure from the Swiss side is two minutes earlier than the departure from Mulhouse. We arrive at the baggage drop counter. While we’re there, we ask if it might be possible to sit together. When I checked in using the KLM app the evening before, I was automatically placed on 3A, while my colleague was relegated to the last row of the aircraft on 16D. Apparently passengers with status are automatically assigned seats in the front of the plane at the time of booking, even though the website does not in fact allow you to select seats on flights operated by HOP. Grudgingly the check-in agent agrees to move my colleague forward to the seat next to me. Not however, before insisting that she’s only doing this exceptionally and only because of my status. How very gracious, Ma’am. Later on when we board the plane, it turns out the flight is only half full anyway, so we could in fact have sat anywhere and I don’t quite understand what all the fuss is.

LOUNGE

Air France does not have a lounge in Basel. And we’ve still got over an hour before the flight departs. So we decide to take advantage of the nice weather and visit the open air viewing gallery on the fourth floor until eventually our flight is called for boarding. IMG_1100

BOARDING

Priority Boarding: No priority boarding for Skyteam Elite members on domestic flights by the looks of it.

I don’t know. Maybe I’m just thick but I just don’t get it. Apparently we’re booked on a HOP flight. But so far this looks and feels a lot like the usual Air France. Check-in is done by Air France, the gate is manned by Air France staff and the aircraft standing at the gate has the full old Air France livery. IMG_1102 It’s cool though to have the opportunity to walk across the apron and board the aircraft the old fashioned way.

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CABIN

Configuration: 2 + 2
Seat: Standard economy seat
Pitch:
Width:
Facilities: None
Audio and Video: Nil

The cabin on this bird is starting to look a bit tired, but at least it seems well maintained. There aren’t that many status card holders on today’s flight. The first five rows are empty, save for row three which is occupied by my colleague and me. The rest of the passengers are sitting clustered together further down the back of the bus. IMG_1115 IMG_1116 IMG_1117 IMG_1119 IMG_1120 IMG_1121 IMG_1123

The cabin crew are very strict about the use of electronic devices during take-off and landing. So the only pictures I have of our departure are during the climb out. I kind of like the droopy effect of the prop blades.

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SERVICE

There are two male flight attendants working the flight. I’m not really quite sure if one is more senior than the other as both of them have no stripes on their uniform. Both the crew also demonstrate the same apparent lack of interest in their customers – the passengers. But somehow, this being Air France I’m not even surprised by that. Before departure cold towels are passed around which have a rather overpowering odour.

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THE MEAL

Drinks:

  • A selection of hot and cold drinks (I have a coffee and a still water)

Meal:

  • A choice between sweet biscuits or some strange looking salty snacks with dried sage (I decline)

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The meal is nothing special for sure. However, given that HOP was conceived as a kind of low-cost carrier, one really can’t complain. The complete lack of warmth, personality or friendliness by crew on the other hand, makes any Ryanair crew seem positively gushing with enthusiasm. The meal ends with one of the flight attendants passing through the cabin with a brown paper bag for passengers to throw their rubbish in. I mean, at least they could have had the decency to use a rubbish trolley like every other self-respecting airline.

ARRIVAL

The flying time to Paris is just over one hour, which is good as the seats really aren’t that comfortable. The crew distribute sweets before the landing. There is a slight delay for our arrival once we land, because the marshaller takes a while to arrive to wave us onto the stand. Domestic flights arrive and depart at Orly West. IMG_1132 IMG_1133 IMG_1134

GETTING INTO TOWN

Transport: Orlyval to Anthony, then the RER line B to the city
Departs from: Departures level of Orly West
Frequency: Every few minutes
Journey time: 6 minutes from Orly to Anthony on the Orlyval, then ca. 25 minutes on the RER B to the city centre
Fare: EUR9.- from Orly to Anthony, EUR3.50 from Anthony to the city centre

ICAO’s Paris office is located in Neuilly, roughly half-way between the Arc de Triomphe at Etoile and the new arch at La Défense. I’m staying at the hotel Foch, which is a very nice and small hotel near the Palais des Congrès at Porte Maillot and Etoile metro stations. To get there I have to take the Orlyval to Anthony, change to the RER B to Châtelet and then from there take the metro to Neuilly – Porte Maillot. IMG_1136 IMG_1137

THE RETURN

Don’t worry, I’m not doing a full report on the return. After all, a flight with HOP is hardly that exciting. But I still want to share with you the experience of checking in at Orly West, and how my colleague singlehandedly managed to destroy one of the automatic check-in machines with only very little help from me. It’s all rather complicated. In fact you cannot help but feel that somebody really must have put a lot of effort into making things just that little bit extra complicated to spice things up. We arrive at Orly West for the return flight and check our flight on the FIDS, which shows up as checking in at sector D. That’s all it says. The only problem is though, that there is a Hall 1, 2, 3 and 4 in Orly West. And each Hall has a check-in sector A, B, C and D. Which effectually means that there’s no means of guessing where to go unless you ask one of the friendly staff at the information desk. IMG_1215 IMG_1212 IMG_1214

So we finally find our check-in sector. I scan my boarding pass and out comes the baggage tag for my colleague’s suitcase. We figure like that it will get a priority label and might arrive as one of the first bags in Basel. My colleague then proceeds to one of the many baggage drop facilities and places the suitcase inside. He scans his boarding pass and then the door closes. And then the alarm sounds, the machine starts blinking in shades of green and yellow and slowly we begin to wonder if he will ever see his suitcase again. IMG_1209 And then an Air France ground hostess arrives. Oh dear! She looks like she might be la présidente of the French general worker’s union. She also looks like my colleague is the only thing standing in the way of what she probably thinks is her well-deserved break. So she stands there looking at the machine, seemingly clueless about what to do next. Her mood does not improve any as she realises that we’re finding all of this rather funny. Eventually we manage to explain to her that the alarm probably went off because there was a mismatch between the name on the baggage tag and the name on the boarding pass that was scanned at the baggage drop. Well at least now she knows what went wrong, but she’s still not a happy bunny. Eventually some guy working for Aéroports de Paris arrives and finally manages to free the poor, frightened little suitcase from captivity. IMG_1211

And then the baggage drop process is repeated, this time however using my boarding pass. And off the little suitcase goes on its big journey home. And so do I. I now have the rare privilege of spending a whopping three weeks in a row at home before my next journey. I’m going to enjoy this. Oh yes, and just in case you were wondering: no, HOP! by Air France did not really impress me. IMG_1146 IMG_1154 IMG_1156 IMG_1204 IMG_1174 IMG_1165

Uhm…this was a poster in the metro station. What can I say? I’m a fan!

Lufthansa, Business Class – ERJ-190: Frankfurt to Basel

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INTRODUCTION

It’s rather difficult to describe Frankfurt without availing oneself of language unsuitable for social media and the web. The place is way too big and quite simply a mess.

TRANSIT IN FRANKFURT

Mode of transport: Automated Skytrain on the roof of Terminal 2
Frequency: Every two minutes during peak times
Journey time: Five minutes
Fast track for security: Yes, for First and Business Class passengers

The Cathay Pacific flight from Hong Kong arrives at Frankfurt’s Terminal 2. My onward connection to Basel will be departing from Terminal 1’s A gates. The quickest was to the A gates from Terminal 2 is via the Skytrain located on the roof.

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The final stop of the Skytrain is for the Z and A gates of Terminal 1. But first I have to go through security. There is a dedicated line for First and Business Class passengers, which is considerably shorter than the Economy Class queue.

From security you should theoretically be able to head two floors down to immigration to enter the Schengen area. But not this morning. The stairs have been cordoned off. Apparently the queues at immigration are too long. So instead, we’re advised to walk all the way to immigration near gate A 26, five minutes away. In theory there’s nothing wrong with that. After all, I’ve just spent nearly thirteen hours on a plane without any major physical activity. However, given that I’ll have to backtrack all the way once I reach the Schengen area on the lower level to reach the Senator lounge is, the whole thing does seem awfully dumb really.

LOUNGE

Location: On the Schengen level, in the atrium of the new A+ gates
Type of Lounge: Senator lounge
Facilities: Washrooms, showers, public computers, buffet
Internet: Free, unlimited WiFi; there is no password

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Where on earth have all these people come from? Haven’t they got anything better to do on a Sunday morning than hang around at Frankfurt airport? The lounge is absolutely packed when I arrive, the only places left to sit are the bar stools. Well, I guess at least this will keep me from falling asleep. I get myself a caffé latte and continue working on my trip report.

BOARDING

Priority Boarding: A69 is a bus gate, there is no separate bus for Business Class passengers

Thank God I decided to walk all the way to the Senator lounge once I’d reached the Schengen area. Initially I’d contemplated using the Business Class lounge right behind immigration, but eventually figured it would be more convenient to take a lounge located in closer proximity to my departure gate. Even so, it’s still a ten minute walk from the Senator lounge to gate A 69 at the very end of the A+ pier.

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I arrive to find the gate already deserted. I head downstairs and even though I’m holding up the proceedings and the bus, I still have to give in to my impulse to take a picture of the B 747-8 parked right in front of us.

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Our Embraer is parked right behind the threshold of runway 18, at the far end of the apron. The journey by bus to get there takes 10 minutes to complete with all the stopping and starting.

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CABIN

Configuration: 2 + 2
Seat: Standard economy seat with one of the seats on the row of two kept empty
Pitch: ?
Width: ?
Facilities: Hook to hang a jacket
Audio and Video: Nil

The cabin looks very cleared up, although with all the grey it also looks a bit bland. There are seven rows of Business Class on today’s flight, with fourteen passengers in total. In the back there are only about another twenty passengers or so.

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At least the good thing of parking in such a remote spot is that we don’t have far to go to reach the departing runway.

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SERVICE

There are two female flight attendants working the flight. The purser is a middle-aged, friendly woman. The other is also female, younger and exudes about as much charm and warmth as a visit to the dentist.

THE MEAL

Hot Towels Before the Meal: No
Pre-meal drinks: None
Choice: None
Delivery: Individual tray
Appearance: Metal cutlery, crockery, glassware and a paper cup for the coffee
Type of Meal: Continental breakfast
Menu: None
Meal:

  • Natural Yoghurt with berries and almonds
  • A cold plate with cheese and smoked meat
  • A selection from the breadbasket
  • Freshly squeezed orange juice
  • Tea or coffee

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The quality of the meal is very good and the presentation is also nice and appealing. Furthermore, it’s quite a substantial meal, particularly given that the flight time to Basel is only 35 minutes!

ARRIVAL

We approach the airport from the north, passing over the Peugeot factory in France. In the background there appears to be snow on the hills on the other side of the Rhine in Germany.

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From the gate it’s just a short walk to the luggage reclaim area. As I reach the luggage carousel for my flight, I’m somewhat surprised to find that apparently the suitcases for our flight are expected in 12 minutes, which seems awfully long for such a small airport. Eventually though, we end up having to wait a full thirty minutes before the first bags start arriving. At least both of the suitcases I checked in made it back to Basel with me.

Cathay Pacific Airways, Business Class – B 777-300ER: Hong Kong to Frankfurt

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INTRODUCTION

I just disembarked from a Cathay Pacific Airways B 777-300ER, arriving from Singapore. I now have another two hours to kill before my next flight to Frankfurt.

TRANSIT / SECURITY CHECK IN HONG KONG

Location: Security check-point adjacent to the exit of gate 27
Wait: Five minutes
Fast track: none

Yes, let me see. I think I left off with my last post just as I disembarked the aircraft via gate 27 in Hong Kong. As luck will have it, the exit of gate 27 is right next door to the security check-point and having disembarked as one of the first passengers off the flight from Singapore, the queue is manageable.

There is no passport check for me, as I am only in Hong Kong in transit. Behind security is an escalator and a lift leading one floor up to the departures level. As my flight will be leaving from gate 31, I figure I might as well give the Bridge lounge a try. I’ve never visited this one and I’ve got time to kill anyway.

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LOUNGE

Location: The Bridge, access is via the escalators leading one floor down; the lounge is at the end of the pier where it divides into the shape of a Y
Type of Lounge: Cathay Pacific Airways lounge
Facilities: Washrooms, showers, public computers (Apple), The Bakery dining area, long bar
Internet: Free, unlimited WiFi; there are signs with the password throughout the lounge

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Now this is a seriously cool lounge. As far as I’m concerned, this must be the best lounge Cathay Pacific operates in Hong Kong. It’s very elegantly appointed and also very quiet at this time of the day – it’s just gone 22h20.

The whole place feels very warm and homely. There is a long bar made of marble along the windows and staffed with two bar tenders. There is also a dining area titled ‘The Bakery’, serving a rather huge selection of hot and cold dishes.

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BOARDING

Priority Boarding: Separate queue for First and Business Class passengers, separate airbridge to the L1 door for First and Business Class passengers

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It looks like it’s going to be a full flight tonight. I take my seat on 20A and wait for the Cathay Pacific crew to start their magic.

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CABIN

Configuration: 1 + 2 + 1
Seat: Fully flat horizontal seat, the window seats point outwards, towards the windows and are very private, the seats on the middle row of two point towards each other
Pitch: 34 inches
Width: 19 inches
Facilities: USB and electricity outlets, reading lamp, night lamp, overhead lamp, stowage for shoes, ample stowage area
Audio and Video: Private screens, video on demand; earphones

SERVICE

I settle into my seat and that’s when I realise I’m dead tired, so tired I can barely keep my eyes open. The cabin crew could be Martians and I probably would not turn a hair. One of them approaches me with a tray of welcome drinks. I decide to have one last Cathay delight. After all, my next flight with them is not scheduled until August.

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Before we push back the crew give each passenger a half-litre bottle of Evian.

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Once we’re airborne and the seatbelt sign is finally turned off, I visit the toilet and change into my tracksuit pants. With the light still fully on, and without waiting for the vanity kit with the earplugs to arrive, I extend my seat into a bed and quickly fall asleep – for the next seven hours. And I’m completely dead to the world. I don’t notice the flight attendant placing the menu at my seat, or the other one who closed the blinds, or the one who folded my trousers. I may not have noticed their service at the time, but I am grateful to them just the same.

FIRST MEAL SERVICE

Hot Towels Before the Meal: Yes, scented
Pre-meal drinks: Cathay Delight – made with kiwi, coconut juice and a hind of mint, served with a ramekin of warm almonds
Choice:
Delivery: Individual tray
Appearance: Wooden chopsticks
Type of Meal: Snack
Menu: Separate menu and wine list
Meal:

  • Grilled duck breast in a noodle soup, served with spicy Guilin style chilli paste

I wake up with still another five hours to go to Frankfurt, so I decide to order a snack to tie me over. With that I have glass of Diet Coke with ice. The soup is excellent and very spicy. It hits the spot nicely.

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SECOND MEAL SERVICE

Hot Towels Before the Meal: Yes, scented
Choice: Dim Sum, American style breakfast or continental breakfast
Delivery: Tray service from trolley
Appearance: Metal cutlery, crockery and glassware
Type of Meal: Breakfast, hot meal
Menu: Separate menu and wine list
Meal:

  • Apple juice, Orange juice or a Mango and Passion Fruit smoothy (my choice)
  • Tea or coffee (my choice)
  • A plate of fresh fruit
  • A selection of cereals, Müsli or Yoghurt (Blackberry)
  • Omelette with bacon, sausage, grilled tomato, frittata
  • Bread selection with butter and jam.

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The meal ends with one last hot towel, and shortly after that we’re already starting the descent into Frankfurt. The speed and rhythm of the breakfast service are really quite remarkable. There are no long waits in between courses, but at the same time the entire service does not seem in anyway rushed.

ARRIVAL

Terminal: 2.

We arrive in Frankfurt after a flying time of twelve hours and forty-seven minutes. It’s just coming up to 06h30 and the rain outside is a welcome change from the hot weather of the last week. My onward connection for the flight home to Basel will be leaving from the A gates of Terminal 1.

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Cathay Pacific Airways, Business Class – B 777-300ER: Singapore to Hong Kong

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INTRODUCTION

In Singapore I spend the entire week at the Singapore Air Show, as an exhibitor in the Swiss Pavilion. It’s certainly been an interesting week. Not only do I get up close and personal with Qatar’s gorgeous B 787, I also have the chance to meet the A 350 in real life for the first time. The A 350 in particular is a bit of a surprise, I must say. She is certainly much larger than I had expected and after some initial reservations about her nose, she is slowly starting to grow on me.

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But it’s also been rather tiring. I’ve been travelling for two weeks now, and I think I’m ready to go home.

GETTING TO THE AIRPORT

Transport: Hourly shuttle from the hotel to Changi’s terminals 1 and 2.
Departs from: First floor, in front of the lobby
Frequency: Once an hour on the hour
Journey time: 15 minutes
Fare: Nil; a taxi will cost you ca. SGD15

In Singapore I’m staying at the Village Hotel in Katong. It’s a pleasant enough hotel in a lively residential area of Singapore, with many good restaurants right behind the hotel. We chose to stay here for a number of reasons: first of all, the place was recommended to us by the organisers of the event for the Swiss delegation. Secondly, because the journey from the hotel to the air show is only about 25 minutes by taxi. On the down side, it’s a bit far out of the city, by Singaporean standards, and not really close to any train station.

CHECK-IN

Location: Departures level on the second floor
Facilities: Staffed check-in counter only
Counters: Dedicated Cathay Pacific counters on row 12, separate counters for Business Class passengers, Marco Polo Members and Economy Class passengers.

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48 hours before my departure from Singapore, I receive an e-mail from Cathay Pacific, informing me that my flight to Hong Kong is now open for check-in. I also receive a reminder on my BA app that check-in is open. Even so, I’ll check-in at the counter, as my suitcases will need to be checked in anyway, and I seriously doubt if I could check-in on the Cathay Pacific website all the way to my final destination.

The young man at check-in issues my three boarding passes, together with an invitation to the Skyview lounge in Singapore and another to one of the many lounges in Hong Kong.

My suitcase is tagged with a Business Class label and checked all the way through to the final destination – home.

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LOUNGE

Location: Behind immigration turn right; the escalator to the lounge is on your left side
Type of Lounge: Skyview Contract Lounge operated by DNATA, used mainly by Cathay Pacific Airways but also Air Mauritius and a few others
Facilities: Public computers (Apple), open air smoker’s terrace with excellent views of the ramp, no showers and no toilets
Internet: Free, unlimited WiFi, no password required

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The lounge is on the mezzanine level. It’s not a particularly nice lounge. And the furniture looks grubby around the edges. Apart from that, the coffee mugs are all stained and the allegedly clean glasses are full of grease stains.

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There is quite a varied food selection. For cold dishes, there are prepacked salads, plus a selection of sandwiches with somewhat odd contents. As far as the hot dishes are concerned, there is steamed rice, boiled potatoes, steamed vegetables, beef Rendang, some vegetable stew and tuna or chicken pies.

BOARDING

Priority Boarding: Single queue for security at the gate, separate First and Business Class passengers to access the holding area, separate airbridge to the L1 door for First and Business Class passengers

The security screening is done at the entrance to the gate. There are two queues and there is no dedicated fast track for First and Business Class passengers. After the security check, one of the gate agents scans my boarding pass and then I’m cleared to board the plane.

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CABIN

Configuration: 1 + 2 + 1
Seat: Fully flat horizontal seat, the window seats point outwards, towards the windows and are very private, the seats on the middle row of two point towards each other
Pitch: 34 inches
Width: 19 inches
Facilities: USB and electricity outlets, reading lamp, night lamp, overhead lamp, stowage for shoes, ample stowage area
Audio and Video: Private screens, video on demand; earphones

This is a somewhat strange bird. First of all, I am surprised to find a B 777-300ER standing at the gate instead of a normal B 777-300. The aircraft has the new long-haul Business Class seat installed. However, there is no First Class, so the first row of Business class, row 11, is in fact the first row of the aircraft. Nonetheless, this bird must have had a First Class cabin installed at some point, which was later removed, as the forward toilets are larger than the standard Business Class loo and have a different kind of sink.

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SERVICE

The cabin crew are from a variety of different Asian countries and very friendly. The maître de is just brilliant. She’s a middle aged Asian woman, very attractive and with an excellent sense of humour. Every time she stops at my seat we have a little natter and a laugh about this and that. But even the other crew take their time and I have an interesting discussion with one of the ladies about the quality of the cakes they serve out of Singapore, which, according to her, are the best on the entire Cathay Pacific network. I feel inclined to believe her.

I’m getting quite good with this routine by now: a pillow has been placed at every seat, while blankets are distributed individually. This is followed by the welcome drink service and then the scented hot towels.

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Once we’re airborne, the cabin crew distribute the menus.

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THE MEAL

Hot Towels Before the Meal: Yes, scented
Pre-meal drinks: Perrier with ice and lemon, served with a ramekin of warm almonds
Choice: One chicken, one beef and one vegetarian option for the main course
Delivery: Tray service from trolley
Appearance: Metal cutlery, crockery and glassware
Type of Meal: Dinner, hot meal
Menu: Separate menu and wine list
Meal:

  • Smoked salmon with lemon and lime zest, avocado and crème frîche cucumber rolls and petit pois
  • Mixed salad with Japanese cucumber, radish, tomato and oriental dressing
  • Grilled smoked Angus beef filet with thyme sauce, truffle mashed potatoes and mixed vegetables
  • A selection of breads – I have garlic bread
  • A selection of cheese
  • Chocolate hazelnut mouse cake with mixed berries, or
  • Various teas and coffees, served with a praline

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Cathay does it again and serves up another delectable meal on this three hour flight from Singapore to Hong Kong. The avocado cream and the smoked salmon are an excellent combination, it’s a very simple but extraordinarily flavourful dish. The mixed salad is refreshing and crisp, and the Japanese sesame oil dressing is just lovely.

And the main course is quite stupendous. In particular, the truffle mashed potatoes are divine, with the rich, creamy texture of the mash elegantly suffused with the subtle hint of truffles. And I just love the chocolate cake…!

By the time this monumental meal is over, there are only another 54 minutes to go to Hong Kong. The lights are dimmed and the cabin slowly settles into a calm cruise.

ARRIVAL

Terminal: 1

We arrive at gate 27, which is conveniently located right next to the security check-point in the middle of Hong Kong’s vast pier. My onward connection will be leaving from gate 31. I think today I’ll try the Bridge lounge at the far end, where the pier divides into a Y.

Cathay Pacific, Business Class – B777-300: Bangkok to Singapore

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INTRODUCTION

The unrest in Thailand, and in Bangkok in particular, is having a serious and damaging impact on the nation’s economy and reputation abroad. And the longer this situation lasts, the worse it will become. But alas, for the time being at least, it would appear that both parties are unwilling to back down from their respective positions, even it is to the detriment of the people they should be serving and representing in government.

As a tourist, it makes for a very pleasant stay in Bangkok. The hotel is nearly deserted, which means a very personalised service from all the staff. And the shopping malls are always empty, while outside at the rally sites there is no getting through with supporters of the opposition cheering and clapping while politicians with ugly faces and sly smiles belt off empty promises about all the things they will and will not do that make them so much more superior to the government currently in place…

I had a great time here in Bangkok and The Peninsula is simply a stunning hotel.

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GETTING TO THE AIRPORT

Transport: BMW 7
Departs from: Right outside the lobby
Frequency: What ever you do, if you’re travelling by car allow enough time for the horrific traffic
Journey time: 60 minutes, I leave the hotel at just after 09h00.
Fare:

Originally there should have been a strike by Thai Airways today. But either they decided to call it off, given the already dire financial state the carrier is in, or they haven’t started yet. In any case, when I arrive in Suvarnabhumi it’s business as usual all round.

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CHECK-IN

Location: Departures level on the fourth floor
Facilities: Check-in counter only, no machines
Counters: Dedicated Cathay Pacific counters

Again I was able to check-in online for this flight, once I received a notification e-mail form Cathay Pacific. Nonetheless, boarding pass collection will have to be done at the airport.

A representative from The Peninsula is already expecting me as the car pulls up outside the entrance for the Cathay Pacific check-in. He collects my bags and escorts me to the Business Class check-in counters and then from there to the premium lane for security and the passport control beyond.

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LOUNGE

Location: On the G concourse, third floor. After immigration turn right and keep on walking until you reach an intersection with some kind of Thai house standing in the middle. Turn right again and take the escalators going one floor down, which are located on your left side. At the bottom of the escalator, do a u turn and keep left until you see the cardboard flight attendant waving at you.
Type of Lounge: Cathay Pacific Airways lounge
Facilities: Public computers (Apple), no toilets
Internet: Free, unlimited WiFi; the password is available at the reception desk

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The lounge is in the typical Cathay Pacific branding. The food selection is somewhat limited. I only had a light breakfast today, so I’m feeling rather peckish. Eventually I settle for the spicy Thai chicken green curry, which is indeed, very spicy and flavourful.

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Originally the lounge is quite crowded, so I take a seat in the more private area. But then a short while later the flight to Hong Kong is called and I am able to move forward to the windows. Although of course it’s impossible to take pictures out of the lounge with those pesky dots all over the windowpanes.

The only problem with the lounge is that you can actually hear all the announcements that are being made outside, so it’s not really very tranquil inside. The Japanese gentleman in the back, who evidently has a preoccupation – let’s not call it an obsession – with his sinuses obviously doesn’t help matters. Fortunately though, I have my trusty earphones with me. And suddenly the world around me becomes a much nicer place, courtesy of some guy called Dre.

BOARDING

Priority Boarding: Separate airbridge to the L1 door for First and Business Class passengers

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Boarding starts at around 12:10 and by 12:35 we’re already pushing back, ten minutes ahead of schedule. The flight is not full, there are only seventeen passengers in Business Class, so less than half full. And when I take a peek into Economy Class, that certainly doesn’t look full either.

CABIN

Configuration: 2 + 3 + 2
Seat: Angled hard shell seat
Pitch: ?
Width: ?
Facilities: USB port and electricity outlet, overhead lamp, mobile phone holder
Audio and Video: Private touch screens, video on demand (no full length films, only TV programmes); earphones

Once more Cathay Pacific seems determined to surprise and amaze me – and succeeds! I enter the aircraft and turn right, to find that this bird is already equipped with the new regional Business Class cabin. And what a beautiful cabin it is! There are 36 seats in total. The colours and patterns used in the cabin are identical to those used in the long-haul cabin. In addition, there is a bronze coloured cushion at every seat which goes very well with the dark green upholstery.

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The seat is very functional in it’s design and tries to maximise the available space for the passenger. The tray unfolds from the front seat and is rather large when it is fully extended. And I just love the iPhone holder with the wallpaper design.

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There are two toilets for Business Class passengers. The forward one is on the left side, right by the L1 door and the rear one is on the right side, just behind the R2 door. And here too it shows how much thought has been put into the design of the cabin: the door to the forward toilet opens onto the entrance of the aircraft, so away from the passenger cabin, presumably to avoid any unsightly smells or views for the passengers sitting on the first row.

SERVICE

The crew on this flight are predominantly Thai and do an excellent job – just like the rest of their colleagues I have experienced on this trip.

The service on this flight is identical to the one a few days previously from Hong Kong to Bangkok: blankets, earphones, hot towels and welcome drinks are distributed. Although this time around there is no Oriental Breeze to choose from. I decide to go with the Orange juice.

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Initially I’m on 14A. But then I am joined by a friendly, elderly, American gentleman who is trying to figure out why on earth I seem to be taking pictures of the entire cabin. So once boarding is completed I move back to the last row, 18A the only remaining window seat with an empty aisle seat next to it.

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THE MEAL

Hot Towels Before the Meal: Yes
Pre-meal drinks: Ginger Ale – no warm almonds this time
Choice: There are three non-vegetarian options – chicken, seafood or pork
Delivery: Tray service from trolley, the passengers can see all the meals that are available on the trolley
Appearance: Metal cutlery, crockery and glassware
Type of Meal: Lunch, hot meal
Menu: Separate menu and wine list
Meal:

  • Salad of duck breast with lychee
  • A selection of breads – I have the garlic bread
  • Stir-fry chicken with cucumber in sweet bean sauce, steamed jasmine rice, kailan and carrot flowers
  • Chocolate Hägen Dazs ice cream
  • Various teas and coffees

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To be honest, I don’t really think I’m in a position to make a qualified judgement about the quality and taste of the food. I’ve now been travelling for a week. This is my fourth flight and I quite frankly, I can’t stand the sight and smell of another airline meal. So I accept the tray but eventually barely touch the food.

Instead I just sit back and enjoy the view.

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ARRIVAL

Terminal: 1

In Singapore, Cathay Pacific Airways uses Terminal 1. The distance from the aircraft is relatively short, and fortunately there aren’t that many people queue for passport control. So immigration is quickly done. From there it’s just a short distance to the luggage reclaim belt, where the suitcases start arriving just as I reach the belt.

 

 

Cathay Pacific Airways, Business Class – A 330-300: Hong Kong to Bangkok

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INTRODUCTION

After three days in Hong Kong it’s now time for me to move on to my next destination, which is Bangkok, where I shall be visiting a friend who now lives in the Thai capital. I’ve enjoyed this stay in Hong Kong.

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Moreover, I can certainly recommend the Indigo Hotel. The staff are really friendly, the rooms are nice and very clean and I have the fitness centre all to myself whenever I visit.

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GETTING TO THE AIRPORT

Wanchai to the Airport Express Terminal

Transport:

  • MTR
  • Tram

Departs from:

  • MTR: Wanchai station
  • Tram: Wanchai station, the tram stop is right opposite the exit of the MTR station

Arrives at:

  • MTR: Hong Kong station
  • Tram: The closest stop is the one in front of the HSBC in Central

Frequency: no idea, but there are frequent services
Journey time:

  • MTR: about 5 minutes
  • Tram about 15 minutes

Fare:

  • MTR: HKD 4.50
  • Tram: HKD 2.50

If, like me, you’re travelling with a lot of luggage, then perhaps the tram may not be the most convenient means of transport. There is no storage space for luggage and those stairs to the upper deck are pretty tight. MTR trains have more space in theory, but tend to be rather full no matter what time of day you’re travelling.

External view of the Airport Express station
External view of the Airport Express station

Airport Express Terminal to Hong Kong Airport

Transport: Train
Departs from: Hong Kong station on the island and Kowloon station on the mainland
Arrives: Terminal 1 (left exit from the train) and Terminal 2 (right exit from the train)
Frequency: Varies on the time of day
Journey time: 24 minutes from Hong Kong
Fare: HKD 180 for a return

I leave the hotel just after 08:30 in the morning. My flight to Bangkok will not be leaving until 12:00 but I figure, if I’m going to kill time, then I think I’d rather be at the airport people and plane watching. I decide to take a taxi to the Airport Express Terminal in Hong Kong for the simple reason that I have too much stuff with me.

CHECK-IN & BAGGAGE DROP

Location: Airport Express Terminal in Hong Kong
Facilities:

  • Web check-in available up to 48 hours before departure
  • Check-in counters
  • Self-service machines

Counters: Dedicated Cathay Pacific counters

I receive an e-mail from Cathay Pacific informing me that check-in is open 48 hours before departure. The web check-in works nicely, but for some reason the website cannot send me my boarding pass by text message. But that doesn’t matter. Instead I type in my e-mail address and a few minutes later I receive a mail from Cathay Pacific with a link to the boarding pass for me to open on my iPhone. I launch the page. Everything is in order. There is a button at the bottom of the page to add the boarding pass to your passbook, which I do.

Passengers travelling on Cathay Pacific and quite a few other carriers out of Hong Kong have the possibility to already drop their bags at the station in Hong Kong, instead of carting it all the way to the airport and dropping it off there. The service is available up to 90 minutes before departure, which is not bad at all.

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The check-in agent informs me that the video screen on my assigned seat is not working and that therefore they have moved me one row back to 15A. I’m mightily impressed, I must say.

The lifts taking you down to the platform level are right opposite the check-in counters.

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Cathay Pacific calls Terminal 1 home.

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LOUNGE

Location: The Wing, access to the lounge is opposite of gate 2, the lounge is on the mezzanine level one floor up
Type of Lounge: Cathay Pacific Airways lounge
Facilities: Washrooms, showers, public computers (Apple), Noodle bar, Café
Internet: Free, unlimited WiFi

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I like the design of the Cathay Pacific lounges. Black and white marble and what looks like black granite are used extensively and give the lounge a very elegant appearance. Having said that, it also make the place seem rather dark.

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My first stop is the infamous noodle bar. I’m not really that hungry to be honest, but I just like the idea of having a Chinese noodle bar in a lounge.

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Once I’ve demolished the noodles, I head for the café, order a cappuccino and start writing this trip report.

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BOARDING

Priority Boarding: Separate lane for First and Business Class passengers, separate airbridge to the L1 door

Boarding is delayed by about fifteen minutes due to the late arrival of the aircraft on the inbound leg. From what I understand, ATC related delays are quite common in Hong Kong.

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The load is very light in both classes on this flight. Only twelve of the 42 seat in Business Class are occupied, which suits me fine as it means I have the seat next to me empty.

CABIN

Configuration: 2 + 2 + 2
Seat: Regional Business Class, angled recline in a traditional configuration
Pitch: 45 inches
Width: 21 inches
Facilities: There are some plugs, but I’m not quite sure what they are for, overhead lamp
Audio and Video: Private screens, video on demand; earphones

The Cathay Pacific regional Business Class cabin is quite nice. There’s certainly something old school about the seats and they are beginning to show some signs of wear and tear. Nonetheless, it’s a very comfortable seat, particularly given that this is a short flight of only two hours and thirty minutes. There is a cushion on every seat.

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SERVICE

The cabin crew on this flight are simply excellent, there really is no other way to put it. And instead of taking it easy with such a light load, they appear to be taking this as an opportunity to offer a more personalised service.

As I board the aircraft, I am greeted with a big smile by one of the four young ladies working the Business Class cabin. She looks at my boarding pass and escorts me to my seat. She wishes me a good flight and returns to her station by the door.

In short sequence another flight attendant comes by, first offering a welcome drink and followed by the earphones, a blanket and menu for this flight.

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Just before we push back, Alice comes to introduce herself as the Inflight Service Manager and wishes me a good flight.

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THE MEAL

Hot Towels Before the Meal: Yes, there is also an antiseptic towel on the tray when the meal arrives

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Welcome drink: Cathay Delight – made with kiwi, coconut juice and a hind of mint

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Pre-meal drinks: Ginger Ale, served with a ramekin of warm almonds

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Choice: There are three choices for the main course – shrimps, lamb or chicken
Delivery: Tray service from trolley
Appearance: Metal cutlery, crockery and glassware
Type of Meal: Lunch, hot meal
Menu: Separate menu and wine list
Meal:

  • A seasonal salad with a citrus vinaigrette.
  • A selection of breads – I have the garlic bread.
  • Spicy Thai green curry with steamed rice and kalian.
  • A selection of Hägen-Dazs ice cream – chocolate chip, vanilla or cookies and cream.
  • Various teas and coffees, served with a praline. For the coffee there is a choice of either cream or milk. The milk is even warmed.

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The Thai green curry is quite spicy and very flavourful. But I leave the kailan, greens on a plane are rarely worth trying I find.

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One thing I already noticed on the previous flight is that they seem to have done away completely with those pebble shaped salt and pepper shakers and didn’t even replace them with sachets or anything like that.

The meal ends with the distribution of yet another hotel towel. The crew then quickly remove all the trays and switch off the lights to let the passengers have a rest.

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The atmosphere in the cabin becomes very relaxed, quiet and calm. Natural light is seeping in through the windows, casting strange shapes and shadows across the cabin. In the background the Rolls-Royce engines are gently humming their tune, softly lulling me to sleep. And as I slowly slip into a slumber, caressed by the warmth of the sun outside, I am reminded once more of what it is I just love so much about flying. And this, to me, is utter bliss.

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ARRIVAL

Terminal: There is only one international terminal in Bangkok Suvarnabhumi

We make a straight in approach into Bangkok. And indeed, the airport is very quiet when we arrive.

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I’m the first to disembark and make my way to immigration. If, like me, you need to obtain a visa on arrival, you cannot use the normal channel. The visa on arrival channel is about seventy metres further on. In order to obtain a visa on arrival you need to have:

  • one full empty page in your passport (the stamp they put in it is enormous)
  • THB 1000
  • a passport photo
  • a copy of your ticket to depart Thailand
  • a completed immigration form
  • a completed application form for a visa on arrival

Should you happen not to have any of the above, don’t worry. With the exception of the empty page in your passport you can obtain everything at the visa on arrivals counter, which also has a photo booth, a teller machine and a bureau de change.

GETTING INTO TOWN

Getting into Bangkok from Suvarnabhumi is a pain. Whatever you do, you’re stuck between a rock and a hard place. There is a train, the express, which obviously has the benefit of not getting stuck in traffic. The only problem with the train though, is that it doesn’t really go anywhere useful. And if you’re staying down by the river it’s particularly useless if you’re travelling with luggage as you will be required to change trains and cart your junk up and down a lot of stairs.

Fortunately, I’m being picked up by the hotel. And although my BMW comes with it’s own wifi network, cold water and a refreshingly cool towel, the traffic is still a mess. The things one must endure…

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In Bangkok I am staying at the Peninsula. Initially I was going to stay at the Mandarin Oriental, but from the pictures and reviews I found on Tripadvisor, the Peninsula just looked more appealing. I’ll leave it here for the time being, thank God it’s finally the weekend…

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Cathay Pacific, Business Class – B 777-300 to Hong Kong

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INTRODUCTION

I just disembarked from a British Airways A 319 flight from Basel. My next stop will be Hong Kong. I am going there by Cathay Pacific Airways Business Class.

TRANSIT IN HEATHROW

Transport: Direct shuttle bus from T5 to T3 via T5B
Departs from: Ground floor, the escalators lead down from the arrivals level roughly in the middle of the terminal, opposite immigration
Frequency: Varies on the time of day
Journey time: 10 minutes

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Terminal 5 is surprisingly calm this morning. Or rather, it’s busy, as usual, but it doesn’t seem hectic. I follow the signs marked for transfer to Terminal 3, which eventually leads me downstairs to where the buses leave from to the other terminals. The place is completely deserted. I don’t have long to wait for the bus and just before we depart a few more passengers do arrive.

TRANSFER CHECK-IN

Location: Departures level on the first floor
Facilities: One check-in counter, open only a few hours ahead of departures
Counters: Dedicated Cathay Pacific counter, Business and First Class passengers may check-in for their flight in the lounge

I already received my boarding pass for the onward connection to Hong Kong when I checked in for the flight in Basel.

LOUNGE

Location: Lounge C, access is on the first floor airside; the lounge itself is one floor up and there are lifts
Type of Lounge: Cathay Pacific Airways lounge, used also by Finnair
Facilities: Washrooms, showers, public computers (Apple)
Internet: Free, unlimited WiFi; the password is available at the reception desk

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The lounge is pretty empty when I arrive, I think there are two other passengers there. The lounge has a spacious, airy feel to it and no matter what time of day you come here, there’s always a nice place to sit. I also like the design and layout of the lounge, which is very unpretentious.

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The view of the action on the ramp is usually quite good as well. Particularly if, like today, they’re using 09R for departures. But alas, they appear to be doing some work on the façade of the building, the scaffolding making it pretty impossible to take any decent shots.

There is also a good selection of hot and cold dishes to eat. Including a full English breakfast buffet, pastries and Asian dishes. But I only have a glass of sparkling water, seeing as I’ve only just had breakfast on the flight in from Basel. The infamous noodle bar opens at 09:30.

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BOARDING

Priority Boarding: Separate queue for First and Business Class passengers to access the holding area, separate airbridge to the L1 door for First and Business Class passengers

I leave the lounge about 45 minutes before departure and slowly make my way to gate 18.

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Boarding starts a little less than 40 minutes before departure. Which gives me just enough time to take a few pictures of my chariot for today.

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I am given a very warm welcome as I enter the aircraft. The cabin crew checks my boarding pass before showing me the way to my seat on 15A.

CABIN

Configuration: 1 + 2 + 1
Seat: Converts into a fully flat, horizontal bed
Pitch: 81 inches
Width: 21 inches
Facilities/Amenities: USB and electricity outlets, reading lamp, night lamp, overhead lamp, stowage for shoes, duvet and pillow
Audio and Video: Video on demand; earphones are not branded

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The Cathay Pacific Business Class cabin hardly needs an introduction – it’s very elegant and beautifully appointed. The seat is very comfortable, it offers a lot of stowage space and a high degree of comfort and privacy. I am seated on 15A, which is the bulkhead row. I like this seat a lot. However it should be pointed out that there is only one window on 15A and you have to lean forward to be able to look outside.

SERVICE

The cabin crew appear to be from a variety of different Asian countries. They are very professional in the way they go about their work. Even so, despite being highly efficient they still find the time to be friendly.

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Once we’re airborne, the cabin crew start their service with the distribution of the Agnes B. vanity kits. There are different kits for men and women.

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FIRST MEAL SERVICE

Welcome drink on the ground: Orange juice

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Hot Towels Before the Meal: Yes, not scented

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Pre-meal drinks: Cathay Delight – made with kiwi, coconut juice and a hind of mint, served with a ramekin of warm almonds

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Choice: One vegetarian and three non-vegetarian options for the main course
Delivery: Tray service from a trolley
Appearance: Metal cutlery, crockery and glassware
Type of Meal: Lunch, hot meal
Menu: Separate menu and wine list

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Meal:

  • Peat smoked Scottish salmon with crayfish terrine wrapped in nori, served with an onion and fennel salad and lemon
  • A selection of breads – onion focaccia and garlic bread
  • Mixed salad with grilled vegetables and a herb vinaigrette
  • Szechuan style chicken with yu huang chilli sauce, steamed rice and Shanghai style Pak Choy with ginger and garlic
  • A selection of Irish, French and English Cheese, served with a glass of port
  • Black currant and lemon tart
  • Various teas and coffees, served with a praline

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Oh Cathay Pacific, what have you done? You’ve spoiled me for life. I think this must be one of the best, if not the best, meal I have ever had on a plane in Business Class. The entire experience is simply flawless and the delivery of the individual courses is very well timed. And the taste is simply amazing! Where to begin? First of all, the salmon in the first course is quite obviously of good quality, very often on planes you tend to get the cheap, fatty salmon that is just fishy and nothing else. But this here is quite the contrary, the lemon gently bringing out the best of the subtle salmon flavour. The terrine is out of this world and the combination with the nori works incredibly well.

But it’s also little things that distinguish this meal. The bottle containing the vinaigrette for example, is made of glass, and not plastic. And apart from that, the vinaigrette tastes really very good, unlike that vile Heinz stuff Lufthansa insists on serving up in First Class.

The main course is also very tasty and the spicy sauce that is served with the meal lends it that extra kick. Moreover, the ginger flavour in the Pak Choy is refreshing and sets a stark contrast to the spicy chicken sauce.

And finally, the dessert. This is lovely, a very subtle and tasty combination of flavours. The crushed biscuit base in particular is delicious!

After the meal the crew distribute half litre bottles of sparkling water, before eventually turning off the lights. I change into my tracksuit and do some work.

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SECOND MEAL SERVICE

Hot Towels Before the Meal: Yes, lightly scented

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Pre-meal drinks: Orange juice

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Choice: Two savoury western dishes and chicken congee
Delivery: Tray service from trolley
Appearance: Metal cutlery, crockery and glassware
Type of Meal: Breakfast, hot meal
Menu: Separate menu and wine list
Meal:

  • Plate of fruit
  • Cornflakes
  • Pastries and rolls from the breadbasket, served with jam
  • Potato, bell pepper and corn frittata with mushrooms, grilled tomato and streaked bacon
  • Tea or coffee

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Just like the first service, this is another tasty meal.

ARRIVAL

Terminal: 1

If you’re ending your journey in Hong Kong you will have to complete a landing card for immigration. If the crew don’t automatically distribute the landing cards, make sure you obtain one on board, before the end of the flight. Depending on the time of day you arrive in Hong Kong, it can be a bit of a scrum at immigration.

Our arrival gate is at the far end of the terminal. To reach immigration we have to catch a train from the basement. But fortunately, immigration is not too busy today. And by the time I’m through, my suitcase is already expecting me on the carousel.

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GETTING INTO TOWN

Transport: Train
Departs from: There is one stop at the airport that serves both Terminals 1 and 2
Arrives: Tsing Yi, Kowloon, Central (Hong Kong island)
Frequency:
Duration: 24 minutes
Fare: 180 Hong Kong Dollars for a return, but you need to specify the validity of the return

The train station is conveniently located right in between Terminals 1 and 2, just a short distance from the arrivals hall. There is a ticket counter right behind customs, but this doesn’t open until 09:00 in the mornings. Alternatively, there is another counter and ticketing machines in the arrivals hall.

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At the Kowloon and Hong Kong island stations passengers can connect to a complimentary shuttle bus to their hotel. There are different routes on the mainland and on Hong Kong island proper which don’t serve all hotels but certainly most of the big chains.

WHERE TO STAY

This time, I shall be staying at the Hotel Indigo in Wanchai. The Indigo chain belongs to the Intercontinental group. It’s a nice, stylish hotel. Furthermore, the staff are really very friendly and helpful. The hotel is located close to the Wanchai metro station and tram stop.

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CLOSING REMARKS

As far as I’m concerned, Cathay Pacific Airways is among the best airlines out there. The Business Class seat is excellent and surpasses even the Singapore Airlines seat, which somehow always ends up giving me a backache. The quality of the food and the courteousness of the crew are simply outstanding.

British Airways, Club Class – A 319: Basel to London and beyond…

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INTRODUCTION

I spent all of last week commuting to the office by train. Every day, the same routine. Actually I thought it was quite exotic for a change. But today I’m back to the old routine. Exactly one week and one day after I return from London, I’m off again. This time, I’m heading for…eh…London again. In my defence, I shall only be changing planes in Heathrow this time. What’s more, at least I had the decency of picking another flight for the outbound than I did last time.

GETTING TO THE AIRPORT

Transport: BVB bus line 50
Departs from: Basel SBB railway station, by the main exit
Frequency: Every 8 to 10 minutes
Journey time: 16 minutes
Fare: CHF4.20, one-way
Link: Basler Verkehrsbetriebe – BVB

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To look at the amount of luggage I’m carting with me on this trip, you’d easily be mislead to think I’m emigrating to Australia. Not this time. But I will be gone for two weeks, and it is a business trip after all.

I catch the 05:35 bus. The passengers are mostly travellers with small carry-ons, gazing absentmindedly into their iPhones through tired eyes. Right opposite of me is a young couple. They look so sweet. I have no idea where they’re heading, but he is obviously very excited about the journey they are about to embark on. While she tenderly strokes his hand, quite obviously finding pleasure in relishing in his excitement.

CHECK-IN

Location: Departures level on the first floor, Swiss side
Facilities: Self-service check-in machines and baggage drop counters
Counters: Dedicated British Airways counters
Link: Euroairport Basel-Mulhouse-Freiburg

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I enter the terminal and head straight for the British Airways counters. Somewhere in the back of the building I can hear a man laughing. But it’s not a normal kind of laugh. More like the insane, evil laugh of the Über-villain in a James Bond movie. And he won’t stop either. The check-in agent simply rolls her eyes and explains that he’s a regular. Charming!

Incidentally, the check-in agent is a competent young lady with excellent manners. She’s French and speaks very good English. She checks my suitcase through to my final destination, gives me instructions to the lounge and sends me on my way wishing me a pleasant flight.

There’s quite a queue for security this morning, but fortunately for me the priority lane is open and empty.

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LOUNGE

Location: Airside on the second floor, in the Schengen sector
Type of Lounge: Skyview contractor lounge operated by Swissport
Facilities: Washrooms, showers, public computers
Internet: Free, unlimited WiFi; no password required
Link: Skyview lounge

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There are two young American gentlemen ahead of me as I enter the lounge. Apparently they’re travelling on the KLM service to Amsterdam. One young man is granted access to the lounge while the other is informed that he will not be allowed to enter without a status card. The two young men deliberate what to do next, seemingly oblivious to me, waiting behind them. Eventually the guy who has access to the lounge simply says: ‘Okay buddy, I’ll just grab a bite to eat here and I’ll be outside in about 25 minutes. See you at the gate. Bye’. Well that’s not very nice.

I only have a cappuccino in the lounge, in anticipation of another one of those delectable British Airways breakfasts.

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BOARDING

Priority Boarding: Separate queue for status and Business Class passengers

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Boarding starts exactly on time. I exit the lounge, turn left to the non-Schengen gates and passport control. I don’t know how British Airways does it, honestly. The cabin divider is pushed all the way back to the row behind the emergency exit, which makes ten rows of Business Class with a total of forty seats. And from what I can tell, there are no empties this morning.

There’s a bit of a hold up for departure. It’s quite misty this morning so arrivals and departures have had to be slowed down.

CABIN

Configuration: 2 + 2
Seat: Standard European Economy Class seat with the middle seat left empty
Pitch: 34 inches
Width: 19 inches
Facilities: Overhead video screens, no audio outlet

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I’m becoming rather fond of these BA seats, I must say. So much better than those horribly thin seats most carriers seem to have on short-haul these days, that have your back aching and your butt going numb within minutes of sitting down. I still don’t know how I managed to fly all the way from Vienna to Larnaca in one of those. Yes, this is definitely so much better.

SERVICE

There are two cabin crew working the Business Class cabin this morning – the male Customer Service Manager and a young lady. Initially I don’t much like the CSM because his smile looks kind of put on. Later on though I realise I must revise my impression of him. It’s just the way he smiles and he seems in fact genuinely friendly and very customer oriented.

MEAL SERVICE

Hot Towels Before the Meal: Yes, slightly scented
Pre-meal drinks: None
Choice: English breakfast or a plate of cold cuts
Delivery: Tray service from trolley
Appearance: Metal cutlery, crockery and glassware, hot meal served in tinfoil
Type of Meal: Breakfast, hot meal
Menu: No menu distributed
Meal:

  • Scrambled eggs
  • Cumberland sausage
  • Grilled tomato
  • Bacon
  • Mushrooms
  • Bread and butter, marmalade
  • Cereal bar with cherries
  • Tea or coffee, a selection of juices and soft drinks

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British Airways recently revamped their catering concept and there now appears to be a choice of two different dishes for every meal service. Of course I go with the English breakfast, which hits the spot nicely. The scrambled eggs in particular are really excellent, with a rich, creamy texture and a sinful buttery taste. The coffee is still an abomination though…

Outside it’s a beautiful day for flying. Just as we reach the French coast the trays are removed and we begin our descent into Heathrow. Time to sit back and contemplate…

ARRIVAL

Terminal: 5A, British Airways terminal – this is where most European flights arrive and depart

We’re treated to a beautiful approach into London this morning. We reach the city from the south east and then to a sharp left turn. As we come out of the turn I can clearly see the illuminated billboard on Piccadilly Circus. We then to another left turn to point us in a southwesterly direction, passing due south of Heathrow. We then execute a series of very gentle right turn until eventually we are lined up for a 09Left arrival.

As we touch down I spot three Cathay Pacific Airways Boeing B 777-300s. One of them is wearing the infamous and absolutely stunning Asia’s World City livery. Could this perhaps mean…hush my heart…hush…hush….

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What a babe…

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