Cathay Dragon, Economy Class – Airbus A 320: Hong Kong to Shanghai Pudong

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Introduction

Originally, we were supposed to continue to Shanghai on Sunday, the day after we arrived in Hong Kong. But then Typhoon Ampil had other ideas, our flight to Shanghai was cancelled and instead, we ended up staying in Hong Kong until Tuesday afternoon. Still, it was a pleasant stay and I managed to get quite a bit of work done.

In Hong Kong I stayed at the Novotel Citygate, which is only about ten minutes away from the airport by shuttle. It’s also a great location if you want to explore Lantau island or visit the Tian Tan Buddah. The station for the cable car that takes you up to the Buddah is only about ten minutes away from the hotel.

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Getting into Town

The Novotel provides a regular, complimentary shuttle service between the airport and the hotel. Busses leave the hotel every twenty minutes, starting on the hour. The journey time to the airport is ten minutes, and the driver will drop you off at departures on the upper level.

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Check-in

Cathay Dragon checks in at terminal 1, which is where most of the airlines serving Hong Kong seem to be located. The counters for Cathay Dragon are conveniently located on row H, which is at the far end of the terminal building, opposite the entrance to security.

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There is a separate queue for Business Class and OneWorld card holders. The check-in agent tags my suitcase to Shanghai and issues an invitation to the Cathay Pacific lounge together with the boarding pass.

Luckily, since my last visit, Hong Kong has introduced biometric passport scanners, which significantly speed up the process of leaving the city, even if they do work rather slowly.

The Cathay Pacific Deck Lounge

I was not aware of the fact that Cathay Dragon is an ‘associated’ member of the OneWorld alliance through its affiliation with Cathay Pacific. Which means that I can access the lovely Cathay Pacific lounges and I can even take along the valiant M. as a guest.

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I’ve never been to this particular lounge though, and I’m wondering if it’s only here provisionally. It’s located at the west end of the ‘T’ of Hong Kong’s terminal. It’s a nice lounge, but it’s definitely not as large as their lounge on the east wing.

The lounge is situated further along from the gorgeous QANTAS lounge in Hong Kong. Although to access the lounge you will need to go down one level first.

The lounge is nicely laid out and has good facilities, including showers, a dining area and a quiet zone, and good wifi. More importantly though, the food selection is very good. Apart from a fairly wide selection of hot and cold dishes, there is also the much loved noodle station, where you can have a variety of different Hong Kong style noodle dishes made to order.

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Boarding

The flight to Shanghai will depart from gate 504, which is in the satellite to the west of the terminal facility. Because you have to head downstairs to get across, I was kind of expecting that we would need to take an underground train or something of the sort. But in actual fact there’s just a normal bus that runs frequently across the apron between the main building and the satellite.

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I can’t really say I had much time to explore the satellite, because no sooner had we arrived, we realised that our flight was already in the final stages of boarding.

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The Cabin

Today’s flight is operated by an Airbus A 320 in the new Cathay Dragon livery. The first thing I notice upon entering the aircraft, is that it has new overhead bins that I don’t think I’ve ever seen before on this type of aircraft: the bins fold down instead of up and the opening and closing device is a button with a small light in it. The bins also seems to be smaller, because I happened to see quite a few passengers struggling to stuff their belongings into the bins.

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Other than that though, the cabin is nice. It’s clean and even in Economy Class the seat pitch is good and comfortable enough for the flight of two hours and ten minutes to Shanghai. Pillows and blankets are also available.

Cathay Dragon does not use overhead screen, but wifi and video streaming is available. Although I’m not even sure if that’s such a good thing. Because the two guys in front of me have decided to watch some god awful Chinese history/fantasy/action film together, which looks like a heap of crap to me and sounds so too, judging by the hideous and copious amounts of yelling and flying through the air sound effects that I’m sure everybody, and I really mean everybody in the aircraft can hear…

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Oh yes, and don’t worry about your seat assignment. Cathay Dragon has a rather strange system, whereby they leave out certain numbers of rows. I was seated by the window on 39K, which is right behind the wing.

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The Crew

There are six crew on the flight today, which seem a tad exaggerated but kind of helps to highlight the difference between the European carriers for example, who usually just fly around with the minimum crew complement, and the Asian airlines, where salaries are low enough for this not to be such an issue. Admittedly, none of the crew seem overly friendly. But they’re efficient and they get the job done.

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The Meal

Once we’re airborne, the service begins. In all honesty, I wasn’t really expecting to be given anything. Which is probably why I’m even more surprised when the trolley stops at my aisle and they ask me if I’d prefer the fish with potatoes or the pork with rice. I decide to try the fishy.

The meal service is pretty old school and consists of a tray with:

  1. a bowl with pasta salad,
  2. a cup of still water,
  3. a pre packaged bun with butter,
  4. a cup of Hägen Dasz strawberry ice cream,
  5. the hot meal.
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The hot meal is not very good, even by Economy Class standards. The fish is rather gross and the potatoes are all soggy from the sauce. The veg is bland and tasteless. And the ice cream is just too sweet. But that’s not the airline’s fault.

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During the meal service, the crew make three drink runs though, which is much appreciated. The trays are removed fairly quickly once the meal service has been completed.

The rest of the flight passes quickly, while the valiant M. tries to teach me geology 101. It’s riveting, I’m telling you…! In all fairness though, it really does put the average eighty or so years a human spends on earth into perspective, when you compare that to the millions of years it took to produce something as magnificent as the Alps, for example. It also makes me hopeful that earth will continue to exist, even long after the human race has vanished from the face of the earth.

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Arrival

But enough of geology and philosophy. By the time we turn on to the final approach, it’s already dark in Shanghai. The approach is fairly stable, right up until the end when we suddenly start to roll and yaw. But Mr. Pilot keeps it together and eventually we land about twenty minutes behind schedule.

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Immigration doesn’t take too long, even though it looks as though we just arrived behind a full flight from Japan. By the time I exit immigration, the suitcases have already been removed from the belt and deposited at the collection area for premium passengers.

In Shanghai I’ll be staying in the Fudan area of the city. The journey from the airport will take about 45 minutes to complete in good traffic and will cost about RMB160.

Malaysia Airlines, Business Class – A 330-300: Kuala Lumpur to Brisbane

Folie1

Introduction

I am feeling surprisingly fresh, all things considered. I woke up at 05:30 on 26 December to catch my flight from Zürich to Paris. And save for two hours’ sleep on the flight from Paris to Kuala Lumpur, I’ve been awake the whole time.

I step off the A 380 that brought me in from Paris and make my way to Malaysia’s satellite lounge.

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The Malaysia Airlines First Class Lounge

Location: One floor up from the public area, above the metro station that connects the satellite with the main building.
Type of Lounge:
Malaysia Airlines First Class lounge.
Facilities:
Toilets, showers, separate dining area, workstations.
Internet: Available for free, password required.

There is a common reception area for the Malaysia Airlines lounges in Kuala Lumpur. The Business Class lounge is to the left of the counter, while the First Class lounge is to the right. Even though my onward connection to Brisbane will be only in Business Class, the lounge dragon still grants me access to the First Class lounge once she has checked the PNR for my trip.

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The lounge itself is pretty empty and it seems to me that the place has been renovated or refurbished recently. The toilets look much newer than the last time I was here. Then again, appearances can be misleading…I decide to have a shower to freshen up before the next flight. At close inspection however, the showers look badly maintained and not particularly clean. What can I say? I am a doctor’s son, so perhaps I may be a tad picky when it comes to hygiene. So eventually I decide to give the showers a miss.

Boarding

I leave the lounge roughly forty-five minutes before departure because I still have to go through security to enter the holding area of my gate. When I arrive at C16, from where my flight will be leaving, the place is a complete mess. A beautiful Iraqi Airways Boeing 777-300 has just pulled up at the gate next to ours. As the passengers of that flight disembark, they are blocking the way for passengers queuing for security for gates C16 and C17.

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Eventually, by the time I manage to get into the holding area, boarding for my flight has already started. There is no separate queue for security. There is however, a separate exit to the aircraft for Business Class.

The Cabin

Configuration: 2 + 2 + 2
Seat: The first thing that strikes me about the overall cabin is that it is very dirty. There are even stains of food on the wall paneling and there are crumbs of food all over the place. The seat’s hard shell back  is quite low. Consequently, it does not offer much in terms of privacy. But at least there is a divider on every pair of seats. Storage space is also somewhat limited.
Pitch: 60 inches.
Width:
20 inches.
Facilities:
USB port and power supply (115 volt).
Length as a bed: 75.2 inches.
Audio and Video:
Touch screen audio video on demand.

As I enter the cabin and reach my seat, there is hardly any room to sit. The space is taken up by a large pillow, a thick blanket and a thin mattress on every seat.

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The Crew

What a nightmare. I really think it is safe to say that I have never experienced such an awful crew in all my life, on any airline. During the boarding process, assisting passengers with their luggage and helping them stow all the blankets, pillows etc. does not seem part of the crew’s job description and they generally have an attitude of could not care less.

There is a large group of Indian businessmen on the flight today and they are, admittedly, behaving rather badly. Nonetheless, the crew are so apparently pissed off with them that they first start ignoring the passengers, then start being rude to them, move on to yelling at them and eventually end up doing all of the above at the same time.

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Amenities

After take-off the vanity kits are distributed. The content is more or less the same as in the First Class kit I received on the previous flight.

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The Meal

Welcome drink on the ground: Guava juice.
Hot towel before the meal: Yes, scented.
Pre-meal drink:
Water.
Choice:
There are three choices for the main course, but no menus are distributed, so I have not idea what was on offer. I just had the chicken.
Type of meal:
Good question…

The meal service is a chaotic mess. One flight attendant approaches passengers and asks them if they have already made a choice, which seems just a bit dumb given that no menus were distributed on the flight. When passengers ask what the choices are, the cabin crew roll their eyes and mumble something about ‘chicken, salmon….’. Ah, so much better.

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Amuse Bouche

Mixed chicken and beef satay with accompaniments.

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The First Course

Something (tuna?) with raw peppers and celery.

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The Main Course

Chicken Indian style.

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At least the service does not take too long to complete. The trays are cleared away, the cabin lights are dimmed and most of the passengers go off to sleep. And so do the crew. There is one guy among the crew on this flight who spends most of his time sitting in one of the Business Class seats reading the paper. At some point he passes through the cabin, presumably to keep up appearances, sees my empty tray and instructs one of the other cabin crew to pick it up and remove it, rather than simply doing it himself. Another crew member is sleeping on the jump seat, with his legs sprawling across the aisle. I have to climb over him to get to the toilet.

The Second Service

The second service is hardly worth mentioning. It consists of two rather small and bland canapés – one with cream cheese and the other with a strange combination of marinated spicy chicken, tomato sauce and pineapple.

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Arrival

By the time we start our descent into Brisbane it is already getting dark outside. Our approach sees us approaching the airport from the west and then executing a left-hand 270 degrees turn to land in a southerly direction.

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The international terminal is deserted when we arrive. Malaysia Airlines hands out express cards for immigration and customs to their Business Class passengers. But the airport is so quiet this evening that the express lane for customs has already closed down.

Getting into Town

Transport: Taxi.
Departs from: Taxi rank in front of the terminal building.
Journey time: 25 Minutes.
Fare: AUD47.- to New Farm.

There are bus and train services that frequently run from the airport into the city and to Gold Coast and Surfer’s Paradise. But according to Google Maps the journey by public transport to where I am going will take more than an hour. So I think I shall take a taxi, if that is all the same with you.

Conclusion

Good heavens, what on earth was that? I mean Malaysia Airlines, really? As I already mentioned in my previous post, their First Class product on the A 380 is a lot more like a Business Class experience on other Asian carriers, although the hardware on the A 380 is excellent. But this last flight from Kuala Lumpur to Brisbane in Business Class was a complete and utter nightmare. I am aware of the fact that the carrier has been brought under government control in a bid to stabilise the company before moving ahead with privatisation. But to be perfectly honest, as far as I can tell privatisation has definitely put the carrier in a downward spiral it may not recover from. Especially on the last flight it became apparent that the staff’s motivation has reached rock bottom. Paired with the fact that their hard product in Business Class is no longer competitive with the likes of Thai, Singapore Airlines, Cathay Pacific or Emirates, it seems hardly unlikely that Malaysia Airlines will rise from the ashes the way the Malaysian government is intending. Pity.

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

Folie1

Introduction

I spend my last day in Hong Kong walking through the narrow streets of Wan Chai and its many food markets. The sights, sounds and above all the smells are not for the faint of heart but they give you a very different feel for the city. In fact, ambling through Wan Chai, glitzy Central with its banks suddenly seems somehow very far away.

But it has been a hot and humid day here in Hong Kong, so eventually I decide to call it a day and head out for the airport at around 18:00.

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Getting to the Airport

Transport: train
Departs from: Hong Kong Island Terminus
Arrives: Hong Kong Airport Terminals 1 and 2
Frequency: every 12 minutes
Journey time: 24 minutes
Fare: HKD100, that is HKD18 more expensive than the inbound journey from the airport

It is possible to check-in for Cathay Pacific flights at the terminus station of the Airport Express on Hong Kong island. Opposite the check-in counters is the lift that takes you two floors down to the platform. But today I have decided to check-in at the airport, quite simply because I have not done that before.

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CHECK-IN
Location:
Terminal 1, rows B and C

The airport seems rather quiet this evening, maybe because it is Sunday. The good thing is that there are no queues for check-in.

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I haven’t eaten since breakfast and I could really murder a bowl of noodles right now. I ask the friendly check-in agent if there is a noodle bar in every one of the Cathay Pacific lounges, to which she replies that she is not quite sure. It is not really that important, but next thing I know she is already calling somebody somewhere to find out. So just in case you were wondering, there is a noodle bar in the Wing and Pier lounges but not in the Bridge lounge. She also informs me that, for operational reasons, my flight has a delay of twenty minutes.

The Cathay Pacific Wing Lounge

Location: The Wing, opposite gate 2
Type of Lounge:
Cathay Pacific Business Class lounge
Facilities:
noodle bar, coffee bar, drinks bar, Mac workstations, showers, toilets
Internet:
available, the password is displayed in various locations around the lounge

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Apparently you’ll need a lounge invitation to access the lounge, although I’m not sure what happens if you check-in online and don’t actually use a check-in counter before you head airside.

The noodle bar is fantastic and there are different soups available. I’m famished, so first I have a spicy Shanghai style noodle soup with crushed peanuts, followed by a Japanese ramen soup with vegetables. You order your soup directly at the counter. You are then given a buzzer which starts blinking when your food is ready for collection. While I wait I have some steamed pak choi and some dim sum.

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With the imminent risk of starvation successfully mitigated, I find myself a more comfortable place to sit on one of the loungers by the coffee bar.

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BOARDING

Priority Boarding: there are three queues for boarding: one is for Business Class passengers and the top tier members of Cathay Pacific’s FFP, one for Marco Polo members and another for Economy Class passengers. Because Australia does not allow for more than 100ml of liquids to be taken on board as hand luggage, a secondary security screening takes place just before entering the airbirdges.

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There are two airbridges connected to the aircraft, although in my case there’s not really much point in taking the Business Class one to the L1 door, seeing as my seat is located in the mini cabin behind the L2 door anyway.

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The Cabin
Configuration:
1 + 2 + 1
Seat: 39 seats. The window seats face away from the aisle, which makes the seat very private. The aisle seats however, face towards each other. However, they are still sufficiently private. This is one of the best Business Class seats out there and can easily match what British Airways has in First Class these days. In fact it is more or less the same seat. The finish of the seat is very nice and there is a lot of storage space. The overall impression is that a lot of thought was put into designing this seat. Incidentally, Cathay Pacific also provide you with a proper duvet and not just a blanket, even in Business Class.
Pitch: 82 inches
Width: 20.2 inches
Recline: 180 degrees
Facilities: power outlet, reading lamp, overhead lamp, a lot of stowage space
Audio and Video: AVOD, touch screen or remote controlled

Cathay Pacific does its own take on the SWISS Stübli, but in reverse order. The main Business Class cabin is located between the L/R1 and L/R2 doors. And then there is a further, mini cabin with only three rows behind the L/R2 galley (rows 19 – 21). Originally I was on 14A in the main cabin. But I am reseated because the check-in agent tells me it will be more private in the back. Okay, if you say so…

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Business Class is not full this evening. From what I can tell, most but not all of the window seats are taken, nearly none of the middle seats are occupied.

The Crew

I settle into my seat and immediately a young lady appears with a tray full of drinks. I go with the passion fruit and apple juice, which is refreshing but very sweet. Before we push back, hot towels are handed out. And they really are piping hot.

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The crew are very professional in the way they go about their duties. Throughout the flight I notice that they all address passengers using their family names. Perhaps they are not as chatty and approachable as some of the other crews I’ve experienced with Cathay Pacific, but that is okay.

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Amenities

Once we are airborne, the service is very efficient. The crew obviously want to make sure passengers have enough time to sleep and rest before the second service and our arrival into Perth. In short sequence the vanity kit, menus and a bottle of Evian for the night are distributed.

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Vanity Kit


Brand:
Agnes B. (designer from Hong Kong)
Content: there are different vanity kits for men and for women and I’m not sure if the content is the same – the men’s kit contains various moisturizers and lips balm, eye shades, ear plugs, socks, a toothbrush and Colgate toothpaste (it is actually quite a large tube that should last you a couple of days); shaving kits are available in the lavatories

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The Meal

Welcome drink on the ground: passion fruit and apple juice
Hot towel before the meal: no
Pre-meal drink:
no
Choice:
one starter and three main courses
Delivery:
tray service
Type of meal:
dinner

Cathay Pacific offers an abridged service on this flight to speed things up and give passengers enough rest time. First of all, there is no pre meal drink. The drink arrives with the tray. Warm cashew nuts are available, but only on demand, they are not actively offered by the crew.

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The tray arrives with the dessert and the starter both already on it.

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The First Course

Savoury dips of red pepper and roasted eggplant with grissini.

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Cathay Pacific does not take orders for the main courses. Instead, the crew will bring you a tray with the available choices for you to pick the one you like the look off.

The Main Course

Tandoori chicken breast with biryani rice and green chilli.

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The Cheese

Chees platter: fourme d’ambert, cheddar, reblochon with crackers, apple and rosemary paste.

The meal is quite good. The roasted eggplant dip has a nice flavour that goes well with the red pepper and the grissini. The main course is okay, the Indian dishes on Cathay Pacific are always quite spicy.

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Dessert

Fresh berries with rose syrup.

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By the time the meal ends and the tray have been removed, there are still about six hours and a half to go to Perth, which means the full service was completed in more or less one hour from take off. Not bad at all! And now, time to get some sleep…

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The Second Service

The second service begins about two hours out of Perth, which seems a tad early to me. And indeed, 55 minutes before arrival everything has already been cleared away again. I think it would have made more sense to start the second service a bit later. But there are worse things that can happen.

  1. Mango and passion fruit smoothie
  2. Fresh seasonal fruit – dragon fruit, water melon and blueberries
  3. Birchermüsli
  4. Omelette with pan-fried pork sausage, bacon, roasted potatoes, marinated red peppers and braised bean ragout
  5. Selection from the bread basket
  6. Tea and coffee
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The second meal is a bit of a let down. First of all, because the ragout contains fava or broad beans, which I am allergic too. Secondly, everything seems slightly undercooked.

Arrival

We arrive into Perth under the watchful gaze of a full moon. In the distance you can see water; the realisation that I am actually staring at the Indian Ocean takes me completely by surprise. Quite as though my brain has not had enough time to adjust to the idea!

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More or less a year ago I departed from Australia from Perth on Cathay Pacific. It was in fact the outbound leg of the flight I arrived with today. I remember thinking at the time that it would be good to return to Australia and to Perth in particular some day. Little did I know at the time that I would be returning so soon. It is nice to be back for sure.

Getting into Town

Transport: taxi
Departs from: international arrivals
Journey time: ca. 40 minutes
Fare: AUD48.-

Getting into town from the international terminal is not quite as straightforward as one might think in Perth. There is an airport shuttle that runs from the airport to the city and there is also public transport. The only problem though, is that both services run to the domestic terminal only, which is quite a distance away from the international terminal. Perhaps on the way back I’ll give it a try. But right now I’m too tired, so I think I will just grab a taxi.

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

Folie1
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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.

Transfer 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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The Cathay Pacific Bridge 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

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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The 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

The Crew

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.

Inflight Snack

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.

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

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The Second 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

  1. Apple juice, Orange juice or a Mango and Passion Fruit smoothy (my choice)
  2. Tea or coffee (my choice)
  3. A plate of fresh fruit
  4. A selection of cereals, Müsli or Yoghurt (Blackberry)
  5. Omelette with bacon, sausage, grilled tomato, frittata
  6. 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

Cathay Pacific Airways serves Terminal 2 in Frankfurt. 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

Folie1
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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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The Skyview 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

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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The 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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The Crew

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

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The First Course

Smoked salmon with lemon and lime zest, avocado and crème frîche cucumber rolls and petit pois.

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The Salad

Mixed salad with Japanese cucumber, radish, tomato and oriental dressing.

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The Main Course

Grilled smoked Angus beef filet with thyme sauce, truffle mashed potatoes and mixed vegetables.

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The Fruit

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The Cheese

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Dessert

Chocolate hazelnut mouse cake with mixed berries.

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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

We arrive at Terminal 1, 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.

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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The Cathay Pacific Business Class 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

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.

The Cabin

Configuration: 2 + 3 + 2
Seat: Angled hard shell seat
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.

The Crew

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

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The First Course

Salad of duck breast with lychee.

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The Main Course

Stir-fry chicken with cucumber in sweet bean sauce, steamed jasmine rice, kailan and carrot flowers.

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Dessert

Chocolate Hägen Dazs ice cream.

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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

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

Folie1
Catahay-Pacific-Logo
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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

From Wanchai to the Airport Express Terminal

  1. MTR
  2. Tram

Departs from:

  1. MTR: Wanchai station
  2. Tram: Wanchai station, the tram stop is right opposite the exit of the MTR station

Arrives at:

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

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

  1. MTR: about 5 minutes
  2. Tram about 15 minutes

Fare:

  1. MTR: HKD 4.50
  2. 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

Check-in

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.

Location: Airport Express Terminal in Hong Kong
Facilities:

  1. Web check-in available up to 48 hours before departure
  2. Check-in counters
  3. 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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The Cathay Pacific Wing 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.

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

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.

The 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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The Crew

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

  1. Hot Towels Before the Meal: Yes, there is also an antiseptic towel on the tray when the meal arrives
  2. Welcome drink: Cathay Delight – made with kiwi, coconut juice and a hind of mint
  3. 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

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The Salad

A seasonal salad with a citrus vinaigrette.

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The Main Course

Spicy Thai green curry with steamed rice and kalian. This dish 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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Dessert

A selection of Hägen-Dazs ice cream – chocolate chip, vanilla or cookies and cream.

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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

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:

  1. one full empty page in your passport (the stamp they put in it is enormous)
  2. THB 1000
  3. a passport photo
  4. a copy of your ticket to depart Thailand
  5. a completed immigration form
  6. 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: London Heathrow to Hong Kong

Folie1
Catahay-Pacific-Logo
map1

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.

Transfer in London 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.

The Cathay Pacific Business Class 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

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.

The 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.

The Crew

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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The Meal

  1. Welcome drink on the ground: Orange juice
  2. Hot Towels Before the Meal: Yes, not scented
  3. Pre-meal drinks: Cathay Delight – made with kiwi, coconut juice and a hind of mint, served with a ramekin of warm almonds.
    Choice: One vegetarian and three non-vegetarian options for the main course
  4. Delivery: Tray service from a trolley
  5. Appearance: Metal cutlery, crockery and glassware
  6. Type of Meal: Lunch, hot meal
  7. Menu: Separate menu and wine list
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The First Course

Peat smoked Scottish salmon with crayfish terrine wrapped in nori, served with an onion and fennel salad and lemon.

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The Salad

Mixed salad with grilled vegetables and a herb vinaigrette.

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The Main Course

Szechuan style chicken with yu huang chilli sauce, steamed rice and Shanghai style Pak Choy with ginger and garlic.

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The Cheese

A selection of Irish, French and English Cheese, served with a glass of port.

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Dessert

Black currant and lemon tart.

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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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The Second Service

  1. Hot Towels Before the Meal: Yes, lightly scented
  2. Pre-meal drinks: Orange juice
  3. Choice: Two savoury western dishes and chicken congee
  4. Delivery: Tray service from trolley
  5. Appearance: Metal cutlery, crockery and glassware
  6. Type of Meal: Breakfast, hot meal
  7. Menu: Separate menu and wine list
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  1. Plate of fruit
  2. Cornflakes
  3. Pastries and rolls from the breadbasket, served with jam
  4. Potato, bell pepper and corn frittata with mushrooms, grilled tomato and streaked bacon
  5. Tea or coffee
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Just like the first service, this is another tasty meal.

Arrival

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)
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.

Epilogue

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, Business Class – A 319: Basel to Heathrow and beyond…

Introduction

My very first long-haul trip ever was in 1994, in the gap year before I started university. I flew from Zürich to Hong Kong in Economy Class aboard a Cathay Pacific B 747-400. Back in those days Cathay Pacific had a flight that operated from Manchester via Zürich to Hong Kong. Later on the service was downgraded to an A 340 until eventually it was abandoned altogether. I had always wanted to go to Hong Kong and I suspect much of that had to do with my fascination for aviation and the wish to do the famous checkerboard approach at least once in my life.

At the time I was mightily impressed by Cathay Pacific – even in Economy Class – and ever since I took that flight, I’ve been meaning to try them again. And now, finally, 18 years later I’m sitting in the lounge at Basel airport waiting to catch a flight to London with British Airways, from where I will continue my journey via Hong Kong to Bangkok with Cathay Pacific Airways.

So you see, this trip report is long overdue!

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Date: 26 November 2012
From: Basel
To: London Heathrow
Airline: British Airways
Aircraft: A 319
Cabin Class: Business Class
Seat: 1A

Getting to the Airport

It’s always the same routine really. I leave my flat at 10h00 and head across the square to the railway station to purchase some Thai Baht. And then I catch the bus line 50, which stops right outside the main entrance of the station. It’s a dark and dreary day today. It started raining yesterday evening and it hasn’t stopped since.

Christmas decorations in the station's main hall.
Christmas decorations in the station’s main hall.
Waiting at the bus stop outside the station.
Waiting at the bus stop outside the station.

Eventually the bus leaves for the airport with only a handful of passengers on it. Most of them get off again at one of the four stops before we reach the airport. The journey takes about 15 minutes to complete.

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Check-in

The airport is quiet too. There are a few flights leaving but even so, the place is deserted. I walk up to the BA check-in counter, where I am attended to immediately. The check-in agent informs me that she can only issue my boarding pass for the first leg and that I will have to contact Cathay Pacific once I get to Heathrow to get the boarding passes for my onward connections.

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The Skyview Lounge

Security does not take long to complete and once I am airside, I head straight for the lounge. And I must say, I am rather pleasantly surprised. This is the first time I’ve been to the lounge since Swiss International Air Lines gave it up and Swissport turned it into the Skyview lounge. It’s a vast improvement me thinks. First of all the wifi no longer requires a password, I also think the connection is faster. And secondly they’ve improved the food offerings in the lounge, which now also include a hot buffet. So I help myself to some scrambled eggs, sausage and beans, get myself a coffee and settle down by the window.

The only picture of the lounge.
The only picture of the lounge.

When the time comes, I leave the lounge and head through passport control to reach my gate in the non-Schengen part of the terminal. From the number of people waiting at the gate I would say there are probably only about seventy to eighty people on the flight.

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There are seven rows of Business class, which makes for a total of 28 seats. It turns out that luck is on my side and by the looks of it I am the only passenger with a whole row of seats to himself.

The Cabin

Until BMI was taken over by BA, both carriers used to operate to Basel with the A 319. As a result, since the take over Basel has seen a mix of ex-BMI and BA birds operating to Heathrow. But this is clearly a BA bird. The aircraft looks quite old-fashioned and still has the old style overhead bins and panels. But apart from that it looks quite as though BA has taken good care of the aircraft.

The bulkhead.
The bulkhead.
The empty middle seat.
The empty middle seat.
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Take-off is towards the south and the city of Basel. Once we’re airborne we bank right to the west towards France and then a short while later we bank right again to point us in the direction of Paris and the Channel beyond.

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As soon as the seatbelt sign goes off, the cabin crew begin their service with the distribution of warm towels. It’s a nice touch but they’re not scented. In fact they have rather a strange smell of chemicals and chlorine about them.

And after that the meal is served.

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The Meal

The meal consists of a light salad served with three slices of chorizo sausage with a soft goat’s cheese on a bed of green leaves, beetroot and grilled bell peppers. It’s not bad actually. With that there is a selection of warm buns from the breadbasket. I am also delighted to see that BA has finally decided to introduce dessert. And what an excellent job they make of it: it’s a triple layered chocolate mouse made by the infamous do&co and it is absolutely divine! The top layer is a really thick and rich dark chocolate fondant. Beneath that is a layer of velvety milk chocolate mouse and under that is another layer with a darker chocolate with small, crunchy chunks of chocolate in it.

The whole tray.
The whole tray.
Close up of the main.
Close up of the main.
The sin - I.
The sin – I.
The sin - II.
The sin – II.

To drink I have a diet coke – I know, how imaginative – and then later on a cup of coffee.

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Arrival

We reach the greater London area way too early and as a result we’re sent into a holding pattern for about 10 minutes.

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Eventually we land at Heathrow a full 20 minutes ahead of schedule. But by the time the previous aircraft vacates our gate and we are able to disembark, we’re bang on time again.

Epilogue

I leave you in this first part with a few pictures I took in Heathrow as we taxied in. In the next part I fly to Hong Kong with Cathay Pacific on the mighty triple seven.

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