Flight Report
Hiroshima - Hong Kong on Air China

Buses depart every 20 minutes from just outside Hiroshima's Shinkansen exit for the 45-minute drive to the airport. I was surprised to find that Air China's check-in cutoff was only 30 minutes even for an international flight, so with a departure at 2:40pm today, I spent the morning leisurely at the Peace Park and taking the slow tram back to the station. I took the 12:40pm bus so even with traffic delays, I could easily make the 30 minute cutoff and perhaps grab lunch at the airport.

There were plenty of food options at the train station, but with only about 30 minutes left, I didn't want to cut it too close and run for the bus if I ate at a sit-down. The bento boxes were a bit expensive considering it was cold food, so I opted for a few delicious momijimanju.

Traffic was good and we arrived at the airport in 50 minutes. The surrounding countryside is quite rugged and on the drive into the terminal, I realize part of the runway is actually a bridge jutting out of the hillside.

The bus parked next to the escalator into the domestic terminal. There is a small international area on the other side of the building, which was deserted as Air China was the only flight out of there at that hour. All passengers need to put their checked bags through the X-ray before proceeding to the check-in counter.

2 counters were in operation today, and the wait was not too bad. Check-in processing was a bit on the slow side and English was a bit of a problem, but I got my boarding pass with the correct FF program number inputted and was on my way within 15 minutes. Time was a bit tight and I would not be able to grab lunch at the airport either.

Security for the international area was deserted and I was vastly outnumbered by the staff manning the checkpoint. Immigration had no lines and I was air-side in no time. The plane was there already and soon boarding was announced. I like these small airports - very efficient, although I wished I had more time to browse the shops for a few more snack boxes.

The airport was a lot busier than the day I arrived - with 2 other aircraft besides us. There were no delays whatsoever and we actually pushed back early with almost a full loading. We roared into the sky as clouds from the super typhoon started reaching the area. As we climbed, I noticed the topography was a lot more rugged than I had thought.

There was a large Japanese tour group heading to Beijing today, which was the final stop after Dalian. 2 of them sat next to me and I observed them going through their professionally-produced itinerary book listing their activities and times. They behaved and were fairly quiet, although many are aged and not seemingly frequent fliers, getting up to use the bathroom or grab luggage even when the seat belt sign was on and we were still climbing to cruise.

With a flight time of only 2 hours, the crew served a hot meal. It looked like a fusion Japanese dish - a bit bland, but acceptable for the short flight. The portion was small though.

Even Dalian didn't experience good weather today. Thick clouds rolled in as we neared the city.

The amount of development in the suburbs is staggering. I wonder if all the units have been sold and will be occupied?

We arrived right on schedule at 3:35pm. My experience at Dalian has so far been very good with no delays. The luggage came out fairly quickly although the baggage hall was unusually dark. Nevertheless, I think I will consider trying a similar routing on future trips to Japan if the price is right. Dalian is a very nice city to visit as well, and very affordable with a cheap and short taxi ride into town. My hotel points also got me a cheap room in a luxury chain as well for the night.

With the cloudy skies, I had to focus on street-level photos to hide the greyness. Being next to the ocean, there is a lot of seafood available.

The skies magically cleared out the next morning and even the smog was tolerable.

2 counters were open for today's flight. The international area was unusually busy with several Japan departures at around the same time. A short wait later, I was processed. It wasn't a particularly fast check-in but at least was an improvement from Hiroshima. Immigration took a bit longer with a longer queue but wasn't anything painful. This is one of the key reasons why I chose to transit in Dalian instead of Beijing - where finding the transit corridor was already a challenge.

Like Hiroshima, Dalian's airport has a very good 30-minute cutoff for checking into international flights. But Dalian wins because it is very close to the city centre and the taxi fare is only RMB 30. Taxis are also easy to get in the city. After a 20-minute ride, I arrived at the international departure hall right at noon.

It was now 12:15, and the boarding pass indicated boarding time would be at 12:25. After a quick bathroom break, there was an announcement to board already. We were actually going to board early!

Boarding was quite smooth and what seemed to be full loading was seated and ready to go well ahead of the departure time. Bored, I looked out my window and noticed at first 1, then 2, planes sat on the taxiway for a long time. I began to get worried, fearing air traffic restrictions were back and no departures could proceed. Eventually, they started moving and we pushed back on time. Being a small airport, we roared into the sky soon after.

I wasn't planning to rely on the IFE available on this 737 today. It was bound not to be good, so I loaded a number of short comedies onto my touch pad and it kept me entertained for the 3-hour flight. The weather over eastern China was fairly good today, so I had plenty of chances to capture some aerial shots.

The meal had way too much rice and not enough other things. The bread did not appear edible and the tomato dish looked a bit odd. But then, you get what you pay for!

The sun started to set as we descended into Hong Kong.

The bridge to Zhuhai and Macau is taking shape. Construction is delayed given the immensity of the project. Hope I can capture more on the activity in future landings.

We landed slightly behind schedule at 4:35pm. The satellite terminal was bursting with people today, with huge lines to get to the buses for the main terminal. They really need to build an underground tunnel into the terminal and get rid of these buses, which are also at the mercy of air traffic control as planes move around constantly along the taxiway next door. What a sad end to a punctual arrival from a long journey.

Overall Summary
Similar to the outbound flight, I got from point A to point B safely. That is all that matters. Mainland Chinese carriers still don't provide the 5-star service along the likes of CX or EK, but you pay a discount to fly with them, so set your expectations accordingly.