Originally supposed to fly on Monday, the day of the city-wide general strike, I had expected the worst when the Airport Authority announced the night before that ATC workers will call in sick and only 1 runway will operate. My flight's official cancellation came on the morning. No hard feelings, as I wasn't going into the office in support of the strike anyway. I was put on Tuesday's flight instead, but because I couldn't cancel my online check-in since the system doesn't provide that option, my travel agent had to make a few calls to the airline to release my ticket back for amendment. The online check-in functionality is definitely far inferior to Cathay Pacific in both the look, feel, and use.
The online check-in interface is a bit clunky to use but provides quite a lot of detail on the key do's and don'ts.
With the prospect of squeezing 2 flights into 1, I was worried of crowds at the airport and a full load for the long flight to Dalian in Economy. So I decided to arrive almost 2 hours before departure, which is unusually early for me, but I didn't want to take any chances. To my surprise, the Air China counters at row J were fairly empty, and I didn't have to wait at all to get processed. A classic boarding pass with color on glossy paper was given to me, and I was on my way to another quiet security line. 2 for 2 lucky today.
Air-side, I had about 45 minutes to plane spot before boarding. My flight would leave from the dreaded North Satellite Terminal today. Gate 509 is a bus ride away.
Some nicer public-use computers have popped up around the terminal.
What looked like foundation work for the bridge that will link it to the main terminal seems to be happening for real. I can't wait for the bus journey to become history.
After spotting a few interesting birds, I went downstairs to find the bus for my gate.
With no air traffic on the tarmac, we smoothly and fairly quickly crossed to the North Satellite Terminal, only to be delayed by a few minutes so the bus ahead of us can move out for us to dock. These stoppages make the journey fairly annoying even though I wasn't in a particular rush today.
Upstairs, i headed to one corner's window to see the north runway's activity.
What looks like the other support column for the upcoming bridge is being prepared at another corner of the terminal.
My plane had arrived early from Dalian already, so boarding seemed likely to be on-time today. The punctuality statistics for this flight are actually quite good for a PRC destination.
As arrivals and departures share the same floor, most window edges are blocked off as passageways, so spotting one of the narrowbodies parked here can be difficult.
Boarding was timely and we were all quietly seated well before departure. We waited about 15 minutes before pushing back slightly ahead of schedule. It was re-assuring to be able to depart on time!
Today's 737 is a visibly older jet although it has been fitted with winglets. With an empty seat next to me, I was quite comfortable and stretched out for the 3 hour flight.
Even if you are not a smoker, do venture out the terminal's smoking lounge, which opens up right to the north runway. You can see the little outdoor smoking box as we taxi past.
With my left window seat, our departure eastbound would yield some decent aerials over the city this afternoon. Although I have been in a similar position many times before, I still don't get bored of the views.
Eating on a Chinese airline is no longer a disgusting ordeal, although memories of past blunders are still fresh in my mind. Catering from the outports tend to be much more edible, although I wasn't sure whether tonight's meal was actually loaded in Dalian on the inbound flight. The fish rice tasted decent although the ham salad looked a bit weird.
The weather was quite good and it was a smooth journey up along the coast. I spotted some bright lights about half an hour before arrival and the features seemed familiar. This should be Qingdao below me.
Dalian's flight paths are actually quite good for scenery. From my window, I had a full view of the skyline's neon colours on final approach.
And we landed ahead of schedule into a dark terminal. The lights were mostly turned off inside and there were no other passengers in sight. It seemed like we were the only international arrival at that hour.
Immigration was a breeze and the luggage didn't take long to come out. After putting it through the customs' X-ray scan, I exited land-side. Luckily, rumours of Shenzhen border guards checking Hong Kongers' phones for protest photos did not materialize here. Dalian's airport is quite close to the city, and it didn't take long to arrive at my luxury residence with sea views for the next few nights.
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