CX 390 : Hong Kong - Beijing
Dragonair and Air China offer the most frequencies on the Beijing route. Cathay Pacific only has 2 flights a day but I picked them anyway for the superior in-flight product. I chose this early flight for a chance to ride on the 747, which is being slowly phased out. Yes, it was worth waking up early on a Sunday.
I headed to the renovated Wing lounge, which looked very small and not particularly impressive. The food selection was so-so and nothing spectacular. I had expected a few more selections in this buffet and a noodle bar. Perhaps there was one but I didn't see it in the big pit. The chairs were quite nice - like those at the Cabin.
I headed back to the terminal for some plane spotting, and found my flight - the beautiful 747 with the uneconomical 4 engines. I woke up so early for you.
Air Astana has launched a fairly new direct service to Hong Kong. Some tour groups use them for exotic trips to Kazakhstan and even Turkey.
Boarding was orderly, since Business Class goes first and uses its dedicated bridge. Today, I have booked a seat on the quiet upper deck, my favourite to relax but at the expense of window access. The curvature on that part of the plane makes taking aerial photos difficult. Add to that the old herringbone seats are configured to restrict window access entirely.
We took off heading towards the east, and I was ready to capture some aerials. Here is the suburb of Tuen Mun.
This part of Kowloon north of Kowloon City is a middle and lower-class residential area, with quite a lot of greenery in between.
We turned north after leaving the harbour and looped around to get into the right flight path. Too bad the skies were not too clear, but the skyline view is spectacular nevertheless.
Business Class was fairly full today and as we entered Chinese airspace, I focused on some short TV comedies to pass the time.
I stretched to the window every now and then to see what scenery awaited. Not bad.
Breakfast consisted of premium yogurt, fruits, and a Western selection. It was a standard menu but tasted good. It's hard to vary breakfast foods anyway.
Business Class is split between the two decks. The upper deck is quieter and feels more private. Guess the A380 has reduced the novelty of being upstairs these days, given some operators even have Economy Class on the upper deck.
Luckily, there were no major delays and we got on the ground fairly quickly. The walk in the huge terminal took a while but at least I got a head start being among the first group off the plane.
I budget some surprise event whenever I use Beijing's airport. It could be non-weather-related delays, long immigration lines, or baggage delivery problems. I was quite happy immigration didn't take long but there was a huge line at the people-mover station right after, which took a long while to clear since the trains don't seem to run frequently. I managed to squeeze into the second train after the crowds tried to pack into the first departure beyond belief. My luggage was ready for pick-up shortly after my delayed arrival into the main Terminal 3. What a surprise. Even the taxi line was shorter.
CX 688 : Beijing - Hong Kong
With thick smog today, I had concerns my flight could be badly delayed. The view was already quite scary from the hotel. I could barely see across the street and it was headline news.
Traffic wasn't so bad heading to the airport. Upon arrival, I realized the sky got quite grey and dark at the heart of lunch hour. I could barely see anything outside the terminal.
Terminal 3 is huge, but lacks sufficient natural lighting. I could see the smog trying to get in as the haze dissipated around the check-in counters.
From my various airport experiences, a human being checked the boarding pass, sometimes with the aid of a computer, before allowing me into the restricted area. Beijing was the most automated. Scan your boarding pass at the gate and it will open automatically. No human involvement whatsoever.
I spotted 2 787's today - both Japanese carriers.
I went upstairs to take a look at the CX/KA lounge. It had the standard furnishings with a few food selections. It wasn't a big buffet, and there were even cup noodles. Who would have thought a Business Class lounge would serve cup noodles?
Unfortunately, there was no CX flight in the late afternoon, so I settled for a widebody Dragonair service. No lie-flat bed today, but that's OK for this time of day.
Business Class is arranged in a traditional 2-2-2 configuration. Despite the thick smog, departure was more or less on time with full loading.
The skies cleared magically after take-off. No smog problem up here!
A full dinner service was soon served, starting with a delicious appetizer. My meal was interrupted by a magical sunset.
Sunset was magical!
Then I enjoyed a seafood meal. 2 of the meal choices had scallop in it - they must have been in season!
We approached Hong Kong from the west side. I made out some of the lights in a string arrangement to be likely the Macau and Zhuhai bridge under construction.
Cathay and Dragonair are definitely the best choice to fly in and out of China.
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