Flight Report : CX 501 Tokyo Narita - Hong Kong

Redemptions during long holiday periods are usually quite tricky on Cathay, but finding a Cathay seat on BA's Avios is even tougher especially since they price cheaper than Asia Miles. Surprisingly, seats did open up for most flights out of Tokyo on May 4, so it was 10,000 Avios well spent compared to over HKD 4000 to buy a roundtrip. I had flown in earlier on a Vanilla flight for "cheap".

Narita is indeed a long way from the city. The reservation-only Narita Express proclaims it runs high-speed, but even then, it is still an hour ride from Tokyo. To compare against the Shinkansen, Sendai, 352km north, takes only 1.5 hours.

This poster warns passengers to beware of perverts! However, sexual harrassment doesn't always happen to women.

My train pulled on time into Shinagawa at 7:51am. If I miss this, the next departure about half an hour later would be my last chance to make the check-in cutoff. I reserved my seats the night before thanks to my JR Tohoku pass. Seems there were still empty seats during Golden Week.

The ride was uneventful although many sections were actually quite slow, including the crawl out of Tokyo station. The on-screen monitors show the train's progress and arrival times.

As we approached Terminal 2/3, a very confusing automated English announcement came on describing the arrival procedures, saying the train will terminate further at Terminal 1, and we needed to pass 2 fare gates to get out, but the Mandarin version was different and the next station would be the last one. It took a while for the whole announcement to flush through.

Upon arrival, a long line snaked at the manual counter as all of us could not use the automated fare gates to exit. That was round 1. After, there was another round of fare gates but since we were slowly trickling through the first check one-by-one, there was no bottleneck at the second one. We then went up a few sets of escalators to international departures on level 3. Sounds like a mouthful and a lot of walking, isn't it?

Seems they have done some renovations at T2 although the older style design is still quite evident. There was no line at the Cathay counters and I was processed quickly.

Japanese airports sell all sorts of snacks, which are great as souvenir items. Prices here are not more expensive than in the city. They don't gouge you like at other airports.

Tokyo Banana normally doesn't come in pink packaging. It is a snack that is shaped like a banana with a creamy centre.

Japan has a number of unique Kit Kat flavours. Green tea is probably a well-known local flavour already, but have you tried sake or melon?

I then went upstairs to look for the observation deck, and found there were 2.

Security and immigration didn't take long and I was air-side soon after. The renovations looked more evident here with clean carpets and better lighting. Not all windows faced the tarmac directly so it was a bit difficult to spot and photograph airplanes. There wasn't that much variety here anyway.

It was a long walk to the faraway pier where my plane would board at 10:10am. There was a big line at a particular duty-free store selling snacks which I wasn't sure why. I made a few purchases further away where there was no line, wondering whether I missed a big sale.

This section of the terminal had Business Class lounge-like chairs that offered plenty of space and privacy. The seats weren't packed so tightly together so it didn't feel claustrophobic at all.

There was still time to load up on more snacks before boarding. I wonder if they really use those very expensive melons to make these snacks?

There are no restaurants at these outer parts of the terminal. However, you can grab a quick hot snack before boarding and make good use of this facility.

The boarding time was revised to 10:15 at the gate display and there weren't enough seats for all of us. Finnair was getting ready to board next to us and there wasn't enough space to put all the lines in. Nevertheless, boarding was fairly orderly and I made it to my window seat, which was in the old style and legroom was quite good.

We all seem to have boarded quickly and were ready to go in no time. The captain announced they were ready up front and all bags have been loaded, but Tokyo ATC held the departure to 11:30, a roughly 50 minute wait. After browsing a few TV shows and a drink run, the captain made an unfortunate update that we were further held to 11:45. On the dot, we pushed back and were on our way with a short flight time of about 3h45. At that point, the flight map showed we would arrive only 10 minutes late at 14:50.

As we left, I noticed the Finnair plane had left already, and they were supposed to leave later than us. I wonder why ATC held us back today?

We took off towards the north and looped around. There was some cloud cover with sunny breaks over Tokyo this morning, but soon, Haneda Airport and Tokyo Bay came into view and the skies cleared over the city.

If only I could find a flight out of Haneda today ...

I chose the right window to get decent aerials of Japan upon departure. Mount Fuji soon came into view, shrouded by clouds but the snow-capped top was still visible. Mornings remained cool in Tokyo so it was not yet T-shirt weather.

After seeing Kansai Airport, the clouds got thicker and it was time to enjoy the IFE more. Having just taken Emirates, Cathay's selection and user interface pales in comparison, although still very decent.

Lunch was then served. Again, the presentation pales to Emirates. The chicken and potatoes did not come with any pasta or rice, but was quite filling. A side soba noodle, Kit Kat, and bread roll finished off the meal. Portion-wise, it was enough for lunch, although the Kit Kat looked a bit basic for dessert.

The flight was generally smooth with a few mild bumps here and there. As we approached Hong Kong, the captain came back to update us on the arrival time. If we were making a straight approach, the earliest we could arrive would be 3:05, still a very decent time, but due to bad weather, we would hold for 30 minutes and eventually arrived an hour late at a remote stand.

The suburb of Ma On Shan has a dense but thin corridor of residential skyscrapers facing the water.

I was a bit more sympathetic due to the bad weather earlier in the day and luckily the rain had slowed by the time the doors opened. The buses were quite efficient to clear the 360 passengers that I overheard a ground staff mention, so despite being at the back half of the plane, it wasn't too long a wait to get out. So what are the chances of 2 unfortunate delays due to ATC for both departure and arrival? I thought Japanese airports are prized for timeliness so I was surprised by the departure delay. Nevertheless, the crew was friendly and served with a smile. What was supposed to be a short flight with minimal headwinds turned out much longer.

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