There weren't many people at the B section of the airport for Business Class and Marco Polo Club passengers. The agent told me Business Class was full today, which I suspected after online check-in came up with an error after I tried to go back in to change my seat. I leisurely made my way along the terminal to spot some birds. EK's A380 strangely parked close to immigration today. There were a couple of 747s as well. The airport seemed busier than usual with lots of passengers seated on the floor. Perhaps they were stranded from all the Shanghai cancellations.
The Bridge was also quite busy although it was still easy to find a seat in the main dining area. After a quick bite and soup, I went looking for the noodle bar but couldn't find it.
The lounge stretches long with several open lounges but had very few of the private cabana chairs like at The Cabin. I ended up sitting at the long bar, where the server didn't bother to ask me what I wanted to drink and she didn't know how to make alcoholic drinks anyway.
Not impressed, I decided to make my way to the gate at the end of the fork. It was almost 19:45 and boarding had not yet begun. But they magically got everyone on board and closed the doors on-time.
Does this United bird even have PTVs?
The standard introductory drinks were served by crew with a smile. Strangely, we took off into the night with the cabin lights on full blast.
Cashews and drinks came first. I thought the plate got smaller though.
A few years ago, I made a complaint that equipment substitution resulted in flying a regional configuration plane with no lie-flat beds for the red-eye home. Good to see today's flight is in a more comfortable long-haul Business Class.
My Oriental Breeze took some time to come out. Amenity kits were distributed, although the right side got theirs first and we waited a long time before we got ours.
Immigration cards and customs forms were also not available on board. We were told they would be provided upon arrival. Another annoyance ...
Dinner service came next about an hour after we pushed back. There were only 3 choices today, a seemingly small number, with 2 of them being Indian. The lamb dish tasted all right, but was not filling, so I had to go for fruits and cheese at the end. There was no ice-cream but cake was available. By then, I was stuffed.
The IFE seems to have been improved with more TV selection, so I watched a few episodes before catching a doze. I made an observation a few weeks ago on the way to Sydney that the A330 J seat seemed smaller than the same on the 777. I felt this once again tonight.
Tonight's flight would take less than 5.5 hours. Soon, the captain came back and announced we would be descending. We landed earlier than schedule, although taxi in took quite some time.
There were long lines at immigration even for the Business Class lines, and it took about 20 minutes to clear, only to be held up again before entry to duty-free when 2 agents checked your passport has been stamped (not sure why). By the time I got to the luggage belts, my flight had disappeared from the screens and I had to hunt down my luggage. By the time I reached the belt, my suitcase had already been delivered and the baggage sign changed to Colombo.
Seems I haven't had much luck today from start to finish. There was a very long line leading to the X-ray machines in customs. Luckily, the line moved along so by the time I exited customs, it was already well past an hour of arrival.
Greeters were at the door looking for Cathay passengers once past the ID and ticket checks.
The Business Class check-in counters were deserted at the end of the terminal. I was asked whether I wanted to use the arrival lounge, and got my boarding pass quickly. Premium class passengers use a dedicated express lane for immigration and security, so I got to airside in no time while the line for everyone else snaked.
I am quite fond of Mumbai's new international terminal. It is very well done and finished to a very high standard. It is one of the rare infrastructure success stories in India, unfortunately.
The airport lounge was a bit quieter than my previous visit. I got a drink and went to the far end where there was an empty room and enjoyed views of the tarmac.
A bit bored, I decided to head out to do some night plane spotting.
The passenger lounges are a bit dark, but tastefully lit.
They need to fix the labels. I can't drink any of these, and chocolate doesn't taste like Pringles.
I had the perception that international flights cluster their departure times in the early hours due to regulatory restrictions. Looking at the board, there were also many daytime departures as well.
By the time I reached the gate at the boarding time of 00:40, there was nobody else there and agents were walking around looking for passengers. Business Class had a few empty seats today and the doors closed quickly. We pushed back earlier than schedule for the 5.5 hour flight home.
Airshow was not working properly and it kept showing 1 minute to arrival. Menu cards were distributed and we were going to be served breakfast later. Understandably, there was no drinks/wine menu.
We took off towards the sea and then looped around to start our eastward journey to Hong Kong. I quickly fell asleep and awoke 2 hours prior to landing when they turned on the lights to serve breakfast. Trays were brought out individually, which I interpreted to be more discreet as many passengers were still sleeping. One crew member walked around with a bread basket and another asked whether I wanted some cereal and later, what main I would like. Service was efficient and I went back to sleep after the quick bite.
I think the best service is not always the most visible service. For a short red-eye like this one, where adequate sleep is a stretch, being hidden but available promptly when asked is the best service.
We entered from the south. This is Ap Lei Chau, just off Hong Kong Island.
We then turned southwest past the beautiful untamed countryside in Sai Kung.
The skies were not too nice to take aerials of the skyline. I had the correct window seat, but I cannot control the weather.
We arrived at 9:26am, slightly ahead of schedule.