Flight Report : CX 837 Vancouver - Hong Kong
Premium Economy
1 Nov 2019

With the ongoing protests and trade war happening, flying long-haul has gotten far more affordable even at the front end of the plane. The avgeeks have long discussed about Cathay's pricing policy of offering connecting passengers cheaper deals than flying direct out of Hong Kong, and historically Taiwan had plenty of these deals. As the airline got smarter, the Taiwan deals seemed to have become harder to find while adventurers headed further afield to find them.

Ex-China has gotten especially cheaper as locals and tourists stay away from each other's territory, but I didn't want to risk air traffic delays or any other potential mishaps that would ruin my connection. Taipei was not particularly cheap, but Kaohsiung was, even a few weeks before departure. Premium Economy was only priced at about TWD 43000 from Kaohsiung to Toronto, about HKD 5000 cheaper than HK to Toronto direct.

12 Oct - HKG-KHH
12 Oct - KHH-HKG
13 Oct - HKG-YYZ

The return flight from Toronto to Hong Kong would require a change in Vancouver, with the first domestic leg in Economy while the transpacific leg will be in Premium Economy. In retrospect, I should have considered the direct flight on Cathay, which was only about HKD 2000 more but all on Premium Economy.

1 Nov - AC 105 YYZ-YVR
1 Nov - CX 837 YVR-HKG

I flew into Vancouver from Toronto earlier in the day, and spent a few hours in nearby Richmond doing some last minute shopping. I returned to the airport before 1pm, and the international departures section looked fairly busy already.

I had to leave some buffer for a long security line as they had not opened all scanners despite a packed early afternoon schedule. Initially, there didn't seem to be a long line at all, but once past the security staff, it snaked around behind the scenes. Interestingly, staff only scanned the boarding pass and did not inspect any personal identification along the way. With no exit immigration at Canada's airports, they are relying solely at the gate staff to make sure the right person boards the plane.

The air-side part of the international section is noticeably nicer than the domestic pier and had lots of fancy shops and a few more down-to-earth eating options. It was a nice facility to use and the crowds are well-dispersed across the many lounges. As expected, many mainland PRC airlines operate out of here, and I had spotted China Eastern, Air China, and Capital Airlines.

Although it is duty-free, I could find much cheaper ice wine at the local liquor store land-side than here.

A long line had snaked at the gate with passengers expecting to get on timely. Having seen the incoming flight land at around 12:45pm while on the Skytrain in Richmond, I didn't expect they could clean the plane and restock within half an hour for our 2:05pm departure. Across from us was a Lufthansa 747 that was also departing at a similar hour.

Other than the Business Class line, the Premium Economy/MPC Green line stretched long as we waited for a delayed boarding. The flight was full and I luckily snapped up the last window seat in the Premium Economy cabin online just days before departure.

The crew seemed a bit rushed as the steady stream of passengers continued to flow through. A nearby passenger had a problem with his seat that needed the engineer's attention. We pushed back at 2:24pm slightly behind schedule. The welcome drink came during our taxi and the glasses were just as quickly collected in preparation for take-off. Each seat was already equipped with a blanket and pillow while the pocket had the dining menu, Evian water, and amenity kit.

Soon, I would be back in tropical weather. I wished it was 10C cooler than that, or 10C warmer than Vancouver. With 13 hours ahead, I happily settled into the more spacious seat for a more humane journey.

I wonder what was the school bus doing air-side?

Vancouver is quite a popular vacation destination for the Japanese. In 2018, I encountered a huge group flying up to Yellowknife from here for the northern lights.

My right window seat could only command a distant view of the skyline as we took off towards the northwest with the Lufthansa 747 right behind us. The scenery around Vancouver is very picturesque and the weather was lovely to view the islands and bays along the BC coast.

An hour after departure, almonds and a drink was served. These are noticeably nicer than the peanuts the regular Economy class passengers get.

As I watched Vancouver Island come and go, the first meal was served 2 hours into the flight. It was presented in an Economy Class way although the cutlery was in metal and had a nicer thick towel wrapping. It tasted all right and a gelato dessert came afterwards.

The clouds got thicker as we neared the Alaskan islands and I dozed off for a bit.

5 hours before landing, the lights came on and it was time for a 2nd meal. Why we wouldn't eat just before landing was a mystery, and it seemed Business Class ran on a different schedule as their lights remained off while we were served. Not fully awake, I chose the fish option once again, which was served in an Economy Class layout just like the previous meal.

I dozed off again after the meal and we were about to start descending when I woke up. The sun had set already and I had let Japan past my guard. I was hoping for some aerials over the country but on such a long flight across 15 time zones, getting proper rest was more important.

As we made the final descent, I spotted Hong Kong all lit up already.

I noticed the arrival time had slowly pushed later as we progressed across the Pacific, but ended up only 10 minutes late when we pulled into Gate 4 at 7:19pm on the next day. From here, it was just a short walk to immigration.

This Cathay and Air Canada mixed itinerary in different classes is quite unique thanks to the partnership between these 2 airlines that belong to different alliances. However, some kinks remained, such as the Air Canada sector not crediting into my Asia Miles and I had to raise a manual request to credit it to my Aeroplan account days later. Nevertheless, I think I scored a great deal for a more comfortable journey in Premium Economy across the Pacific.

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