Hong Kong - Nagoya (Economy Class)
It is very difficult to redeem a ticket to a major tourism destination such as Japan on a long weekend unless I redeemed a year in advance. Otherwise, the next best bet would be at the last minute when they release seats that went unsold. I was lucky to have grabbed one such last-minute seat with my Avios 2 days before departure.
Today's flight was one of a few that had its own set of counters in Aisle A. Guess the regular aisles were too busy as there was barely a line at all for me. The agent asked whether I had a return flight, to which I replied no, then whether I lived in Japan. She then went away for a little bit, then returned and reminded me if Japan's immigration authorities demanded return flight information, then I would need to purchase a ticket on the spot upon arrival.
I had hoped to return my return flight when I reached Japan as Cathay had not released an Economy Class seat for the afternoon flight I liked. However, this possible snafu with immigration did unnerve me a little, although I had no problems getting my boarding pass for today's flight.
Following the friendly reminder, I logged online at the Travelers' Lounge and booked myself a Business Class seat on the afternoon return. Meanwhile, I wondered whether Economy Class was really that full that not even a last-minute seat would be released less than a week before departure?
I got comfortable with my window seat at the back of the plane. Today, I ride the new Economy Class. We pushed back on-time and took a short taxi to position for take-off towards the west.
Construction of the mid-field terminal is well under-way. I had hoped for an eastward take-off to capture aerials of Hong Kong Island with my right window seat. By that time of day, the sun would be glaring at the left windows.
A massive bridge connecting Zhuhai and Macau with Hong Kong is currently under construction. Notice the artificial island futher afield as well as the bridge pylons taking shape.
The new Economy seat has a lot of neat features. The TV screen is now touch-screen, while there is a small pouch below to store your phone, passport, and other small gadgets. A cup holder unfolds below so you don't need to open the table at all. Economy Class appeared full today, and the crew came by offering Japanese newspapers.
I was happy with my ginger ale - 2nd favourite drink in the sky after Cathay Delight.
We crossed Taiwan from southwest to northeast.
While the mountains were imposing, I turned my attention to dinner being served. This beef rice meal was disproportionately skewed to rice, but the beef portion was not too small and actually tasted quite good.
After dinner, I watched the sunset and the clouds thicken above the East Asia Sea. We skirted south of the Japanese coast and then turned north for landing after a 180-degree turn. There was some moisture in the air but not too many bumps along the way. A light drizzle greeted my arrival at Chubu.
Immigration did not have any problems or questions about my return flight. They got my fingerprints and stamped my passport with no issues. Since I did not have any checked bags, I headed straight out towards the train station, and got myself a reserved seat on the expensive express train into the city. I could have waited an extra 10 minutes for a slower train and save 350 yen, but I didn't want to get to the hotel too late tonight.
Nagoya - Hong Kong (Business Class)
Meitetsu operates various types of trains from Nagoya station to Chubu airport, similar to what I have seen in Osaka. It gets quite confusing since they all run along the same line but stop at various stations along the way. The most expensive and fastest way is the Mu-Sky, which costs 1200 yen, while all other unreserved trains cost 850 yen only. Being cheap, I opted to go for a Semi-Express, taking about 45 minutes to reach Chubu.
Chubu is a nice new airport situated on an artificial island in Ise Bay. The railway station is a short walk by covered escalator to the check-in desk. With my Business Class ticket, I didn't have to wait in the priority line at all, and soon I departed with my boarding pass and lounge invitation.
The airport's shopping mall is situated one floor above check-in, with plenty of choices for last-minute souvenirs. I wasn't particularly interested and headed past the mall to the observation deck. Airplane activity was very quiet, with only a handful of aircraft on the stands. The ledges are all fenced up and an SLR lens cannot fit through, while several security officers patrolled the deck in their Segway vehicles.
Disappointed, I headed airside to find the Sakura Lounge, which was also deserted. The first part of the lounge was a long row of computer desks facing the tarmac, with a small food section where nuts, cup noodles, sushi, and alcohol were served. The selection was a bit mediocre and there were no hot foods. Further down were a few chairs and then a restaurant-like setting at the back, but I didn't notice any food being served out of there. Unimpressed, I grabbed some nuts and a ginger ale and soon popped back out to the gate 5 minutes before the scheduled boarding time of 15:55.
A long line had snaked from the boarding gate by the time I arrived. I headed past them and noticed the rest of the terminal was empty, with no other flights departing from that section at all. Nagoya is a fairly quiet airport and I had plenty of other chairs to choose from to absorb the sunshine and barely any movements on the tarmac.
Past the scheduled boarding time, I wandered back to see what was happening. The screen above the gate showed a revised boarding time of 16:30, which I didn't hear being announced on the PA. Some agents started checking passports for those who were already in line. I thought it was a bit strange given the plane had been there when I first arrived from immigration an hour before and it was a sunny day.
We finally boarded at around 16:30. The line was of no concern to me since I was flying Business Class today. I sat at the last row of the first J cabin, which featured a lovely lie-flat bed and iPod connector to play media on the large TV screen. I noticed the 2 windows were not aligned with the seat so I had to stretch out a bit to get a view of the outside, but I was too lazy to swap for another window seat.
The captain came online to explain the reason of today's delay. Apparently, due to the typhoon being near Hong Kong, many flights were delayed and air traffic control had to hold up this flight for another 20 minutes or so in addition to the boarding delay. Afterwards, the crew came over to take orders for drinks and distributed nuts, which was a nice gesture.
We pushed back about an hour behind schedule and it was a short taxi around an empty airport and we soon took off towards the south into the sea. I purposedly picked a left window to prevent getting into the sun's way on today's late afternoon flight, but that meant I would miss many land shots as we skirted along the coast.
Today's comprehensive meal began with a small salad, shrimp, soba noodles, and a choice of regular or garlic bread. I was more than half full by the time this course was over and the crew wheeled their cart showcasing the mains : chicken or fish. They ran out of the beef option by the time they got to me. I chose the fish, which tasted very good although the plate still looked like Economy Class.
The fruit and cheese cart rumbled by afterwards, and then ice-cream. I was completely stuffed and rested in my seat watching a movie to digest. For a 3.5 hour flight, I was quite happy with this full meal and the crew even came by after with hot towels.
We crossed into Taiwan as the sun set, and the air got more turbulent as we approached Hong Kong. The final approach was quite treacherous, with the plane swaying left and right quite steeply to the point where I thought it would be a go-around. Luckily, we landed without incident on the first try during Typhoon 3.
Sitting in Business Class for a delay is quite a pleasant experience. I didn't mind the late arrival since I was heading home at night anyway. Similar to prior recent arrivals, the e-channel immigration lines were long and even after that, it was a 10-15 minute wait before my Priority-tagged bag came out.