KA 660 HKG-FOC
The irony is it is cheaper to redeem today's flight on a foreign carrier's mileage club than the operating airline's own program. 9000 BA avios later, I scored a long weekend to Fuzhou, whereas Dragonair would have gotten me 15,000 Asia Miles poorer.
I redeemed this ticket just before the new 3rd runway surcharge came into effect. Fuzhou was not exactly a pre-determined destination, but it had availability, the flight is short, and hotels are cheap. A bummer this expensive expansion needs to be borne by the users who can't even enjoy its benefits yet when the Airport Authority has enough firepower to borrow the funds from bond markets.
First off, some plane spotting.
Fuzhou is only about 400 miles from Hong Kong - a very short flight. Yet, the passenger volumes are big enough to deploy a widebody A330. Notice the new Dragonair colours with the big dragon gone from the tail are creeping up in the background.
I waited a while before joining the long boarding line that stretched a long way from the gate. Seems a full load today.
I settled into my window seat at the back end of the wing and watched the planes go by.
As we turned towards take-off, I spotted Cathay's new A350 right behind us.
The aerials were very good today. Blue skies and fluffy clouds. It can't get any better than this. Shenzhen is behind the bay there.
Many years ago, I sat on the other side of the plane and got some marvelous aerials of the skyline. This time, I enjoyed an aerial view of Kowloon and the New Territories with favourable lighting conditions.
Shatin and Tai Po beyond ...
Tseung Kwan O's incredible density below ...
Sai Kung's natural beauty signalled we were leaving Hong Kong ...
Excitement over, I turned my attention to the seats, which have been refurbished to Cathay's standard. There is a little tray in front for small items such as your mobile. The screen was good and the IFE offered a decent selection for an hour flight.
On these short flights, the crew sprang into action quickly to serve a hot sandwich. The drink came with the tray and there was a delicious cookie at the end.
The skies turned cloudy during the descent. Hope things would clear up so I could fit some sightseeing for the rest of the day.
Welcome to Fuzhou. Typical of many other secondary Chinese cities, the airport is full of narrowbodies. We were a giant here today.
Soon, this livery will be history.
I walked quickly to immigration to beat the slower crowds who needed a toilet break upon disembarkation. With no checked baggage on hand, I was out through the customs scanner quickly. There wasn't much activity in the international section today, which is also typical at secondary Chinese city airports.
The train hasn't reached the airport yet, so it would be a bus journey into town.
KA 663 FOC-HKG
I got to the Apollo Hotel at 5:15pm, well in advance of the 8:20pm flight departure, anticipating waiting or traffic delays and a quick bite at the airport. There is a separate ticketing office next to where the buses are parked. 25 yuan later, a bus was about to depart and the ticket collector told me stoically to wait for the next one as the 5:20pm departure pulled out early. The board said the next bus would leave at 5:35pm, but immediately, the next one pulled up and let us board.
Fuzhou's public buses are generally poorly air-conditioned except the airport service. The bus was already cool and the engines kept running until we left before 5:30pm. Also unlike the rest of China, the driver didn't speed or drive erratically, although honking at everyone was a normal practice in this town. An hour later of abiding by the speed limit, we pulled into the departures level at sunset.
Fuzhou's airport is not big at all. I first walked around the domestic check-in area. The building is not an architectural masterpiece but rather functional.
The international section is separated off requiring entering into the restricted area for passengers only. There, a long line snaked around Dragonair's counters, which already occupied half of the section. An agent was at the front of the line directing people around, including making use of the exclusive Marco Polo lines when they were free. Good to see proactiveness.
Next to it is immigration, which required a short wait, and then 2 lanes of security, where the agent directed us to the priority line when it was empty. All the formalities were done within 10 minutes and I exited into the waiting lounge.
There were only 3 international flights on the board, one to Kaohsiung that was delayed, my flight, and a Xiamen Airlines flight to Sydney past 10pm.
This airport's toilets are also probably the cleanest public toilets in the city, thanks to the sparse traffic. They automatically flushed, didn't smell of cigaratte smoke, and there were paper towels available. A water dispenser for both lukewarm and hot water was available outside with cups in case you didn't bring your own bottle.
You can also pick up a sim card in a vending machine so you can stay connected during your travels. The country coverage is quite comprehensive.
There isn't much in terms of shops or restaurants. I stopped by the fish ball restaurant for my last chance to eat this local delicacy for double the price of the city. 20 yuan wasn't too bad. The cooking station was right at the front so it caught some attention of passers-by. The restaurant also served other types of food but the prices were a bit more out of whack.
Seems there are a lot of regional carriers springing up across the country.
The incoming plane arrived at 7:30pm, so there was no way we could start boarding according to the official time of 7:40 on my boarding pass. Boarding eventually began at around 8 and we pushed back just 10 minutes behind schedule at 8:30. The A330 was again quite full and most passengers were mainlanders, who needed more attentive care from the flight attendants on the basics of flying - no hand bags in the exit row, seat belts, staying seated during taxi.
There weren't too many airport movements and we took off after a short 10-minute taxi. Our flight would take about an hour and 15 minutes in decent weather. After the seat belt sign turned off, the crew went into action to distribute a plane-load of meals. It was a sandwich once again but different from the inbound. The chicken was surprisingly moist and juicy, and tasted much better than it looked. There was no drinks service and I had to ask for additional juice. It is really a short flight anyway and they were quick to respond.
Our flight time increased as we were airborne and we were due to land at 10pm. I didn't finish too many episodes of Sex in the City by the time we started descending. The monitor showed the typical connection screens but what caught my attention was the arrival gate. We were going to end up at a remote bus gate today. Great.
This isn't Hong Kong Express or its LCC friends.
I helped myself to taking a few more photos of the premium cabin during the slow exit to the bus, which they stuffed like a sardine can. I left the airport with only hand baggage at 10:30pm.
For more Fuzhou photos, click the image below to access my gallery :