Flight Report : KA 490 Hong Kong - Taichung

With beautiful weather in the forecast, Taiwan came back on my radar for a short getaway. Flights, hotel, and food are all cheap so it was a very economical vacation for a few days. Although I have visited much of the island, especially the west coast, from many trips in the past, I have given it a 3+ year hiatus. With the new National Palace Museum's southern branch, Taichung came on my radar.

Taiwan has plenty of flights to Hong Kong everyday, but low-cost carriers don't fly into Taipei of Kaohsiung. Hong Kong Express flies to Taichung and Hualien, but a price check revealed Cathay Dragon was actually cheaper with a special fare that includes checked bags and a meal. Mandarin Airlines, an arm of China Airlines, was even cheaper but their flight times were not as nice.

With a mobile boarding pass on hand, I leisurely made it to the airport an hour and a half before departure. I went to the kiosk to try to get a nicer printout of my boarding pass. In a few more years, these will probably be historic relics as automation continues. What surprised me was the machine allowed me to switch into a premium seat, the bulkhead row, free of charge. Well, the machine doesn't have a credit card slot for payment anyway.

Hong Kong airport has gotten increasingly crowded, which has become quite noticeable in arrivals. I was surprised there was a line snaking around departures to enter air-side, especially on a Tuesday morning. The ID check backed up for a bit, which slowed the trickle of passengers into security, so part 2 was still fairly quick.

I had suspected my narrowbody flight would end up in the dreaded North Satellite Terminal, the 500s. That nightmare came true. It is still an annoying bus ride, although the airport authority wants to build a tunnel to make the whole process more efficient eventually. Although buses depart fairly frequently, we were held up for a few minutes as a Shenzhen Airlines plane was pushed back and ready to taxi for departure.

By the time I emerged upstairs to the gates, staff were getting ready to start boarding. Most people ended up in the generic plebian Economy Class line, while the Business Class / Marco Polo elite line was not too busy. Marco Polo regulars, such as Green members, had their own dedicated line that was quite empty. I settled into my bulk row window seat, noting a nice light green tone to the seats, although there are no PTVs. There was an instruction sheet on connecting to their app to stream the IFE. At 1h15, I wasn't so keen on watching their content for such a short flight. We boarded fairly quickly and shut the doors well before departure time, eventually pushing out 5 minutes ahead of schedule. Flight deck had a detailed announcement of our flight plan.

With Cathay Dragon's rebranding well under way, I was happy to see many old livery jets still parked out here even though I would be flying a rebranded one today.

There wasn't much congestion at this stage although it was a long taxi across the airport to get into position for take-off.

Spotting another new aircraft type, Singapore's A350 with its racoon eyes.

China Eastern is also rebranding its livery, so this traditional look will also be a part of history soon.

We were quick to take-off towards the west, then looping around south of the city. Unfortunately, due to clouds, I couldn't see the skyline today, although some buildings did peek out from underneath.

They are putting the final touches to the big bridge to Macau and Zhuhai.

The fishing village of Tai O in the distance. We would turn south along the Pearl River and loop around it.

We in Asia are quite spoiled when it comes to flying. For such a short flight, historically Cathay would give a warm sandwich. There simply isn't enough time to serve anything more substantial. People have complained over the years and I even avoided them to fly Dragonair to Taipei because they kept serving a hot dish for a while longer. I was surprised the minced pork rice arrived for lunch. It came with a small orange juice and a cookie.

Luckily, the flight was fairly smooth and as the Matsu islands came into view, we started our descent into Taichung. The winds were not in my favour today, as we had to land from the north and my left window would be mostly seaviews on approach.

Sunny skies over Taiwan's coast today. Too bad the city is further southeast from the airport, so I could not get any aerials today.

We landed ahead of schedule at around half past 1. There were a lot of military installations here, and we taxied past a forest to reach the terminal, which was a bit odd. You couldn't see the terminal from the runway because of all the trees. The airport was fairly quiet with 2 other aircraft only. Being up front and with an almost empty Business Class, I was the 2nd one through immigration. Taichung has a nice airport terminal building and the whole experience was quite manageable and quick.

Note there aren't many international arrivals here. With a new "Go South" policy encouraging visitors from Southeast Asia to compensate for falling mainland Chinese visitors, it was not surprising to see Vietnam on their radar.

Buses into the city depart downstairs. For non-Chinese readers, it may be a bit daunting as there are a lot of buses and not all of them go into the city. The driver came to fetch us for the 2:15pm run. Easycards are accepted and the first 10km is free for all journeys in the city.

An hour later, I warrived 30 NTD poorer in the city centre. Quite a bargain.

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