LH 796 : Frankfurt - Hong Kong
10 July 2022

This is the 2nd flight of 2 from London to Hong Kong via Frankfurt. Due to Hong Kong's strict COVID entry restrictions and quarantine requirements even though the rest of the world has opened up, many international airlines continue to shun flying to Hong Kong. London used to be served by multiple daily flights from Cathay Pacific, British Airways, and Virgin. What's left now is a single daily flight on Cathay, so residents like me would need to rely on 1-stop itineraries to get home. Thankfully, Lufthansa offered a decently-priced flight and reasonable timings.

I was very grateful the flight from London (LH 911) arrived more or less on time. We reached the gate at 7:19pm and the Hong Kong flight would depart at 8:50pm. While I thought I had ample time, what I didn't expect was the long walk and train ride to get to the Hong Kong gate. Despite being a fast walker, it did take some time and add to that a reasonable wait to go through security.


However, a lingering stress factor remained. In recent days, this flight was delayed overnight on several occasions. This would mess up the quarantine hotel booking and given how hard it is to secure a room, I doubt I would be able to delay my 7-night reservation by 1 day. This would mean I have to call around the list of designated hotels on the spot to hopefully find a space and if not, I would need to return to London and start this trip all over again, likely with several weeks' delay.

After a long walk from my London flight's gate and a train ride, I emerged into a fairly empty pier Z. My next flight would depart from all the way at the end, with more walking ahead.

A line of special counters greeted me near my gate. It was about 8:20pm by the time I got here so even with a more-or-less timely arrival, my 1h45 connection was quite tight with only 30 minutes left. The documentation check was more detailed here, where the agent checked my quarantine hotel against the list of allowable designated hotels, something the London agent did not do. She didn't ask for my payment proof, which the digital document check online had.

However, some poor souls were not as lucky. One loud chap was calling someone in Mandarin as he didn't have all the required documents, while a few were turned away with timed-out PCR tests. I presume they got it too early as the 48 hour deadline is only for the flight to Hong Kong and not the start of your journey if you are connecting from elsewhere. That bit is specifically mentioned on the government's website.

This A340 would be my home for the next 12+ hours.

The flight was already boarding by the time I reached the gate and it looked like they were finishing up. I only needed to scan my boarding pass by myself at the automated gate to enter. I booked a window seat at the very back to the A340, but the flight looked full and I had a seatmate, a vet school student who had flown in from the UK earlier as well.

Boarding finished at 8:51pm and we pushed back at 9:13pm. It is interesting to see Lufthansa staffs this flight with a few Mandarin-speaking flight attendants even though local Hong Kongers don't speak Mandarin but Cantonese. Even the flight map would display in Simplified Chinese at times but we use Traditional Chinese. However, there were a number of Mandarin-speaking passengers on board. Flights to China are also severely restricted due to an even more onerous COVID-zero strategy so they would have to endure 2 sets of quarantine in Hong Kong and in China to get home.

With a timely departure and a bit tired from the long ordeal that started in London, I breathed a sigh of relief and tried to enjoy this long flight. Interestingly, the crew announced there were 3 empty seats up in Premium Economy and Business and to contact them if anyone wants to pay for an upgrade. That's the first time I heard of on-board upgrades.

While the moving map cannot be customized but various views rotate regularly, I was impressed by how detailed the satellite positioning can get, tracking us from a very exact location on the airport grounds and moving across the tarmac.

We took off to the south and by the time we veered east, I couldn't spot Frankfurt anymore.

Similar to the inbound, dinner was only 1 choice, a vegetarian pasta. It tested my taste buds and was a forgettable meal. I was so stressed about making this flight that all else won't matter much now.

Then as the sun set, we closed the shades and tried to catch some sleep.

The flight was mostly smooth and I don't recall hearing the seat belt sign go on as we took the southerly route over Turkey, Iran, and northern India.

Also similar to the inbound, breakfast was a cold sandwich with cheese once again. The bread was actually decent but it certainly catered to German taste buds more than Asian ones.

By now, the sun had already risen and as we neared Guangzhou, I opened my shade to be amazed at the sight of cities!

I couldn't spot Guangzhou but could see Shenzhen coming up on the other side of the river.

I could see Hong Kong's airport in the distance with the new runway making it even bigger.

Macau is on the bottom right.

A wind farm sits on mainland Chinese waters southwest of Hong Kong with Macau's airport below.

The Hong Kong–Zhuhai–Macau Bridge is a 55km bridge and tunnel link connecting the 3 cities, the longest such sea crossing in the world. Dubbed a white elephant that will never turn profitable, it was a visionary project for Sir Gordon Wu, who is chairman of Hopewell Holdings, a property developer, highway, and hotel operator.

As we turned towards the east, Macau's full view came up. Note the new towers on the left of the river is Zhuhai already.

I was a bit surprised we didn't turn back north for a 07 landing. That means we'll descend over the city for a spectacular landing from the east.

The beaches at Deep Water Bay and Repulse Bay are just a short bus ride from the city centre.

The huge piece of land next to Disneyland is a quarantine camp for COVID patients. If I test positive during my hotel quarantine, I would probably be sent here to recover. It's not really a hospital by design. You are confined to your room and doctors won't come see you unless you call for help.

Various reclamation works are happening to the east of Tung Chung for more housing.

We landed uneventfully under a sunny sky, and I was tired taking lots of photos as we descended over southern China. With the borders mostly shut and a 7-day quarantine requirement deterring tourists from coming, many international airlines have stopped flying or drastically reduced their frequences. Lufthansa is one of few airlines that have re-started flying to Hong Kong, but British Airways hasn't so I was very surprised to see one of their birds parked at the terminal.

Flying during the pandemic is stressful. Although life has pretty much gone back to normal in Europe, airports and airlines have struggled to recover, and the passenger experience has become quite awful. Blasted through the press constantly, I gasped and expected the worst, but luckily the news headlines didn't materialize and I think I was lucky.

I don't expect bells and whistles when travelling in Economy Class. The food was bad, similar to the outbound flight, but Lufthansa got me to Europe and back safely, and that's all that matters. I paid just over HKD$5300 for this roundtrip ticket, which is a relative steal although I had booked it back in March when Lufthansa had suspended their Hong Kong route, betting they would resume it with the quarantine cut to 7 days. It was still more expensive than the 1-stop itineraries through the Middle East that I used to fly.

With limited direct flight options from Europe to Hong Kong, Lufthansa is one of few lifelines that could make international travel possible for us.

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