After a week exploring this small section of northwest China's Silk Road, it was time to go home, back on the dreaded narrowbody with razor-thin legroom for a long afternoon flight.
Dunhuang's airport is small, and its international terminal is even smaller. While domestic flights leave from a much nicer and newer terminal, the very few international flights coming in here use a much older, less humble building. As I noticed on arrival, the check-in counter doubles as a baggage unloading area so you can't process both departures and arrivals at the same time. The tour buses pulled in one after another and each tour group was held back outside waiting to be processed. This charter flight only flies during the tourist season once a week and is booked up by Hong Kong travel agencies for package tours.
It didn't take long to get in, obtain my boarding pass, and send the luggage on its way. Security check was quick and I emeged into the lounge area, which was quite basic.
On the other side of the green screen is the arrivals immigration area where the inbound passengers would wait to get processed.
Our afternoon departure was the only international flight left.
This is a tough charter flight for the crew, who have to turnaround after 5 hours coming up here, and will end up back home after a long day, from sunrise to well past sunset. As the next groups of package tours unloaded from the inbound flight, we eagerly awaited to board. The waiting lounge was full and there were no shops or anything of interest to keep us entertained.
Then we were back on the tarmac, boarding the plane from the front stairs.
There were a lot of familiar faces as the same tours on my inbound were leaving on this flight after a similar 7-day itinerary. We were full once again and I settled into my window seat trying to adjust to the narrow legroom.
Then it was a short taxi and we took off into a cloudy sky.
The skies soon cleared out. With no in-flight entertainment, I kept busy looking out the window and enjoying the arid landscape.
Like the inbound, we were not flying a direct route back to Hong Kong. We headed east towards Beijing and then turned 90 degrees to go south, which is why the flight time is so much longer than the direct route. We would be in the air for about 5 hours. Luckily, the weather was much smoother today.
My tour included a free meal and checked baggage, which are typically chargeable on other Hong Kong Express flights. It was the same pork chop rice that I got on the inbound. Tasty enough, but a bit small. A bottle of fancy water came with it.
Then after the meal service, the sun began to set.
We landed in the evening. One more uneventful flight, safely home. We parked at a remote stand, where arrivals took a bit more time, but not anything worth complaining about.
Hong Kong's airport has become increasingly busy over the years, and it is no longer surprising that multiple flights have to share a single baggage belt on arrival. While immigration is quick since we use automated entry kiosks with fingerprint technology, luggage retrieval remains an increasingly annoying bottleneck. As I walked towards my belt, I noticed an interesting Dragonair flight from Komatsu unloading. I think this is another charter.
Unfortunately, luggage arrival would be delayed, and there were plenty of other flights on my belt tonight.
Then a scare that all bags have arrived when mine hasn't. Well, it was a mistake by the handlers.
For more photos of China's Silk Road, check out my Silk Road gallery .
Flight Reports Main
Flight Reports Main