Hong Kong Express made to the news lately for cancelling a number of flights to Japan and South Korea during the busy Golden Week holiday. The excuse was its safety department was decimated and the crews could not get re-certified. This was not very reassuring and I was worried it would follow with more cancellations. While my flight was not affected, the earlier flight of the day home was cancelled. Expecting a full or even overbooked flight, I checked in 47 hours and 45 minutes before departure, and was already section 11.
Centrair is well-connected to Nagoya and travel times are very reasonable despite the distance. Being a cheap traveler flying a budget carrier today, I didn't see the need to do the super express option with a 360 yen surcharge. Instead, I opted for the Limited Express, which is only a few minutes slower and has unreserved sections.
Meitetsu operates this service out of Nagoya station, which is a long walk underground with lots of stairs from the subway platforms. From Sakae, it was an easy subway ride as well to Kanayama, where the transfer was far more seemless, with a short walk, and escalators all the way. Plus, you save 60 yen as it is closer to the airport.
The unreserved coaches are not the typical commuter train style but has forward-facing seats that are a bit more comfortable, in addition to the standard side seats. It didn't take long for us to pull into the airport terminal, where it was an easy walk to the departures hall.
Hong Kong Express advertises mobile check-in and web check-in works in Japan, which is great so I don't need to bother going to the counters and have them possibly weigh my hand-carry luggage. With print-out on hand, I headed upstairs to explore the nicely-decorated mall and restaurant section. Prices, like in other Japanese airports, are in-line with the city, and there was plenty of choice.
Japanese airports haven't closed down their airport observation decks yet for security reasons, but Nagoya is a pitiful place for spotting. There wasn't much going on at the domestic section and there were plenty of empty gates. The international section had a Delta, Air Canada Rouge, and 2 Cathay planes. My plane wasn't scheduled to arrive until around 5pm.
Although there is a wire fence, it is possible to adjust them to get your camera outside the mesh for the best photos.
After watching one Cathay flight take off, I headed back to look for a late lunch. Worried there might be hiccups with my paper boarding pass, I painfully opted to go through security first and eat air-side. This turned out to be a major mistake. There was no line at security and immigration was a breeze, but I could only find 1 restaurant air-side serving unappetizing food at high prices. My salt-laden ramen was about the same price as a wonderful sashimi don land-side. Lesson learned.
The entire international section seemed quite devoid of life except a few Chinese departures. It's great to enjoy some serenity here, and the facilities have been kept super-clean and new, typical Japanese style. As you can see from the departures board, it doesn't get too busy here.
Quite nice of them to put a proper computer desk for some surfing with tarmac views.
As I was about to take out my water bottle to fill up before my flight, an announcement came to page me to the gate. Am I being booted off? I noticed some other passengers had a cabin-approved luggage sticker affixed to their hand luggage, so I was worried my 11kg bag would be discovered. Thankfully, they only wanted my passport information, which I thought was already on the reservation and in my online check-in paperwork.
Meanwhile, a few more spotting photos :
Since food on board isn't free, grab a light snack and dessert before boarding. Here is the lovely ice-cream vending machine.
As I checked the inbound flight's progress, I realized the 5:15pm boarding time on the boarding pass would not be achievable. After making a long roundtrip back to the water fountain (don't know why they don't put another one further down the pier), the 5:30pm boarding time was displayed at the gate. 2 lines snaked out from there. Worried there would be limited overhead space, I joined in.
Since the inbound arrived at 5:15pm, it seemed aggressive to clean the plane for only 15 minutes, so at 5:30pm, the boarding time was revised to 5:40pm, and gate agents started announcing repeatedly boarding would begin from row 16 and back. This caused some anguish among the 2 lines as some were at the front of the plane and had stood for a long time in line already, and were now being sent back to their seats. The ground staff should have anticipated this and planned a bit better instead of being too check-list by-the-book.
They checked my identity twice and I was on my way to my window seat in the middle of the plane. The overhead lockers did not fill up entirely and we pushed back just 10 minutes behind schedule. We took off into a beautiful evening sky with a full moon (happy mid-autumn!), turned left, and hugged along the eastern Japanese coast, which was also having a good weather evening.
The flight was uneventful, which is great. There was no turbulence and the lights were dimmed for some good rest. Unfortunately, being a holiday week, there were plenty of noisy kids and powerless parents to ruin the serenity.
3 hours and 40 minutes are tough in a cramped seat with my knees touching the seat in front of me. It is no surprise a low cost carrier would bunch the seats up and seat pitch information is widely available. I paid for what I got.
To divert my attention away from the discomfort, I took a look at the paper literature.
I didn't see the rail pass brochure on my inbound flight, which is strange as that would be the right time to buy these sorts of things.
The meal menu also looked more appetizing with better images and a stylish higher-end style layout. I doubt they would serve with those dishes though.
The duty-free magazine also had quite a big stock of items, which is unusual for a LCC. It's like what I would find on a CX flight.
Who wants to buy a gold necklace on a budget carrier?
The captain announced our descent and a hot evening in Hong Kong. The skies have clouded over but the descent was not bumpy at all. We passed south of Hong Kong and looped around for landing, parking at gate 213 at 9:15pm, slightly behind schedule. Apparently, one parent was too rushed to push his kid to the bathroom during the taxi. The crew made a few announcements to keep people seated. This low-cost carrier does care about your safety.
The new concourse looks quite nice with multi-coloured classy carpets and a TV screen showing the baggage carousel right at the gate, which is a helpful new feature. We easily filled up the people mover and not many other passengers could get on at the main terminal. They should consider enhancing the 2-minute frequencies.
Hong Kong Express is a decent airline offering a good no-frills product. You get a seat, albeit cramped, but at a good fare. Luckily, its recent troubles didn't impact my journey, although many others were having a far worse holiday week.
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