Hong Kong Express
I had enough miles in my Star Alliance account to redeem a one-way transpacific to Canada, but there was little availabilty out of Hong Kong unless I change somewhere in China. That was not appetizing. I didn't want to get caught up in a military-induced flow control delay. I wasn't interested in a long 16-hour direct flight to Toronto either, so I scanned around looking for a nice place to break up the long journey. Seoul and Tokyo came up. Seoul was interesting because Air Canada now flies the 787 while Haneda would get the high-density 777. Having been to Seoul earlier in 2016, I opted for Haneda, which was close to the city and there were seats out back where there are only 2 seats by the window instead of 3.
There was nothing available to redeem between Hong Kong and Tokyo even when I searched Ethiopian's 5th freedom flight, so I bought a cheap flight on Hong Kong Express for HKD $1223 to position myself for the redemption. Not bad considering 20kg of luggage was included and I could have 2 full days exploring around.
I took the evening Haneda flight that would arrive at around 11pm. By the time I reached Terminal 2, the sun was starting to set.
Check-in lines weren't too bad today. I had checked in online earlier, but I needed to drop by larger suitcase into the hold. At this point the luggage was not full, but I expected to fill it up in Tokyo and Toronto.
Once air-side, I saw the BA A380 parked in a new position closer to immigration, which I didn't see before.
The gate signs were decorated for the season.
We were departing from the new concourse, but I didn't realize they had a bus gate. Apparently, this spot where the plane is parked is at the terminal but there is no airbridge.
More seasonal decor ...
So we got on the bus, looped around the terminal building, and parked just off the terminal to board by stairs.
Several other airlines, mostly low-cost, also use this new satellite terminal. Off the top of my head, Jet and Turkish are among the traditional carriers that have also made the move.
Successfully getting a window seat, I enjoyed take-off into the evening sky for the long and hungry journey into Tokyo.
Tseung Kwan O is the last piece of urban landscape to spot before we leave the city.
Hong Kong Express takes the extra step to ban all outside food and drinks from being consumed on board, and they offer an expensive hot meal, albeit slightly cheaper if pre-ordered online.
Don't let the photos fool you. The portions are not big enough to get you full.
Unlike Ryanair, they have proper safety cards and not a sticker stuck to the seat (which is ingenious to save weight).
I like these slimmer seats with the magazine rack by the headrest so I get a little extra room for my legs.
The airline is expanding beyond its many Japanese destinations to Guam, a relatively unknown vacation destination for the typical Hong Konger.
Vietnam still imposes a hefty visa charge on us, but I was quite impressed with the scenery, history, and food from my prior visits.
But it is not really a pure no-frills carrier. They do have a duty-free catalogue at the seat.
It was a comfortable ride with my own entertainment to keep busy and we landed uneventfully in Haneda, parking next to an AirAsia X jet.
We are quite spoiled flying out of Hong Kong with the likes of Cathay Pacific and Hong Kong Airlines offering hot meals even on short regional flights. Hong Kong Express is a game-changer, and has become immensely popular with a much better Japan network than the traditional carriers. This flight wasn't particularly special, but when you fly no frills, that's the best part.
I ended up having a proper dinner past midnight at a beef rice joint next to the hotel, which offered free shuttle service to Haneda well into the late night.