Saturday, August 28, 2010

Cathay Pacific 510 ( CX510 ) - Hong Kong to Taipei Business Class Airbus A330-300

AIRLINE: Cathay Pacific
AIRCRAFT: Airbus A330-343X Reg: B-LAA (5 years old)
CLASS: Business Class
ROUTE: HKG-TPE (aircraft continues to Fukuoka)



After a very quick transit, in which I was assisted by Cathay ground staff through security, I boarded CX510 to Taipei, and onwards to Fukuoka. I would be disembarking in Taipei. Today's flight was operated by B-LAA, an Airbus A330-300 delivered new to Cathay in 2005. It has regional business class seats, but they are a more modern version than found on the A330 I flew from TPE to HKG last time on Cathay (see my previous blog entry). 

CX510 now boarding

B-LAA preparing to go to Taipei

I took the first left on the jetway and headed for the business class cabin, I was warmly welcomed on board at Door 1L and greeted by name and directed to the right side of the aircraft and my seat, 18K. The neighbouring seat was fortunately vacant, and remained so for the duration of the flight. I was lucky because the rest of the cabin was fairly full.

leg room

fellow passengers preparing for departure

Within a few moments of sitting down I was offered a glass of Champagne Deutz. This is the champagne used on flights to Japan, and differed from my inbound flight from Bangkok where Billecart-Salmon was served. I like both!

Champagne Deutz

These newer seats have fully electronic controls, and the entertainment controller is located on the top of the arm rest, makes it a bit easier than reaching down beside your leg like on the older configuration.

Entertainment controller

Seat Controls

pushback soon, next to a China Airlines A330, also going to Taipei!

Whilst the remainder of the economy passengers boarded I enjoyed my champagne. Soon enough, we were pushing back and the safety video was presented on the overhead screen. 

Malaysia 777-200 pushing back for Kuala Lumpur

taxi to the runway

We had a race on the parallel taxiways with a Cathay Boeing 747-400 right beside us... the 747 won and took off ahead of us. After they roared off, we lined up and made a quick takeoff roll, I had some lovely views out to my left, including of Hong Kong Disneyland, where I had visited just a few weeks prior.

after takeoff view

Hong Kong Disneyland, Space Mountain is easy to spot

Flying conditions were smooth and the seat belt sign was soon switched off. The crew sprung into action, they have a lot to do on this short flight! We were departing after lunch time, and the meal was called a 'Refreshment', but really, it isn't much different to a full lunch service, with hot meal. Perhaps the only noticeable difference is that instead of an appetiser you get some fruit.

watching one of my favourite shows, Curb Your Enthusiasm

passengers making themselves comfortable

lunch service commences

It does seem that I forgot to photograph the menu. There was only 2 choices, one was fish, and the other was a vegetarian pasta dish. I took the pasta because I don't eat fish. Only ordinary bread rolls were on offer, no garlic bread or any other kind of bread.

crew offering the main course

my main course, pasta

I kept drinking the champagne and had a couple of top ups. The main meal taste was not bad, I finished it. The dessert was a chocolate cake type thing, it was good, but a little too sweet.

Coffee - havent stirred the milk yet

My tray was taken away as soon as I was finished the meal, and the tea/coffee trolley came out. I took a coffee. By this stage the captain had announced that our descent was about to commence. A few minutes later we left the cruise, and descended into Taipei.

on descent

During the descent we passed by another airfield, I did a bit of research on Google Maps and found out it  is Xin Zhu airport and that is Xin Zhu city behind it.

passing Xin Zhu

Xin Zhu

We made an approach fairly similar to the one I encountered last time with Thai Airways in Taipei, very slow for a very long final with the engines constantly changing to maintain the low speeds... or at least that is how it seems, I must check up on the Taipei approach charts to see if there is some rule about very low speeds for a long way out, or maybe it was simply an air traffic control direction  for traffic sequencing.

taxi to gate

We parked next to a TransAsia Airways Airbus A321. Disembarking was quick, the Fukuoka passengers were asked to remain on board to make the transit as short as possible.

parking beside TransAsia A321

It was a pleasant flight, and you can't really ask for more on a 500 mile sector really! Food was ample for the time of day, champagne was good and service was excellent. Thanks Cathay!

arriving in Terminal 1

awaiting bus ride to City

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Cathay Pacific 708 ( CX708 ) - Bangkok to Hong Kong Business Class Airbus A340-300

AIRLINE: Cathay Pacific
AIRCRAFT: Airbus A340-300 (34B) Reg: B-HXA (13 years old)
CLASS: Business Class



Today I would be travelling to Taipei via Hong Kong on Cathay Pacific. It was a particularly exciting occasion for me as I had never traveled on an Airbus A340 before! This flight originates in Delhi and flies to Hong Kong via Bangkok. It's a pretty painful 3am departure from Delhi, getting into Bangkok about 9am for a 1 hour transit. I had pre-selected seat 17K on this long haul configured aircraft, and checked in online the night before.

I went to the business class check-in desk where there was no queue. The friendly check-in girl quickly printed out my boarding pass and lounge invitations and then wrote out my Fast Track immigration card.

The fast track card is great, you proceed through a dedicated security area and then passport control area, avoiding all queues at the main counters. After the security and immigration formalities I proceeded to concourse G to the Cathay lounge.

lounge this way please

lounge entrance

I managed to lose my lounge invitation somewhere along the way, but I just showed my boarding pass instead and the lounge attendant printed a new invite out for me. I went and found a seat with a view.

my seat

Here are some photos of the lounge :

my breakfast

Unfortunately there is no toilet facilities in the lounge, I was directed outside to the main public toilets. That's always a bit disappointing but fortunately it's only a short walk. The food selection was fairly ordinary in my opinion.

In front of me was an Uzbekistan Airlines Airbus A310, an interesting visitor. I don't see myself sitting on board anytime soon that's for sure.

Uzbekistan A310, Jet 737-800 behind

Whilst I was sitting there, I noticed the inbound flight from Delhi landing on runway 19R, a few minutes later it taxi'ed by the window towards the gate.

B-HXA arrives from Delhi

I decided to head to the gate and have a closer look at my first Airbus A340. This particular aircraft was delivered to Cathay in 1997, and it features Cathay's most recent long haul business class product in herringbone layout.

gate holding area

catering being loaded

Boarding commenced soon after I arrived in the gate area. Business class passengers were called first. Upon entering the cabin I was greeted with a cabin half full of very tired looking passengers strewn all over the cabin. The transit passengers from Delhi had been using the ground time in Bangkok to try and get some more sleep. Most had the seats in sleeping position, and those who were awake looked very exhausted. I couldn't blame them after having to leave Delhi at such an awful hour of the day. 

I took a seat and familiarised myself with the seat controls and where everything was positioned. Moments later the crew presented me with my first glass of Billecart-Salmon Champagne for today.

my seat

inseat power supply, seat control, entertainment control and LCD screen

noise cancelling headphones stored on the side of the seat

car like seat belt, has an airbag as well


champagne welcome drink

safety card

Today's flight in business class was almost full, just one spare seat available. Boarding was pretty slow, and the captain came on the PA to welcome us on board and announce there would be a slight delay due to traffic congestion. For some reason, only one runway was in use at Bangkok this morning, causing a few dramas. I could see about 4 aircraft holding short of the runway with a couple on approach out the window.

I was offered a second glass of champagne and I gladly accepted.  A few minutes later we were pushing back and all 4 engines sprung to life.

pushback complete

The safety video was played, but unless you crane your head around you can't actually see it with the LCD screen stowed away. We taxi'ed over to Runway 19R, the only active runway in Bangkok this morning. Fortunately we only had a few minutes wait, whilst this Kuwait Airways A340 landed:

I had heard the earlier A340's have pretty poor takeoff performance so I didn't know what to expect. Since this was a fairly short flight, we were not very heavy and the takeoff seemed quite normal. Perhaps the climb out was just a little more shallow than some other aircraft.

heading north east climbing out

After what seemed like an eternity (since I needed to use the bathroom), the seat belt sign was finally switched off at about 24,000 feet. The crew were already hard at work preparing the lunch service. Here is the menu for today:

I would be having the chicken since I don't eat much fish and the vegetarian option did not interest me. I was disappointed to see Ice Cream was on offer for dessert. If you read my blog often you would know I don't like ice cream desserts on planes! I can get that anywhere, give me an interesting cake or tart or something please!

meal service commences

As like last time I flew Cathay, a single tray was presented with the starter and a glass of water. The main meals are brought out on a big tray and handed out to each passenger. You get to see the 3 options on the tray before selecting if you want to.

Thai Prawn salad starter - very tasty

Champagne and The Simpsons :)

chicken with rice main course, taste was quite good

One thing I did notice was that the right hand side of the aircraft is neglected a little bit as the crew spend most of the time in the left aisle (there is more passengers there). It took a long time for the bread tray to arrive, I could have finished my meal whilst I waited but I just paused eating and waited for the bread. Finally it arrived and I grabbed some garlic bread.

Everything was pretty tasty and the flight was nice and smooth. A very pleasant experience all round. I managed a couple of top ups on the champagne during the meal. When I finished my tray was taken away and I asked for a Baileys and Milk which came back quickly. The tea and coffee and ice cream service came around shortly afterwards.

Baileys, ice cream and coffee

handset shows time to destination, handy!

I do really like Cathay's StudioCX entertainment system. It is very responsive and visually appealing. It even let's you know when you start a program that you may not be able to finish in time before landing. Neat!

The captain announced our descent into Hong Kong. Although we had departed quite late, we had made up some time and looked like arriving at the gate about 10 minutes behind schedule. Since I only had a 50 minute  connection I wondered if I would have an escort waiting for me when I deplaned.

We began our descent into Hong Kong and I spotted this interesting cloud:

final approach

We made a smooth touchdown, love the A340... it's so quiet! We taxi'ed in past this China southern Embraer ERJ, the first time I had seen one!

Then I saw this Kingfisher A330 with a crane up near the tail, it looked like they were de-icing it, but that wouldn't be necessary with a 30 degree temperature outside? Perhaps they are simply giving it a wash, there is quite a bit of water under it.

We arrived at the gate and sure enough, a Cathay Pacific ground crew was waiting for me to take me through security to my next flight to Taipei. Nice!

I have to say I throughly enjoyed this flight. The crew were friendly, although a little slow serving the right side of the aircraft. The aircraft itself was really pleasant to fly on, and the Cathay Pacific long haul business class was really quite good. I know some people feel it's a little claustrophobic and too narrow, but I didn't feel that way and I hope I can try it out on a long haul sector soon.