A380 Club World from Hong Kong to London Heathrow

Exactly one year ago, I flew this exact same flight; and as my schedule would have it, I am flying BA32 again on the same day. I have since attained OneWorld Emerald status through BA Executive Club so have been afforded more privileges, including First Class check-in, First Class lounge access (in Hong Kong, it would be the two Cathay lounges: the Wing and the Pier, as BA’s dedicated Qantas lounge is a shared Business and First Class lounge).

There was absolutely no wait at the First Class check-in where my bags were tagged promptly and my boarding pass issued without much human interaction. No ‘welcome back’ but at least it was an efficient process and I was off in no time.

As BA32 regularly (and this time it was no different) departs from gate 15, which is really close to security, there was really no point to visit the Pier, which is far at gate 65. I settled for the Wing instead of my usual favourite of Qantas lounge this time.

The Champagne bar, serving three champagnes

The view is good

I was able to fit in a visit to the cabana, which was majestic

And a cold champagne to toast for this trip

I left for Gate 15 when my flight started to board

Boarding through the First Class line attracts no queue nor wait. BA at Hong Kong does a far better job at enforcing priority boarding, with clearly defined queues for different boarding priorities, although lumping Business Class (Club World) together with Premium Economy (World Traveller Plus) together may attract some criticisms. Equally, by granting all OneWorld elites priority boarding at least at the level of Business Class has the effect of lengthening the priority queues to be somewhat as long as the Economy queues on this A380 service. Yet, First Class line remains a sanctuary for those who have ‘earned’ it. (Yours truly is reminded of the scene in the movie Up in the Air)

A glass of champagne is offered upon arrival

View from my seat

BA utilises something called ‘Theoretical Seating’ to allocate seats. As BA charges for seat assignments even for Business Class passengers without status, BA is able to optimise its seat assignments by way of starting to block seats next to its most loyal customers (Gold Card holders, equivalent to Emerald) 55 hours prior to departure. This is evident on this flight as out of the 1 only seat that is not taken, it was the seat next to me. Over the next few flights I have taken with BA, this has been of some successes, including a blocked seat next to me on the upper deck of 747.

Bulkhead seats have slightly more legroom

Menu for the day

One of the major issues I took with the menu this time last year was the lack of Chinese option despite flying out of Hong Kong (ex-Heathrow flights have one Asian option for both meals). I was glad to see the issue addressed in part. For the first meal service, BA now replaces its (in)famous fish course (served with ‘wild rice’) with an Asian selection (for this month, sweet and sour chicken with egg fried rice), which I took and would be reporting below.

BA28 on the 777-300ER

The new safety video was featured.

Take off was more or less on time

Hot towel (if you can call it that!) was offered after take off

Rose champagne, sparkling water and cashew nuts – a familiar start to my BA Club flights. BA is one of the very few airlines that offer more than 1 champagne selections on their flight.

With just 11 hours to go

Starter with a New Zealand ‘Tiki’ Sauvignon Blanc 2016 (NZ SB is now my beverage of choice and this was one of the more enjoyable BA white selection!)

A somewhat lacklustre attempt at a Chinese main course. Tastes good but looks just like an economy meal (except on Chinaware). The other complaint is the same for Cathay: customers now expect some sort of plating when serving food in Business Class, rather than just a heated meal from the oven.

Dessert was definitely the highlight of the meal – it was simply divine

Pralines

Dinner was done about 1.5 hours after take-off. Against such a full Business Class cabin, this was commendable

I woke up about 2 hours out of London

Began my day with a cup of tea. Despite the lack of fancy tea/coffee selection, I generally find BA tea very comforting and well made, even in Economy Class. This time was no different: I was just glad this was offered

First course

Nearly there!

I asked and was given the fruit plate

Second Course: Salmon and spinach wrap – not the best food I have eaten on the plane…

By the time the plates were cleared, we are approaching English coast

London in the very early morning. As one of the first flights arriving, there is no holding pattern (!) and we were cleared to approach straightaway, though the approach was lengthened as we landed on the west

To end, a hearty English breakfast in the Arrivals Lounge, accessible through travelling in Business Class

In sum, it was a solid flight – nothing that wows me though. This is one of those flights that my BA gold status went unnoticed, not that I wanted any special treatment, but as Ryan Bingham would say: “Loyalty is earned and rewarded with these small touches. It’s these kinds of systemized friendly touches that keep my world in orbit.” In terms of service, I think there is definitely room for improvements, not least was I told off for failing to pronounce a French wine-related word properly by a crew (fault is my own, but still, it can be dealt with in a much more friendly way). The food was better than last year, snack offerings remained subpar (Club Kitchen contained nibbles, only), but beverage offering is solid as usual. It did the trick, though: I was not jetlagged and got a very good night’s sleep.

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My first A350 ride

I just got off BA’s flight from Bangkok and I would transfer onto CX’s fifth-freedom service from Bangkok to Singapore for a short holiday before returning to Hong Kong, also on Cathay. This is one of the best flights I have had and even with the very short flight time (less than 2 hours) and a full Business class cabin (the flight was fully booked a few weeks out!), the cabin crew managed to serve us with ease and great attention. I have flown with Cathay a few times more since and unfortunately, I have to report that this service I have received was an anomaly but made this flight no less enjoyable and pleasant.

I visited the Cathay lounge and was issued my boarding pass. I was also told that my bags will be re-tagged (and indeed they were – with Cathay tags) by the lounge attendant. Because of the delay, I only had just under an hour here. I quickly grabbed some food from the noodle bar due to the lacklustre breakfast I got on board BA, and to freshen up in the loo. I haven’t taken many pictures in the lounge as I had some emails and some messaging to attend to, but this new lounge was designed in the same vein of the Pier and the other new lounges like the one in London (reported here) and the one in Haneda (see here).

I had a sparkling water with some hot food items. The food items were decent and definitely much better than the ones I got on BA. I quickly gobbled up the food and headed down to the gate for boarding.

I arrived at the gate showing ‘Final Call’ although the flight has not called for boarding yet due to a late arrival of the incoming aircraft from Hong Kong.

As with Singapore, there was a dedicated seating area for elites but I did not find a seat (Macro Polo silver members or above would be let in and with a full Business cabin, arriving late meant standing) I did not mind too much. Boarding soon started and only Business class passengers could board on the left and all other passengers needed to board on the right – so not that long a wait considering an A350 only has 38 Business class seats.

My seat: 21A

I was very thrilled with the camera functions, especially I came on a very old plane, and also because this was my first flight on the Airbus A350

It started raining during boarding

I took a water for pre-departure drink

I was then welcomed on board personally by the Senior Purser, who made the point of coming all the way towards the end to give me the menu and thanked me for being an OneWorld Emerald member. She told me to have a read and to decide what I wanted for lunch, and she would come back in 5 minutes to take my meal order. She then went back to the front and distributed the menus. True to her words, she came back and took my meal orders.

Pushback was more or less on time

Blue sky once we took off

On this very short segment, there was no drinks/nuts service. We went straight to the meal service. This was a one-tray affair but it was good. To start we have: Thai seafood and glass noodle salad

In a minute, the Senior Purser came back to serve me my main course option. which was “braised chicken thigh, Chinese onion sauce, sugar peas, carrot, gingko nut and steamed jasmine rice” It was a bit awkward though – sitting on the last row but being served first and the fact that my neighbours had to wait another 15-20 minutes before they themselves were served.

It was a very good main. When the Senior Purser came back to serve my neighbour and those in front of me, she asked me whether I wanted another main course. Curiously on the cart, there was the Chinese option from the Economy Class and I opted for that (in part because I felt guilty to get a second main). Surprisingly, this chicken option was so much better than the Business Class main…

To end, I was offered a choice of ice cream.

And a Hong Kong style milk tea

At this point, we reached the top of descent. It was an excellent service – not rushed and the attention to me as an elite member was low-key but was very well-appreciated. The Senior Purser checked on me every now and then and made sure I was served at the earliest convenience. Together with the purser serving the aisle, I was very well taken care of. What I did not expect came next: they knew it was my birthday the following day and the Senior Purser got the whole crew to sign a birthday card

I was rather taken aback by the kindness and it was indeed extremely surprising to get such attentive segment on such short segment.

A last look on the bird

Thoughts? This was an extremely pleasant flight, and the best flight I have had to-date. The attention to detail, the service flow and the food on board were all excellent, and clearly demonstrated the potential for Cathay to be one of the world’s best airlines. Yet, as my later experiences made clear (long-haul during the summer), the inconsistencies within the Cathay ranks could mean some customers got disheartened and left. All told, I was very pleased with this flight.

Flying an old BA 772

I couldn’t believe my luck when I saw the old Rockwell Collins IFE in the Business Class cabin, that in 2017, I would be able to reminiscent the old days of 747s and when I used to fly to Europe at the back. In fact, the first time I flew BA, on the return, we already had the new IFEs on the 77Ws, so imagine my surprise or my dismay when I saw this old plane flying me to Bangkok.

Anyways, I digress. My trip started in Dusseldorf where I arrived in the airport’s Holiday Inn the night before. They upgraded me to a suite but I was too tired to take any pictures. I dropped dead on the bed until I woke in the morning, and then hurried to the airport after grabbing a few bites. I did not manage the lounge, although sources told me it is pretty bad. And the first thing I shall report is my short flight to London in the Club Europe cabin.

What I did have time to do was to walk to Terminal A to spy on Singapore Airlines’ A350. I am a huge fan of SQ’s Business product and it is indeed my hope that I will return soon (although I am now a OneWorld Emerald member!)

A bus gate today!

View from 1A is fabulous indeed

A short taxi and then we are off. It was a Sunday morning that I flew out of Dusseldorf so understandably not too busy in terms of traffic although I had to wait in the Club line to get my bags check in – not a complaint though.

Great views on departure

The crew quickly sprung into action as this segment was less than an hour and had a 6-row Club cabin (full) to serve. This is my first flight having BA’s new dining concept in Club Europe – I would complain about the portions, but the helping of the bread was generous enough for me. I did not have much of a breakfast so this helped. The crew did not make a fuss about my Gold card unlike those in my flight over in Euro Traveller.

Soon enough we reached the top of descent

My plane

I quickly settled down in the Galleries First lounge to rest/relax/eat. As far as it goes, this lounge is a half-decent First Class lounge (of course, real First Class passengers travelling on BA gets to go to the Concord Room). The bubblies are free-flowing and a decent alcoholic selections are present. There is a menu for which you can order from and the food is definitely a step-up from the Club lounge, But compared to other lounges in the system, this is subpar.

The Champagne Bar

The 4-hour transit went by rather quickly as I was dozing off in the lounge with the champagne that I had. I also had a chance to use the spa and have a shower. It was a good stay no less, although the lounge was at its full capacity throughout and it proved difficult to find seats.

My flight to Bangkok would depart in the B gates so a short ride on the train would do. One thing I like about Terminal 5 is that there are transit trains to take you to your gate areas, as opposed to those long walks to Terminal 3 gates used by Cathay.

I arrived when general boarding just began – so no wait in the queue at all.

My chariot today – 18 years old when taking me back to Asia

My seat is 11A and the window seat in the cabin. I sit directly next to the engine

I was offered a welcome drink

Departure was bang on time

And as a late Sunday afternoon as a phrase suggests, no long queues for the runway and soon enough we were cleared for takeoff

Hot towel offered after cabin crews were released from their seats

G&T to start

A second round of drinks was offered (this segment was about 10 hours long, by this point, the service took already 1.5 hours and we were still on drinks) I took a Rose Champagne, which is my go-to drink on BA

Sometime between the second round of drinks and the laying of the table linen, I was asked about my preference for starter. Here I was acknowledged as a gold member, but lo and behold, they ran out of options by the time they got to me. What a complete waste of time asking for what I want

Anyway, the vegetarian starter was very good

By this point, we were well into Eastern Europe – the quality of the IFE is of course wanting

The sun is catching up with us

Beef for main – not the best decision I have made in life – very tough but bearable

The IFE is not working, but I have been treated to nature’s wonders

The dessert was good once again, saving grace, really. However the inability to have fruits, cheese and pudding means that BA continues to lag behind all its competitors, including CX. I am therefore very much looking forward to the new Club World dining.

Once after dinner, I slept and the flat bed was very good. The last rows of the cabin and the window seat meant an extra long bed and direct aisle access. I was a happy man and I slept swimmingly. I woke up with just under 2 hours to go.

Breakfast was soon served

The beef congee was underwhelming

This IFE map really brought back childhood memories

Approaching Bangkok

Must be my lucky day – another bus gate!!

Thoughts? I really detested the deployment of these very old aircrafts in such long haul flights. The TV was barely working and the resolution made me feel like I own a time machine and went back 10 years in time. The service was good but not outstanding. It is a matter of consensus that BA offers a subpar Business Class product, but once again, I got very solid sleep and was very energetic when I got off the flight. I suffered from very minimal jetlag in Asia which was helpful given my very short trip. So all in all, a good flight. What comes next, though, is the best Cathay flight I have ever flown on. Stay tuned

The Long Way to London Part 2 – British Airways Club World Business Class Singapore to London

Carrying on from part 1, I got off from a very decent Cathay regional flight to Singapore with just over an hour to spare. I quickly dropped by the Qantas Singapore Lounge, which was as stunning. I will review it when I report on my return trip as I did not have long to spend here this time round. I arrived shortly after the major departures for Qantas so the lounge was reasonably empty (with only a Perth service left near midnight)

I tried some Australian white, which was stunning as always, and had some fruits.

But soon enough, it was time to head over to boarding. The gate was open rather early, but I chose to leave only 15 minutes prior to the gate close time as the coming flight would clock nearly 14 hours – no need to spend more time on a plane!

When I arrived at gate C22, the gate was packed with people, especially given a full flight in all cabins and that Singapore Airport processes their security at gate. With just under 300 passengers, boarding would be quite quick (not the security, though!)

Fast track was set up for elite and premium passengers, but my observation showed that queuing up for the non-fast track would result in less queuing, presumably because all non-status passengers had cleared security much earlier without lounge access. Curiously, unlike in Hong Kong, Premium Economy (World Traveller Plus) passengers are not afforded fast track.

Once I cleared security, the flight was closing. I only had time for a quick snap of my chariot before scanning my BP for departure

I was one of the very last passengers to board and I was seated in the last row of the Club World cabin 16A. British Airways’ 777-300ER is configured to have 14 First Class seats between door 1 and door 2, 56 Business Class seats (across 7 rows of 8 seats in 2-4-2 configuration) in the second cabin (Cathay has 53 in their premium-heavy 777-300ERs spread across a mini-cabin and a large cabin), 44 World Traveller Plus and 185 World Traveller seats. Row 16 is the last row of the Club World cabin and the window seats in the Club World cabin face backwards. It is also the closest to the toilets as all Club World toilets are located at the end of the cabin, but given the privacy screens, the window seats are not affected by people using the toilets at all.

The menu and the washbag were given out. At the time of writing, BA has just announced a partnership with the White Company to provide for the new amenity kits – should be a step up from this shoe bag, which while novel when I first got it, is not something ‘Business-Class-like’

Pushback and safety demonstration were on the dot on time

Long taxi to active runway

Took off just before 11 pm

Hot towel offered shortly after taking off

First round of drinks arrived about 35 minutes post-take-off. I had the Champagne de Castelnau Brut Rose Brut NV and a water.

This is the cramped cabin and the dinner service

Starter of dinner: Salmon tartare with horseradish crème fraiche. This is by far the only good dish out of all the food served on this flight

Main course:

Moroccan-spiced chicken breast with roasted sweet potato, aubergine and courgette

Seared seabass with red pepper sauce, creamy polenta and sautéed vegetables

Gnocchi with cherry tomato and Caciocavallo cheese sauce – very bland and potentially undercooked

Chilled main course salad f grilled king prawn, papaya and Thai chilli dressing

Dessert was bad: Tipsy cake with caramelised pineapple and vanilla cream

Meal service concluded about 2 hours into the flight, which was quite reasonable. By this point, I ordered a decaf tea before I go to sleep.

I had a good night sleep and slept right until they turned the lights on for breakfast service. The Club World bed has not failed me so far – it is by far the least hard bed I have been on and the privacy afforded me a good night’s sleep.

An energising fruit smoothie with fresh seasonal fruit – generally decent as you really cannot go wrong with these food

Omelette with pork sausage, back bacon, Lyonnaise potatoes and roasted tomato – let’s just say, improvements needed

A hot towel was offered to round off the meal service

By this point, we are well into descent

We landed about 10 minutes behind schedule, due to the extra long duration of the flight. We flew just as much as the block time

Parked next to the A380 from Hong Kong (see my review from last year)

Overall, this is a solid showing from BA, although much worse than SQ. The catering is the weakest spot on this flight: it is really a shame to see BA not stepping up on one of its more premium routes – nearly everyone in the Club cabin is an Emerald (evident from the additional greeting from the CSD). The lack of Asian options in both dinner and breakfast despite departing from Singapore is disappointing, and the wine selection was downright bad, bar the bubbles. The hard product is in dire need of a refresh, but I have had good night’s sleeps on the flatbed, so I am not going to complain. I arrived very refreshed. Going forward, I am looking forward to the new dining concept in Club World, as well as the enhanced bedding, pillows and amenity kits. Service was decent at best, but acceptable given a crowded flight with lots of elites (my last flight as a lowly Sapphire!)

 

 

The Long Way to London Part 1 – Hong Kong to Singapore on Cathay Pacific Business Class

On my way back to London, I chose the longer route, via Singapore, but this time with Cathay Pacific then onto British Airways. I arrived just around the time BA 32 or CX 251 arrived, so I did not lose much time in terms of arriving into London. I just had to leave Hong Kong in the afternoon instead of the evening, which was fine for me, as the earlier departure of BA 16 (22:35) afforded me more time to sleep on the latter red-eye flight.

Also, as an aviation geek, I also wanted to the longest way possible (under the ticket rules, of course, unnecessary to pay excessive fares) to go home, and luckily British Airways allows multiple routings to London from Hong Kong.

I arrived into Hong Kong Airport just 3.5 hours ahead of departure so I could have lunch with my family in Terminal 2. Check-in at the Business Class counters were very quick, without queues and the agent and I had minimal exchange. She checked my bags and issued me my boarding pass within 2 minutes. All is well.

Some mascots-type things I spotted near check-in

Aisle B – next time, I will check-in in the first-class area with my newly-minted Emerald status

An iconic shot

My favourite OneWorld lounge in Hong Kong remains the Qantas Lounge (though I fully anticipate I would be thrown by the Pier First Class lounge in a few weeks’ time): it is often unoccupied and with great food/drinks offering (no champagne, but lovely Australian/New Zealand wine selections)

Also JAL’s lounge during daytime

Hong Kong style milk tea

I really think Qantas did something really brilliant with the lounge; but more importantly is the location. On the level above the concourse, the lounge is very bright and feels very spacious unlike the Singapore Airlines lounge just below it. Makes lovely spots for plane-watching too

The food offering is always good

I opted for the desserts

Gate 1 today – happy days

I left the lounge when the flight started boarding, boarding was well under way

The priority queue was empty

My chariot today: B-HLS, a rather old A333, though with the reverse herringbone business seats

Pre-departure beverage: Cathay delight, water or champagne

Legroom is decent

The noise-cancelling headphones

Seat controls

Gates 1-4 are Cathay’s world

Hot towel was offered

The menu for today

We pushed back a few minutes before schedule

The new mid-field concourse

Big sister

3:23 flight time

Take-off towards the South China Sea

Drinks service started right after the seatbelt sign was turned off. I started with a Gin and Tonic, and a sparkling water.

Table was laid

To start: Seared tuna, asparagus, oven dried tomato, mixed vegetables and wasabi mayonnaise

Garlic bread and rolls

The standard Billecart-Salmon Brut Champagne

The view is excellent

Moving onto my all-time favourite white wine on the plane: Yealands Estate Land Made Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough 2015/6

Stir fried halibut, shallot black bean sauce, kalian, carrot and steamed jasmine rice

More wine and cheese

Ice cream for dessert

Chamomile tea to end

Sunset

Hot towel to end the meal service

Still over an hour to go at this point

I was asked to complete a survey on the flight. I wrote extremely positive comments for the crew: ably led by the manager, and the Singapore-based senior purser was particularly excellent and warm. CX711 is usually operated by some Singapore-based crew and I find them warmer and more approachable my three recent flights.

Writing kit and playing cards

Water bottles given out prior to landing

Today’s flight was rather empty in the front

Soon enough, we began our initial descent into Singapore

And to mark the end of the flight

Overall, this is an excellent flight. I don’t have to sing more songs of praises for the Qantas Hong Kong Lounge – it is simply beautiful and amazing, like its Singapore’s counterpart. Granted, Business Class was not full and the service was thus more efficient and quick. Yet, the crew was warm and approachable – always on hand to help. It is not unlikely you get one or two exceptional crew on each flight, but it is rare to get an entire team that is committed to making the journey better.

Tier Points running to Jakarta – Part 2

Just a brief recap: I flew to Jakarta on the morning CX777 departure to Jakarta and I was doing a back-to-back for BA Executive Club Tier Points. Jakarta is 2,000 miles away from Hong Kong, which qualifies as a long-haul flight. A round-trip bags 280 TPs – which is nearly 20% of my TPs for Emerald this year!

I was picked up by a Cathay staff at the gate and was guided through transfer, which consisted of him walking me up to the departure concourse via an elevator. He had my boarding pass in hand and settled me down in the lounge while he dealt with my passport and stuff. Within 5 minutes he came back to me and told me to head to the boarding gate. I happily obliged. I was very impressed by the service I got at Jakarta – no confusion and I was able to transfer without entering Indonesia!

The FIDS

There was a queue at the security check before the gate, but it digested quite quickly.

Priority lane for boarding pass check

I am liking the gate area design

The gate area was quite full of people. It was rather difficult to find a seat. But I happily stood. Once boarding was announced, Business Class was invited to board first, followed by Emerald and Sapphire.

When I boarded the aircraft, the ISM and SP were in shock to see me back. I then explained to them I was doing a back-to-back. They asked me where I would be sitting. I originally chose 21A at the rear of the Business Class cabin. The ISM was very insistent that I moved to 11A – so that I would be served first on this sector, and that the air conditioning system was not working at the rear cabin. I was too happy to oblige. More importantly, everyone now knows who I am – I was feeling more like a VIP on the return!

The inflight map

Boarding finished rather quickly, due to the light load on the return sector. Business Class was half full, PEY was similar and EY was a bit fuller.

Plane spotting while taxing to the active runway

Onwards and upwards

I quickly started watching another movie

For pre-refreshment drinks I had Gin and Tonic

Even though it was a 2 pm departure, and the menu was branded as a refreshment – the meal was really a glorified version of lunch / dinner. The full servings, perhaps given the 5-hour block time

To Start: Balik Salmon, cucumber, creme fraiche, salmon roe and lemon

Seasonal mixed salad and balsamic vinaigrette

Garlic bread was excellent as ever

A menu shot

Loving the view

As per protocol, all the options of main courses would be rolled out on a cart. I still have mixed feelings for this way of doing things – the main courses would be cooled, and even if a main looks good, there is still the chance for it to taste bad. In all honesty, I am looking forward to dine on demand: especially the extended menu choices.

Followed by

Pan fried beef fillet, tomato onion sauce, asparagus, lotus root, mushroom and steamed jasmine rice

Pan fried sea beam, savoy cabbage, kipfler potatoes, black pepper and garlic butter

Thai red chicken curry, garlic vegetables and steamed jasmine rice

I had the Chinese beef option. It was excellent.

Evidence. My wine was topped up throughout the service – I must have a few glasses during the main!

Fruits and cheese soon followed

The sun begins to set at this point

The dessert was simply divine. Peanut butter macadamia cake

It was so good that I asked for a second helping! I also asked for a comment form so I can praise the crew for the lovely service I received.

The meal service took about 3 hours, which I took to be a good pace, though I am very sure my neighbour did not agree (he got his laptop out for work after main!) This was due to the turbulence during the flight, but I think it was an afternoon flight – people would have had lunch earlier

The SP came by to thank me for choosing CX on my TP run and asked me whether she could offer me a cup of hot chocolate. I happily obliged.

Before landing, I also asked for a cup of green tea

Catching up on some work prior to landing! We were put in a holding pattern due to congestion

Putting my seat back to take off position prior to landing

A bottle of water was available upon request

When the gate information finally appeared, I knew my day was coming to an end

Back at home after a long day!

Verdict? Overall an excellent flight. The catering was very good. While not too fancy, it was completely edible and I enjoyed the service. I particularly loved the Yealands Land Estate Sauvignon Blanc – not a pricey wine, but definitely very drinkable on the plane. I hope to continue to see this wine on board, as I have for the last 5 months. The service was commendable – perhaps because I have flown the outbound sector, the crew was warmer and more proactive this sector. But either way, very good service. The delivery was excellent. Hard product and inflight entertainment excellent as ever.

Tier Points running to Jakarta – Part 1

The following two reports cover my day trip to Jakarta on Cathay Pacific’s Business Class on a Sunday. The reason I chose Jakarta was because HKG-CGK is over 2,000 miles, which means that it is classed as a long-haul flight with BA’s Executive Club. Bagging 280 Tier Points in a day, at no additional cost to an ex-EU fare, is about the best deal you can get. It also helps that CX777/CX776 constantly runs on long-haul planes as doing the back-to-back would have been painful on a regionally configured plane.

I woke up at 5.45 am and left home at 6 am for my flight at 9.20 am. I took the Airport Express shuttle bus to Kowloon Station where I did my in-town check-in.

I arrived into the airport just 2 hours before my flight. Security was packed but with the HK efficiency, I was through and through in 15 minutes.

The gate today was Gate 2. While the Wing is definitely just next to my gate, I was assured that it would be packed. The Qantas Hong Kong Lounge, which doubles up as JAL’s lounge in the morning/early afternoon before Qantas and BA’s evening departures, provides a rare sanctuary for plane spotting, breakfast-eating and (more importantly) catching up with caffeine undisturbed.

COFFEE!

Japanese rice provision for Japanese passengers

My breakfast, with a lovely cup of flat white

Second course: made to order wonton noodles

My view

SQ001 onwards to Singapore

Leaving the Qantas lounge for my flight. The lounge was not populated at all despite the morning rush hour flights. Staff was courteous and happy to oblige with any requests. Food offering was superb.

As ever, the Priority Pass lounge had a long queue

My flight was about to board when I arrived

My chariot today – newly painted A333

Flying business today!

My seat was 21A, which is an excellent seat. Being at the back of the Business Class cabin means that there is minimal foot traffic as all toilets are in front of you. You are also in the mini cabin which means it is a bit roomier. The only downside is that you will be served last.

This is 20A

My view

Welcome drink: no bubbly in the morning

Hot towel

Business class was full but boarding was quickly done. Safety demonstration soon followed

The seat controls – really showing its age

Push back

The journey is just over 2,000 miles – exactly why I was on that plane!

Taxing to runway

Entering runway 07R for departure

And here we go

Shing Mun Reservoir and Sha Tin

Victoria Harbour

Then I started my inflight entertainment

I was offered a post-take off drink. I took a coconut water (I was rather surprised to see that on the menu) I also asked for a champagne. The Purser serving my aisle was very snappy – not overly approachable, but she was straight to the point, also yelling ‘certainly, sir’ – very typical HK efficiency!

First course: Seasonal Fresh Fruits

With breakfast pastries

Second course: Special K

Third course: Braised beef brisket and noodles – yum!!! It was very flavourful and the beef was flavourful. It was hands-down the best breakfast I have had on the plane. The noodles were well cooked but not overly dry.

A cappuccino to end

Breakfast service concluded about 1.5 hours into the flight, which was rather efficient. The food was decent in portion and quality. I was generally pleased

I decided to start working

I got some sparkling water

And HK style milk tea – one of my favourite drinks on board Cathay

Crossing the equator

Hot towel offered again just under an hour out

Seat returned to take off position

21A has two windows

I asked for a bottle of water to keep myself hydrated until I get on the plane again!

Descending into Jakarta

Our flight route today

The curtain was shut immediately after we arrived to make sure that business class passengers disembarked first

I was picked up by the ground staff who helped me pass through transit. I was led to the lounge while the Cathay staff took care of the rest and came back with a boarding pass. I was impressed by the meet and assist service I was provided with as a back-to-back customer.

The flight was very good. The catering was a stand-up from what I had to London a few months ago – Cathay certainly had the potential to do very well in terms of food. The service I received was good, nothing memorable. The Purser was very to-the-point, but was not as friendly as the ones on SQ. Given a full flight, it was understandable that I felt like I was on an assembly line. Hard product was excellent as ever. Not a bad half a day mileage running. And spoiler alert: my return trip was better!

My virgin flight on Cathay Dragon’s Business Class

After I got off the plane from Heathrow, I walked towards the transit counter for my onward boarding pass with Cathay Dragon. I found out that my flight had been delayed for 50 minutes, which gave me ample, if a bit too much, time to explore the Cathay lounge at KUL. Food and drinks options were disappointing to say the least, but I only needed some water, so I was not too fussed. Wifi was not very good, I was not able to do a skype voice call properly.

I left at the stated boarding time on the boarding pass (with the new departure time). Like SIN, KUL’s security is at gate, which can mean a long queue for a full flight. While the flight was not full (20/24 in J, 180/293 in Y), the lack of priority security as in SIN for frequent flyers and premium passengers meant that it took quite a while. Oh well, the flight was not boarding yet so I was not fussed.

The plane in the new livery

Once in the gate area, there was a segregated seating area for premium passengers, which was very nice.

Boarding soon followed. Business Class passengers were invited the board, and they enforced this religiously – even frequent flyers were not allowed to board at the first instance. Once onboard, I was offered Dragon Sunrise, a special cocktail, which I enjoyed immensely.

Instead of hot towel we got wet wipes.

Safety demonstration

The gate bridges were disengaged

Push-back

A short taxi was then followed by the take-off roll

Table was set and I was given the menu

Sunset outside

Drinks and nuts service came first. I had the cocktail and a glass of water

First course: Seared scallop starter, with Taittinger Champagne. The starter was not bad though the citrus salad was a bit of a weird combination

More sunset

Garlic bread and rolls were offered

The main course: Braised chicken with red date and black fungus, seasonal vegetables and steamed rice. It was meh, passable.

Dessert was the bog-standard ice cream

I was left rather hungry by the underwhelming main, hence I asked for more ice cream, which was served quickly

We were making good progress

The bulkhead legroom was good

The regional headphones left more to be desired

Soon enough it was 30 minutes prior to landing, when the seatbelt sign came on

Overall verdict: I really enjoyed the service. The crews were personal in their approaches and seemed really genuine, which was a marked difference from some of the Cathay service I got. Although it was evident that Cathay Dragon lacked the level of poshness as with Cathay Pacific, the service was much better. The catering was passable but the wine list was good. For such a short segment, the hard product was decent – the inflight entertainment was of excellent quality, the seat was comfortable, though it helped to have a bulkhead window seat with no seat mate.

BA Dreamliner to Kuala Lumpur

Picking off from where we left off, I looked at the departure FIDS just to make sure that my flight would depart from Terminal 5.

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Heading to the transit bus

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The bus affords some good plane spotting

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Arriving into Terminal 5

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My flight would depart from gate B48 so I left for the B gates

The irony of seeing this advertisement in a predominantly BA terminal

The B gates lounge

The food offering was… meh… there were only sandwiches and cakes on offer – no real hot item despite nearing dinner hours

My selection

I flagged down an attendant for some champagne. I asked for a glass and he insisted on bringing two – saying that I needed that!

The saving grace of the lounge was that it was rather quiet

At about the boarding time, I headed to the gate

To my surprise, there was no queue at the gate, which was unusual – passengers seemed to really love the idea of queuing up to board the flight. I would later discover a rather light flight awaiting me: full in First, about 70% in Club, about 20% in World Traveller Plus and another 20% for World Traveller.

My plane was the further one

The boarding sequence

My plane

I was the first to board the airplane

My seat for the flight – 6A

An empty Club cabin (for now). For its 787, BA retained the yin-yang design from 2006 and opted for a 2-3-2 configuration. 7 seats a row is rather bad given that airlines like JAL opted for 8 seats per row for their economy cabin.

My view

The usual pre-departure beverages were offered

The IFE was available gate to gate

The menu for tonight

The legroom

We left 20 minutes behind schedule as some passengers did not make the flight and their bags were offloaed

Safety demonstration soon after

We took off about 40 minutes behind schedule

The privacy screen was up once the safety demonstration was over

Last view of England

My first movie…

The amenity kit (washbag) was offered

Its content

Hot towel

Pre-dinner drinks

More nuts as I was very hungry

The starter plate: it was really not bad but would love a plate for the bread.

The main: Satay Chicken rice. Overcooked and poorly seasoned. I do hope the new Club World investment meant better main choices

By this time, we are well into our flight

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The cheesecake was divine… but I hate the fact that I could only choose between dessert, cheese and fruits, when I could have all three on Cathay

Tea to end

I then made my bed for the night. I had about 4 hours of sleep and woke up with the sun high up in the sky

I was hungry and got some snacks – I must say I was rather taken aback by the lack of food in Club Kitchen despite it only being halfway through the flight

Club Kitchen

And seriously – serving tea in Club with paper cups?

Time for another movie

2 hours left!

With 1.5 hours to go, breakfast was served

I asked for a Buck’s Fizz to go with, especially given it would be early afternoon already in KL

cheers!

The main was exactly the one I had on BA27 last June – quite interesting how the menu for breakfast was almost nearly the same!

Approaching Malaysia

In descent

The full route for the day

The KL airport

My chariot of the day

I arrived into KL a bit over 30 minutes late, hoping to just go to the gate of my next flight on Cathay Dragon to Hong Kong only to find that that flight was delayed for nearly an hour! Well at least there is a lounge!

Verdict? The 787 was surely quiet and quite pleasant. The Club World cabin was a bit dense and could feel claustrophobic at times. The lack of storage space and lack of space to manoeuvre were also problematic on such a long flight if one wanted to work or to stretch out. The service was okay if a bit slow – which was really not understandable given the light load across the flight. The catering was a passable attempt for most part. It was a pleasant ride no less, but there are surely better ways to fly.

See my flight with Singapore Airlines on a flight: LHR–SIN

 

BA Euro Traveller & Club Europe to/from Vienna

This is a short report featuring a return trip to and from Vienna that begins my ex-EU trip to Hong Kong. I flew out in Euro Traveller (which is BA’s regional Economy Class – though more akin to LCC now as they charge for food and drinks on board). BA operates some of their flights out of Terminal 3 and Vienna is one of these ‘special’ flights. I do like the idea of flying out of Terminal 3 as it means I can access to Cathay lounge, which was indeed very nice.

I arrived about three hours prior to the flight at Terminal 3 via National Express on quite a gloomy day.

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BA’s Check-in area

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Priority lane was quite empty

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Soon enough I got my boarding pass and my bags were all tagged priority. I was then told I should use the Fast Track for security.

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Fast Track security was a breeze. It took a mere 5 minute, which was a record for me in Terminal 3. I do thank my OneWorld Sapphire card! In no time, I was in the Cathay lounge enjoying the Cathay-branded brew – the Betsy Beer.

As part of the ‘Life Well Travelled’ campaign, Cathay introduces the ‘Betsy beer’ which is ‘a high-quality craft ale that has travel in its DNA’. Uniquely the beer has three ingredients: dragon eye, Hong Kong honey and fuggle. It was very unique in taste and rather sweet – not a fan, but good to try.

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The sun breaks through

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One hour prior to boarding, I moved over to the dining area to get some food. I asked for some sparkling water and white wine to go with my dinner.

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My selection: I must say that the food quality has improved appreciably since I was last here in December. Very enjoyable, indeed.

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My gate today

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The flight was to be very full and I got a text message that I could check my cabin luggage in as well.

The gate agents did not have much success in getting people to check their bags, in part because if they are travelling on hand-baggage-only fare, they would not want to wait for the bags at Vienna. Given that I had two other bags in the hold, I was happy enough to offer to check my hand baggage, which was met with appreciation by the gate agent!

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Boarding began soon after

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I bagged an exit row window seat, which in my opinion, had a much better legroom than some of the Club Europe (Business Class) seats!

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The flight left on time and arrived pretty much on time

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This is my first flight featuring the M&S Buy On Board program, although I did not partake

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I do like the idea of being able to pay with avios!

The flight was short – just under two hours – and soon enough, we began our descent into Vienna.

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Vienna was very picturesque and I was blessed with very good weather. I had a nice long stroll in the loop and it was rather refreshing.

Belvedere Palace

Burggarten

Somewhere medieval

Somewhere old

It was a satisfying stroll

I began my travel to Asia the following day after a whole day stay in Vienna. I took the train from the City to the airport

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And this is the arrivals hall

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Like the other ports I have visited, BA only has three counters for check-in

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The FIDS

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The lounge was alright – not much food and beverage. I just used the free wifi and did some emails

The flight was calling at gate D29, which was a bus gate

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View from my seat

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Legroom from row 1

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Take-off

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Hot towel was offered

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The view makes up for the lack of inflight entertainment

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Club Europe was half full today and service was fast, efficient and personal… exemplified by having two scones! (This would be my last flight was the old Club Europe catering – will miss the scones!)

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Toasting to a good trip

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After afternoon tea, we were nearing London

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The descent into Heathrow made for great sightseeing

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The Concorde!

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Landed

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We were parked next to the JAL flight to Haneda

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Next time I will pick up on my connection to Terminal 5 and my flight to Kuala Lumpur on BA’s Dreamliner in Club World Business Class.

Verdict? BA’s new Economy concept seems to be working well – there were plenty of orders for food and drinks. I like the idea of being able to pay with avios and I think the avios/cash conversion is very reasonable. Of course, paying at all is undesirable and I will continue to eat up in the lounge and fill up my water bottle before flying with BA on Economy; but I will be open to the idea of purchasing on board when I have to.

BA’s old Club Europe catering suits me well, but perhaps not for the gentleman across the row from me who did not appreciate the lack of choice for afternoon tea. I like the bulkhead seat which has good legroom – but this is nothing compared to the regional seats in Asia or even in the USA.