Airline: Cathay Pacific
Aircraft: Boeing 777
Route: New York - Hong Kong
Date: January 2011
Start of a nightmare. Yes, if you know that you will be in plane for at least 16 hrs, you can fly whatever you want. It doesn't feel very comfy to think about this long time.
But back to the beginning. Turkish Airlines had a Valentine's special to Hong Kong once again (remember our report a year ago?), but unfortunately this time I couldn't book it. But the idea was there to go to Hong Kong, so planning started. I got a very cheap award ticket (British Airways Executive Club) on Cathay Business Class. Sounded too good to be true. And pictures of Cathay Business Class look really good! But ... 16 h 10 mins flight nonstop. :( I booked my flight, looking forward to flying Cathay, booked an extremely cheap connection on Jet Blue from IAD to JFK and planned to stay the night at JFK Holiday Inn Express.
The day before my feeder flight: Snowstorm along the East Coast. Every Jet Blue flight in the morning was cancelled. However,they announced that the afternoon flights would be in time. The next morning I saw that Cathay CX 841 to HKG, scheduled departure 9:15 a.m., was delayed until 1:20 a.m. at night. And once more. Cathay also announced that the next day's flight would be in time. At this moment I would have believed in every miracle on this world, but never ever that I would fly on two steps to Hong Kong and have a smooth ride which would be even mostly in time. I saw myself stranded at either IAD or JFK, spending time at the airport, get a problem with my hotel rooms. Needless to say I was 100 % sure that this would be my first winter flight nightmare in my life.
I drove up to IAD, dropped my rental car and was at the terminal 90 mins before departure. Still announced: YES, we will be in time. Whow. Too good to be true. But on the other hand the whole airport didn't look as if it had been badly affected by the weather. A bit snowy, but all runways cleared and a bit sunshine in the evening. When I arrived at the gate I decided to use my brand new British Airways Gold status card and visit their lounge although flying another airline. The lounge was nice, some fingerfood, time passed by and I went down to the Jet Blue gate to wait for my flight.
The flight was - of course! - NOT in time and yes, you could blame the weather for it. Our plane was at the gate, but there was a delayed plane at the gate next to ours and another flight with our new crew in there could not dock at the terminal. It took appr. 40 mins after the scheduled departure time to board and we left with 1 hour delay. It was a short night only in the hotel, but Cathay still was "on time" so I could hope to have no trouble the next morning and compensate missing sleeping time during my flight.
I got up early enough and was everything else, but not awake. The coffee maker did not work. How can you get up like this? I packed my goods, went down for a really disgusting breakfast and coffee which was as bright as tea. The shuttle left in time and we headed for JFK airport. Shortly before we arrived at T 7, I wanted to send a text message to my girlfriend and noticed that I had no mobile with me. I had left them both in the hotel room. ****! However, the driver was great and took me back to the hotel, called the front desk so they collected my mobiles from my room and after having picked them up we could get back to T7 with no more delay.
I had already checked in online (Cathay enables OLCI 48h in advance) and was at the BA lounge within some minutes to have a tripple espresso. Got finally awake. After some minutes boarding was announced. The flight really seemed to be in time. We boarded in time, had a slight delay because of loading airfreight and got pushed back appr. 15 mins behind the official departure time. However, this is JFK and we needed nearly one hour to taxi and get airborne.
When I entered the plane everything looked quite promising. I love those herringbone seats. You have a lot of privacy and normally they are very comfortable. But I had been warned: Seatguru described the seats as narrow. They didn't do this with any other airline's Business seats. And they are right. If you are not small and slim, in start and landing position it is very narrow. You feel cramped. Your back is in this position at he most narrow part of the seat. And this is REALLY narrow. In the moment you recline a little bit you get space and when you move the seat into the full flat mode you really have good space around your shoulders.
From then on it was the usual flight: Drinks directly after departure. They handed out the amenity kits, the menus etc. But there are some differences in between airlines. The pursurette came through the cabin, welcomed every passenger. Of course adressed with name. Nice, friendly and never in a way like giving you the feeling as if it was a forced friendliness. It is the kind of natural friendliness which you know from most Asians. Also all other flight attendands addressed you by name. Of course they had a small list put discretely on their trolleys, where they could have a look every time they served you. But you could also notice that - the longer the flight went on - they had no need of their secret list anymore. The Cathay Business Class is not small and our names (and especially mine is not easy, not even for Americans or Europeans) are often not easy for Asian ears. But they made it.
The food served throughout the whole flight was absolutely superb. Cooked to the point, nothing dry, well spiced and everything very served friendly. I forgot a bit what I took and, sorry, forgot to take the menu with me. I think my first main course was chicken. It was superb and had the quality of a good restaurant and this doesn't happen very often.
When I looked at the flight display for the first time I was surprised. We flew straight north. From New York to Montréal and straight on to the pole. If you have a real globe in front of you, this is logical. However, most of us are used to look at the world as a flat map and so it is often expected to cross the Pacific. We didn't do that. The flight was very smooth for the whole time.
The entertainment system is good, but nothing outstanding. Appr. 60 movies were show, 18 of which were new releases. However, I watched two movies, had two excellent meals and 4 x 3 hrs nice sleep. We needed almost the full pre-announced flying time and arrived with 50 mins delay at Hong Kong international airport. It was one of my longest flights ever and upfront I was not really comfortable with the flying time (remember, I am a smoker) but it went by fast and I arrived relaxed. Got a pick up from my business partner (I should have been warned. He flies only Eco and I told him to make my hotel reservation) and was taken to my hotel. I learned at this day that Hong Kong doesn't only have good and affordable 4 and 5 Star hotels, but also 2 1/2 star hotels for cheap locals. A nightmare, but this is a total different story.
After 3 days in a really bad hotel I could switch my hotel to the Crowne Plaza Hong Kong Causeway Bay. One of my favourite in HKG. Monday was full of (very successful) work and Tuesday was departure day again.
I managed to get a late check out, however, I still had hours to get to the airport. I strolled around a bit through Hong Kong, enjoyed a German beer in a pub near the Holiday Inn Nathan and finally picked up my luggage from the hotel at 7:30 p.m. Walked from there to Causeway Bay, took the train to Hong Kong station, and by using the airport express train I arrived at HKIA 8:30 p.m. Plenty of time remaining. My flight was scheduled to leave at 1:00 a.m.
The duty free area in Hong Kong is incredible. However, I bought only cigarettes and the more diffent shops you have, the harder to find are the standard traveller shops. I bought my coffin nails, changed remaining Hong Kong money into US Dollar and went to the Cathay Wing Lounge. Thanks to BA Gold I was welcomed in the First Class section of the lounge. The Wing is at the first moment not as impressive as most people describe it. However, this first impression is not true. If you walk around and see the different rooms and services they have... looks really good. No matter what you do or want to have, there is always somebody reading your thoughts and is helpful before you can even ask for help. The service and the staff might be the most impressive thing about this lounge.
Time passed and after midnight I thought it would be good to head for the gate with a short stop at one of the smoking cabins on the way. I did so, went to the next smoking station and ... I dont't know. I think I fell asleep during smoking and when I checked time for next time it was 22 mins before scheduled departure. Hurry up!!! I walked very fast through the terminal to my gate and managed to enter the plane as one of the last passengers. This could have gone worse ...
And once more a monster flight coming up. Estimated time to Vancouver 11 h 30 mins, 2 h planned stop and another 5 h 15 mins to New York. The first meal service was very fast and effective and appr. 90 mins after departure I slept deeply (and loudly? No idea, didn't hear myself). The flight to YVR was very smooth and because we had departed after midnight I think everybody onboard flying C or F slept the whole time. I woke up when we already descended to Vancouver.
The next 2 hours were the worst time of the entire journey. The stop in Vancouver is boring, bad ... waste of time. You have to wait in the departure lounge for two hours and can't do anything. After the departure to New York I couldn't sleep anymore, so I managed to watch a full movie. After that I felt a bit tired again, but did not get much sleep. After a short flying time of only 4h 40 min we landed in New York JFK.
I was the first one to leave the plane and went through the empty British Airways terminal to immigration. Because we were the first flight of the day there was absolut nobody waiting and I passed immigration in seconds.
Out of the door and a deep smoke. Not too bad. Everybody calls the New York airports always bad for their immigration. My last two experiences (once EWR, once JFK) gave me the feeling to be in the fastest airports all over the US. After boring 3.5 hrs of waiting time, I managed to get my Jet Blue flight back to Washington and after an additional 4 hrs. of driving time, I was in the office again. Total travel time from leaving the hotel: 32 hrs.
Nice to know that I have to do this trip again somewhen in March or April.