Airlines and Aviation
Cathay Pacific Airways flies several times daily between Hong Kong and Bangkok, Thailand. It is one of the airline’s most popular routes. Several other airlines also ply the same route.
I was flown on Cathay Pacific Airways from my home in Hong Kong to Bangkok, Thailand, to attend a press briefing on an upscale real estate development, which will comprise two five-star hotels and a 72-floor residential tower.
My flight was scheduled to depart Hong Kong International Airport at 9.30 am. Before leaving for the airport, I decided to make sure that the flight would be leaving on line.
I expected this to take a few minutes. No point rushing to the airport during rush hour if my flight was going to take off late.
I typed “Cathay Pacific flight status” into my computer, expecting to be taken to a page on the Cathay Pacific website providing this information.
Instead, I was taken to a third-party website, which informed me that my flight would be departing 111 minutes behind schedule.
Wow! Did that mean I could spend two hours getting some work done before going to the airport?
Better Safe Than Sorry
My better judgement suggested I verify that the information was correct. I had difficulty getting an answer to my query on the Cathay Pacific Airways website and no luck on the Hong Kong International Airport website.
Other third-party websites kept showing up instead, and they were giving me the same information. Should I believe it?
I wanted verification from the airline itself. When I couldn’t locate the correct page on the Cathay Pacific website, I tried calling, tweeting, and sending a message on Facebook.
No immediate responses were forthcoming – just an automated response indicating that the office wasn’t open yet. My answer came after I arrived at the airport.
Does it REALLY have to be this difficult to get this kind of information with today’s advanced information technology? I was expecting one or two clicks of the mouse.
I finally found a CX webpage with departure and arrival information, and it suggested the flight was departing on time.
Owing to heavy rains, the flight took off at least one hour late. But that did NOT mean I could have left home any later than I did.
If I had believed the information I got from the third-party websites, I would have missed my flight because it did, in fact, board on time even if we did wait on the tarmac for 60 to 90 minutes after boarding..
My takeaway: don’t believe everything you read on line. There is a HUGE amount of mis-information on the World Wide Web. Always make sure to double check information against alternate sources.
Cathay Pacific Airways is the dominate airline at Hong Kong International Airport, and there were three different check-in counters.
So there was some confusion as to which one I was supposed to go to. The counter indicated on the flight board turned out to be wrong. Good thing I wasn’t in a hurry and wasn’t carrying bulky bags.
My Marco Polo Club membership has been downgraded to Asia Miles because I haven’t been flying enough recently, so I didn’t get to use the priority boarding check in counter as on previous trips. This led to a lot of unnecessary traipsing around.
Airbus A 350-900
I flew from Hong Kong to Bangkok on an Airbus 350-900. Thanks to advanced lighting and air filtration, the overall on-board ambiance was quite comfortable.
The cabin had 9 toilets, and what surprised me most was that I could overhear a conversation between a mother and her child in the adjoining toilet. That was a definite first.
The airplane had a total of 290 passenger seats, including 38 open suites in Business Class in 10 rows, 28 standard seats in Premier Economy in 4 rows, and 214 standard seats in economy class in 26 rows.
Business Class had a 1 by 2 by 1 seat configuration. Premier Economy had a 2 by 4 by 2 seat configuration. Economy class had a 3 by 3 by 3 seat configuration.
The pitch in Business Class was 45 inches and the width was 20 inches, with a decline of 180 degrees. The pitch in Premier Economy was pitch 40 inches with a width is 20 inches. The pitch in economy class is 32 inches with a width of 18. Inches.
According to SeatGuru.com, there should have been a 110-volt AC power outlet, but I couldn’t find it.
There was also a UBS outlet, but mine didn’t appear to be operational. I tried unsuccessfully to recharge both my mobile phone and my digital camera on it.
I asked the passenger sitting next to me if his mobile phone had charged successfully. He said yes, but that it was very slow.
I was seated in seat 72H, which was 3 seats from the rear of the cabin. The seat itself was comfortable enough, and I had sufficient legroom. I’m a six-footer, so leg room is an import consideration for me.
What surprised me was how narrow the armrests were. They could not have been two inches wide.
I was lucky enough to be seated on the aisle seat next to a couple of trim newlyweds, and they snuggled throughout the flight, allowing me to use both armrests.
Had I been seated next to someone of my own size or heftier, it would have been very uncomfortable as both of us could not have shared the armrest, and there really was not enough room for me not to use the armrest. It would have been very cramped.
Because it was a morning flight, we were served breakfast. There was a choice of either chicken congee (rice gruel) or scrambled eggs,
I opted for the scrambled eggs, which came with sausage, potatoes, and cherry tomatoes. There was also a tub of yogurt, a choice of juices, and one of those disgusting buns that so many airlines serve.
I’ve flown Cathay Pacific several times, and I was very disappointed by the food on this flight. What happened to those mouth-watering croissants that CX used to serve even in economy class on short-haul flights?
On previous Cathay flights, there were always bottles of both red and white wine – even on morning flights. While it wasn’t usually offered at breakfast, it was always available if you asked for it.
The trip from the gate to customs was lengthy but smooth thanks to moving sidewalks. There were several lovely murals along the walls, with themes from Thai culture.
There were long lines at customs, and it took me about 45 minutes to reach the front of the queue. To put that in context, I had to wait one hour and 20 minutes upon arrival at Kansai International Airport in Osaka, Japan.
The wait reminded me once again how lucky I was to live in Hong Kong, where smart ID cards have cut waits at passport control to single digits. Often there is no wait. You just pass right through.
By the time I reached luggage claim, my suitcase had already been removed from the carousel. Passing through security was a breeze. No one asked me to open my bags.
Then came the challenge of finding my greeter. The terminal at Bangkok International Airport has several exits, and it's always a challenge finding the right one.
Before I found my greeter, I stopped to purchase a local SIM card. I opted for a more expensive plan to avoid interruption.
After making only two phone calls I was out of credit ... so much for forward planning.
Where to Get the Best Exchange Rate
There were money exchange counters scattered throughout the terminal. It was a temptation to stop at the first one I came across, but I didn’t.
My travel companion, who was arriving on a different flight, had done some on-line research and told me to go the basement and seek out a money changer called SuperRich.
Was it worth the effort? I wasn’t sure as another journalist from Hong Kong was arriving on the same flight and I didn’t want to inconvenience the greeter and the other participants on the press trip.
Since he had not yet arrived, however, and the others said they didn’t mind, I decided to go ahead in search of a better deal.
After descending two levels, I had to search to find the SuperRich kiosk, which appeared to be outside the airport terminal in a passageway leading to the train station.
OMG! Yes, it WAS worth the extra effort! There was a HUGE difference in the exchange rate!
The exchange rate was 4.31 baht to one Hong Kong dollar vs. 3.86 baht to one Hong Kong dollar at the money exchange kiosks inside the airport terminal.
This was the same exchange rate offered by SuperRich kiosks in downtown Bangkok.
There were two or three other money exchange kiosks, and they were all offering the same exchange rate so I opted for the one with the shortest line.
Coming: Review of the Plaza Premium Lunge at Hong Kong International Airport
Have you flown Cathay Pacific Airways recently? What did you think of the seats and the in-flight service?