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How to spend 27hrs in a 10hr journey? HEL-AMS-HKG-NRT-HKG-LHR-HEL ON CX IN Y

How to spend 27hrs in a 10hr journey? HEL-AMS-HKG-NRT-HKG-LHR-HEL ON CX IN Y

Old Nov 11, 15, 3:58 am
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How to spend 27hrs in a 10hr journey? HEL-AMS-HKG-NRT-HKG-LHR-HEL ON CX IN Y

Before the journey

It was only some two weeks ago I decided I had perfect time to make a short vacation trip to somewhere in Asia. It turned out Cathay Pacific had quite attractive prices available also on that short notice so I started to study the alternatives. Very soon I decided it was going to be Japan, as I had never been there before and it sounded like an interesting alternative. It was going to be Monday to Friday, leaving only two nights in destination, which certainly doesn't make justice to that country, but more of Japan next time. Helsinki to Tokyo, outbound via Amsterdam and Hong Kong, inbound via Hong Kong and London. I had one main concern, though, the flights were going to be in Y, and hadn't done any long haul in Y for years!

Getting the tickets wasn't as easy as I had used to. Though CX has several code share flights between Helsinki and various European destinations they fly to, HEL doesn't exist on their own booking engine, so had to use an OTA. I ended up buying the flights with a long established reputable travel agent after failing with quite a few newer ones, as something turned out not being right with all that I started with, for instance I hate surprises in that phase (like surcharges for using credit cards) that cannot be seen in beforehand and that turn out only on the last page (supersaver, travelfinder, you name it). One OTA just couldn't get the booking finished (cheapOair, that always ended up in no availability, but not before reaching the confirmation page after payment). Some just didn't offer the routing I preferred, as I definately try to avoid Paris CDG like a plague after so many disastrous experiences, or Italian airports MXP and FCO as they are very uncomfortable. London LHR can be very questionable as well, but in this case transfer was within same terminal, so it was OK.

Booked extra legroom seats on CX web (after finding where that function had been hidden) for free as oneworld emerald, and turned out they were the only seats available for me to reserve! First and last legs were on Finnair as code share CX flight number, so seats for those flights were not available to select on CX nor on AY web pages, but the system had chosen me automatically the seats I would have chosen also myself.
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Old Nov 11, 15, 4:00 am
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Helsinki to Hong Kong

Helsinki-Amsterdam-Hong Kong

Check-in was easy on Finnair online check-in, but no seat map for Cathay Pacific operated flights was available, which was not a problem with pre-reserved seats. Got boarding passes for all 3 flights, but no mobile boarding pass was available for CX flights. Out of curiosity tried also CX online check-in to see the seat maps of CX operated flights, but CX system just gave an error message. It seems to be a common problem when code share flights are involved in the itinerary.

At the airport on Monday morning I had nice buffet breakfast in Finnair Schengen lounge, which was very busy like always at that time. At boarding time at the gate it turned out that the flight will be heavily delayed because of bad weather in AMS, so returned to the lounge and decided this event requires bubbles, so a glas of prosecco it was. Finally the plane departed 1h25mins delayed, after all passengers sitting for a half an hour in the plane waiting for the slot. Small snacks and juice were served to all passengers on ground “to make waiting for takeoff more bearable” as CAs put it. Plane was new A321, and for a short 2hr flight quite comfortable, as forward part of the plane has better seat pitch. Right after takeoff I got morning newspaper with welcome onboard compliments as status recognition. Flight was rather uneventful, no much of service to talk about, as AY has buy onboard concept in Y on short haul European flights, coffee, tea and juice are complimentary, though.

In Amsterdam the flight obviously landed somewhere in northern Holland as taxing to the terminal took ages, a big airport. A lot of walking to the other end of terminal, no lines at passport control, and directly to British Airways lounge, which was a huge disappointment. The lounge is dull in decoration, old fashioned, dated and quite uninviting, and this time totally full, difficult to find a seat, and all they had to offer was two (!!!) sandwiches, which were gone by the time I had found a seat and returned to the bar area, only a few small bags of crisps left. Took a soda, read my mails, and left. If I were BA, I would either take down the BA signs, or have total renovation in the lounge, also on the concept, as the lounge just isn’t up to what is expected of BA. Boarding was interesting, they wanted all passengers line up some 15mins before boarding started, and as default they didn't accept any boarding passes not issued by them. My BP was issued by AY at HEL so they printed out new one for me with exactly same information (as the gate agent also noted), which sounded a bit weird. Priority boarding worked fine, business class and oneworld elites first, and economy passengers only after that line was empty. Departure was some 45mins late. It was my first flight with CX in a couple of years, so was interested to see how their service had developed.



This 5 year-old 777 had new interior concept, both in J and Y. Zodiac Cirrus seats in J looked very comfortable, but dark colours made it look heavy. Y seats were, well, Y seat, with reasonable recline. No electricity outlet for charging anything. I had a seat by emergency exit door, so plenty of legroom, a window seat without window. Luckily there was no one sitting next to me, so had reasonable amount of space. Major problem with these extra legroom seats by emergency exit is that there is no space to store anything, not even a newspaper, except on the seat next to you, and the arm rests are fixed as the tray table is stored inside them, prob also making the seats a bit narrower. IFE displays are stored for take off and landing, and they don’t use the main screens on the walls, not even for the route map, so it seems that passengers sitting on those seats are the only ones onboard that have no entertainment available in the beginning and end of the flight. Despite these small inconveniences, limitless legroom still makes it much better than standard seats. Pre-lunch drinks were served, no bubbles, but one red and one white wine to choose from. I had a glass of white, and a beer with lunch. Lunch was salad as starter, main options being pork and chicken, of which I chose Chinese pork, which was just delicious, not very common verdict of Y offering.



Head of cabin came very briefly to welcome me onboard, looked more like a task to be done than pleasure for her. Another white wine after lunch, but should at that time have taken the whole bottle, as after that drinks were very hard to get. I would have liked to have a fill up of my wine glass, but it turned out to be very difficult. Asked for it several times and only after half an hour managed to get it, and that was the last drink I got on that flight. In general the cabin crew was just really indifferent, not at all interested in the customers, I think not even Ryanair has that poor service onboard. Entertainment selection is quite broad, but I had difficulties finding any interesting movies, found one and watched it and after it tried to get some sleep. Seat by the door had plenty of leg room, but it very soon become cold, obviously isolation of the door is not good enough to keep coldness outdoors. Breakfast was served before landing. Strong point on this flight was food, the weak was service, which was really poor, certainly not 5-star airline, but more like a 2-star.

Last edited by Purjelentaja; Nov 11, 15 at 4:54 am
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Old Nov 11, 15, 4:02 am
  #3  
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Hong Kong to Tokyo-Narita

Transfer at HKG was smooth and quick. Found my way to the Wing First class lounge for shower and breakfast. To my opinion it is one of the best lounges anywhere. Unfortunately I was a bit short of time so didn't have a chance to enjoy a la carte breakfast in the busy Haven, but they do have quite a good buffet there as well.

Gate for my next flight was close, only a 5min walk from the Wing. Boarding was quick and efficient, and soon onboard. This 777 was an older one, been in service already for 12 years, and the age shows. The seats were not so comfortable, and the color scheme was far from being stylish. But the crew on this flight was totally from another world compared to the previous one, very friendly, helpful and nice, and did everything to make my flight as comfortable as possible. Already before takeoff two members of the crew came to greet and welcome me onboard, and head of cabin did the same right after takeoff, and stayed for a while to chat with me. Breakfast was served, my third that morning. Noodles or congee ( which is kind of a soup, in a way quite strange selection for airplane food), I chose noodles, which were very tasty. Service was very good throughout the flight, we had resumed the 5-star airline category!



Arrival at NRT, short line at immigration and customs, changing euros into yens and NEX-train into the city.

Last edited by Purjelentaja; Nov 11, 15 at 4:54 am
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Old Nov 11, 15, 4:06 am
  #4  
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Tokyo-Narita to Hong Kong

Tokyo-Narita to Hong Kong

Two days later back on NEX, now bound for Narita. Check-in at the business class counter. My seat for HKG-LHR had been changed, due to different version of 777, but it still was an extra legroom seat, good that CX takes care of ensuring the seat category originally selected even in the case of equipment change. Security check on priority channel was quick and smooth. Soon I learned of 30min delay, leaving me almost 4hrs at the airport, which I decided to use well: lounge hopping! First stop was JAL First class lounge. Very impressive and pleasant lounge, stylish and relaxing, with views to the apron. Not too wide selection of foods, but what they had was really good. Nice wines, also champagne. They also have sushi bar that opens at 1500, and sake bar, of course. Liked the lounge a lot.



My next stop was CX First and business class lounge, which compared to JAL lounge felt dark and dated. Selection of beverages and food was not very impressive. My boarding gate had been changed to the satellite, and there was another JAL F-lounge just opposite my boarding gate, so quite soon changed there. It was very much like the other F-lounge in the main building, except without sushi bar, and I was the only customer there! As my flight was some 45mins delayed, I had plenty of quality time to enjoy the services. Though JAL F lounges were superb, I nevertheless think that the Wing First at HKG still wins this race.

Well, the flight. There obviously had been a version change, as the plane had also F, which apparently is not normal on that flight. F looked pretty cool, perhaps some day... I found my seat, again in the section for mortals, similar to previous ones: window seat without window, except that on this plane the life raft intruded to my leg room. On the aisle seat was a CX emerald gentleman (we very obviously were the only emeralds on that flight in Y), and there I learned the difference between CX emerald and oneworld emerald on CX flights: he was offered pre-flight champagne in a glass, I wasn’t. The cabin crew on that section presented themselves to both of us and also the head of cabin came to welcome us, all extremely friendly. At lunch service they first asked if we would like to eat now or later, dine-on-demand in Y! We both preferred having the late lunch right away, getting served first in Y, and to accompany the lunch we were offered wines from business class. This is what I call good service! I selected pork with rice, it tasted good, but I had some concerns with some pieces of meat as they were pink, undercooked pork is definitely not my favourite. As a whole very good flight and excellent cabin crew.



The flight arrived at gate 2 in HKG, and noticed my next flight would be departing from gate 4, and felt so lazy that I changed my plan of going to see the new first class lounge Pier, and stayed at the Wing, just next to both of those gates. Pre-dinner champagnes (small portion to taste each of three available, yep, they all were excellent) and on for dinner to the Haven, where I this time decided to dine a la carte as I had plenty of time.



Soup as starter and pan fried fish for main, accompanied by white wine recommended with the main. Odd enough, they brought starter and main course at the same time, which is not really idea of fine dining, where they aim at, and had finished both in 20mins after coming there, very quick, felt almost like I had come to a stylisly decorated fast food place. For desserts I went to the buffet. Good wine for the meal, but no dessert wines available. One more glass of champagne in the sitting lounge before heading to the gate. Excellent lounge as a whole, very relaxing and pleasant, with good food and beverages.


Last edited by Purjelentaja; Nov 11, 15 at 5:06 am
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Old Nov 11, 15, 4:09 am
  #5  
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Honkong to Helsinki

Hong Kong to London-Heathrow and onwards to Helsinki

Boarding gate 4 was just downstairs, and when reaching the gate they announced that the flight was being delayed, also this one. Went back closer to the business class lounge to get wifi coverage, and friendly staff at the door invited me to take a look inside. As expected, not at all as impressive and pleasant as the first class lounge next to it, but nevertheless also that lounge looked comfortable.

Boarding was as efficient as on previous flights, first F and oneworld emeralds, then J and sapphires, and when those lines were empty, economy passengers. The plane turned out to be the same 7 year old 777 that brought me to HKG from NRT, and also the seat row was same as on inbound flight, though now on the other side of the plane, on aisle seat. The flight was busier than previous ones, also the seat next to me was occupied, so it was rather cramped and nowhere to store your stuff. Some odd empty seats elsewhere, though. I was very briefly greeted by the head of Y cabin, but as a whole cabin crew were not very welcoming, they had more like “I’m just at work here” –attitude, though not even close as bad as the crew on AMS-HKG -flight. Dinner was served, small salad for starter and for main I chose pork which was quite far below the quality of other flights, did some reading and soon tried to get some sleep. A couple of hours before arrival hot breakfast was served. Food offerings on this flight was nothing to write home about, unlike previous flights. Arrival at LHR 10mins ahead of schedule, before 5 in the morning after long but quite uneventful flight.



Out of the plane in LHR Terminal 3, quite a walk to the security check, but a bit of walking felt good after sitting very long time in full plane. It seems that rule #1 at British airports security staff training is to teach how to be rude and unfriendly to the customers, and the staff had learned that part very well, same experience like almost always previously at LHR, too. Perhaps they hadn’t understood that not all passengers are terrorists and good security level can be achieved also by friendly and welcoming attitude. Walk to CX lounges that opens at 0530, I was at the door at 0515. 20min wait at the door, as they opened it a bit late, refreshing shower and nice breakfast in the F lounge. The lounge is nice, looks airy and is comfortable. Good food and drinks offerings, though the hot items in the breakfast buffet were coming one by one within next hour.

Last flight homebound was on Finnair A319. Had an aisle seat on first row of Y. Being the first flight in the morning leaving quite early, it was surprisingly busy. Despite the flight was not full, the seat next to mine hadn’t been blocked, as it should have been for emeralds. Very friendly CA brought me newspapers and welcomed onboard. Take off on time, and the flight as a whole was uneventful, service concept same as on the flight to AMS. Arrival at HEL 20mins early just after noon local time, and my first trip to Japan was over.

Conclusions

As a whole CX offered excellent service on the flights between HKG and NRT, whereas the long flights from/to Europe were on much lower level in terms of service and cabin crew attitude. At best it was outstanding, but at worst it was something I never would have expected from a quality airline like CX. Consistency of service quality seems to be missing, but then after all, also that is work done by people, some having better workmanship than others, and some days being better than others. 777s that I flew on every leg felt and looked to me old fashioned compared to Airbuses I have used to fly, and also less comfortable, it certainly didn’t make my favourite plane.

If flying long haul in Y, based on my experience with CX and with some other airlines some years back, I would rank CX in the same category with those other main carriers, some flights being very comfortable and some not so good, but overall bar not set too high. Have to admit, as a whole I was a bit disappointed, as my previous experiences with CX some years earlier (in J and also in Y) had left me much better picture of the overall quality of their service. Then on the other hand, as frequent flyer, perhaps I also have certain expectations and can easier spot flaws in service. As having used to fly long haul in J, this trip was an enlightening experience, but I think on my future trips I will return back to the forward section of the plane

Overall outbound journey took 23hrs, inbound 27hrs, with 2 stops enroute, whereas direct flight HEL-NRT is only some 10hrs. A good question is that why use more than double the time for sitting in the planes and airports, perhaps it just is the nature of an aviation geek

Last edited by Purjelentaja; Nov 11, 15 at 4:55 am
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Old Nov 11, 15, 4:46 am
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Unfortunally I cant see the pictures
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Old Nov 11, 15, 6:57 am
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Great work! Both on the trip and report, I can see the pictures! :-)

Hope to read more of your reports
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Old Nov 11, 15, 11:32 am
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Nice to hear about your experiences having made almost the same trip a couple of weeks before. I agree with you.

CX does seem to have inconsistent service, which is a pity. Nice to hear though that oneworld elites were recognized, some better, some worse.
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Old Nov 11, 15, 12:26 pm
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Originally Posted by Purjelentaja
Noodles or congee ( which is kind of a soup, in a way quite strange selection for airplane food), I chose noodles, which were very tasty.
Not sure why congee on an airplane is a strange selection for airplane food. It's one of the most common breakfast items in Hong Kong and a lot of airlines flying to HK (at least TPAC, IME) serve it as one of the choices for breakfast.
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Old Nov 11, 15, 12:43 pm
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Great report! (But how was the 2 days on the Ground in Tokyo?)

Originally Posted by Purjelentaja
...
In Amsterdam the flight obviously landed somewhere in northern Holland ...
LOL!
I know that taxi route. If you get it on the outbound you soon start to ask yourself: "Will they drive instead of fly to destination?!?"

Originally Posted by Purjelentaja
...
My boarding gate had been changed to the satellite, and there was another JAL F-lounge just opposite my boarding gate, so quite soon changed there. It was very much like the other F-lounge in the main building, except without sushi bar, and I was the only customer there! As my flight was some 45mins delayed, I had plenty of quality time to enjoy the services. Though JAL F lounges were superb, I nevertheless think that the Wing First at HKG still wins this race.
...
I was at NRT last week and was told by check in staff that the JAL F lounge at satellite was closed and they specifically directed me to the other one, despite my flight being at satellite. I guess it just recently re-opened and that even some GA are not aware - that might explain the low occupancy.

Anyway, Sakura First NRT and Wing First HKG are two very nice lounges, each in their own way. I agree HKG wins on food options and the bathrooms, though I wouldn't want Sakura lounge to change!



Originally Posted by Purjelentaja
...
Conclusions

As a whole CX offered excellent service on the flights between HKG and NRT, whereas the long flights from/to Europe were on much lower level in terms of service and cabin crew attitude.
...

Overall outbound journey took 23hrs, inbound 27hrs, with 2 stops enroute, whereas direct flight HEL-NRT is only some 10hrs. A good question is that why use more than double the time for sitting in the planes and airports, perhaps it just is the nature of an aviation geek
First, great to see you liked Japan! I just can't stop going there myself.

Sad to hear about some of the CX experiences. I have been hoping they'd return to serve CPH-HKG, maybe I shouldn't get my hopes up.


As for the route-question - if you start to look at the Finnair fares, you'll soon find they will much rather sell you a LHR-NRT on BA than their own flights! The alliance between AY/BA/JL has made it difficult to find decent fares to Japan on the shortest route. I hope QR soon enters HEL, perhaps that will shake things up a bit!
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Old Nov 11, 15, 12:58 pm
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Originally Posted by Purjelentaja
... somewhere in northern Holland ....
And by the way, I'm sure you are aware that AMS is in 'North Holland', but here is an entertaining video for those who wants to get more confused.
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Old Nov 11, 15, 3:02 pm
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Great trip report! I'll be flying CX HEL-SIN next March, both directions via LHR & HKG. Let's see how will they perform then...
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Old Nov 11, 15, 6:52 pm
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Originally Posted by intuition
And by the way, I'm sure you are aware that AMS is in 'North Holland', but here is an entertaining video for those who wants to get more confused.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eE_IUPInEuc
Love those CGP Grey videos!
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Old Nov 12, 15, 9:33 am
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Originally Posted by kevincrumbs
Not sure why congee on an airplane is a strange selection for airplane food. It's one of the most common breakfast items in Hong Kong and a lot of airlines flying to HK (at least TPAC, IME) serve it as one of the choices for breakfast.
Congee I've had has been more like a soup than porridge, and also the one on the plane looked quite liquid, and I was wondering if liquid meal is very practical on the plane as that kind of food very easily is spilled over the plate in turbulence etc, so I was only thinking it from practical point of view.

Originally Posted by intuition
Great report! (But how was the 2 days on the Ground in Tokyo?)
Thanks The 2 days in Tokyo? Alot of walking, and riding metro. Excellent Japanese food. Actually it was only one full day + one evening and one morning. I went to the big fish market (impressive), then Asakusa, Ueno, Shibuya, Harajuku and finally back to Shinjuku, so it was a busy time with excellent weather for me going around. In any case I enjoyed my time in Tokyo a lot, the only problem being it was so short time, but will for sure return!




Originally Posted by intuition
Anyway, Sakura First NRT and Wing First HKG are two very nice lounges, each in their own way. I agree HKG wins on food options and the bathrooms, though I wouldn't want Sakura lounge to change!
I totally agree, as it wouldn't be fun if all lounges, or airports, would be just clones!


Originally Posted by intuition
As for the route-question - if you start to look at the Finnair fares, you'll soon find they will much rather sell you a LHR-NRT on BA than their own flights! The alliance between AY/BA/JL has made it difficult to find decent fares to Japan on the shortest route. I hope QR soon enters HEL, perhaps that will shake things up a bit!
Yep, this JV has made also finding fares that earn 100% tier points for reasonable price almost impossible.
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