HKG – NRT, Cathay 524, January 2016
This was ticketed as the first leg of a Narita to JFK return ticket which in total booked into V class, costing 100,780 yen (HKD 6,698) and accrued 19,717 Asia Miles.
There are multiple flights a day between Hong Kong and Tokyo and this is what I would term a pseudo-redeye, in that it seems like an overnight flight but in fact as it leaves late, gains an hour from time difference and arrives early, it is really only a part of the night. In the past when I have taken this flight I have realised that the next day I tend to feel tired and not ready to do a full day’s work at a high level of performance. When choosing a flight it is worth bearing this in mind. On this occasion I took this flight as it was the only one which fitted my schedule.
I arrived at Hong Kong airport around an hour before take off and checked in immediately. The checkin aisle was almost empty.
At the airport
Arriving at Terminal One at this time, only one of the two departure areas is open and oddly it is the one at the opposite end from the Cathay aisles. Thus I had to walk up to that gate to clear security screening and passport control.
The scheduled gate was 18. Given this, and the area I was now in, I decided the most convenient lounge to use was G16. This is in many ways inferior to, for example, the Wing. However, getting to the Wing and then to the Gate would have added on in total another ten or fifteen minutes, which felt like a bad use of limited time.
In the event, boarding turned out to be slightly delayed and started shortly before one o’clock.
This was operated by a Boeing 777-300 using the “clam” hard shell seats. I find these uncomfortable in general and even on this relatively short flight it did strike me that the legroom felt very limited. The aircraft hadn’t been cleaned well, judging by the fact that when I was sitting down and moved I realised that an almost empty water bottle was on the seat, apparently from a prior flight.
The Cathay inflight entertainment system had an excellent range though the screen was small. It was both touchscreen and handset operated, which I prefer to Cathay’s newer version of touchscreen only where, for example, changing the volume means one cannot do anything else for several seconds. There was an upside down plug socket but no USB socket.
The North American captain informed us that due to strong winds in our favour and the fact that nighttime restrictions at Narita meant we would not be able to land until six o’clock local time, we would delay departure by twenty to twenty five minutes.
We took off as he had indicated and had a smooth flight. We arrived at the gate in a cold and very rainy Narita at 6.15 a.m., the local ground staff standing shivering and looking somewhat miserable.
The crew was excellent – very friendly and professional in manner. I was greeted as a Marco Polo member.
Food and Drink
Cathay’s food is in a downward spiral and I think that this was my worst experience yet.
On the one hand, this is an overnight flight and many people want to sleep from the moment they step on the plane, while even those who are awake and hungry may be peckish rather than wanting something substantial.
On the other hand, however, some people do want a meal and this is in essence an overnight flight albeit in reality it is a very short one.
The lights were off but came on for the meal service, so I decided to have one. Cathay had e-mailed me a seven-page pdf of the ticket for this itinerary but it did not mention whether a meal or refreshment service would be provided. What was offered was a snack and a basic one at that – several pieces of fruit, the ubiquitous macadamia shortbread biscuit, a small cake and a small mystery sandwich roll which tasted like fish mousse with cucumber slices.
It was accompanied by a pack of cold lemon tea. There was no drinks service and not even hot tea offered, although the flight attendant who had greeted me earlier came up to me alone and asked if I would like anything else to drink.
This was a basic snack not a meal, and given that we were leaving a modestly cold Hong Kong for a cold Tokyo, the fact that it was all cold was not good. It does reduce the risk of the smell of hot food waking those who are trying to sleep (though the meal service was noisy and light enough that it woke me with an eyemask and earplugs, so maybe that is not such a concern), but seems out of sync with what the body needs in such a season.
This pseudo-redeye is a tiring flight in my experience, and taking it again I again felt that it offers limited real opportunity for sleep. I was particularly disappointed by the approach to food and drink, which I thought was abysmal.
Guest Blogger: Christopher R.