This was part of a Taoyuan to Chengdu return which I bought on Cathay’s website the day before departure for NTD13,693 (HKD3,187). This was a late booking in a holiday period, or I would have expected a lower price on that route. The whole ticket booked into V class and would accrue 2,680 Asia Miles.
At the airport
Due to the limited ticket availability on this fare basis the latest flight I could take was CX403, scheduled to leave at 9.15 in the morning. I arrived at the airport about an hour and a half before scheduled departure and noticed that the departure screens showed this flight as cancelled. The queue at checkin was not very long but it was slow moving with only a handful of ground agents on that aisle, so I waited for almost half an hour. At the desk, the agent told me that the flight had been delayed and that the next flight she could put me on was Dragonair KA487, scheduled to leave over two hours later than my flight. Normally KA487 departs at 10.45 a.m. but on this day it was scheduled as 11.40 a.m.
The agent insisted that her system showed the flight as delayed not cancelled and when I asked what the reason was, all she knew was “some sort of technical problem.”
I asked if I could be upgraded from economy to business class given the delay and she told me that the business class cabin was full but I could ask at the gate, an approach which I thought would lead nowhere. I told her I was very unhappy about the delay and felt Cathay ought to make my journey more comfortable so I wanted her to try harder, after which she made several phone calls and some time later issued a boarding pass showing that I was now ticketed in seat 11C, in the business class cabin.
It is interesting to note that at no point did I receive any message from Cathay’s “notiFLY” alert system advising me of the delay cancellation/delay – if I had, I would have changed my morning plans accordingly and left Taipei city centre later. That system can’t be relied upon, is my conclusion.
The flight was scheduled to take off at 11.40. I spent the time in Cathay’s lounge. There were no boarding announcements in the lounge, so I packed up my work and proceeded to leave the lounge around 11.10. However, I noticed on the display screen that the flight had been delayed to 12.35 so ended up back in the lounge, having wasted more time packing and unpacking my work.
This was an Airbus A330 in the regional configuration. Business class was completely full.
The flight pushed back from gate B4 dead on time and was pretty smooth. Outside Hong Kong the pilot came on to inform us that due to heavy air traffic we would be delayed for half an hour or more. We eventually arrived at the gate at three o’clock, over an hour late. This was a little under four hours after my originally scheduled arrival time.
It was hard to know exactly where we were as the moving map kept us constant over the eastern Pacific at an altitude way up in space:
There was no Marco Polo greeting and I didn’t see nor was offered any English language newspaper services. This was a middling Dragonair crew – professional but without the spark or proactiveness I’ve seen in the better Dragonair crews.
Food and Drink
There was a proper card menu on the flight. The Chinese dish was designed in conjunction with Formosa restaurant in Taipei.
I opted for the fish dish, which had more tomato than expected (as you can see from the picture, the fish is not even visible at first) but was tasty. The dessert was prettily presented.
The Muscadet Sèvre-et-Main sur Lie was crisp and well-balanced though tasted too young. The Bordeaux Supérieur was fleshy and drinkable but unremarkable.
Cathay seems to have serious problems running an on-time service and it doesn’t help that they don’t really explain. Missing four hours of a working day for a high-frequency short regional flight such as this is frustrating.
I was pleased to be upgraded and the flight itself was pleasant.
Guest Blogger: Christopher R.