Trip Review: HKG – TPE CX402/474
This was ticketed as part of a Taipei to Shanghai return ticket. The ticket is covered in this post. In fact I was originally booked on an earlier flight in November. I then wanted to change to a flight on a different date and attempted to do this using Cathay’s online “manage my booking” facility. This told me that that was not possible online so I had to go to the trouble of calling the Marco Polo helpine who were able to do it immediately at no charge. I was now booked on flight CX402 on a Saturday evening in November. As described below I ended up not taking that flight and then tried to rebook, again having to telephone Cathay. I wanted to fly on a certain date, but the agent told me that the original ticket had a one month validity so I had to fly by a certain, earlier, date, which I reluctantly did.
For CX402, at the airport, as time was tight, I rushed to the gate and once there was pleasantly surprised to find that I had been upgraded to business class.
The scheduled departure time for CX402 was 6.45 in the evening. The New Zealand captain came on the public announcement system and announced that some passengers had connected from Beijing and we were waiting for their baggage. In fact the last passengers I saw boarding boarded well after seven, at which point I went up to the purser and asked her why we were not yet leaving. She claimed that all passengers were now onboard and we were waiting for their baggage and the accompanying paperwork. In the end the door closed only at 7.10, twenty five minutes after our scheduled departure time. I was pretty annoyed – I was already due to arrive at the destination with no time to spare for an event I was attending, and see no reason Cathay should hold a flight simply to let connecting passengers’ luggage load, especially given the high frequency they have between Hong Kong and Taipei.
We pushed back and had only travelled several yards before stopping still within view of the jetbridge. We then returned and the pilot announced that due to an equipment problem we would need to disembark and wait for a different plane, with a new boarding time of ten o’clock. This ruined any chance of me making it to the event which was the whole reason for my trip to Taiwan, so I decided to postpone my trip and return home for the evening. I went to the lounge in the airport and checked that this was possible, which the staff immediately told me it was. A very friendly representative arrived after some time to accompany me back through immigration and customs.
Several weeks later, when I had rebooked on CX474 and checked in, I wasn’t put in a business class seat again, but simply in economy.
The gate was 64 and at checkin fifty minutes before the scheduled departure, the agent had told me that it was “very far away, so you should go there straight away”. When I went down to the train at Hong Kong airport, I was surprised to see that the sign indicated that the next train would depart in four minutes, as they are advertised as having a headway of less than two minutes and if I had known that I would have to wait for four minutes, I would simply have walked to the gate. This may become a feature at Hong Kong airport, as I noticed that the train now seems to have two stops not just one. The new stop is for “gates 201-230”, which as far as I am aware are not yet operational.
The flight left dead on time and arrived on time after a smooth flight.
This was operated by a Boeing 777-300ER.
The crew member serving economy came to greet me as a Marco Polo member and was very responsive. The Filipina purser sounded very cheery and welcoming in her announcements and after the meal service came down the aisle using an iPad and greeted me warmly. I felt and appreciated a genuine hospitality from her.
Food and Drink
The food and drink on Cathay’s short-haul flights really seems to be degenerating in a way which I find hard to accept. On this flight the meal was served in a bag not tray. There was no choice – the only option was a chicken “wrap” which in Asia has no cultural relevance at all. There was also an ANZAC biscuit and a prepackaged cold tea. I had to ask for a warm tea separately as there was no meal service.
I was hoping that this was perhaps because of the flight timing, but my return flight was at a lunchtime and the meal was identical except that instead of the “wrap” there was a similar but slightly different chicken item.
The elimination of proper drinks service, the lack of choice and the poor composition of the meal is not what one expects from a full service airline like Cathay and in this it really feels like the hard edge of cost cutting. Given that this route had multiple competitive airlines serving it, Cathay’s downward spiralling catering is making me reconsider my options for travel between Hong Kong and Taipei in future.
Cathay disappointed me badly here. I had a Saturday night event of importance and due to their delays I had to cancel my attendance. The inboard catering is disappointing. The service did have high points but overall this experience damaged further my already wavering confidence in Cathay’s ability to deliver consistently good service.
Guest Blogger: Christopher R.