At the airport
I had checked in at an earlier airport in the U.S. in the itinerary using the electronic check in booth. I has an inside seat in the middle aisle and the plane map had shown no aisle seats, which for a flight expected to last over fourteen hours sounded uncomfortable. When the gate at Sea Tac opened I asked about moving to an aisle seat, and the gate agent immediately reassigned me to an aisle seat, thankfully.
Like most American flights, the boarding process seemed long, laborious and overdesigned.
The plane was operated by an Airbus A330 (registration N861NW, pictured below before takeoff).
The seatback had a decently sized television screen with a USB. There was a wide range of films and entertainment. Upon boarding, a blanket and thin pillow were on the seat. The plane was a bit dirty on boarding, with some crumbs on the seat and floor and the tray table a tad sticky.
I didn’t see any empty seats in the economy cabin.
This is a long flight. Departure boards said the departure had been moved forward by ten minutes, but in fact we pushed back from gate S1 on the dot at four o’clock in the afternoon. We arrived at gate 61 in Hong Kong a tad before half past eight the following day, so with the time difference it turned out to be a flight of thirteen and a half hours.
It was smooth flying. We hugged the coastline almost all the way, heading up past Alaska and then down past Russia before crossing China. The predictive flight map isn’t very useful as it had us going over north Korea, later changing to just on its border with China, and later showing well inside Chinese airspace – but I doubt we were ever planning to fly over north Korea. Although I didn’t use wifi it’s worth noting that the inflight wifi won’t work over Russia, so wifi connectivity on this flight would be different to the straighter transpacific route my outbound flight had taken.
Having had a stellar cabin crew on the outbound flight this one was poor by contrast and also in general. They were not warm and showed little enthusiasm or proactive approach. The fact that crew members twice spilt drinks on me (once a careless splash he didn’t even notice, once a lot more in an entirely avoidable bad handling of my neighbour’s drink) said it all for me.
There were also far too many announcements, often overly long while the announcers paused to look up information they had not prepared for the announcement). Some were redundant, such as an announcement just to tell the uninitiated slowly that if they wanted to block out the light they could lower the windowshades. I found this disruptive, especially as on an overnight flight sleep is at a premium.
Several of the crew members spoke Cantonese.
The service began with the distribution of eyemasks and headphones, followed by a warm paper towel service. There was a drinks and snack service shortly afterwards, soon followed by dinner. After dinner, bottles of Dasani purified water were distributed. About eight and a half hours into the flight was the mid-flight snack, again with drinks. Hot paper towels came an hour and a half before landing, followed shortly afterwards by the second meal.
Food and Drink
There were three dinner choices and I had the chicken and polenta, which was delicious. The accompanying salad was a bit lacklustre.
The mid-flight snack of pizza slice was tasty although hard to get out of its paper box, and was served with a chocolate ice cream. The choice of second meals was unimpressive to me. I went with the pasta, which was overcooked so the top parts were very hard, while in general the dish lacked flavour.
There was a good selection of drinks and the red wine had a decent flavour.
This flight went on for a long time, but was comfortable. The crew was not great but on balance it was a decent flight.