Circle Pacific on oneworld – HKG to YVR on 747 Upper Deck

With 4 days spent travelling in Hong Kong and sampling a few new hotels in the city, it was time to reunite with my siblings in Canada just in time for a Christmas Eve dinner with them! After a nice workout in the fitness centre and a great breakfast at the W Hong Kong, I had some time to spare to do a webcam with my siblings in my room and confirm with them about them picking me up from YVR 🙂 Staying at the W in Hong Kong allows me to proceed to do in-town check-in at the Kowloon MTR Station. Doing this check in at Kowloon provides me with the convenience of just bringing my hand carry luggage and camera bag onto the Airport Express for a quick ride to the airport.

In-town Check-in at Kowloon Station

CX838 Hong Kong HKG – Vancouver YVR
24 Dec 2010
Scheduled ETD/ETA: 1625-1150
Actual Time of Departure/Arrival: 1659-1156
B747-400 B-HUD
Seat No: 82K

Checking in the station was effortless since there was not much people and I headed to the Business Class counters, handing over my Marco Polo member card and my passport. With e-ticketing, it has always been easy to check-in for flights with one less stuff to bring for the flight. I was greeted with a warm welcome and I put my 2 huge luggage onto the weighing scale. As expected, the larger of the 2 exceeded the weight limit and I had to repack the luggage and move some of the stuff into my cabin baggage. Luckily, the check-in agent was nice enough to close one eye on the final weight as it exceeded the maximum permissible weight by a little bit. As mentioned, all these luggage were filled with snacks and gifts for my siblings in Canada. With check-in completed, I was able to head down to the Airport Express platform and wait for the train heading to the airport.

Riding in the excellent Airport Express linking the airport to downtown

It was perhaps a 5 minute wait as a train arrives at the station and I was able to board the clean and spacious cabin. With storage space for luggage and the light load, I got to occupy 2 seats and was seated comfortably as the train made another stop at Tsing Yi before an express ride to the airport. My first experience years ago with the Airport Express endeared me to this mode of transport between airport and the city and I always wonder how amazing it would be if all cities has such infrastructure linking the city centre with the airport. That would definitely make travelling more convenient!

Boarding Pass and Lounge Invitation

Upon reaching Hong Kong International Airport, I went ahead to find check-in row 2 as I wanted to pass on my mileage claim form to the Asia Miles desk which could be located in that area. In fact just beside Row 2 of the departure hall lies the amazing Cathay Pacific First Class check-in desk. The counters without the baggage conveyor and weighing scale for luggages just shows the gap between Business and First, and maybe one day I might journey in that Class. But that would be for another day as I am perfectly satisfied to be travelling on Business in an ultra longhaul flight. While I was queueing up at the Asia Miles counter, a family checking in for their flight queued up behind me. Initially thinking they were waiting for the Asia Miles agent as well, I thought nothing of it until another family member came looking for them to direct them to the correct check-in counter. After maybe about 10 minutes of wait, I got my turn and handed in my request form.

Cathay Pacific’s First Class Check-in Counter at HKIA

With that settled, it was time to head past immigration. Since there was no fast track immigration in Hong Kong, I just had to queue up like the rest and was lucky enough that immigration and security check was quite fast considering it was a Christmas eve. First stop after immigration was The Wing, as I proceeded to have lunch of Dan-dan Noodles. Being a Christmas Eve, there were also servings of cookies for patrons. Since the noodle came in a small bowl, I got another bowl of Japanese noodle and requested for the Ebi Tempura to be placed on a separate platter. The lounge was suprisingly not crowded at all and when I enquired about the renovation to take place at The Wing, the lounge agent wasn’t able to provide more details, though they did mention the luggage storage area and the first floor lounge section has been closed. From the Wing, I made my way to The Cabin and visited the new lounge. While it had modern stylish seats, there wasn’t a noodle bar in The Cabin and it was pretty small with many guests using the iMacs at the lounge. I didn’t take any photos of the lounge interior, and proceeded to browse for automobile magazines in the PageOne bookstore around the airport.

Christmas Cookies at the Wing
Entrance to the Cabin, Cathay Pacific’s newest Lounge at Hong Kong

Eventually, I ended up at The Pier, the 3rd of 4 Cathay Pacific’s Lounge. The Pier is perhaps my choice of lounge in Hong Kong, though the location was a bit out of the way. My favourite part of this lounge was the Long Bar which provided nice views of the tarmac and if one is lucky enough that day, they might end up sitting face to face with a Jumbo Jet. I got dessert of Häagen-Dazs Ice Cream along with a cup of Latte while seated at the Bar to spend the time before my boarding. Ten minutes before my scheduled boarding time, I proceeded to my gate which is closer to The Cabin, and suprisingly, there was already a long queue for boarding, even in the Business Class line. It seems to be another full flight for CX to Vancouver.

Saying Hello to a CX Jumbo Jet at the Pier
Ice Cream and Cafe Latte at the Pier

The Jumbo Jet operating the flight that day was one old bird with the registration B-HUD in Cathay’s fleet. With Cathay’s extensive purchase of 777-300ERs, it seems that Cathay might even retire their Jumbo Jets. Even with its age, I still find the 747 to be one graceful plane! And I shall have the experience of being seated in the Upper Deck on a Business Class cabin. My first seating in an Upper Deck was on a JAL flight between Narita and Vancouver, though it was an Economy Cabin even at the top.

The Jumbo Jet operating in the CX838 route that day

Initially, boarding was for passengers on wheelchair only before First Class passengers, followed by Business and Economy on separate lines. Suprisingly I don’t remember that there was an additional check on the aerobridge, unlike the later CX flight to Vancouver. My guess is that the separate check was due to the later flight continuing its flight to New York in the United States. Boarding was fast and I proceeded to the upper deck through the stairs. It was a bit of a hassle since I had a carry-on though the extra privacy and 1-1 abreast configuration for the Business Class cabin made it worthwhile. Upper Deck Business Class on a 747 is just like having one’s own private space in the skies! It wasn’t all good though, since due to the packed flight, every seats on the Upper Deck is taken, and the overhead compartment is narrower and smaller than that on the main deck. This meant I had to take out my windbreaker before I could push my carry-on luggage into the compartment. So much for larger carry-on luggage for Business Class passengers. Because I was one of the first few passengers to board, there was still adequate space for me to place my carry-on, though my seat neighbours in 82A and 83K had difficulty in finding a space for their luggage. In fact the guy on 82A had the same type of luggage load as me, and he also had to take out some of his stuff for the flight before managing to push his carry-on into the overhead compartment. Note to self: Minimize hand carry-on when travelling on the 747’s Upper Deck in the future.

Cathay Delight, another CX Signature Drink

Having stowed my carry-on and backpack, I got settled down into the seat as a flight attendant came over and took my order for drinks. Not wanting any alcoholic beverages, I asked for a glass of Cathay Delight. The juicy mixture of Kiwi and coconut milk was nice enough to freshen me up as I observed the checklist being done in the cockpit and the conversations between the captain, first officer and the ground technician. The hive of activity in the cabin really made it difficult to relax or even read a copy of the Financial Times that had been offered by the flight attendant. When my seat neighbour at 83K failed to find space for her hand luggage, there was some reorganization done by the crew and I had to move my backpack closer to my hand luggage, which was fine since it works out to be better for me. I really have to praise the ability of the flight attendants even with the busy flight deck as they managed to not only bring everyone drinks, but also provide newspapers, hot towels and check on passengers on the deck. Definitely an improvement over my Business Class experience on the flight between Jakarta and Hong Kong. As most of the passengers on the flight deck got settled, I was also able to take off my shoes, wear the slippers I have brought from my hotel stay and relax as I sip on the welcome drink.

Footrests while on the ground

With Christmas around the corner, the flight load was expected and the cabin was decked out in christmas decorations. This really cheered up the old plane a bit. During this time my other seat mate on 81K, who has changed into light clothing and seemed to be ready to doze off during the flight enquired with a crew on moving to seat 80K, and the crew seemed to oblige to his request. Though a while later, the purser came over with the passenger manifest and seemed puzzled at the empty seat at 81K, to which I mentioned to her that the passenger on 81K has moved to 80K. After some discussions with the plane, the purser had to request that my seat mate move back to his original seat at 81K as 80K had been reserved as a rest area for the pilot. However it seemed that this particular passenger is a oneworld emerald member since the purser also took note of his meal requirements and even went as far as mentioning she will get some steamed rice from the First Class cabin since he wanted something light for the meal. Or maybe perhaps it was just to console him for having to move back to and fro from his seat. Flight attendants also distributed amenity kits for passengers during this time, As the captain announced for pullback, the inflight entertainment provided a nice welcome video to greet every passengers onboard. It is always a nice video which I enjoy on Cathay Pacific – the simple touch that matters.

Welcome Aboard a Christmas Eve flight

With pullback occurring at 4.39pm local time, it seems we were more or less on time and due to depart as scheduled. There was a relatively short taxi to the runway before the Jumbo Jet took off for the skies at 4.59pm. Well I thought 20 minutes is still considered a short time between pullback and take off considering it is a relatively busy period for Hong Kong at this time of the year. During this time, there was even enough time for the purser to distribute the menu for today’s flight. There was some heavy vibration felt at the cabin and take-off and I suspect it has got to do with the plane’s age. However, the ascent of the plane was rapid as we soon cleared the ground and was above the clouds in less than 3 minutes. Well it was just enough time for me to capture some shots on take-off. But as I mentioned before, I am not a fan of these seats which are angled to the aisle for photo-taking and views out of the window. However, they are perfectly fine for comfort and full lie-flat beds.

Menu for the Flight
Taking off from Chek Lap Kok

After take-off, I noticed the mood lighting on the cabin and it was a nice colourful sight. Upon the plane reaching cruising altitude, I proceeded to the washroom to change into comfortable pants and placed my wallet, jeans and belt into my bag. I also made my way down to the lower deck to stretch out my legs and browse for some magazines. Amazingly most of the magazines provided onboard at both the upper deck and main deck seemed to be cleaned out. No matter though since I had obtained some magazines for reading from the CX lounges while on the ground. It was good foresight then so that I had some thing to read in case I felt bored.

Mood lighting on take off onboard the 747
Service onboard the Upper Deck

Back on my seat, I went on to operate the entertainment system, and it was then I noticed that the screen wouldn’t latch properly to the holder. That was then I suspected on the viability of my system. And as it was meant to be, the inflight entertainment system on my seat gave up on me. As the pictures below attest, perhaps the entertainment screen can sense what attracts me in ladies as the photo of the flight attendant on the welcome screen became more pleasant after the reboot 😛

The entertainment screen went from this…
To this…
Before resetting itself to this…

While the reset was ongoing, the crew served hot almonds as snacks and took more drink orders. This time, I ordered champagne on board and hot almonds was served along with beverages. I also made a note to request for their normal champagne since I wasn’t a fan of their Billecart-Salmon pink champagne. Along the way, I also pointed out to the purser serving the snack service about the problem on my IFE. She mentioned she would help me check on the problem and get back to me. And here I was hoping that it wasn’t a permanent problem. Though in case of total failure, I could always still count on my MacBook for entertainment. Indeed the purser did come back again later, though by then the system had rebooted itself and I was ready to pick a new movie to watch.

Champagne and StudioCX – that’s life on the Upper Deck!

I settled on watching Charlie St. Cloud as it was one of the movie I missed in the theatres and was attracted to it by the trailer which was shown during my CX flight from Bangkok to Singapore. With the entertainment system on, I also just continued to use the noise-cancelling headphones provided by Cathay since they were adequate. Couple the excellent screen with a glass of champagne and a serving of warm nuts, I was ready to enjoy life on the upper deck amongst the skies.

The pleasure of flying continued with the dinner service which took place before I even managed to finish my snacks. The dinner menu that night was:

Starters 頭盤

Pheasant and chanterelle mushroom terrine with baby carrot and green beans 野茵雉雞肉凍伴胡蘿蔔及邊豆
Mixed salad with zucchini, kalamata olive, baked cherry tomato and balsamic vinegar dressing 鮮蔬沙律伴意式黑醋汁

Main Courses 主菜

Sauteed sea bass with sweet and spicy sauce, steamed jasmine rice and Chinese mixed vegetables 醬爆魚柳配白飯及中式鮮蔬

Grilled beef tenderloin, potato mash with sun-dried tomato, yellow zucchini, carrot and asparagus 烤牛柳配風乾番茄薯蓉,瓜脯,胡蘿蔔及蘆筍

Stir-fried pork with X.O. sauce, steamed jasmine rice and Chinese mixed vegetables  X.O.醬炒肉片配白飯及中式鮮蔬

Saffron fettucini with tomato concasse and Parmesan cheese 芝士番茄醬汁番紅花意大利寬麵

Cheese and Dessert 芝士及甜品 

Shropshire Blue, Tilsit Royalp, Camembert Le Pere 精選芝士

Fresh seasonal fruit 時令鮮果
Lemon Meringue Pie 檸檬蛋白批

Tea and Coffee 名茶及咖啡

Passion Fruit Macaroon and Cookies 熱情果味法式杏仁甜餅

Drinks List 飲料 

Juices: Orange, Apple, Tomato  果汁:橙汁,蘋果汁,番茄汁

Soft Drinks: Coke Zero, Coke, Coke Light, Sprite, Perrier water, tonic water, soda water and ginger ale 汽水:零系可口可樂,可口可樂,健怡可樂,雪碧湯力,梳打,薑啤,巴黎礦泉水

Coffees 咖啡

Freshly brewed coffee, espresso, cappuccino and caffè latte; regular or decaffeinated 特級咖啡,特濃咖啡,低因咖啡,泡沫咖啡, 牛奶咖啡

Teas 名茶

Hong Kong style milk tea 港式奶茶

Ceylon, Japanese, jasmine 錫蘭紅茶,日本綠茶,香片

Organic selection: camomile, earl grey, peppermint 有機系列:甘菊茶,伯爵茶,薄荷茶

Hot Chocolate 熱朱古力

Wine List 

Champagne Deutz, Brut Classic

White wines: Blackstone Winemaker’s Select Monterey County Chardonnay 2008 / Drouet Frères Le Mont Fleuri Sancerre 2009

Red Wines: Rodney Srong Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 / Robert Skalli Côte du Rhône Villages 2007

Port: Dow’s Late Bottled Vintage Port 2005

Aperitifs and Cocktails: Gin, Rum, Vodka, Martini Rosso, Martini Extra Dry, Campari, Sweet and Dry Sherry, Bloody Mary, Screwdriver

Whiskies: Chivas Regal 12 Years Old, Johnnie Walker Gold Label, Jack Daniel’s, Canadian Club

Cognac: Hine ‘Rare and Delicate’ Fine Champagne

Liqueurs: Drambuie, Cointreau, Bailey’s Irish Cream

Beer: International selection

CX Signature Drinks:

Cathay Delight – A kiwifruit based non-alcoholic drink with coconut juice and a touch of fresh mint

Pacific Sunrise – A refreshing combination of champagne and Drambuie with the zest of orange and lemon

I liked the salad served for dinner as it was fresh and appetizing, though I thought the appetizer was a bit to heavy for my taste and lacks finesse. For the main course, I picked the sea bass which is specially created by Chef Chan Sui Kei of the Celestial Court Chinese Restaurant in Sheraton Hong Kong Hotel & Towers. While I doubt the chef has much to do with my serving, it was a tasty dish nonetheless and matches what it said on the menu cover – Best Chinese Food in the Air. It is also worth noting that there are 2 main courses which are Chinese cuisine with rice. After the main course was the offering of cheese and fruits, and with no particular liking for cheese, I requested for fruits and more grapes which I could enjoy. The lime meringue pie was brought out last with a hot drink service being offered. I ordered Japanese green tea which came along with the small box containing the passion fruit macaroon. Throughout the meal service, I had no shortage of drinks since it was offered and topped up frequently. And to make the meal more special, passengers were provided with a small box containing the christmas cookies to be found in the lounges at Hong Kong. A nice touch nonetheless. To mark the end of the meal service, a bottle of Evian was provided and placed beside every passenger’s seat as many passengers have already transformed their seat into a bed, like the one on seat 81 and 82A.

Full lie-flat beds with duvet laid down for a night’s sleep

After the meal service, I went to the galley and requested to switch the amenity kit to the female version as I wouldn’t need the amenity kit and had intended to pass it to my sister for her use. The amenity kit also lacked a lip balm which is the one that I need for long haul flights. In addition, I requested for another writing kit and obtained one with a Christmas and New Year greeting card included inside the kit. With the new amenity kit, I extracted the toothbrush and proceeded to wash up, then return to my seat to complete the movie and recline the seat to a full lie-flat bed position. Unlike the flight between Jakarta and Hong Kong which provides the thin blankets, this flight provided me with a thicker comfortable duvet in white sheets which looked cleaner and softer to the touch. I tried to lie down and get some shut eye, but realized that with the duvet, it can get quite warm and I was only able to get some shuteye for around 2 hours before I woke up. I decided to order something else as a snack and just because I could, I ordered one of the noodle soup and the ice cream. I also checked out the galley and obtained some apple chips. While the crew were preparing my snack, I switched on the inflight entertainment again to select something else to watch while snacking. With intention to get back to sleep after my snack, I chose a short program and selected the Top Gear Specials. The wide variety of programming by Cathay Pacific truly makes StudioCX one of the best inflight entertainment system in the skies!

Snacks 小食

Crispy jumbo chicken wing with blue cheese dressing 珍寶雞翼伴芝士汁

Assorted sandwiches 精選三文治

Häagen-Dazs Ice Cream 雪糕

Braised beef shank in noodle soup 清湯牛腱湯麵

Prawn and wood fungus shui gow dumpling in noodle soup 鮮蝦木耳水餃湯麵

The noodle soup was great in my opinion and I would gladly have another bowl if not for the fact that I was quite full and didn’t want to look like a glutton. To help me get back to sleep, I also ordered a serving of Bailey’s on the rocks which I enjoyed while watching Top Gear. Before I could finish the Top Gear episode I was watching, the IFE went dead again, as if signalling to me to get back to sleep. Well since I was beginning to get drowsy, I returned to lie down on the seat. Just before I got a shuteye, the IFE seemed to have completed the restart, but I just left it and went back to sleep since there were still a good 4 and a half hours to get to Vancouver. This time round, I managed to sleep for nearly 3 hours before the clanking of the dining trolley woke me up. I realized it was time where they served brunch onboard and the menu for brunch was:

Starters 頭盤

Orange or apple juice 橙汁或蘋果汁

Pink guava smoothie 番石榴乳酪飲品
Fresh seasonal fruit 時令鮮果

Fruit yoghurt 鮮果乳酪

Assorted cereals 天然穀麥

Main Courses 主菜

Omelette with pan-fried pork sausage, back bacon, oven roasted potatoes and braised bean ragout 雞蛋奄列配豬肉腸,煙肉,馬鈴薯及燴豆

Dim sum served with chilli sauce: Pork siu mai with scallop, shrimp fun gor, chive and pork dumpling, beancurd roll with vegetables 精選點心配辣椒醬:帶子燒賣, 鮮蝦粉果,韭菜豬肉餃及齋腐皮卷

Apple pancake with chicken sausage, vine ripened tomato and button mushrooms 蘋果班戟配雞肉腸,番茄及蘑菇

Bread Basket 麵包藍

Assorted breakfast bread served with preserves, honey and butter 精選麵包配果醬,蜜糖及牛油

Tea and Coffee 名茶及咖啡

I was able to head to the washroom to freshen myself up before returning to my seat as the purser motioned for a flight attendant to bring an additional fruit platter for my breakfast starter. I didn’t really like the fruit combination which consisted of a papaya, though the choice of pink guava smoothie was excellent for breakfast. Amongst the main course choices, I picked the apple pancake as it seems nice and I wasn’t disappointed as it consisted of a nice soft pancake wrapped over diced apples. Kind of like an Apple Pie except that its wrapped with pancakes. The portion was also just nice for me though it was also because I had a snack mid-flight, otherwise it might be a bit small. I passed on the bread but had a Hong Kong style Milk Tea to end my breakfast as I continued watching the Top Gear Special episodes which I stopped watching halfway as the IFE system rebooted itself.

Daylight over the Pacific

Along the way, I also opened out the way as I saw sunrise over the Pacific and as we flew closer to Vancouver, the cloud cover became thicker. With the breakfast tray cleared, I went to the washroom to change back to my jeans and return to my seat to hear the pilot making an announcement 30 minutes before scheduled landing. Shortly after that, the IFE system was disabled leaving me with just the inflight map. In fact the timing made me miss the last few minutes of the second Top Gear Episode I was watching. After we crossed the cloud cover, I noticed the grey skies over Richmond and rain streaks could be seen on the windows. It’s just another rainy winter weather in Vancouver. I never remembered landing in Vancouver on a sunny day in the winter for the last few years I’ve been there.

Reaching Vancouver

Our flight landed at Vancouver International Airport at 11.56 am local time, and the plane soon parked next to a Korean Air 777. Disembarkation was quite slow since I was on the upper deck, though I had not much trouble extracting my luggage from the overhead compartment. I packed my belongings into my back before making my way down into the main deck and disembarking via the aerobridge. In my opinion, YVR is one of the best airport in North America with its earthy tones and the terminal’s use of glass to let natural light into the hall. The large amount of artpieces scattered around the terminal is also synonymous with Vancouver and the Pacific Northwest. In fact the huge waterfall and wooden artpiece before the immigration always make waiting for passport control a relaxing time in the airport. This time though, queues were short at the immigration counter and after a short while, it was my turn to hand over my passport. I was asked a couple of questions like my purpose of visit, when I intended to leave and where I would be staying at. After the chop of approval, I went in search of my checked luggage and true to the priority baggage tag, I started to see my luggage as one of the first few to appear on the carousel. The short immigration queue and fast baggage claim meant that I was out of the airport into the arrivals hall in less than 25 minutes. Just goes to show that North America could be as efficient as Hong Kong at the right time and location!

Arrivals at Vancouver

My first trans-pacific flight on Cathay Pacific’s Business Class is a nice experience and I was able to arrive relaxed and refreshed. The variety of meals, snacks and entertainment options onboard are great and adequate, though one could notice some cost-cutting in the premium cabins. Service on this Business Class was excellent and it was definitely much better compared to the one on my flight between Jakarta and Hong Kong. The business class on the upper deck of Cathay Pacific is perhaps one of the best places to be in at the skies on an intercontinental flight, unless one can get on the First Class.

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