CA184 Tokyo HND – Beijing PEK
Thursday 3 Jan 2013
Airbus A321-200 B-6792
Seat 2L, moved to 2A
Early flight out of Haneda meant I had to catch a cab to the airport and it wasn’t cheap, but thankfully it was fast as the taxi driver sped across the expressway with nearly no traffic at this hour after a long holiday. There were toll fees included in the charge as well which racked up the fares. No queues at the Air China counter on row C/D in Haneda and I was directed to the economy class check in counter which was empty. Somehow the agent requested my frequent flyer card, and they did measure the dimensions of my snowboard, but there were no charges to check in 3 luggages. I had to enquire for lounge access before the agent provided instructions on using the ANA lounge near gate 110.
Security screening was pretty empty as well in the morning and was through immigration in a matter of minutes. I wasn’t able to bring in the small bottle of water though so that was a waste as it was unopened. There were a couple of duty free boutiques once airside and the major fashion brands are there, though the souvenir shops had ran out of the Hokkaido potato sticks snack that I wanted to get.
Accessing the ANA lounge was easy enough, since I needed to just show the boarding pass. No vouchers necessary, which should be the case if you are holding a C boarding pass anyway. The ANA lounge was tastefully furnished and large enough but it lacked a luggage storage area, though one agent was kind enough to look after my luggage for the short half hour as I went to grab some noodles. Wifi was good and easy to access. There were also adequate snacks for those seeking some lounging instead of food. I got kitsune udon which was good as expected and had some chocolate-coated dried fruits as well.
I headed out to the gate once I was done since I don’t think boarding announcement was carried out, and my flight leaves from the gate furthest away in the corner at 105. Boarding was nearly complete when I arrived at the gate since the flight was not full and the timing is another factor I guess. Once onboard, I was shown to my seat and the flight attendant provided slippers, though no help on the luggage. Hot towels were soon provided and I noticed the 12-seat cabin only had one other guest on seat 3C. There were a couple more passengers before the boarding was completed. And I was offered drinks in the meantime. Being the winter season, it seems the flight attendant was pro-active in asking if passengers wanted warm water. I took her up on the offer, and it was a nice refreshing change from the usual ice cold water.
Before pullback, the flight attendant also took my breakfast order after showing me the menu. I went for the Chinese option since the western option looked more like what I had earlier on in the hotel. I also went with Pu-Erh tea, a classic Chinese tea for my beverage. I was also enquired as to when I would like the meal to be served. However this seems more like an afterthought as we shall see later in the flight.
There was nearly no queue for take off and we were soon up in the skies. While the seat belt sign would remain lit throughout the flight, i followed the flight attendant’s cue in unbuckling the seat belt to move to the opposite seat in 2A as it afforded a nice view of Tokyo as the plane circled around the bay to gain altitude. The relatively clear morning also meant I had great views of Mt Fuji along the way.
Shortly after crossing Mt. Fuji, the attendant came out and enquired if I would like breakfast served now. This was where I took it as a signal that they wanted to serve the meal earlier instead of as and when passengers would want it. Well anyway I decided to just have breakfast earlier and she came out with almonds and my cup of tea first. The meal consisted of plain porridge with condiments and pickles, assorted dim sums including a pork bun and a seafood and vegetable dumpling. There was also a fruit platter on the tray. It was a nice breakfast though the presentation lacks some finesse and the portion was a bit dismal. But for such a short flight, I thought it was as good if not better than what United offers.
After the meal, I had the chance to sit back and relax while taking in views of Seoul from the air as we flew past by the capital city of South Korea on the way to Beijing. This was how I managed to ‘see’ all 3 capital cities of Asia’s most prominent economies in a single day. The gorgeous cloudless weather made it easy to pass the rest of time gawking out of the window until our descent into Beijing. As the busiest airport in China, there was a queue of some jumbo jets on the runway as we landed, including an Air China 747 and a Lufthansa A380.
While it was a pretty good flight due to weather, we were parked at the tarmac and had to take the bus to the transfer area of the terminal. Fortunately, there was a VIP bus for premium passengers and one of the passengers from economy managed to sneak into this bus for the early ride into the terminal as well. The worst part of landing in Beijing has got to be the slow international transfer with one long snaking queue. that took more than half an hour to clear. Furthermore there were actually 2 checkpoints for me to pass through back into the departure hall and this has got to be a failure in airport management which is a shame since Beijing has got one of the most beautiful airport terminals in the world.