01. Introduction: One…I mean…two final rides on the United Airlines 747
02. United Airlines 737-800 economy class San Diego to San Francisco
03. United Airlines 747-400 upper deck Polaris business class San Francisco to San Francisco
04. United Airlines 747-400 upper deck Polaris business class San Francisco to Seoul
05. Asiana business class lounge, ICN
06. Asiana Airlines A330-300 business class Seoul to Hong Kong
07. Sheraton Hong Kong Hotel and Towers
08. The Bridge – Cathay Pacific business class lounge, HKG
09. American Airlines 777-300/ER business class Hong Kong to Los Angeles
10. American Airlines ERJ-175 first class Los Angeles to San Diego
HKG is easily my favorite airport in all the world (LAX is a close second), so I’m not even going to try and explain my reasoning for leaving the lounge 2 1/2 hours before my flight to Los Angeles was scheduled to depart. Yes ladies and gentlemen, I am so much of an AvGeek that I actually enjoy wandering up and down busy airport terminals more than I do drinking margaritas in swanky lounges. Especially here in Hong Kong.
Hong Kong (HKG) – Los Angeles, CA (LAX)
Monday, October 23, 2017
Duration: 12 hours 14 minutes
Seat: 8J (business class)
The sheer amount of international traffic coming and going at all hours of the day at this airport is mind-boggling. Even more interesting is the fact that a good 90 percent of the traffic is of the “heavy” variety – you just don’t see so many 737s and A320s here as you would back home at LAX or JFK, and it’s almost comical to see one of those little guys buzzing around the apron in between all of the A380s and 777-300s parked at the gates. This is a proper airport with proper airline traffic, and it’s very hard not to be mesmerized by it all without even noticing. It goes without saying that those 2 1/2 hours of wandering and planespotting went by in a flash.
Unfortunately, my enthusiasm for watching this airport at work caused me to nearly miss the fact that they adjusted our departure time to be about 20 minutes earlier than originally scheduled. This doesn’t happen often in my experience, and I’m not sure why they did it today, but I’m not complaining about arriving home 20 minutes earlier. Thankfully I happened to be near the gate when they announced the boarding process, and once the initial shock wore off I was in line and one of the first on the plane. After the first class passengers of course.
The American Airlines 77W business class product is one that I’ve been wanting to try for a very long time, so I was more than anxious to get on board and get situated. First impressions were very good of course, but I was slightly disappointed that the seats were very similar to what I had experienced in Delta One from Atlanta to Seattle last year. The seats weren’t exactly the same, but they were very close and I was feeling a whole heck of a lot of déjà vu as I was settling in. It should also be noted that I wasn’t feeling very much disappointment, because I quite enjoyed that Delta One experience and I knew for a fact that I would be comfortable all the way home to Los Angeles tonight.
Unfortunately for me and everyone else sitting in the immediate area, the guy sitting directly behind me had a nasty cough which had me thinking “Zika virus” for the first 20 minutes or so. Seriously, it was a gnarly cough and I doubt that I would even be on an airplane if I sounded like that. It was bad, and I feared the worst thinking that I was going to be sick in a matter of days – no doubt. Just the thought of spending the next 13 hours in close proximity to this guy and all the germs he was spewing wasn’t making me a happy camper. All I could really do at that point was just to forget about it and focus on the fact that I was sitting in a kick ass business class seat about to be wined and dined by a world-class cabin crew. At least they seemed world class so far, as every interaction up to that point had been really good – not quite Asiana or Korean Air good, but close. It was a good start.
Speaking of interactions with the flight attendants, there were many while sitting there at the gate before departure. Champagne and orange juice were distributed on trays within minutes of sitting down, which was a nice complement to perusing the menu and amenity kit which were already on the seat upon arrival.
Once everybody was situated, the flight attendants began coming through the cabin and taking dinner orders even before pushing off the gate. I had totally forgot that I pre-ordered the duck entrée on the American Airlines website a month and a half ago, and was kindly reminded of that by the flight attendant when he got to my seat. I can’t even remember why I pre-ordered a meal in the first place, because it’s very rare that I ever know what I’ll feel like eating two hours from now let alone six weeks in advance. The good news is that the duck still sounded really good so I stayed with my initial choice.
Once the meal orders were complete, pajamas and newspapers were distributed. I passed on both. Geez – we hadn’t even pushed off the gate yet and I found the service to be very attentive. Hopefully this was a sign of good things to come!
The sun had completely disappeared by the time we were taxiing out to the runway, which made me realize that we had been sitting at the gate for a very long time – it was very bright and sunny when they started the boarding process. A quick check of my watch revealed that we were still right on time though, so a long wait at the gate must have been built into the schedule right from the beginning. The only bummer now was that it was so dark that I couldn’t see anything outside. Oh well.
The attentive service by the cabin crew continued immediately after take off and within 10 minutes I had a steaming hot towel in my hand. Not only that, I hadn’t even finished wiping my hands yet before another flight attendant swooped in with a tablecloth in preparation for the commencement of the meal service. “At least they aren’t ignoring me” I thought, which ended up being really funny because they never came back to pick up that hot towel. Oh well, no business class experience is perfect, but this was getting darn close before that little misstep.
Dinner was served in courses, and that duck was spectacular. Of course I was still a little bit nervous as I ate due to feeling the lingering effects of a mild case of food poisoning that I had the night before, but I was able to eat it all without feeling even the slightest bit ill. I would’ve been so disappointed if I had to pass on this meal service because of a bad stomach. The meal in international business class is usually the best part of the experience, so at least I didn’t have to miss out tonight.
And like I usually do when I find myself on airplane, I ate way too much. More than I would even think about eating at home. Why do I do this to myself? Mental note: I need to eat more sensibly while traveling, because this isn’t healthy and I’m sure that I would feel much better eating lighter.
They left the cabin lights off during the entire meal service which I quite liked. A dark cabin sets the mood perfectly for a good meal in my opinion, and it also eases the viewing of whatever is on the video screen just 2 feet in front of your face.
Despicable Me 3 happeed to be my movie of choice this evening, followed up by a stand-up comedy show that wasn’t funny enough to keep me awake for more than 30 minutes after my meal tray was taken away.
In typical SANspotter form, I slept for exactly 4 hours before having to wake up to use the lavatory. What is it about me sleeping for exactly 4 hours on airplanes anyway? That’s what happened on the flight from San Francisco to Seoul 2 1/2 days ago, but thankfully this time I was able to fall back asleep again despite the cabin being illuminated by mood lighting. They never turned those lights off, which is OK by me because I quite like the ambience of a dimly lit cabin for sleeping.
The lights were turned on with an hour and 40 minutes of flying time remaining, and unfortunately there was no smooth transition into the breakfast service. There were no hot towels and tablecloth placements this time. The flight attendant simply showed up at my seat with the tray, set it down, and walked off. Not that I’m complaining – I was still dead tired at that point, and any human interaction would’ve been difficult at best. I sat there in silence picking at my luke warm but decently tasty breakfast…which wasn’t technically even breakfast considering that it was late afternoon in Los Angeles at this point and the day was just about over. A sandwich or some soup would’ve been more appropriate I think.
Flight attendants came through the aisles with hot towels about 10 minutes before we began our descent into LAX, and from there I converted back into AvGeek mode and had my nose to the window all the way in to Los Angeles. I love arriving into LAX from Asia – coming in from the Northwest, flying the downwind approach right over the top of LAX, then making the big right-hand sweeping turn back to the airport is an awesome homecoming every time. I’ve said many times before, and I’m going to proudly say it again: I love LA!
The good news is that I didn’t feel overly exhausted as I was walking off the plane and into the terminal. Hong Kong to Los Angeles is a very long flight, and I knew for a fact that I would’ve been completely wrecked if I was stuck back in economy class for the past 13 hours. It’s at those moments that I feel very thankful for making the effort to be proactive about accumulating the amount of airline and credit card points needed in order to travel in premium cabins such as this. It’s a lot of work to scrape enough points together to do these kinds of trips, but it’s oh so worth it when arriving home after a big one and still feeling halfway human.
Once through passport control and immigration, it was off to find that little regional jet that was going to take me home to San Diego…