Saturday, February 4, 2012

Summer Holiday in Japan May and June 2010 - Part 1

Welcome to my second holiday blog report. This report will focus on my summer holiday in Tokyo, Japan back in May and June 2010. As with the previous blog report, this report will be divided into several parts.


Part 1 ~ The Opening


After several weeks of waiting, 27 May (Thursday) finally arrived. I was excited to be going to Tokyo again since I last went there in November 2006. We would be flying on Cathay Pacific for the second time, and the first time in its Business Class cabin. From home, we hailed a MaxiCab to Terminal 1 of Singapore Changi Airport, leaving home at 8.30 a.m.. The journey took approximately 25 to 30 minutes.


When we first flew with Cathay Pacific (in Economy Class), we went to Hong Kong for the first time in December 2005. The airline was not very good at first. However, it took huge and great improvements in its service this time.


We finally arrived at Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 1 just before 9 o' clock. Terminal 1 was still under renovation when I observed its surroundings. After taking all of our baggage, we went to the Cathay Pacific Business Class check-in counter to check in for flights CX 714 and CX 508 to Tokyo (Narita) via Hong Kong. I have some pictures of the Terminal 1 departure area before checking in.


Cathay Pacific is the flag carrier and the largest airline of Hong Kong. It operates from its main hub, Hong Kong International Airport to other parts of Africa, Asia, Europe, North America, and Oceania. It is a founding member of Oneworld alliance, and one of the world's 5-star airlines under Skytrax ratings.


The departure and check-in hall of Terminal 1 in Singapore Changi Airport, in May 2010

The Cathay Pacific check-in counter in Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 1


At Singapore Changi Airport, Cathay Pacific uses Terminal 1 for their operations. It has its own check-in counter for all of its passengers, and does not use the special SATS Premier Check-In Lounge. According to the check-in staff, our boarding gate for our flight to Hong Kong would be Gate No. D41, departing at 11 o' clock. They also told us that the gate would open at 9.50 a.m., 1 hour 10 minutes before the scheduled departure time.


After receiving our boarding passes, we went to the money changing counter after clearing the passport control area. We then headed to the Skyview Lounge to charge our electronic devices before the flight to Hong Kong. I then did some usual plane spotting while there.


The departure flight information screen in the airside of Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 1

Our boarding gate for our flight to Hong Kong, Gate No. D41

The flight information screen at Gate No. D41, showing our flight time departure to HKG

The airlines that use the Skyview Lounge in Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 1. Garuda Indonesia shifted its operations from Terminal 1 to Terminal 3 in February 2011

A China Airlines Airbus A330-302, registered B-18305, and painted in the special "Butterfly Orchid" livery, at Gate No. D34, about to return to Taipei as flight CI 752 at 10.25 a.m.

The interior of the Skyview Lounge at Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 1


Part 2 ~ The Flight to Hong Kong

Airline: Cathay Pacific

Flight No.: CX 714
From: Singapore Changi Airport (SIN / WSSS), Singapore
To: Hong Kong International Airport (HKG / VHHH), Hong Kong
Aircraft: Boeing 777-267
Registration No.: B-HNA
Class: Business Class
Seat No.: 17A
Date: Thursday, 27 May 2010


After relaxing in the Skyview lounge for approximately close to an hour, the clock was finally showing 10.25 a.m.. Knowing that boarding for Cathay Pacific flight CX 714 bound for Hong Kong would commence in 15 minutes' time, we packed up all of our carry-on baggage, and proceeded to Gate No. D41. We managed to arrive at the gate for a quick security check by 10.35 a.m..

Today, Cathay Pacific flight CX 714 bound for Hong Kong would be operated by a Boeing 777-200, registered B-HNA and powered by two Rolls-Royce Trent 877 engines. B-HNA was delivered to Cathay Pacific on 23 August 1996 as the first Boeing 777 for the airline. Originally registered VR-HNA, the aircraft received its current registration number on 31 July 1997, making the aircraft approximately 13.8 years old today.



Our aircraft for today, B-HNA, parked at Gate No. D41, which would later take us to Hong Kong as Cathay Pacific flight CX 714


By the time I finished my picture-taking, the boarding process was already in progress. We were on board B-HNA at 10.45 a.m., just in good time for an 11 o' clock departure. After stowing away all our carry-on baggage, a flight attendant then came to us and served us some pre-departure beverages. I selected a glass of orange juice for myself. It tasted quite nice as I was feeling relatively parched. Here are some pictures just before departure.

The Business Class seats we would be using for the flight between Singapore and Hong Kong would be one of the older regional Business Class seats. Despite their ageing condition, they were still comfortable.



Two glasses of orange juice: 1 for me and 1 for my dad

The Business Class cabin of Cathay Pacific flight CX 714 during the boarding process


At exactly 11 o' clock, we began to push back from Gate No. D41. The safety briefing demonstration video was shown on our video screens at the same time. We then taxied to our assigned runway, passing by several aircraft for 25 minutes.

After a 25-minute taxi to our assigned runway, the two Rolls-Royce Trent 877 engines spooled into action, and we finally took off from Singapore Changi Airport at 11.25 a.m.. We then climbed into the bright early afternoon sky for a flight time of 3 hours 30 minutes over the South China Sea towards the modern city of Hong Kong.



Taxiing past a Singapore Airlines Boeing 777-312 aircraft on the tarmac

A Singapore Airlines Airbus A340-541 aircraft

Cathay Pacific Flight 714 - Take-off from Singapore Changi Airport


The island of Singapore, taken from Cathay Pacific flight CX 714, shortly after take-off from Singapore Changi Airport

The overall view of Singapore Changi Airport


The seatbelt sign was turned off at 11.50 a.m., approximately 25 minutes after take-off from Singapore Changi Airport. I then took a look at the menu for the sector between Singapore and Hong Kong. A flight stewardess, named Joanne, came over to my seat and addressed me by my name. Joanne then asked me what I wanted as my main course for lunch. I chose the steamed chicken with ginger and spring onion in oyster sauce, chicken rice, braised cabbage, carrots and black fungus for my main course.


The food and beverage menu for the sector between Singapore and Hong Kong

A view of my seat, 17A, during the flight between Singapore and Hong Kong

A rear view of the Business Class cabin during the flight between SIN and HKG, just before the meal service commenced


After 25 minutes of waiting, Joanne finally came from the galley, and brought out small plates of roasted cashew nuts, and served them to the Business Class passengers. I quite like cashew nuts, and they tasted really great. The drink service also followed, of which, I had a can of Coca Cola Zero for myself. Joanne also had the starters served to the passengers. I had the prosciutto and rock melon with pesto marinated bocconcini and cherry tomatoes.


A small plate of delicious roasted cashew nuts

A glass of water and Coca-Cola Zero for myself, and a glass of apple juice from my dad

My first course: Prosciutto and rock melon with pesto marinated bocconcini and cherry tomatoes


After another 15 minutes of waiting, Joanne came to my seat with my main course of  steamed chicken with ginger and spring onion in oyster sauce, chicken rice, braised cabbage, carrots and black fungus. I then tucked in to this meal. The chicken tasted really tender and the rice was steaming hot and good. Cathay Pacific definitely deserves a 5-star rating for its on-board dining.


My main course: Steamed chicken with ginger and spring onion in oyster sauce, chicken rice, braised cabbage, carrots and black fungus


As soon as I was done with my main course, Joanne promptly cleared my cutlery and asked me whether I wanted anything for dessert. I enthusiastically asked her for a plate of chocolate marquise with berry compote and a mug of hot chocolate. I then made a customary visit to the bathroom, and did my usual cabin shots.


The Cathay Pacific Boeing 777-267 Business Class cabin during the meal service between SIN and HKG

The sign that reminds passengers that smoking in the cabin and tampering with smoke detectors in the lavatories is a criminal offence under Hong Kong law


I then returned to my seat to relax for the remaining sector of the flight to HKG. A few moments later, Joanne came from the galley with my chocolate marquise and hot chocolate. The cake tasted so tender and good that I decided to order a second one after I finished my first one. It was indeed a nice and sweetening touch to complement such a sumptuous lunch.


My first plate of chocolate marquise with berry compote

My mug of hot chocolate

My second plate of chocolate marquise with berry compote and my mug of hot chocolate


After finishing my dessert, Joanne collected my plates and mug from my tray table. She then gave me a survey about the airline. With great enthusiasm, I wrote that Cathay Pacific has now become one of my most favourite airlines in the world, and that I am extremely impressed by their service.

At one point during the flight, Joanne and some other flight attendants offered me some praline chocolates. One of them even fed me lots of them until the point where I was completely stuffed! A great touch from Cathay Pacific, this is!



The duty-free service then commenced just before the seatbelt sign was turned on for landing in Hong Kong International Airport. I managed to purchase a Cathay Pacific Airbus A330-300 CXcitement exclusive plane model, decorated in the special Oneworld livery. The details are as follows:


1) Cathay Pacific Airbus A330-343X "Oneworld" Herpa Scale 1:500 (515573)


Cathay Pacific Airbus A330-343X "Oneworld" Herpa Scale 1:500 (515573)

My newly-purchased Cathay Pacific Airbus A330-300 Herpa Scale 1:500 Oneworld livery model from CXcitement


The seatbelt sign was turned on 25 minutes before landing into Hong Kong International Airport. We then stowed away all of our carry-on baggage and fastened our seat belts to prepare for landing. We finally touched down in to Hong Kong International Airport at 2.55 p.m., as planned. After landing, we taxied past several aircraft before docking onto our assigned arrival gate. Here are some pictures and the landing video.


A blanket of clouds over the South China Sea while getting closer to Hong Kong

Cathay Pacific Flight 714 - Landing in Hong Kong International Airport


Taxiing past a Cathay Pacific Airbus A330-300 aircraft

A Cathay Pacific Boeing 747-412, registered B-HKE, parked at a gate


As soon as the aircraft parked at its arrival gate, we took all of our carry-on baggage and disembarked from the plane. Joanne and the other flight attendants bid us farewell at the exit. We then headed to the transit security checkpoint for our connecting flight to Tokyo.


As with my previous blog report, the airline grading systems are as follows:


A+: 85% or above (Airline has an excellent rating and performance)
A: 75% ~ 84% (Airline has a good rating and performance)
B: 60% ~ 74% (Airline has a good rating and performance)
C: 50% ~ 59% (Airline has an adequate rating and performance)
D: 40% ~ 49% (Airline has a fair rating and performance)
E: 20% ~ 39% (Airline has a poor rating and performance)
U: Below 20% (Airline has not met the requirement for the minimum grade)


Cathay Pacific Flight 714 Score Report

Seat: 18 / 20

Food: 19 / 20
Service: 20 / 20
Aircraft cleanliness: 18 / 20
Legroom space: 17 / 20
Total: 92 / 100


Overall, Cathay Pacific scored 92% on this sector between SIN and HKG. This means they deserve the highest airline grade, which is an 'A+'. It was indeed an enjoyable flight with them.


Part 3 ~ Layover in Hong Kong & The Flight To Tokyo (Narita)


After disembarking from Cathay Pacific flight CX 714 from Singapore, we had approximately 1 hour 10 minutes of layover in Hong Kong before our next flight to Tokyo (Narita), which was Cathay Pacific flight CX 508, scheduled to depart at 4.10 p.m.. These are some pictures I took before heading to the security checkpoint.


A Singapore Airlines Airbus A380-841, registered 9V-SKC, at a departure gate, about to head back to SIN as Singapore Airlines flight SQ 861

A Japan Airlines Boeing 747-446, registered JA8077, being pushed back for its flight back to NRT as Japan Airlines flight JL 732. Sadly, this is a sight no more for JAL since it retired all of its Boeing 747s by March 2011

Airline: Cathay Pacific
Flight No.: CX 508
From: Hong Kong International Airport (HKG / VHHH), Hong Kong
To: Tokyo, Narita International Airport (NRT / RJAA), Narita, Chiba, Japan
Aircraft: Airbus A330-342
Registration No.: B-HLH
Class: Business Class
Seat No.: 19K
Date: Thursday, 27 May 2010

The security check for connecting passengers was relatively quick. We then headed to Gate No. 43 for Cathay Pacific flight CX 508 bound for Tokyo (Narita). By the time I finished my photo-taking exercise, we suddenly realised that the final boarding calls for Cathay Pacific flight CX 508 bound for Tokyo (Narita) were being made.

One of the travelators in the airside of Hong Kong International Airport

Our aircraft for today, B-HLH, at Gate No. 43 being serviced at Gate No. 43 for her regional journey to Japan as Cathay Pacific flight CX 508 bound for Tokyo (Narita)

The flight departure information screen at Gate No. 43, showing the details of our flight to Narita

After getting our boarding passes checked, we were finally on board B-HLH at 3.55 p.m., just in good time for a 4.10 p.m. departure. The cabin attendants did their usual routines of serving pre-departure beverages to the passengers before departure. I ordered a glass of orange juice and some water for myself. We were also given the food and beverage dinner menu for the final sector between Hong Kong to Tokyo (Narita). These are some pictures while waiting for push back.


A KLM Asia (KLM - Royal Dutch Airlines) Boeing 747-406 aircraft parked next to us

The Cathay Pacific Airbus A330-300 Regional Business Class cabin during boarding as Cathay Pacific flight CX 508 to Tokyo (Narita)

My glasses of orange juice and water

The 'no smoking' and 'fasten seat belt' signs found on the older generation of Airbus A320 families, A330s and A340s

The food and beverage menu for the final sector between Hong Kong and Narita

The wine list for the sector between HKG and NRT


At exactly 4.10 p.m., we finally pushed back from Gate No. 43, just as planned. The safety briefing demonstration video was shown on our personal video screens at the same time. We then taxied to our assigned runway for take-off, and passed by several aircraft on the way. After 35 minutes of taxiing to the assigned runway, we finally took off from Hong Kong International Airport at 4.45 p.m., heading for a journey time of approximately 4 hours 15 minutes to Tokyo's Narita International Airport. Here are some pictures and the take-off video.


An El Al Israel Airlines Boeing 777-258/ER aircraft, which would later head back to the State of Isreal as El Al Israel Airlines flight LY 076 bound for Tel Aviv

Taxiing past another Cathay Pacific Airbus A330-300 aircraft

Cathay Pacific Flight CX 508 - Take-off from Hong Kong


The seatbelt sign was turned off at 5 o' clock, approximately 15 minutes into the flight. Within this moment, the flight attendants got up and commenced with the meal service. A flight stewardess then came to my seat to take my order. I selected the pan-fried beef tenderloin with portobello mushroom in red wine sauce, roasted potatoes, turnips and green beans for my main course. The stewardess then served us some appetizers and starters.


A plate of mixed nuts

My first course: Seared tuna with green beans, semi sun-dried tomato, chat potatoes, Ligurian olives and wasabi mayonnaise


After 25 minutes of waiting, my main course of beef tenderloin with portobello mushroom in red wine sauce, roasted potatoes, turnips and green beans finally arrived at my dining table. I then tucked into my main course. The beef tasted exquisite and really tender, and it was one of the nicest beef dishes I've ever had on a plane.


My main course: Beef tenderloin with portobello mushroom in red wine sauce, roasted potatoes, turnips and green beans


After I finished my sumptuous beef tenderloin, my plates were cleared. I then ordered some Häagen-Dazs ice cream for dessert to end this lovely dinner. I went around to take some pictures of the cabin before a strawberry flavor Häagen-Dazs ice cream arrived at my tray table. Other than chocolate flavour, I also like strawberry ice cream.


The Cathay Pacific Airbus A330-300 Regional Business Class cabin during the in-flight meal service

The sunset somewhere over the Taiwan Strait

My tub of strawberry flavour Häagen Dazs ice cream on my tray table

In accordance with the Japan Standard Time, the seatbelt sign was illuminated at 9.25 p.m., 15 minutes in preparation for descent into Narita International Airport. Knowing that we were about to arrive in Tokyo very soon, we packed away all our belongings and buckled up for the landing.

After flying for approximately 3 hours 55 minutes over the South China Sea from Hong Kong, we finally touched down at Narita International Airport at 9.40 p.m., 15 minutes behind schedule, according to Japan Local Time.


The Business Class cabin being dimmed in preparation for landing in Narita International Airport


Cathay Pacific Flight 508 - Landing in Narita International Airport


Cathay Pacific Flight 508 Score Report


Seat: 17 / 20
Food: 19 / 20
Service: 18 / 20
Aircraft cleanliness: 16 / 20
Legroom space: 17 / 20
Total: 87 / 100

In total, Cathay Pacific scored 87% on the final sector between HKG and NRT, which means another 'A+' grade for them. The food service and the seat were nice. We then taxied to our assigned arrival gate for approximately 5 to 10 minutes. According to the flight arrival timings of Narita International Airport, which opens daily from 5 a.m. to 12 midnight, we were the last flight to arrive at Narita International Airport for the day.

After docking on to our arrival gate at Narita International Airport Terminal 2, we took our carry-on baggage and received the usual warm farewell from the flight attendants before disembarkation. We then walked along the passageways to get to the Narita Airport Terminal 2 Shuttle System, a people mover train system that transports passengers between the Satellite and the Main Building of Narita International Airport Terminal 2. We then took the shuttle system to the Main Building to clear immigration and get all our check-in baggage.

At Narita International Airport's Terminal 2, all Oneworld carriers dominate this terminal, with the main airline being Japan Airlines, the flag carrier of Japan. British Airways moved here on 31 October 2010 from the North Wing of Terminal 1 in order to ease connections with its fellow Oneworld partners. However, some airlines, which are not part of Oneworld dominate this terminal too.


The only non-Oneworld carriers are (as of 1 January 2012):


1) Air India

2) Air Macau


3) Air New Zealand (Star Alliance carrier)*


4) Air Niugini


5) Air Tahiti Nui


6) China Airlines (SkyTeam carrier)


7) China Eastern Airlines (SkyTeam carrier)


8) China Southern Airlines (SkyTeam carrier)*


9) Eastar Jet


10) Emirates


11) Garuda Indonesia (future SkyTeam carrier)*


12) Hong Kong Airlines


13) Malaysia Airlines (soon to join Oneworld on 1 February 2013)


14) Pakistan International Airlines


15) Philippine Airlines


16) Skymark Airlines


17) SriLankan Airlines (soon to join Oneworld in 2013)


*Note #1: Air New Zealand will shift its operations from Terminal 2 to Terminal 1 (South Wing) on Sunday, 25 March 2012, in order to ease connections with fellow Star Alliance

carriers.

*Note #2: Garuda Indonesia will shift its operations from Terminal 2 to Terminal 1 (North Wing) on Sunday, 1 April 2012, as the airline prepares to join SkyTeam as a full member.


*Note #3: China Southern Airlines will shift its operations from Terminal 2 to Terminal 1 (North Wing) on Wednesday, 12 September 2012, in order to ease connections with fellow SkyTeam carriers.


Some airlines also used to operate from Terminal 2:


1) Air China (Moved to Terminal 1 (South Wing) on 1 July 2008 in order to ease connections with fellow Star Alliance carriers)


2) EgyptAir (Moved to Terminal 1 (South Wing) on 2 December 2010 in order to ease connections with fellow Star Alliance carriers)*


3) Vietnam Airlines (Moved to Terminal 1 (North Wing) on 30 October 2011 in order to ease connections with fellow SkyTeam carriers)


*EgyptAir has temporarily suspended service between Tokyo (Narita) and Cairo between February 2011 due to the 2011-2012 Arab Spring political protests. The airline will resume its operations between Cairo and Tokyo on 15 April 2012, using Terminal 1 (South Wing).


One of the passageways in the Satellite Building of Narita International Airport Terminal 2

Narita Airport Terminal 2 Shuttle System - Satellite to Main Building

The check-in baggage claiming hall in the Main Building of Narita International Airport Terminal 2

After claiming all of our check-in baggage, we then headed to our assigned cab driver to transport us to the Somerset Serviced Apartments Roppongi Tokyo. He then escorted us to the car park of Narita International Airport Terminal 2, and helped us load up our baggage. We then departed Narita International Airport for downtown Tokyo by 10.30 p.m.. I have some pictures taken along the way to our serviced apartment.

The arrival lobby in the Main Building of Narita International Airport Terminal 2

The Rainbow Bridge, as seen from the cab, at night

About to cross the Rainbow Bridge

We arrived at our serviced apartment at 11.30 p.m. after a 1-hour drive on the cab from Narita International Airport. The cab driver and a serviced apartment staff then came to assist us with our baggage. We then check into the apartment and we were allocated to Room No. 606 for our 13-day holiday.

The hotel lobby of the Somerset Serviced Apartments Roppongi Tokyo

After receiving our room key, we took the elevator to the sixth floor of the apartment and found our room. When we entered the room, we saw that it had 2 bedrooms (1 of them with a single bed used as a clothing and laundry room), 1 kitchen, 1 bathroom and a living room. These are some pictures of the room.


The bedroom used for all clothing and laundry materials

My parents' bedroom

The kitchen in our serviced apartment room

The living room, where my brother and I slept


During our holiday, my brother and I slept in the living room. After we unpacked all our carry-on and check-in baggage, we had a nice hot shower. As we were quite tired, we went to bed by around one or two o' clock in the morning.


This officially brings the first section of my summer holiday in Tokyo, Japan in May and June 2010 to a close. The others will be explained in the later parts. As always, questions and / or comments will be welcome and I will respond in whatever way I can.

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