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Old Posted Jul 25, 2017, 3:58 PM
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hkskyline hkskyline is offline
Hong Kong
Join Date: Jan 2002
Posts: 6,014
hkskyline's 2017 Flight Reports Thread

Hong Kong - Dubai - Casablanca

It's a long way to Morocco from Hong Kong. Against the wind, start with an 8-hour flight to Dubai, then a short transit, followed by another 8-hour flight to Casablanca. The overnight departure on the A380 helped reduce the total travel time a bit, with a light meal first service as most people were ready to doze off. Compared to my last long-haul flights on Emirates to Russia a few years back (the NZ-Australia hop I did last year was short-haul), service seems to have gone downhill. Gone were eye-shades - those are for ultra-long hauls, and not tonight's red-eye. How much can you save from unloading a few eye-shades anyway?

I absolutely hate transiting in Dubai. Go downstairs, grab a train, and head back upstairs into the crowds. 2 hours isn't really enough to go from gate to gate.

We all know which airline dominates this airport.

There aren't enough seats in this terminal, but behind this gate and downstairs, there is a bigger holding pen, albeit you lose access to the shops and restaurants. Being stuck in that pen is a bit boring, so I waited a bit while "Final Call" kept going up here. The sign is actually a bit misleading.

The Casablanca route was upgraded to the A380 just very recently, which is quite a sight with 2 levels of boarding.

I settled into my window seat. The Economy cabin was, as expected, not full. The A380 has good legroom and a large TV screen.

The flight map and cameras were impressive. You get a choice of 3 cameras installed at various parts of the plane.

Emirates has placed quite an extensive array of IFE choices to keep passengers entertained on long flights.

I sat on the left side for my flight to St. Petersburg a few years back, capturing Burj Khalifa as we took off. This time, I got a right side seat to see Sharjah. The weather seemed quite decent for a few aerial shots this morning.

Breakfast is served! Counting the light snacks, I would be fed 4 times for my 2 flights into Casablanca. It is indeed a long journey. This sandwich tastes better than it looks actually.

Tired from the previous red-eye, I took a doze over Saudi Arabia and woke up as we entered Egypt.

I couldn't see Cairo, but the Mediterranean coast was easy to spot.

The mountains in the distance belong to Crete.

As I examined the flight map, I was quite happy the IFE included PIP so I won't miss my selected entertainment along the way.

I haven't gone crazy from the long journey yet. With 3 more hours to go, the extensive IFE and aerial views kept me fairly entertained. The time passed by magically. Soon, it was time for lunch.

We flew high above Malta and I scrambled to get a few decent shots of the islands. The A380's curvature makes taking photos quite difficult, but at least the windows were clean.

After Malta, it didn't take long before we reached the African coast again. Welcome to Tunisia. Due to its perceived insecurity from past incidents, tours to this country have dropped to rock bottom prices.

As we crossed into Algeria, I kept a lookout for Algiers, which should be as sunny as pretty much all the areas we passed through so far.

Good morning, Algiers!

The muddy Sebkha d'Oran is near the Algerian border with Morocco.

Tired from all the photo-taking, I went for a bathroom break and scanned around the cabin.

I like the wood panels and automatic water dispenser.

Emirates' IFE is definitely an industry winner. With so many destinations, they have stocked up quite a diverse selection of programming to keep these long flights bearable. I typically don't scan these entertainment guides but this time, it was worth a look at the diversity.

You can bring 1000 cigarettes into Guinea duty-free. Compare that to the 19 you can bring into Hong Kong - less than 1 pack.

A few months earlier, I redeemed my orphaned Skywards miles for a duty-free item. Their catalogue is quite extensive.

The headsets have improved and look a bit like noise-canceling.

By now, we are over Morocco and arrival is in sight!!!

By now, after so many hours in the air, I have lost track of time. It is the next morning, but still several hours behind as we flew west, chasing the sun.

While the Sahara stretches into the country, Morocco actually looked fairly lush and green from the air.

Our gigantic plane landed safely on a sunny day. The cockpit crew announced we were going to be towed to the parking spot and told everyone to stay seated even when the plane stops. Apparently, we are too large to have a gate so the final journey into the terminal would be by bus.

So how long does it take to empty an A380 onto buses? Surprisingly, it didn't take too long, but it was quite annoying to be held up like this after such a long journey. While we trickled downstairs, the Qatar flight arrived and snuggled into their gate quite quickly.

More photos on my website : http://www.globalphotos.org/ek-cmn.htm
Hong Kong Photo Gallery - Click Here for the Hong Kong Galleries

World Photo Gallery - | St. Petersburg, Russia | Pyongyang | Tokyo | Istanbul | Dubai | Shanghai | Mumbai | Bangkok | Sydney
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Old Posted Jul 29, 2017, 7:03 AM
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hkskyline hkskyline is offline
Hong Kong
Join Date: Jan 2002
Posts: 6,014

So where to go for a long weekend break? Typically, Hong Kongers fly to Taiwan or Thailand for a relaxing short holiday, but I wanted to go somewhere cooler and sunnier. Qingdao came back onto my radar. Having last been in 2007 on a group tour and impressed by the architecture, 3 days would be a decent amount of time to explore the city on my own. Winters are typically sunny in northern China, and the weather forecast called for wonderful sunny weather for the entire weekend.

On Thursday, 2 days before departure, I checked BA Avios, which was the cheapest way to redeem on Cathay Dragon at 15,000 points. Nothing. Before and after - still nothing. Then I hopped over to Asia Miles, which had plenty of availability across multiple days. As I clicked through the flight selection, I noticed there was a redemption promotion remark at the end of the booking and the final cost was only 16,000 Asia Miles (as opposed to 20,000). I wasn't aware there was a promotion happening but apparently from late February to mid-March, redemptions to select destinations were eligible, mostly regional short-hauls.

On Saturday morning, I decided to sleep in a bit more and use my mobile boarding pass to board so I didn't need to rush to meet the 50 minute check-in deadline at the airport. I collect boarding passes these days, expecting the paper versions will turn obsolete in the near future. Sadly, Cathay has started using black-and-white cheap printouts, greatly reducing the collection value.

Security didn't take long and I was air-side within minutes. First, more plane spotting.

Today's flight is operated by the A330, one of my favourite aircraft types thanks to its humane seating plan of 2-4-2, where the window seat was never too far away from the aisle. It was also parked very close to immigration at Gate 21. Boarding was timely and I was surprised there wasn't a long boarding queue at all.

Since I had a mobile boarding pass, the agent had to do the detailed ID check at the gate.

Soon, I was comfortably seated at the front row thanks to an early online check-in. Loading was quite light today and we pushed back slightly ahead of schedule for the long taxi to take-off.

We were held for quite some time as other planes passed and took off ahead.

It would have been a spectacular harbour view if the weather was better.

I had the entire row all to myself. We initially flew south then east before looping back a bit west then north to track the coast.

Meanwhile, breakfast was served. The dim sum platter had more variety than the typical breakfasts I have had with this airline group.

The flight path skirted along the coast and the weather was sunny most of the way. By now, we were near Shanghai.

The A330 was quite empty. I guess people didn't want to visit Qingdao during the colder parts of the year despite the sunshine.

The seats look like Cathay's stock.

The lavatory was well-stocked for this short-haul flight with face moisturizer and hand lotion.

The IFE is the same as Cathay's but they changed the name to StudioKA for branding purposes.

We cruised at 40,000 feet but quickly descended 10,000 feet just past Shanghai despite still having a long way to go to Qingdao. We remained at the lower altitude until final descent.

It was a smoggy day, which made it difficult to spot the exact features as we entered the city's eastern side and flew past the airport before looping back for touchdown.

Not many widebodies at this airport, which is typical for the second and third tier city airports.

The front row is indeed more comfortable with 2 windows and being before the engine, seemed quieter.

We parked at the end of the terminal, but it wasn't a very long walk to an otherwise empty immigration area since I was at the front part of the plane.

Within 20 minutes from parking at the gate, I was on the bus ready to head into the city. With only hand luggage, it was a breeze through customs and the X-ray machine. The only down-side was the long walk to the domestic side of the terminal for the buses. I hope the metro link to the airport can finish soon.

Airport bus 701 departs every 30 minutes. There is an attendant standing outside the bus to check your ticket and ask where you are going in Mandarin. For the Copthorne Hotel, you get off at the Carrefour across the street. Then the driver will place your luggage in a dedicated compartment for your stop. 45 minutes later, I was in the heart of the new town for my luxury apartment high in the sky.

The eastern part of the city is relatively new with lots of new developments.

More photos on my website : http://www.globalphotos.org/ka-qingdao.htm
Hong Kong Photo Gallery - Click Here for the Hong Kong Galleries

World Photo Gallery - | St. Petersburg, Russia | Pyongyang | Tokyo | Istanbul | Dubai | Shanghai | Mumbai | Bangkok | Sydney
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Old Posted Nov 29, 2017, 9:20 AM
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hkskyline hkskyline is offline
Hong Kong
Join Date: Jan 2002
Posts: 6,014
Hong Kong - Abu Dhabi

Autumn is a great time to visit Europe. The crowds are gone, the students have gone back to school, and temperatures drop. I had wanted to return to Switzerland for a 3rd time after the previous 2 trips were met with bad weather. I had kept an eye on airfares over a few weeks in the summer, with Qatar initially winning with a sub-HKD 4000 price including tax - a great deal for the time of year. As I procrasinated, their prices creeped up but Etihad came to the rescue. After Air Berlin, one of their affiliates, announced bankruptcy proceedings, I thought it would be interesting to experience one of their flights before they close up for good. My trip would start in Berlin and end in Zurich. All for about HKD 4600.

Etihad offers an evening departure out of Hong Kong, arriving in Abu Dhabi before midnight. I like this flight as I didn't need to sleep along the way, and would arrive in the UAE a bit tired for the night at the airport hotel. I would wake up refreshed and continue my journey to Berlin the next morning, which should keep jet lag at a minimum. Both these flights would be on the A330, which is great for my window seat as it is only 1 person away from the aisle for the lavatory. Unfortunately, Air Berlin does not allow advanced seat slection.

Air-side, spotting was decent with some interesting Dreamliners.

My bird would be in traditional colours tonight.

We boarded as another rainstorm began, and soon I heard the lightning alarm come off at the airport. I guess we would be a bit delayed tonight as the crews waited for the storm to pass. The flight deck updated us to confirm the alarm and the delay. We ended up pushing back half an hour late.

My previous Etihad flights were not particularly impressive. The IFE and food could not compare to Emirates, and that opinion still held tonight.

However, one thing about the IFE I particularly liked was the live TV option, which was available for several international networks.

The flight map was also quite good - not as futuristic as what the latest offers out there, but still provides all the info I need.

The wifi option was well-advertised and a nice feature for these long-haul flights.

As expected, we arrived at a bus gate. The new terminal was nowhere near completion, just as a few years ago on my last visit.

A huge crowd was exiting that late into the night. I was surprised to find China Daily being distributed here. Anyway, it wasn't a long walk to the airport hotel for a relaxing night.

As I checked my messages in my room, I found out my Air Berlin flight had been cancelled. In fact, many of their flights were suddenly cancelled for "operational reasons". Alarmed that I would be stranded in Abu Dhabi, I headed back to the terminal to find a customer service representative. T3 sent me to T1, and by this late hour, I had to wait and push a bit to get a supervisor to rebook me. I had initially been offered the same Air Berlin flight the day after on Sept. 5, but worried that could get cancelled again, I refused and asked to be rerouted to another German city, such as Frankfurt or Munich and then connect domestically to Berlin.

The agent checked a number of European ports and noted all were overbooked on Sept. 4. I was told it was due to the long weekend in the UAE. The only possible routing on their computer was through Belgrade on Air Serbia, another one of their querky affiliates, but it wasn't possible for them to book it for some reason.

Realizing my Germany portion of the trip would probably need to be abandoned, I asked to be sent to Geneva directly on Sept. 6, the next possible flight. The agent said most European ports would be available again by then after the long weekend, and moved me to that flight. I would then have 2 extra days to spend in the UAE. I guess it's not too bad to be stranded in the UAE.

By now, it was late into the night, and early morning Hong Kong time. I went back to the hotel to extend my stay and retired for the night.

To be continued.

My full report : http://www.globalphotos.org/etihad3.htm
Hong Kong Photo Gallery - Click Here for the Hong Kong Galleries

World Photo Gallery - | St. Petersburg, Russia | Pyongyang | Tokyo | Istanbul | Dubai | Shanghai | Mumbai | Bangkok | Sydney
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Old Posted Nov 30, 2017, 12:32 AM
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Dac150 Dac150 is offline
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Join Date: Sep 2006
Location: NY/CT
Posts: 6,713
Always intriguing - thanks for sharing!
"I'm going there, but I like it here wherever it is.."
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