Early last month (January 2016) I flew with Cathay Pacific from Manila to Tokyo, with a brief stopover at Hong Kong.
Check-in was quick and easy as I had availed of Cathay’s web check-in facility two days prior. Aside from giving first dibs on much-coveted window seats, it also helps one skip the usual check-in queue at the airport counters. Terminal fee integration also helped eliminate another pesky line at NAIA as we were able to go straight to immigration after check-in. Now, if only the travel tax could be integrated with the ticket or paid optionally upon online check-in, that would further cut the number of times passengers need to queue at NAIA.
Immigration and final security check at NAIA terminal 3 was a breeze as there were more immigration officers than passengers.
Manila to Hong Kong (CX906)
Of course, a NAIA departure would have been unbelievable if there weren’t any random annoyances. At the boarding gate, the staff announced that our flight would be slightly delayed from the original boarding time (10:40 for the 11:00 ETD) and would be boarding as soon as the aircraft is ready. On the tarmac, we could see our waiting airplane but boarding was not announced until around 11:30.
Boarding was fairly efficient because of the double aisles of the Airbus A330. The pilot was very apologetic and explained that the slight delay was due to aircraft servicing and that we would be taking off in no time. Our flight was bumped off from the priority list as a few minutes later, the pilot once again apologized for the further delay owing to the busy runway. Finally we took off at 12:40, 1 hour and 40 minutes delayed from the original 11:00 ETD.
Meal Service and In-flight Entertainment (MNL-HKG)
The flight coincided with lunchtime but maybe because the Manila – Hong Kong flight only takes less than 2 hours, only pitiful light snacks were served. The snack pack presentation was way better than the food quality. The bread wrap of the chicken adobo wrap was tough. There wasn’t enough chicken adobo inside they should call this a chicken adobo sauce wrap instead. The oat cookie was the saving grace because it tasted better than I expected.
Movies were non-existent on the IFE, again due to the short flight duration. I busied myself instead with episodes of Discovery Channel’s Mythbusters and Man vs Wild.
Layover at HKIA
Fortunately, due to the delayed flight, our planned 5-hour layover in Hong Kong was reduced to a more bearable 3.5 hours. We arrived almost half past 2pm, leaving us with enough time to go around the gigantic terminal building and have a more serious meal.
Hong Kong to Tokyo Haneda (CX5396 / KA396)
The 2nd flight for the day was a 3 and a half hour trip from Hong Kong to Tokyo Haneda on a Cathay Pacific codeshare operated by its subsidiary Dragonair. Upon booking this flight I initially thought Dragonair was Cathay’s LCC (low-cost carrier) subsidiary because of the lower airfare.
Instead of the standard airbridge boarding gate, the location of our flight’s gate at one of the bus lounges enforced my belief that Dragonair was an LCC. This flight used an Airbus A320, the same aircraft that Cebu Pacific utilizes on most domestic flights in the Philippines. Upon boarding Dragonair’s A320 however, I was proved mistaken by the plush seats and amenities provided such as the pillow and blanket that an LCC would otherwise be charging for their use. Dragonair’s in-flight magazine, Silkroad, was likewise leagues ahead of Cebu Pacific’s Smile magazine in terms of content and design.
Meal Service and In-flight Entertainment (HKG-HND)
Not long after reaching cruising altitude, the flight crew served dinner. Main course was a choice between katsu curry rice and chicken penne pasta. I chose the pasta because I did not want to risk getting a tough katsu piece.
Surprisingly, the chicken penne pasta was good. There were generous pieces of chicken chunks hidden under the sauce . The somen (Japanese cold noodle) appetizer was light but tasty. A choice of hot tea or coffee was offered after dinner.
Dessert was a rock-hard cup of Cookies and Cream Haagen-Dazs. I needed to wait a few minutes before attempting to scoop some.
After dinner I think I had a couple of hours of sleep. We arrived at Tokyo International Airport (Haneda) on schedule, a few minutes before 11 PM local time.
All hopes of getting out of the airport before midnight were dashed however, upon seeing the immigration queue. Judging from the short queue of Japanese passport holders and the snaking line for foreign passport holders, it appears we arrived roughly at the same time range as other foreign carriers. Despite the airport staffs’ best efforts to expedite the queue, it took us nearly an hour to clear immigration, possibly the longest I have endured to enter Japan.