Tags: Chek Lap Kok, HKIA, Hong Kong, Jetstar, Tsing Ma bridge
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Airline: Jetstar Asia (3K)
Date: Friday 09 July 2010
Route: Hong Kong Chek Lap Kok (HKG) > Singapore Changi (SIN)
Aircraft: Airbus A320-200
Departure Gate: Terminal 1 Gate 526
Scheduled Departure Time: 2015 LT
Actual Departure Time: 2030 LT
Scheduled Arrival Time: 2350 LT
Actual Arrival Time: 0005 LT (+1 Day)
Booking tickets online back in Singapore proved to be a simple affair. Unless you are booking many many months before your intended flight, Jetstar’s fares are usually more expensive than Tiger’s. However, many do not seem to mind because Jetstar has somehow successfully marketed itself as the “better and more reliable” low-cost carrier in Singapore. Departing from Terminal 1 instead of the Budget Terminal is an example. So does free seat selection.
Something worth taking note is that since I was flying only one-way, the fare offered for the same leg was in Hong Kong Dollars, which was much cheaper than the fare in Singapore Dollars I would have been charged had I booked a return flight! That translated into us paying less for our Jetstar flight back to Singapore compared to the Tiger flight to Macau.
Getting to the airport
Since we were already at Hung Hom, it goes without question that the best way to get to the airport was none other than the A21 CityFlyer airport express bus service from the bus terminal right next to the main train station complex.
The CityFlyer bus service is operated by Citybus even though the A21 terminates in Kowloon and does not go beyond the harbour into Hong Kong Island where main Citybus operations are based. The fleet consists of double-decker Dennis Tridents which come with unique specifications such as aircraft style seats, retractable blinds for the windows as well as a luggage compartment at the lower deck. Of special mention is the CCTV which is fixated at the luggage racks and whose image is displayed on a screen on the upper deck so that passengers can monitor their belongings downstairs.
Compared to the Airport Express train line which costs HK$100, the A21 charges only HK$33. Of course, the downside is that the whole journey took slightly more than an hour during the peak period as the bus passed through the busy Tsim Sha Tsui and Nathan Roads and some residential estates in west Kowloon before hitting the highway to the airport.
However, it all paid off as the bus reached the final leg of the journey when it crossed the Tsing Ma bridge (also dubbed as Hong Kong’s Golden Gate bridge) to get to Lantau Island. The panoramic views were simply fantastic and allowed us to get a last glimpse of the Hong Kong skyline.
Hong Kong International Airport (HKIA)
Even though the check-in counter for our Jetstar flight back to Singapore is located at Terminal 2, we chose to alight at Terminal 1 to explore the rest of the airport. Terminal 1 is the bigger of the two terminals and has a design similar to Changi’s Terminal 2. Emphasis is on high ceilings and bright open spaces, which together with clear signages, help finding our way around the airport a breeze. Food and beverage outlets occupy strategic locations throughout the departure check-in hall. The alfresco dining options available on the second floor is a novel concept!
To get to Terminal 2, we had to proceed to the connecting basement walkway which is also where the Airport Express train station is located. We were surprised to learn that passengers do not have to buy a ticket before boarding the train, deducing that fares would only be collected upon exit. After spending around 20 minutes queueing to check in our baggage, we proceeded to check out the airport public bus terminal and their own aviation gallery which in my opinion, simply outshines Changi’s.
Prior to the trip, I had checked HKIA’s website to get a general idea of the airport layout, getting puzzled over the apparent lack of aircraft parking lots surrounding the terminal building. As it turned out, after clearing the security checks, we had to take a train which transported us back to Terminal 1 where we would board our aircraft from!
However I doubt passengers would complain (except maybe for those who are late) as the departure transit area at Terminal 1 was akin to that of a massive shopping mall – full of shops and food outlets to satisfy that hunger pang or last minute shopping. Impressive indeed!
Knowing that the food being sold onboard our flight would be expensive, Benjamin took the opportunity to grab a takeaway Burger King meal which was a wise choice as we had to wait for quite some time at the boarding gate. During which, a very faint and muffled announcement was made in Cantonese and English mentioning “Jetstar” but we couldn’t make up what they were trying to tell us or whether it even concerned our flight at all but like they say, monkey see monkey do, so since nobody else was budging, we didn’t bother to as well.
When the boarding gate opened, we were ushered into one of the three airport buses waiting just outside the terminal building which drove us to where our aircraft was parked far far away from the terminal building. This finally answered a question that has been bugging me since check-in: why does my departure gate consist of three digits when most of the others have only two? While this didn’t come as a surprise for me since Jetstar as a low-cost carrier would be expected to cut costs wherever possible, it is worth taking note that their flights out of Terminal 1 back at Changi have passengers boarding using aerobridges.
Since the passengers were transported to the aircraft in batches by the buses, boarding and settling down was carried out more quickly and efficiently. There were four cabin crew members serving us on the flight – one guy and three ladies. Interestingly, two of them were stationed at the bottom of the staircase wearing bright yellow safety vests over their black/orange uniforms welcoming passengers, with the other two aiding passengers onboard. Seconds after the door was closed, the aircraft began taxiing to the runway at around 2030H, some 15 minutes behind the scheduled departure time. In the meantime, the cabin crew carried out the standard manual safety demonstration. Compared to flight TR2902 to Macau, the takeoff this time round was a little rough and vibration was felt as soon as the aircraft was airborne but this quickly dissipated once the speed increased.
About 15 minutes into the flight, the cabin crew began their routine of selling food and drinks followed by duty-free merchandise. Unlike flight TR2902, sales onboard this flight was very brisk that at one point of time, it seemed as if the flight is that of a full-service carrier since almost everyone, myself included, bought food and drinks and had to be served one by one. The only difference in this case would be money changing hands. Perhaps it was because of the more attractive range of food and beverage offered or the fact that most of the passengers (who were obviously Singaporeans) had not had dinner. Compared to Tiger, Jetstar’s F&B menu was definitely more attractive and featured a wider variety of Halal local delights. Thumbs up for that.
My stomach was rumbling then and so I decided to get a chicken ham and cheese croissant sandwich since it looked the most tempting on the menu. On its own, the price was a little expensive. However, for just S$10, I can get the sandwich together with a drink of my choice. Since the set meal was more worth the price than the item on its own, I decided to get the sandwich and a bottle of water. I ordered from the stewardess and paid up first while she got another crew member to help prepare my sandwich which was served five minutes later. It was surprisingly warm and tasted good, more so due to the generous serving of cheese! Plastic cutlery was given together with the meal but I didn’t find them of much use. Though simple, the croissant definitely kept my stomach satisfied throughout the flight!
The lights were dimmed about an hour into the journey. Except for the occasional strong winds which shook the plane side to side, the flight cruised smoothly. After about 3.5 hours, we were already making our descent into Changi. Unlike flight TR2902, the cabin crew did not walk down the aisle to collect any trash from the passengers this time round as they had already done so after most passengers were done with their meals. The touchdown at slightly after midnight was quite rough and the brakes applied seemed a little excessive. We arrived at Terminal 1 almost 15 minutes behind the scheduled time. Nevertheless, clearing immigration using the self-service automated machines was a breeze and before long, I found myself in the Nuance-Watson duty-free perfumes and cosmetics store!
Overall, I had a pleasant experience onboard the flight, barring the rough takeoff and landing. The 31-inch leather slim-line seat was definitely comfortable for my 1.65 frame and I was very impressed with the airline’s food and beverage offerings given its price range – it was definitely better than Tiger’s! The level of service demonstrated by the cabin crew was excellent, especially on this particular instance when one of the stewardesses actually took the time to explain to a passenger in great detail which perfume would be best for the person he intended to buy it for. It really helped diminish the stereotype many have against low-cost carriers that cheaper flights equate to lack of customer service. They also appeared less robotic than the crew onboard Tiger.
All in all, I had a very good first-time trip to Macau and Hong Kong. It managed to satisfy my thirst in getting up close and personal with the many historical ruins and monuments which I have for so long only managed to read about and admire from guidebooks and websites. Seeing the mountains and other spectacular geographical features also made the trip especially memorable, triggering memories of my visit to England years ago. My only possible regret would be not having enough time to shop in Hong Kong’s many shopping malls! And on that note, I vow to return to Hong Kong in the near future, possibly venturing into nearby Shenzhen as well!
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