On our flights from Toronto to Hong Kong and back, we booked with Cathay Pacific airlines, because they offered a direct flight to Hong Kong (no dealing with grumpy, power-crazed US security folks) and because of their reputation for providing attentive service. That reputation is well deserved! There were more than a dozen staff in their snazzy red uniforms, all very helpful, pleasant and competent. They weren’t constantly flogging the duty-free goods, like some airlines do and there were plenty of food and beverage selections – all free of charge, unlike Canadian airlines that nickel and dime you into catatonia.
The aircraft – new airbuses with comfortable wide seats – were quiet and well designed. The washrooms were surprisingly large (yes, doing the Mile-High thing would definitely have been possible for full-grown adults) and the cabin crew kept them surprisingly clean throughout the 15 hours in the air. I’ve been on aircraft where, once you sit down on the toilet seat, your knees are jammed up against the door, then the toilet tissue runs out and there’s not a replacement roll in sight, the paper towels are so coarse they have woodchips in them and the taps don’t deliver enough water to properly wash your hands.
Another plus – the LCD displays on the backs of the seats actually worked throughout the flight. Again, I’ve been on flights where the crew keeps trying to reboot the video player, to no avail, and we spend hours fighting with unresponsive controllers trying to watch a limited selection of bad entertainment. What was most fun was the ‘outside camera’ feature of the info-tainment menu, especially when we were taking off or coming in for a landing.
Interestingly enough, although we took the polar route, we did not have to fly over any American airspace, which was a bonus, given that they demand the names and contact information for passengers simply traversing any part of their territory. To me, that’s an outrageous violation of our national sovereignty and privacy rights. What does that say about their trust in Canadian Border Services and security apparatus to weed out the crazies before they board a flight? How come no one in our government is standing up for us? Makes you wonder, doesn’t it? So our path took us over Hudson’s Bay, the Territories and down the east coast of Russia and Asia. It felt somehow safer, too.
Before we disembarked, the flight attendants told us the number of the luggage carrel, so there was no wandering around in a fatigued daze in a huge airport trying to find out where our bags were. Nice. And the airport in Hong Kong is enormous. If you can, watch the Discovery Channel documentary on how it was built on reclaimed land, in the sea – Extreme Engineering. Transportation from the airport includes a high-speed subway system (Toronto – is anyone paying attention?), cabs, buses and the usual hotel transfers, also done by motor coach. Signage is good, they are very efficient marshalling passengers for the ride to either Kowloon or downtown.