Hong Kong airport doesn’t really have a terminal 2. It has a thing called terminal 2, and it looks like a second terminal, but in reality it’s just a large building full of check-in and ticketing desks but without any of its own gates or anything. The flight departs from terminal 1, gate 511. This, I already know, is a “virtual” gate, aka a bus gate. I’m sick of these damn bus gates.
Once I’m finally at the entrance to departures I can’t see any hint of fast track. Bah. But slow track is not particularly slow. At immigration I have to decide which departure card and “you’re allowed in Hong Kong until...” slip to give up, still somewhat concerned about the specifics of my status, having crossed the Hong Kong border 3 times in the previous 30 hours. In the end no-one takes any of it off me and I’m left with a bunch of paperwork to shove in my bag. WTF?
The Hong Kong airlines “Club Bauhinia” lounge is a subterranean affair between gates 23 and 24. The lady at the desk welcomes me in, takes my invite off me, and says there will be NO announcements so I have to take responsibility for getting to the gate on time. Inside there’s about 4 or 5 people only. By now it’s about 0645, just one hour and five minutes until scheduled departure and with a bus gate I know that means I don’t have long.
Dumping my bag at one of the many empty tables I scout the food and drink: there’s booze of many kinds including prosecco, plus a breakfast buffet and, incongruously, some rough looking cling film-wrapped sandwiches. I opt for a can of Diet Coke and a plate of vermicelli noodles with some pork buns.
En route to 511 there are some nice plant displays, and then a corridor of proper art ‘n that. Once I get to the gate boarding has already started. Boarding the bus, that is. It has a capacity of around 84 people, being 6 seats and 78 standing, and takes an age to fill up. Most other people on here seem to be Russians in shell suits.
Eventually we’re trundling across the airfield, dodging other buses and planes. It’s properly light by now. Onboard I’m shown to my seat, 2K, and asked if I want a smoothie. Yes please, I’d love a smoothie.
Like Innsbruck but without the snow.
No idea what this is, but hey, oh, we’re approaching a large built up city underneath a lot of low cloud. This is our descent, since we’re coming in to Manila. I’m pleased to get a chance to see it in daylight.
Mercifully, we taxi all the way to the terminal and get off via a functioning airbridge. There’s a long walk down the corridor to flight connections, the experience of which I’ve been steeling myself for after the comparative nastiness on Friday – with the “it took 50 minutes on the way out!” warning from the Australian lady ringing in my ears.
In the end it takes me only 9 minutes from plane to connections to transfer desk to security to lounge. What a different 30-odd hours makes: today the Mabuhay lounge is a bearable temperature, mostly empty and very well lit. The two ladies at the desk deliver a simultaneous “Mabuhay!” and tell me boarding announcements will be made.
Grabbing a seat with a table, ready to continue writing up the previous day’s efforts, I pop to the bar and ask for a tonic and gin. Seated by the table in front of me is a woman with an insanely cute puppy that everyone is cooing over. I’m delighted that the WiFi is significantly more usable than on Friday, and have what ends up being a mightily frustrating and confusing conversation with my brother about purchasing a gift for my niece’s 10th birthday.
Two and a half hours pass slowly. Once I’m done uploading the previous diary entry I’ve basically nothing to do except have a couple of beers while browsing Flyertalk, so that’s exactly what I do. There’s nothing in the main terminal I want to see, having walked the length of it on Friday and been very grateful for lounge access.
My patience runs out before any boarding calls are made, and I pack up early to make a very slow wander up to gate 2. It’s a little chaotic as there are extra baggage X-rays happening, then a document check, then finally the gate itself. Boarding starts almost immediately I’m through and hello, I’m back in seat 7A just like on Friday. For all I know this is the exact same plane as then, though the inflight entertainment system has lost its impressiveness: for the next 13 hours the UI responds terribly, taking a good 3 seconds to honour any touches. Bah!
Still, y’know, champagne and a mango smoothie is welcome. Especially because they’re cold; the cabin aircon doesn’t work and the captain apologises for how hot it is, saying that it’ll be alright once we’re in the air.
I start watching a film immediately. Creed, the latest (I think?) in the Rocky franchise. Here’s my review: what a load of old shit. We taxi for long enough that I am 40 minutes through it before we even take off, and flight time is going to be just under 14 hours. Oof.
This time around, the crew proactively say “hey, this is the business class menu, and you can order whatever you like whenever you like in whatever order you like - just tell us”. OK, let’s have a look at what’s on offer.