FIRST IMPRESSIONS: Thanks to the skillful driving of Mr Wong, who provides our office’s regular taxi service, I reached Hongkong International Airport at 0615. Enough time to spare for a welcome brew before checking in at Island H for the 0730 Flight UO202 to Hangzhou. Those who shudder at this early bird departure can opt for later alternatives – 1155 or 1755. (The return is 1000, 1440 and 2025.) Flights are daily.
BOARDING: Since no executive lounge was offered, I headed straight to the boarding gate where we were bused on the dot to the aircraft.
THE SEAT: This Embraer 170 boasted fresh and gleaming interiors and a 2-2 configuration. Sinking into the soft powder blue leather upholstery (I asked and got a window seat,which is always convenient for napping), I fell asleep before take off and only woke up when we were at cruising speed. The recline was an adequate 15 degrees (considering the small cabin) and the seat pitch was 31 inches. During the breakfast service (bread roll, pre-sealed orange juice, water and noodles), I was delighted not to be asked to put my seat back in the upright position.
THE FLIGHT: Even in my groggy state, I could hear the captain deliver his spiel about the journey time (“146 minutes”) and other pertinent details. One piece of news that literally chilled me concerned the weather (this was early October). Hangzhou was around 17ºC. I was ill-prepared, having only brought a sweater!
ARRIVAL: This was my first time to use the Hangzhou airport since landing there in 1994 when it was a very basic facility. Marble floors had replaced grubby concrete, and an electronic carousel made sure we didn’t have to pick up our luggage from the cart as it came straight off the plane. What a change.
VERDICT: Long known as one of China’s most unique tourist attractions – due to its exquisite lake – Hangzhou is now gaining new prominence as an important IT hub. And with this latest flight option, courtesy of Hongkong’s “fourth airline”, it’s expected that traffic will boom even further. Other competitors on the route include Dragonair (four time daily, including one code share with Air China) and China Eastern (thrice daily).
PRICE: Round trip is US$399.85. Log on to www.hongkongexpress.com for more details.
Margie T Logarta