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Australia via Hong Kong

Australia via Hong Kong
via Cathay and Qantas First Class
February 2012

It's been a year since our first Cathay Pacific (CX) flights and I am so excited to be back flying one of the world's great airlines. This time, we're on a Cathay Pacific 744 for the first time. And Mrs. SFO and I are taking one of our sons to Australia. Until now his idea of a great plane ride had been an exit row on Frontier Airlines. While Sydney-Los Angeles First Class award seats were surprisingly easy to find, Los Angeles to Sydney was impossible. The solution was to spend a few extra AAdvantage miles and route via Hong Kong, one of our favorite cities.

-Cathay Pacific First and Business Class Lounge at SFO
-Cathay Pacific First Class SFO-Hong Kong
-Mandarin Oriental Hong Kong
-Hong Kong
-Qantas First Class Lounge at HKG
-Cathay Pacific "The Wing" First Class Lounge at HKG|
-Qantas First Class Hong Kong-Melbourne
-The Lyall Hotel Melbournce
-Melbourne
-Yarra Valley Wine Country
-Qantas Business Class Lounge at MEL
-Qantas Business Class Melbourne-Sydney
-Shangri-La Hotel
-Sydney
-Qantas First Class Lounge at SYD
-Qantas First Class Sydney-Los Angeles
-Qantas A380 First Class Sydney-Los Angeles
-American Flagship Lounge LAX
-American First Class LAX-SFO
 
Although I had checked in online (OLCI) two days earlier, we stopped at the check-in counter for the doc check and to get "real" boarding passes. With Korean Air and Asiana departures, the A pier security was pretty busy with at least 100 passengers snaking their way thru the regular non-priority queue. But with only 5 passengers ahead of us in the Priority queue, we were through security in less than 5 minutes.
 
 
Until it opened it's own lounge in December, Cathay used the British Airways Terraces Lounge. Although the food offerings were weak and access to the First Class room was not controlled, the direct and convenient boarding access to the jet bridge at Gate A6 was a big plus. In my opinion, Cathay fumbled the ball on the new SFO lounge. The new Cathay lounge is located with most of the other pier A lounges (except Emirates and British Airways who snagged the best locations) just inside security but a long trek upstairs and down a narrow corridor. Unfortunately, as the last one to build, Cathay got the furthest location from the gates.
 
 
 
A long, long walk down to Cathay...
 
 
 
 
 
While a separate lounge is a nice idea, IMO the lounge is a disappointment. Way too far a hike, lousy views and too small a space for the number of seats and a today's full complement of First & Business Class passengers. And the lack of a separate First Class lounge is a huge no-no. What were they thinking? As much as I complained about the British Airways lounge, I'd just as soon go back and use that, especially given the direct boarding feature. I think that Cathay would have been better served working a deal with BA to upgrade the Terraces lounge.
 

 

 

 

 

 

 
A rather basic selection of serve yourself food is available, including some made to order items from the kitchen... although the menu and protocol were unclear.

The eggs and sausage were actually quite good.

I didn't realize until I was doing the photo edit but, once again, I was on the receiving end of the "evil eye" as the chef was apparently none too happy that I was snapping pics.

Time to head out and check out the competition. Lining the long corridor walls just outside the lounge are some cool vintage Cathay Pacific poster pics.

Just back down the corridor, the Air France l'Espace Lounge doubles as the Korean Air Lounge in the morning.

Didn't pop into the Asiana lounge but it has the most impressive entrance of the lounges.

Believe it or not, I'd almost have preferred the Delta Sky Club which is much more conveniently located on the concourse level and with, hands down, the best lounge views in the terminal. Pleasant dragon thanked me for being a Delta Diamond Medallion and explained that although Delta now only operates 5 weekly SFO-Tokyo Naria flights, they are generally quite busy as the lounge is used by KLM, Air France overflow, Air Berlin and Air Canada among others.

The great view from the Delta Sky Club...

In the concourse itself, presumably Emirates outbid Cathay for the primo concourse level location.

One stop for a new trashy spy novel and it's back upstairs to round up the group, who were surfing the internet using the free Cathay wifi. Classy wifi password card.


 

CX 879
SFO-HKG
747-400
February 18, 2012
11:50A-6:50P +1 (sked)
11:50A-6:49P +1 (actual)
Departed 8/9
Seats 1A, 1K and 2A

Since Mrs. SFO is nursing a torn ACL (surgery when we come home) and is moving a little slowly, we head out for the gate at about T-50. She declined the wheel chair at SFO, but agreed on one in HKG. Double door boarding with the F/J/MP priority door remarkably lice light.

Boarding thru 1L and we were welcomed and shown to our seats by Esther, one of our three lovely FA's today. Both Pamela and Joni stopped by shortly thereafter to welcome us as well. And today's first glass of Krug!

Two days ago, we were the only 3 pax in F, and I had fleeting visions of another private charter. Alas that didn't happen as 5 more last minute additions made this a nearly full cabin today. Nice colors and soothing lighting in the cabin.

Our Shanghai Tang PJs...

Great airplane watching on push-back on a gorgeous sunny day in the Bay.

Cleared for take-off on 28R and a great view from 1A.

More spectacular views on our climb.

Once in the air, it didn't take long for our Esther, Jodi and Pam to spring into action, and deliver almost 15 hours of near flawless service.

The menu has a been nicely redesigned with more contemporary feel.

LUNCH

Caviar and Fine Smoked Salmon

International Favourites
Fennel and apple soup
Mesclun salad with king crab, tear drop tomatoes, cranberry and balsamic vinaigrette
Grilled U.S. Wagyu beef tenderloin with red wine sauce, parsley potatoes, asparagus and baby carrots
Lobster and crab ravioli with roasted red pepper coulis and grilled baby zuchini

Chinese Favourites
Double boiled conch and mushroom soup
Cold plate - marinated gluten with cucumber
Kung Po chicken
or
Pan-fried sea bass with sweet wine sauce
served with steamed jasmine rice and stir-fried mixed vegetables

Cheese and Dessert
Camembert, Yellow Cheddar, Danish Blue, Herb Goat Cheese
Seasonal fresh berries with cream
Bread and butter pudding with vanilla ice cream and chocolate sauce
Black sesame sweet soup

Tea and Coffee
Pralines

SNACKS
Grilled saffron marinated prawn skewer with cucumber raita
Grilled chicken breast with Brie, chipotle mayonnaise and pesto on sour dough bread with mesclun salad
Wontons in noodle soup
Hot pot rice with minced pork patty, water chestnut and mushroom, served with chicken broth
Ice cream

DINNER
Starter
Fresh seasonal fruit

Main Courses
Pan-fried kurobuta pork chop with porcini mushroom sauce, mashed potatoes, roasted heirloom carrots, baby zucchini and caramelized honey shallots
Stir-fried beef with mixed peppers, steamed jasmine rice pak choy, mushrooms and carrots
Dungeness crab cannelloni with white wine cream sauce and sauteed Swiss chard

Dessert
Raspberry mousse cake with chocolate whipped cream

Tea and Coffee
Pralines

Interesting that the menu was specifically printed for this flight/route.

Any ideas about what this entire string of numbers mean?

The wine list was a major improvement over a year ago.

Champagne
Krug Grande Cuvee Champagne

White
2007 Estancia Reserve Monterey Chardonnay
2008 Vincent Girardin Puligny-Montrachet Vieilles Vignes

Red
2010 Sauvion Deliction Chinon
2009 Finca Origen Gran Reserva Malbec
2004 Chateau Lynch Bages Grand Cru Classe Pauillac

Port
Ramos Pinto Quinta da Ervamoira 10 Year Tawny

The 2008 Girardin Puligny-Montrachet Vieilles Vignes ($45 retail, Cellar Tracker 91 rating) was outstanding, but they can do a lot better than Estancia Reserve for the same $20. The Lynch-Bages continues to be a staple while the 2010 cab franc Semillon Dilection was excellent.

Showtime as our meal service begins with the item by item elegant table setting.

The caviar and salmon were outstanding especially with another glass of Krug.

And the personalized note is always a nice touch.

Next, I decided to go with the double boiled conch and mushroom soup and moved on to the Girardin Puligny. Not a 1er cru, but still a lovely addition to the list.

Kung Po chicken was very good, even better with a little chili sauce and another glass of Puligny.

Look at all the pretty glasses all in a row.  The red is the 2010 Dilection which was really enjoyable.

Next up, I decided to pull a Short hair Francis and have a 2nd main, the grilled U.S. Wagyu beef tenderloin with red wine sauce, parsley potatoes, asparagus and baby carrots. It was excellent.

A wonderful selection of delicious cheeses and, naturally, a glass of the very nice Ramos Pinto Quinta da Ervamoira 10 Year Tawny.

Dessert? Why not. The bread and butter pudding with vanilla ice cream and chocolate sauce was sensational.

And pralines to end this afternoon's culinary orgy.

After a movie and little iphoto work, I happened to look out the window. Wow, the polar route today and some incredible views of Siberia...

One of the two F lavs on the 744...

Another movie and I'm ready for a snack, the always great wontons in noodle soup...

More sightseeing, somewhere over China...

And later between Beijing and Shanghai...

About 90 minutes out but not particularly hungry, I decided to take one for the team and have "Dinner". The refreshing fruit salad starter.

And the stir-fried beef with mixed peppers, steamed jasmine rice pak choy, mushrooms and carrots. Delicious!

Now one benefit of Mrs. SFO's torn ACL was the amazing reception at HKG and breeze through the terminal, customs and Immigration in HKG. At HKG, the 1L door was reserved strictly for F pax with the cabin divider curtain shut tight. J exits 2L with the back of the bus. Our wheel chair was waiting at 1L and we bid a fond farewell the Esther, Joni and Pamela. Just inside the terminal at the bottom of the jet bridge, we were met by our Mandarin Oriental rep with a golf cart. We zipped past the rest of our pax and pax from other arriving planes for what seemed like at least a mile drive to C&I, beep beeping most of the way.

While hundreds of pax did the perp walk maze, we drove far right where our "driver" took our passports into an unmarked office and returned 30 seconds later with stamped passports. Another 30 seconds, we exited C&I. What amazing service, and totally coordinated as a 2nd MO staffer met us outside the B exit and escorted us to our MO S-class for the 30 minute drive to the MO. Wow, simply wow.

Mandarin Oriental Hotel
Hong Kong

What a wonderful hotel with amazing staff. Great location near Statue Square and both Central and Hong Kong MTR stations.

How cool is this? A cigar lounge.

We had a Deluxe Harbour View on the 17th floor.

The bathrooms are a little dated but very functional. Great shower and cool in mirror TV.

With great views of Kowloon.

Hong Kong
Day 1
The Peak and Big Buddha 

While Mrs. SFO enjoys a leisurely morning at the MO, the boys head out to explore the sights of Hong Kong starting with a walk through Central to The Peak Tram.

Off to The Peak Tram.

And the boys' consensus pick for the most beautiful "photo" of the morning, day and trip.

Off to Central Station for the MTR ride to Big Buddha.

On one of the cleanest subways in the world.

Unfortunately, the Ngong Ping 360 cable car from Tung Chung to Big Buddha was not operating. So we were stuck on the #23 bus ride for 35 minutes of winding roads and changing elevations. So glad Mrs. SFO wasn't with us. But once at the top, it was well worth the effort.

Some wonderful scenery today...

And it is so sweet to see father/daughter days. LOL.

Since we passed on the street food at Buddha, we were starving by the time we got back to Tung Chung at about 2:45P. There is a shopping centre at the station with a huge food court. After a quick walk around to assess the options we made a good choice. 

More sights of the city as we take the MTR back to Central.

Hong Kong
Day 2
Star Ferry and The Ritz-Carlton Hong Kong at The ICC Centre

Only a 10 minute walk from the MO to the Star Ferry Terminal, past the new Apple store. At only HKD$2.50 (US$0.35) one way, what a bargain.

We used our 24 hour MTR pass to navigate our way to the ICC Centre.

And then to the 106th floor lobby entrance of the RC. What an absolutely amazing view from the two restaurants on 106. Unfortunately, Ozone Lounge on the 118th does not open until noon.

Back down at street level...

And lunch with Short hair Francis and mom and dad ShF

Apparently intent on setting a new two month and segment BIS record, ShF couldn't stand not being on an airplane for more than three days and decided to come home while we were in HKG... although sweating the wait for the ORD-PVG upgrade in a J0 cabin was almost too much for him. 

Francis picked us up at the MO and we shared a taxi to the 'burbs and a famous local goose restaurant. What a great experience it was and a pleasure to meet Francis' lovely parents. We refrained from too much "flyer talk" and had a great time. And the goose was simply sensational. Thanks again Francis and to your parents! Enjoy the pics.

Group photo after lunch, well sort of. 


 

 

Hong Kong

The IC Bar, Symphony of Lights and Spoon

For dinner tonight, Mrs. SFO opted to return to one of her faves, Spoon by Alain Ducasse. Although the rooms need a make-over, the Intercontinental has one of the best locations in Hong Kong. And the lobby bar has to have one of the most spectacular views anywhere. Even better during the Symphony of Lights and sound.

Another amazing culinary treat tonight. But, no food shots as Mrs. SFO warns "give a rest" tonight.
Apparently pics of the interior of Spoon are OK though.

And a few outdoor pic before our taxi ride back to Hong Kong.

 

SFO777jr and I enjoyed picking the Girls of Hong Kong.

 

Qantas First Class Lounge at HKG

The QF FCL is located on Level 7 just to the right immediately inside passport control doors. Similar to the Wing, it is open on the mezzanine level overlooking Level 6 and departure gates 15-19. It is very spacious (actually larger than the Wing) and well appointed. Despite two departing 744s, there was ample seating for everyone without having to sit near other pax. The only negative here is the lack of direct access to the Level 6. Even though the Business Class lounge is immediately below the FCL pax have to backtrack to the shopping centre escalator/elevator before head to the gate. There appears to have been elevator access at one time, but it is no longer functional.

The pleasant lounge "dragon" explained that the lounge used to be a combined QF/BA but it is now a QF lounge, although presumably BA pax can still access thru OW. The BA logo is etched in marble and can't physically be removed until the end of the year when a complete make-over of the entrance is planned.

Not evenly remotely close to the food and beverage offerings at the Wing, but an adequate selection nonetheless.

And one of the wait staff came around offering a very nice cajun shrimp/fried rice dish...

 

Cathay Pacific First Class Lounge
The Wing at HKG

After we settled in, I headed out to explore The Wing and check on the state of renovations.

No changes here...

But access to/from the Business Class Lounge and the elevators to the gates appears to have been eliminated with the addition of new room.

The dining room is wonderful as ever, with a beautiful selection of food...

I stopped to use one of the restrooms and found myself in one of the spa-type rooms. Interesting lay-out but seriously deficient in the ventilation department.