Saturday, 19 September 2009

Highlights of CA957

Announcement

This post is the final post of the Fujian section. To read this section from the other posts, please kindly use the Stopovers sidebar or click on the following link to go to the first post First Post of Fujian Section.

Thank You for visiting my blog and I hope you have a pleasant reading experience!


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Date: Wednesday, 05 Aug 09
Sector: Xiamen Gaoqi (XMN) -> Singapore Changi (SIN)
Aircraft: B-5177, B737-808
Seat: 20A
Departure Gate: 9

Scheduled Departure Time: 1745 LT
Actual Departure Time: 1800 LT

Scheduled Arrival Time: 2200 LT
Actual Arrival Time: 2210 LT
Arrival Gate: D38

Check-In

Both domestic and international flights share a single terminal with different entrances to each section. I was very surprised that although Xiamen has a significant number of international flights, the layout and check-in procedure is similar to that of Nanning airport. The entrance to the international departure concourse is only open 3hrs before each flight, and it seemed that the international departures from Xiamen are grouped in 'waves'. This meant that a long queue quickly formed in front of the entrance as there were 3 international departures between 1700hrs - 1800hrs. This also meant that early check-in was not an option for passengers.
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Four check-in counters were opened for our flight but the LCD screens showed that they would only accept check-in of passengers 2hrs before departure. The information on the LCD screen were displayed in Chinese, English and Japanese. True to their word, the police officials and staff streamed in 5mins before and attended to the first passengers exactly at 1545hrs.
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Check-in hall
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After clearing immigration and security, I went straight to the gate area and stationed myself in front of one of the many large panaromic windows which afford a clear view of the apron
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Spotting

Hainan Airlines B737-400 B-2576 is one of the first Chinese aircraft to sport a special livery.
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Xiamen Airlines B737-700 B-5219. This aircraft has the 'transition' scheme which has the cheatlines only dipping slightly downwards in front. The new livery has the cheatlines extending all the way to the belly.
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Air China B737-800 B-2645 is one of the first B737 Next Generation aircraft to join Air China, having being delivered to the carrier on 29 Nov 1999. Air China now operates an impressive fleet of 57 B737NGs.
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An engineer sits on the tarmac in front of a China Southern B733 B-2539 as the crew was probably not ready for taxi after being pushed back from the gate
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Shanghai Airlines B-2539 B757-200 gets airborne for an evening rotation to Shanghai
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Philippine Airlines A320 RP-C8613 being parked at gate 10. The overcast conditions and the dark clouds in the background were due to Typhoon Goni which was ravaging neighbouring Guangdong province.
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China Eastern A320 B-6262 applying reverse thrust after landing on runway 05
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China Southern A320 B-6292 taxiing into the apron. CZ operates a varied fleet into XMN which includes MD90
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Deer Air A320 B-6222
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Yangtze River Express B733F B-5057 sports a similar livery as the carrier is also part of the Hainan Airlines Group. I prefer the former green and yellow based livery which features a cartoon rendition of a running green bean - which led to many of us referring to the airline as "Green Bean Express" instead when it used to operate to SIN
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China-SSS / Spring Airlines is one of the pioneering LCCs in China. However, I'm definitely not a fan of this livery! B-6039 A320
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With such interesting subjects, it was easy to lose track of the time. 1630hrs came and went, but there was still no sign of the B738 which would operate my flight back home. Just as I was about to head back to one of the numerous free internet access terminals in the gate to check on the status, I caught sight of a white B738 without any cheatlines on its fuselage on final approach. Surely it couldn't be?

Yes, it was! Olympics 2008 special livery B-5177. It would also be my first flight on a special livery aircraft
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The Flight

It would be unfair to state that normal passengers would not care even if the aircraft has a special livery. Not when an estimated 95% of the passengers are mainland Chinese and the successful hosting of the 2008 Olympics is still an immense source of national pride even after a year to most.

"WAH! FU WA!" A chinese teenager exclaimed to her equally excited friend and poses for a photo while her friend frantically finds her camera. Meanwhile, even the "ah peks" and "ah sohs" whipped out their camera phones, video cameras etc. and crowd the windows for a photo of this special aircraft which they were going to fly on
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View of the waiting area as our flight is being called for boarding. I could not understand to this day the rationale for mainlanders queueing right after they had reached the gate area when the seats had been assigned. An Air China staff walked among the crowd and requested for bulky items to be checked-in instead
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As boarding announcements were only made in Chinese and the LCD screen was not very clear, a Caucasian couple looked very lost and finally decided to join the queue. I love Chinese airports for returning the larger portion of the boarding pass!
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My heart literally skipped a beat when the cabin crew announced a delay, and my mind flashed back to the 18hr delay I had encountered on my outbound flight. Thankfully, it was only due to the fact that they had not completed the loading of the catering as the aircraft had arrived late. I noted that inflight magazines were missing from many seats and not all seats had the required safety card.

The safety video was being played as we were being pushed back, but I was paying more attention to this Chang'An Airlines B738 B-5115. It seemed that Hainan Airlines Group had made its mark everywhere!
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Xiamen Airlines B737-800 B-5152 being pushed back from her gate for her flight to Singapore also
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We turned onto runway 05 without delay and quickly accelerated down the runway and took off after a very long takeoff roll. Jimei bridge can be seen in this photo and it was evident that Xiamen would experience a heavy downpour soon from the dark and heavy clouds
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Following a very turbulent climb, the aircraft finally levelled out, catching the final rays of the setting sun
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It looked that there would be a full moon tonight!
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The meal was finally served an hour after takeoff and a choice of seafood pasta or chicken with rice was offered. However, the crew had ran out of the chicken option when they had reached my row and retrieved them from the other trolley when I informed her that I have a seafood allergy.The taste of the stir fried chicken pieces was average but the bamboo shoots were terribly salty. The pickled cucumber appetiser was sastifactory, as well as the peices of melons which made up the dessert dish. Fortunately, the bun was not as rock hard as it looked in the photo!
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Following the meal service, an inflight sales service cart was pushed from one end of the cabin to the other end with hardly a sale. It was a shame that Air China didn't have any inflight models for sale onboard as I would expect a twin pack Herpa 500 featuring two of their beautifully painted A330s would prove popular among the passengers on international flights.

Singapore immigration forms were distributed by the crew and many started asking for assistance in filling them. Despite countless screenings of a video on the overhead screens which contained very detailed instructions, much of the English illiterate passengers could still not understand. Thus, the flight stewardesses became parttime form fillers and painstakingly filled up the forms for their their fellow countrymen.
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My request for a pack of playing cards was quickly met and out of curiousity, I opened the plain looking box. I was surprised to note that each of the numbered cards contains a different safety message! I figured it was very creative for Air China to include relevant safety messages on the playing cards as many passengers favour playing cards as a means of passing the time on a long flight, especially as most of their fleet do not come equipped with IFEs. I felt like kicking myself for not requesting the cards on my outbound flight for another deck.
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After the screenings of "Singapore Immigration Card - Instructions", a western romance movie was shown on the overhead screens. However, only Chinese is available from either of the 2 audio channels which were allocated to the overhead video screens. I spent my time admiring at the full moon instead as I never knew that a full moon appeared so bright at 36,000ft
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Following a very bumpy decent through the clouds over Johor, we made a smooth landing onto runway 20R 2 minutes after 10pm and quickly taxiied to Gate D38. Immigration and baggage claim was quick as what we had came to expect of Changi Airport, and I noticed that many of cardboard boxes had burst open during the flight! This was despite the fact that they had been securely taped or bound. In addition, a number of baggage had their handles or wheels torn off. I figured that this might be due to rough handling as baggage handlers shoved in the bags in order not to hold up the departure of the aircraft at Xiamen.
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Go to the First Post of Fujian Section: Highlights of CA958

Highlights of CZ3979

Date: Monday, 03 Aug 09
Sector: Wuyishan (WUS) -> Xiamen Gaoqi (XMN)
Aircraft: B-6252, A320-232
Seat: 19A
Departure Gate: 2

Scheduled Departure Time: 0930 LT
Actual Departure Time: 0922 LT

Scheduled Arrival Time: 1020 LT
Actual Arrival Time: 1012 LT
Arrival Gate: 1

Booking

The original plan according to our itenary was to take an evening flight from Xiamen to Wuyishan on Xiamen Airlines MF8083. However, as this sector was ticketed by the receiving tour agency in China, they had only managed to secure a seat from Wuyishan to Xiamen instead on a morning flight on China Southern as they had booked the tickets at the very last minute. Therefore, we would take a train from Fuzhou to Wuyishan and return to Xiamen by air the following day. Unfortunately, this would mean that we had lost half a day at Wuyishan and as a result, we were not able to finish seeing all the attractions in the area in a day.

Check-in

Our tour guide drove us from our hotel to the airport after having a quick breakfast at the hotel’s restaurant. Wuyishan airport is located at the foothills of the mountain range and takes its name after the famed mountainous scenic area. The location of the airport is unusual as it is very close to the town centre and the scenic area. In fact, the final approach to runway 03 affords passengers seated on the port side a sweeping view of the major peaks in the scenic area. In addition, it is actually closer to the town centre as compared to the railway station from where we had arrived the day before.

After a brief ten minutes drive, we pulled up at the airport entrance. As it is only a small provincial airport with only a few narrowbody aircraft movements, a proper driveway is not necessary.

Airport Access Road from the main road.
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Wuyishan Airport
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Aircraft name in calligraphy
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There were only 2 open check-in desks which were currently processing the earlier Xiamen Airlines flight to Xiamen and Guangzhou, but we were able to check in for our China Southern flight at the same counters. The check-in baggage X-ray machine is located behind the check-in operator, and the luggage is manually placed onto a baggage cart at the airside when it exits from the X-ray machine.

Check-in Area
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Boarding Pass
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There were no queues at the security screening area and the officers were surprisingly polite, courteous and yet professional.Since I had forgotten to remove a full bottle of water from my bag at the hotel, it was picked up by the X-ray machine and caught the attention of the screening officer. However, it was to my complete surprise when she did not ask me to dispose of the bottle, but instead offered to empty the contents in the bottle into a pail and directing me to a water cooler in the waiting lounge where I could refill my bottle with drinking water.

I was thoroughly impressed as it showed that they could clearly understand that while the liquid poses a potential security risk, the container does not and there would not be any viable purpose in requiring the container to be disposed of as well.

The waiting area was clean and simply furnished with rows of chairs for passengers awaiting their flights. In addition, there were two local produce shops for passengers to do last minute shopping of Wuyishan’s specialties such as Chinese tea and mushrooms.

Waiting Area
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Large, clean windows at the side of the hall allow for an unrestricted view of the apron and the runway with the Wuyi mountain range visible in the background. Being a small provincial airport, there were no aerobridges at the airport which meant that I would have a chance to board the aircraft from the ramp.

Xiamen Airlines B737-700 B-5029 making a U-turn for the taxiway
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Soon after a Xiamen Airlines B737-700 had departed for Guangzhou via Xiamen, the China Southern A320 which was operating my flight arrived on time from Changsha. I had initially wished for an opportunity to fly on the MD90 when we had gotten news that we had been booked on a China Southern flight. Unfortunately, I realised that I had to contend with yet another flight on the A320 when I sighted its distinct profile on final approach to Wuyishan airport the day before. It was interesting to note that most of the passengers on the flight were continuing to Xiamen, as it was currently the peak sightseeing season at Wuyishan.

B-6252 taxiing into the apron after arriving from Changsha.
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The Flight

Due to the fact that the aircraft need not be refuelled, boarding was called barely after the last of the transit passengers made their way into the boarding lounge. Boarding was quick and it was obvious that the flight would be totally full.

Wuyishan Airport, Airside view.
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B-6252 embarking passengers from the ramp.
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A customary shot of the fuselage just before entering the aircraft. It somehow seemed to be a China Southern tradition to keep the exterior grimy!
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Upon entering the cabin, I was pleasantly surprised that the interior was clean and well maintained, which was a huge contrast with the grimy and stained exterior of the aircraft.

Interior of the aircraft, looking towards the front.
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Interior looking towards the rear
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There was no need for a push back tug as there was sufficient space for the aircraft to make a tight right turn and taxied towards the runway. I noticed that the security staff saluted the aircraft whenever an aircraft taxied past them, and had never noticed that on my previous domestic flights in China.
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I was very happy when our Airbus lined itself up with runway 21 for departure (which meant being able to see some scenery upon take-off), despite having very little hope earlier after witnessing the Xiamen B737 departing to the same destination from runway 03 barely half an hour ago.

One of the very few 5 star hotels in the area, Wuyishan Golf Course Hotel boasts a golf course nestled within the foothills of Wuyishan. The hotel is also unique for being one of the few that are equipped with passenger elevators in the region.
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Passengers were handed a packet of peanuts and were offered a choice of either bottled mineral water or a packet of 王老吉 (Wang Lao Ji) herbal cooling tea as refreshments. I had never dared to try the herbal cooling tea as I was afraid of diarrhea, but it seemed that the herbal tea was highly popular among the mainland Chinese and they had ran out of them when the trolley had reached my row. I was slightly surprised to discover that the bottled mineral water was bottled from a volcanic spring in Hainan Island as I never knew such springs had existed in Hainan Island. This was despite the fact that Hainan Island was also popularly known as the ‘Hawaii of the Orient’, which I had always thought to be due to its beaches rather than its volcanic activity.
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After a short but smooth cruise, passengers were requested to return to their seats and prepare for landing. In addition, passengers were also instructed to stuff the used packaging into the seat pockets in front of them. This was unusual as most stewardesses would carry a large trash bag down the aisle after the refreshment service to collect the used packaging.

Haicang district of Xiamen. This district receives significant Taiwanese investmen
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Flaps 4, final approach over Haicang port.
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Following an uneventful landing on runway 05 into a very overcast Xiamen airport, we made a long taxi and docked at the furthest gate in the terminal.
A Xiamen Airlines B757-200 awaits maintenance outside the company hangar
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Hong Kong Airlines B737-800 B-KBK
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Air China B737-700 with winglets at the domestic section of the terminal.
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Passengers were disembarked into the departures area of the terminal instead of a separate level for arrivals. This made it possible to obtain photos of other aircraft parked at the domestic gates at the terminal through the large panoramic windows.

Shandong Airlines B737-300. SC, surprisingly, has a significant operation based at Xiamen Airport.
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My first photo of a Chinese low cost carrier. B-6572 A320 Juneyao Airlines. The Chinese and English names of this airline differs as the English name was chosen to honour the founder of the airline who had unfortunately passed away (thanks to KC for the info).
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China Eastern ERJ-145 B-3058 parked at a remote stand
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Waiting area for flights departing from remote stands.
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Unfortunately, baggage reclaim was slow and I spent some time admiring at the various bronze reliefs of early flying machines which provided an interesting transition between the departure and arrival levels of the airport.
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List of domestic arrivals awaiting baggage claim. Shandong Airlines seem to operate a direct flight from an interesting destination - Zhoushan / Putuoshan which is located near Shanghai.
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Baggage claim for my flight.
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