Highlights of CZ3979

by - 00:20

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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Next and Final Post: Highlights of CA957

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