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CoVID-19, HKG and East Africa

PineappleSkip

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Just a placeholder right now. Kickoff in a couple of days. Never done a TR. Never even found where they lurk. But a transit through HK might be of interest...en route to the land of (DO NOT TRAVEL) milk and honey.

Some context for this report in this Captain Joe Vlog about coronavirus and the aviation industry.

cheers skip
 
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PineappleSkip

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Ok, here's the game plan. Pineapple is off for a work trip to East Africa, QF to HKG, ET to ADD, then HGA, the latter of which warrants an into of its own later on, then reverse and return from HKG on CX. ET isn’t the world’s worst airline, it vies for the accolade of Africa’s best. The 787s from Asia to ADD are mostly empty in ).

Client was so kind to time the trip to match Mrs. Pineapple's needlework trip to LHR and the UK. A preliminary bolt-on to Mrs P’s itinerary of a visit to Paris produced a departure to and (triumphal?) return from HKG together. Mrs Pineapple’s onward flights are with Finnair. The only downside of the reshuffle was that Finnair’s website, and the CSO we called in HEL, were unable to alter the destination, meaning a few points burned and a lengthy layover outbound at LHR connecting to a BA flight to CDG

Gremlins always infest my grand plans, and of course this year’s gremlin was a creeping tide of red spots that erupted in Wuhan and is marching across Asia.
 

PineappleSkip

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Ill winds blow no good

The red spot tide has, of course, slashed CX’s flights to ribbons, and the Pineapples were not spared. With separate bookings on ET and AY we abandoned hope of the triumphal return together.However, as it turns out, two small wins.AY books Mrs Pineapple on QF97, not the expected AY codeshare, doubling the SC haul. After CX cancelled a succession of flights to BNE, and proposed a two night layover in HKG (no promise of accom), client’s TA rebooked moi on the midnight flight to SYD with an onward connection to BNE. Again, QF flight number, although there was a CX codeshare number for the flight. Interesting pattern here, do plagues represent SCearn opportunities ?
 

PineappleSkip

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catalina restaurant. Dead quiet - a scene setter - they told me 130 guests for the night. Wot, no oysters? The consolation prize was scallops, which didn't really need drowning in cheese. Reminded me of Eagle Boys Pizza
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Main course was nicer. Confit of pork belly...
 

PineappleSkip

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Ok, on to the main game, QF97 BNE-HKG
All quiet at checkin, possibly a good thing as the self check in machines were all shut - this is because staff have to quiz everyone on whether they've been in China in the last 14 days.
20200220_072855.jpg
After that, the good news. QF were able to issue BPs for my onward ET segments. Previously all they could do with an ET ticket was check baggage through.

View from the QF BNE Int'l lounge. Not busy, but not dead quiet either. No trouble securing my favoured ringside seats.
20200220_080122.jpg
 

PineappleSkip

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HKG sure is quiet, although not completely bereft of passengers, as some reports suggest. I'd reckon on about an 85% mask wearing rate among the locals, and maybe 15% of westerners wearing masks. Many of the retail outlets started closing about 20.30.

The pineapples were busy with their lounge dilemma. She is on Finnair, and could access CX, QF, or from 21.00 the Plaza First lounge near the CX wing. He, flying ET, hoped in vain for pity - or the recently vaunted paid entry - at the QF lounge, and got a bum steer as to which lounge to use (No, it's not skyteam). It used to be Hongkong airlines' Bauhinia lounge, which is, um, average, but is now closed. HKIA website reckons it is now Thai Royal Orchard lounge. The compromise was one free and one paid entry to the Plaza First lounge, a first for us. HKD880 for 3 hours a bit of a slug, but not much more costly than Dubai's Marhaba lounge, and 1,000 times better. Also gets you a massage as well as a shower, if you fancy that kind of thing.
Have a look
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The showers were small, but nice, all black marble reminiscent of the wing.
 

craven morehead

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pit stop last night at the BNE novotel. Yeah it was ok, quadruple points offer made ALL actually have some value. The windows are now hopelessly fogged up. usually get some sort of train view
View attachment 206257
Have stayed there ~40 times, now moved down the road to the new Pullman at BNE Domestic. Owned by same family company.
 

PineappleSkip

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ET645 from HKG to ADD. Sent to the desk with the QF issued boarding pass and got it back, scribbled on, after Timatic and visa check. Apparently ET has a policy of not trusting boarding passes issued by other airlines, probably due to lax (or no) scrutiny by other airline checkin staff in Africa.

Quite a surprise on boarding. Usually this flight has a handful of people in J, and quite a good loading in Y. Stepped into J and the cabin was fuller than I'd ever seen it. With quite a lot of flight crews occupying the rear of the cabin. It appears that ET may be deadheading quite a lot of their china pilots back through HKG. They have cut but not eliminated flights to the mainland, and not sure the reason for channelling pilots back - presumably from mainland china. When I peered back the Y cabin was about 1/2 full, somewhat off the pace but not hugely. I didn't go there.

The service was same as usual. Lallier brut champagne before takeoff (and also offered before landing - at 4 am ADD time :oops:). And hot towel service, which I think QF had axed.

Here's thd j cabin midflight
20200221_091206.jpg
 

PineappleSkip

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ET are an Ok airline, with a pretty new and diverse fleet. They claim, FWIW, to be best in Africa. Have read that their 787s with an earlier angled flat J seat, and a later fully flat one. I have never seen the latter, possibly my chances would be better on a flight to Europe.

Not the best photo, sorry
PSX_20200222_051009.jpg

Meals are OK, here are dinner (only ate the duck starter) and breakfast omelet
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PineappleSkip

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Entry into ADD, very early and one of the first morning flights in, with the award of a gate. There aren't enough and it's normal for a large aircraft to pull in at a remote stand. Close to the equator but the over 2000m elevation means cool mornings - 11° - in February.

Coming off the aircraft, a half dozen people with temperature sensors to catch the feverish, a much bigger display than arriving in HKG. And two free masks, one of which I was told in no uncertain terms to put on.

Face masks. My company on the flight was a HK doctor who showed me how to fit same. She was looking forward to getting out of HK for a holiday. COVID on top of protests was rather wearing. Earlier we'd talked about masks, which she didn't use in HK until the bus driver refused to let her on without one. Hers was a flash black HK protest version, mine a USAID (or somesuch) freebie. Among the Chinese pax, one wondered to what extent mask wearing was protocol. Many of them had removed theirs inflight, but put them back on in the aircraft.

I kept mine on until they had virtually disappeared from other non-Chinese faces. This was just after the transfer security.

All in all a great show of public resolve, but one that shows the soft underbelly of hurried aid programs. The two mask freebies per PAX of doubtful benefit at best, and the hard part - the shift in culture - not really in evidence. The rapid increase in COVID testing ability - from two to thirty in a couple of weeks, is very welcome, though.
 
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PineappleSkip

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Addis airport. One of Africa's busiest, and recently expanded with Chinese belt and road money, although it still struggles to cope on a busy day. That money, and that debt, is what has Ethiopia standing 'shoulder to shoulder' with China. The good news is that as a result of the flights to my destination, the capital of Somaliland, have been moved from Terminal 1. Terminal 1 was industrial strength wretchedness, and I do not miss it. Particularly bizarre was that the duty free store only took USD cash, and the sole ATM only dispensed Ethiopian Birr. Go figure that, you can buy beer, but not with birr. Terminal 2 has the luxury of eftpos type terminals.

As Ethiopian's big hub, ADD has two peaks of arrivals and then departures, the first in the early to mid morning, the second in the mid to late evening. The HKG flight is one of the first in the morning, and arriving half an hour early it was particularly quiet. Here's the main concourse of terminal 2 before the crowd (?) arrives. As you can see, a big barn of a place.
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The terminals are in a line (if two terminals can form a line), with all the gates along one side. Terminal 2 has a couple of parallel rows of shops giving it a feel vaguely like an Asian shopping mall of the 70s. As is its style, T2 had livened up after a couple of hours, although it seemed less busy than usual.
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PineappleSkip

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Lounging in ADD. Statusless with * alliance, but flying J, I have access to the Cloud 9 (i.e. business) lounge. There is another lounge, the 'premium lounge', but it looks a step backward from this one. If you like red chairs, this is the place for you. Luckily my flights arrive early, so I get a good choice of furniture.
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Here is a cornee of the buffet, with the setting for the coffee ceremony behind. Never done one, but it occurs in the evening, and appears to involve a lot of smoke.
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Ethiopia, where coffee came from, takes its coffee seriously. Unfortunately not so seriously they have a good expresso machine. There is a rather tragic self service push button job.

The food is different. There are always one or two Ethiopian options, and today it was injera firfir. Firfir is a tasty Ethiopian stew, and injera is a sort of spongy flatbread (tastes better than that sounds). I'd eaten on the plane, fuguring that a better option than the buffet at the moment, but plunged in when I saw it was fresh and untouched. You can't really see the firfir; it's wrapped in the injera...
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After a couple of hours the lounge was pretty busy, possibly less so than usuak, but not a lot. There are occasional pa announcements of departing flights, but mostly it's a staff member wandering the lounge and announcing in town cryer style.
 

PineappleSkip

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Would love to go to Ethiopia.
I must have been in HK at nearly the same time. Was there Friday.
Indeed, I was in HKG from about 6 to midnight Friday. Endorse Ethiopia as a place to visit, great scenery, great food (confirmed) and fascinating historical places (according to ET magazine articles). Never visited but on the bucket list.
 

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