The Perils of Travelling: Every plane trip is, well, different

The course of plane travel can run like clockwork, or rapidly come apart at the seems.

Every time you go to the airport, it can become an adventure.  Checking in, battling the airline’s kiosk, printing and attaching bag labels, going to bag drop, remembering that every airline does it differently.

Hong Kong airport is huge and there are endless boarding gates.  Being dropped off in the zone that belongs to the airline you’re flying is simple.  The next step is to find the aisle letter where your flight is checking in and then do the automated boarding pass and baggage label.

If it’s international travel which it is today, there’s the added stress of negotiating immigration and the duty-free stores.  We followed the rules, got there early, had the usual problems at the kiosk requiring the assistance of two Cathay Pacific staff, and finally made it to the initial departure concourse.

Next, there’s the temptation of overpriced airport food if you’re hungry which we are not.  But we have a McCafe coffee to satisfy a caffeine fix before the flight.

The shops are all expensive at the initial departure concourse, so we decide to see if there are other shops near our departure gate.  To get to our particular departure gate we descend to the train and get off at the 40-80 station.  It’s a short journey, and once back up on the concourse level we find a collection of more affordable shops where we buy every man and his dog a selection of sweets.

From there it’s a couple of travellators, which sounds rediculously short, but are, in reality, very, very long, to our gate and we get there ten minutes before boarding is supposed to commence.
Today we are traveling on an Airbus A350-900, a relatively new plane so you would think there couldn’t be anything wrong with it.  We had the same plane coming to Hong Kong and was, literally, plain sailing.

We find a seat in the gate lounge and wait along with everyone else.  I’m still surprised at the number of able-bodied people who take the disabled seats for the sake of being closer to the start of the line and worse was a woman who not only took up one of the seats but also another for her cabin baggage which was extensive.

Boarding starts late, and routinely for the first and business, and disabled passengers.  The rest now start to line up in the economy line.  Some people haven’t moved, perhaps they know something we don’t.

We eventually join the line and go through initial formalities while waiting.  And waiting.  As the minute’s tick by nothing is happening other than what appears to be growing consternation by the gate staff.  The tipping point for immediate concern is when the previously boarded passengers begin to come back through the boarding gate.

One of those who had been on board came our way and said there was a problem with the plane.  They were told it was due to technical difficulties the official non-scary description for your plane Is broken.  Because of consternation among the queued economy passengers, there was an official announcement that advised of the technical difficulties, and boarding would be delayed.

We all sit back down, but this time there were a number of disabled and elderly people who needed seats, and our able-bodied lady and her baggage didn’t move.  Shame on her.  We are lucky that where we were in the waiting line it was adjacent to nearby seats putting us closer to the head of the line when it reformed.

Now we were able to watch the other passengers jockeying for position to race to be first in the economy class boarding queue the second time around.  I think they realize they have the same seat if they are at the front of the line or the back.  Because we were all asked to sit down, those at the front of the queue would now find themselves at the end if they’d decided to sit and wait.

After a delay of about an hour and a half, we are finally boarding.  The worst aspect of this delay is losing our slot in the departures and I’m guessing this was going to have an effect on our actual takeoff time.  It appears to be the case.  Boarding does not take very long and shortly after the doors are closed we’re pushing back from the gate.

From there, it becomes a chess game when we get a slot.  We are in a queue of planes waiting their turn, and before the main runway planes are separated into two queues, and we are in the second.  Since we are the only one, I suspect we’re in the delayed take-off queue, and sit watching four or so other planes take off before we finally get on the runway.

All around us, planes seem to be going by and taking off while we wait, and wait, and wait…

On the plane, we discover one of the toilets is out of action so perhaps that was the technical difficulty.  It’s not full so one toilet down will have little effect. 

Leaving in the early afternoon will get us into Brisbane late at night.  It was meant to be around 11 pm, but with the delays, and possibly making up time in flight, it will now be after midnight when we arrive.  Fortunately, we have a 24-hour airport.

The flight from HongKong to Brisbane is without event.  Lunch after takeoff, then a few hours later, an hour or so before landing, we have dinner.  Both of us are not hungry.

We land after midnight, tired but glad to be home.  I guess it could have been worse.

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