Hong Kong to Austin

This post is written by Katie, about her solo trip from Hong Kong to Austin.

My alarm went off at 6am, but I could not pull myself out of bed to go see the Hong Kong harbor for an hour or two. I reset my alarm for 8am and went back to sleep.

I awoke feeling good at 8am, dressed, and went downstairs to the YHA Mei Ho House Youth Hostel café for the included breakfast. There were three options: western, Chinese, or traditional Hong Kong. I almost tried the traditional Hong Kong, but opted for the western instead. It came with eggs, bacon or ham, corn, salad, and orange juice. Although not a large breakfast, it was tasty and adequate.  The dining area was large and comfortable with indoor and outdoor options. I sat outdoors and looked up at a hike you can do behind the hostel that leads to a view point.

Included breakfast at the hostel

The café at the hostel

After breakfast I went back to my dorm, packed, and showered. The shower was really nice with warm water, good water pressure, and well sealed doors. Then I took my bedding and towel down to reception, returned my key card, and checked out (getting my HK$100 deposit back).

Looking out towards the front of the hostel

 Lounge area on the third floor of the hostel

Then I made the short walk to the metro, where I took two metro lines and then the Airport Express line. Hong Kong transport is so efficient! I was at the airport in no time.

Airport Express train

Once at the airport, I was uncertain whether my flight was in terminal 1 or 2, so I guessed terminal 1 (and was correct). I easily found the American check-in counters on aisle E and checked-in my larger bag. I also received a lounge pass to the Hong Kong Airlines Club Bauhinia lounge. I went through security and customs and then made my way to the lounge.

Invite to the Club Bauhinia lounge

The Club Bauhinia lounge was beneath the concourse, but had good views of the tarmac. There were juices, sodas, beer, wine, and liqueur to drink and hot food to eat.  At breakfast time, there were both Western and local options as well as a food bar that seemed to be designed for children with chicken nuggets and french fries. I saw people with ice cream tubs as well, but it was not obvious where they obtained these tubs. There were quieter seating areas deeper in the lounge, but these had no tarmac views. I enjoyed apple juice, a China beer, veggies, chicken nuggets, and a banana, as well as the views. There were only Hong Kong power plugs – I did not see any universal plugs. The staff also seemed lax about clearing used plates and cups, which – considering the small size of some of the tables – became an issue. I used the bathroom on the way out; it was clean, but nothing special.

I walked to gate 34 and boarding had begun for my 777-300ER although it was not scheduled to begin for another 5-10 minutes. There were women holding up signs with the current boarding group, although I saw no boarding group listed on my boarding pass. Then I saw another woman holding up a sign with ‘American Airlines Platinum’ on it, so I went to her, showed my boarding pass, and boarded. There was another passport check and bag search (for everyone, not random selection as you often see on American-bound flights) before boarding.

Once on board, I quickly found my seat – one of 27 main cabin extra seats – and settled in with everything I would need for the flight. I was in the last row of Main Cabin Extra (American’s premium economy), so I was able to put my charging laptop under my seat.  As the cabin was filling in, I noticed two larger men get upgraded. I was jealous, but figured the airline took pity on how crammed they looked (and their neighbors looked) in their economy plus seats.

Then a flight attendant came to me and asked to see my boarding pass. I knew this had to be good (upgrade) or bad (getting removed from the flight for some reason). Once I finally dug out my boarding pass, he took it and gave me a new one with 13A on it, simply stating that they were oversold and he hoped I would not mind being upgraded. Sweet!

I gathered all of my spread out belongings and moved up to business class. Of course, I was so excited about the upgrade that I completely failed to take any pictures of my seating area before settling in.

Full-size pillow and blanket – and plenty of space – in business class on the American 777-300ER

 Headphones and a bottle of water awaited me at my seat

Soon after I settled in, a flight attendant came by with a choice of champagne, orange juice, or water. I chose champagne to celebrate my upgrade. I also got a USA Today newspaper to read. My seating compartment was nicely laid out with plenty of little compartments to store items. I especially like the one near my feet where I can store my laptop as it charges. In terms of chargers, there is one USB charger and one universal charger. The seat comes with a full-size pillow, blanket, noise-cancelling headset, amenity kit, and slippers. The one downside of the seat is that it is really difficult to see anything out of the window, especially while in flight, due to the distance the seat is from the window.

Champagne before take off
Business class amenity kit

Duck-taped cubby beside my seat

Before take-off, the flight attendant for my side of the business class cabin came around and took lunch orders and asked whether we would like to be woken for dinner before arrival. They were out of the beef and mushroom entrées for lunch, so I had to choose between scallops and duck. I chose the duck.

 Business Class menu

Take-off was 30 minutes delayed, first due to cargo loading and then due to the control tower. The pilot kept us updated on the status though.  Once we eventually took off, I was surprised by how close we passed by some of the mountains around the Hong Kong airport.

Lunch service started quickly once we took off. First, the flight attendant placed a white table cloth on my tray table. Then, drink service with nuts began. For my drink, I chose the fume blanc which was crisp and tart. Then the salad and spring roll appetizer was served along with a warm roll.  The salad and roll were good, but the spring roll was excellent as it was obviously fresh. After a delay in service due to rough turbulence, my duck dinner was served with another roll. The duck was moist but had a good bit of fat and was rather chewy.  Although not terrible, I would not recommend the duck entrée. The dessert was last with a choice of cheese, a berry tart, or ice cream sundae!  Dessert was certainly the best part of the meal, and I went with the ice cream sundae with fruit topping.

Nuts, wine, and water before dinner

Peking Duck spring roll starter and Seasonal Greens salad

Roasted Duck Breast with plum sauce, egg fried rice, and snap peas

 Traditional Ice Cream Sundae with nuts and seasonal berry toppings

After dinner I put my seat into lie-flat mode and opened my full size pillow and puffy blanket. The bed really was completely flat, and I could lie completely stretched out without my head or feet hitting anything. As someone who had previously only flown economy on overnight flights, the lay-flat bed was awesome!

I slept well for 5-6 hours, and woke at what would be 11am in Texas. I was too tired to work, but wanted to jump start my body to Texas time, so I watched some of the many entertainment options and blogged for the remaining 5.5 hours.

My cubby, with a view of the in-flight entertainment screen and the puffy blanket and pillow

We experienced a decent bit of turbulence during the flight, so the seat belt sign remained on for much of the flight. However, a few times when it was not on I went to the galley at the front of the business class section and got some popcorn and water from the self-serve snack bar. There were also sandwich rolls, pudding cups, and cookies, as well as other types of drinks.

Our arrival meal was served on a single tray about an hour and a half before landing. There were two choices: shrimp or quiche. I went with the quiche, which came with a salad, potatoes, zucchini (3 thin slices), and sour cream cake.  The quiche was well-cooked and delicious, albeit a bit small.  The sour cream cake was disappointing as it’s consistency and taste were not pleasing to me (but perhaps that is just how sour cream cake is supposed to be).

Arrival meal with the quiche

They collected the Bose noise-cancelling headsets about an hour for landing, which seemed a bit early to make us discontinue use of the entertainment system.

The bathroom at the back of my side of the business class cabin was pretty messy by the end of the flight. It was a normal, economy-size bathroom with nothing special about it.

My landing in Dallas was uneventful. I got an express connection card upon arrival, although with global entry I’m not sure it helped at all. Immigration and customs was quick and efficient, and for the first time ever, the global entry kiosk actually read my passport when I scanned it.  After receiving a `Welcome Home’ from the custom’s receipt checker, I rechecked my bag with no issues, and headed off to the American Airlines Admirals Club in Concourse D.

Once at the Admirals Club, I got a voucher for a premium drink. I redeemed it for an amber beer from a Texas brewery I had not heard of.  It was nice to see the Admirals Club stocking local beer! Then I got a plate with some carrots, celery, crackers, and cheese from the self-serve food bar and settled in to a seat overlooking the tarmac. The departures board in the Admirals Club said my flight to Austin was 45 minutes delayed, so I was not in much of a hurry.

I headed to my gate a few minutes before boarding was due to begin. I heard my name called, so I went to the desk and found I had been upgraded to first class as the 6th and final upgrade. This really had been a lucky day for me!

The flight ended up being completely full. My 3E first class seat was actually a bulkhead seat. It was much wider than the economy seats I am used to. The only other real differences were that we got to use real glassware for the drink service and we got to pick a snack from a basket with about 6 options. Overall, it was a nice, relaxing flight, and a great way to end an epic trip!

 Drinks in glasses on the short hop from Dallas to Austin

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