CX451 NRT-TPE 26/JUL B747-400, 3A, First
A boarding announcement was eventually made, and so I went downstairs to the CX gate, which again used two jetways to board this completely booked 747.
I was greeted at the door by a cheerful flight attendant and led to my seat 3A, which I had chosen as the next best thing given that both 2A and 2K were unavailable. 3A is definitely less private with 3D being pretty close, but I was lucky insofar as my seat neighbor across the aisle went to sleep immediately after takeoff and only woke up when we were on final approach into Taipei. And compared to most other seats on the plane, 3A is still quite nice… The First class cabin was completely full, with Asian and Caucasian men making up about 50% of the passengers each. The only women were the flight attendants.
During boarding and pushback, I had two Cathay Delights and was also offered a scallop canapé, which was nice. I flipped through the Morning Post briefly, but then stowed it and did not touch it for the rest of the flight. Slowly getting used to it, my heart did not stop this time when the people in the video shouted “Brace, Brace!” and I enjoyed the view out of my row of windows while we taxied to the runway and then roared into the Japan sky. Shortly after takeoff, we did a 360 degree left turn over the coastline, and I got a beautiful view of the beaches and fields that make up this part of Japan. Our routing then took us pretty close past Mt. Fuji (which was still covered in clouds, as were we) and then out over the sea. The captain announced a flying time of 2:45 hours, and expected nice weather underway as well as in Taipei. Roughly five minutes after takeoff, the flight attendants offered another round of drinks, along with a choice of either western or Japanese nibbles. I chose the latter, but would not do so again. While the dried peas were okay, there was some other green stuff in there that I did not overly like. But I decided to be a man about it and just washed it down with the champagne that I had also got. The drinks and wine list were the same as on the last flight, and here’s the menu for this sector:
I anticipation of such a culinary feast, I had again not eaten much (nothing actually, now that I think of it!) during the day, and was more than happy to accept the appetizer and soup that my flight attendant offered. As my main course, I chose the beef, accompanied by egg fried rice and some veggies. The flight attendant refilled my glass of Champagne without me asking for it, but that was just as well as I figured that it would carry me nicely through the appetizer. I also ordered some sparking water, which was promptly delivered and kept full for the rest of the flight. They even exchanged the glass periodically - not that it would have been dirty or anything. Despite having a full cabin and a short flight, the flight attendants still managed to serve everyone with both efficiency and courtesy. My table was laid and the appetizer was served immediately, along with my choice of bread from the basket. The garlic bread looked tempting, so I had some of that. It was only later that I realized that garlic bread will be served again with the next course, the soup. The appetizer was generous in size and also very tasty. It was a nice start to what I determined would be a very western meal for a change. As my plate was cleared away, I saw the flight attendant reaching for the Champagne bottle to refill my glass, but I politely declined and just had some water with the potato cream soup, which was served within seconds of the appetizer disappearing. Again, the soup was not bad, but just very unspectacular. But I did like the extra garlic bread, and thought that this being First class, I can afford to eat all that garlic as there were no other passengers in my immediate vicinity that could be offended by my bad breath. I still popped a couple of mints at the end of the meal though, just to be sure.
By the time the main course was served, I felt slightly stuffed already, but at the same time determined to proceed with the meal as planned. Somehow, my intention of having a thoroughly western meal must have become known to the flight attendant taking care of me, as she served the entire course on one large platter and not using a separate rice bowl. This allowed it to just use fork and knife, even for the rice. The presentation showed great attention to detail, e.g. in the way the gravy was dripped over the meat, but the quality was definitely below the one I enjoyed on the outbound from Hong Kong. The beef was slightly overcooked for my taste, and the mushrooms were chewy. Please bear in mind though that this criticism only applies to First class food, these minor deficiencies would not at all have mattered in Business, let alone in Economy! It was still a very good meal, and I had wanted to have a nice glass of red wine with it. But I must somehow have missed the right opportunity to make the crew aware of my intention, and they were now nowhere to be seen, leaving passengers to their own while eating. After waiting for a while, I finally decided to - for the first time ever - use the call button. I pushed it, and within the fraction of a second, probably while my hand was still retreating from the button, “my” flight attendant was at my seat, asking me what she could do for me. I was, again, very impressed! My request for a glass of Lynch-Bages was accepted with a smile, and a glass plus the bottle with the precious French liquid appeared shortly thereafter. It was poured in my sight, and I voiced my pleasure after tasting it. Even on an altitude of 35’000 feet, it smelled and tasted very nice and accompanied my food beautifully. In hindsight, I think I should have had more of it with the cheese instead of the port, which as mentioned before, I did not overly like. Unfortunately, that thought did not occur to me when the cheese course was presented. The selection of cheeses was the same as on the outbound flight, but while back then I had just asked for a “selection”, I dared being a bit more specific this time and requested only three of the four cheeses plus some crudities, along with a dark bread roll and, as I said, a glass of port. The “selection” on the last flight offered a huge amount of cheese, and I had sort of anticipated this serving to be smaller, as I ordered less. However, this sort of thinking does clearly not go into Cathay’s training for its cabin crew: What appeared were three hunks of cheese that each were about 8% larger than the four hunks on the way out - you do the math! If I remember correctly, I did not finish all of the cheese, and I informed the crew that I’d like to take a quick break before indulging in dessert. Speaking of which, I noted that it was the bread and butter pudding again, the same as on the outbound flight. Not having overly liked it then, I decided not to have it again and instead asked if it were possible to get some ice cream from Business class. Of course it was, and the flight attendant knew the three Häagen-Dazs flavors on offer by heart. I went for the Cookie ‘n’ cream, which was offered after my requested “break” time of 15 minutes had elapsed by the ISM herself. She presented it very nicely on F class china, introduced herself and chatted with me for a short while. She told me that of all the 300+ passengers on board, I was the only one continuing on to Hong Kong, and that I had the choice of staying on board or wandering around TPE airport for an hour or so. I chose the latter, and she said that she’d inform the captain so he can radio to TPE that they’re prepared for my arrival. The comment made me feel like a true VIP (although in the end, I did not notice anything special when we got to TPE), and the ISM wished me a pleasant continuation of my trip. I decided to peek into StudioCX in the remaining fifty minutes of flight, and watched an entertaining short feature about a British travel journalist in the “-stans”, as he called them, the countries of Central Asia. While doing so, I enjoyed a good (N)espresso, which was presented in a color- and playful little cup. Again, there were no pralines to be seen, and I did not feel like asking for them. My cup and water glass were collected shortly before landing, and I stowed the noise-cancelling headset and looked down onto a lush green island as we made our way into TPE airport, where we landed slightly behind schedule, but having made up most of the ex-Tokyo delay.