4 years after my last visit to Mumbai, here I am again. Same flight number, but with an earlier departure time. I arrive at the airport with no queue for Business Class check-in and reached the windows air-side just before sunset. Here is a new visitor to Hong Kong - American Airlines.
I spotted 3 airlines with A380 planes parked at the terminal today : Qantas, Emirates, and Air France. Emirates actually had 2, with Air France next to them.
After some plane spotting, I turn my attention to a new Cathay Pacific lounge for a quick bite. I never noticed one here before, and I couldn't even find a sign with the name of it. The entrance looked spectacular - right at the fork of the Y-shaped terminal.
It wasn't very crowded today and there was a decent selection of foods, including soups, dim sum, and lots of desserts. I didn't have time to check out the rest of the lounge though, but I'll be back here a few more times before year-end for some more exploration.
Boarding was punctual and I was happy to find the new Business Class instead of the old regional type on my last flight to Mumbai. The crew came with hot towels and a new signature welcome drink. I still love Cathay Delight but the Pacific Surprise is quite delicious with a strong hint of passion fruit.
6 hours is quite endurable in this environment. With an earlier departure,we would land just before midnight - a more manageable time although it will still be quite late by the time I reach the hotel.
We took off towards the east, then turned south. It was a clear night and the views were lovely.
Warm cashews first arrived, followed by a delicious appetizer of balsamic vinaigrette salad and smoked duck breast. The crew offered various types of breads and offered naan to me.
There were 4 types of mains available - 2 Indian choices, a grilled lamb chop, and prawns with black truffle paste. The rice was quite hard but the prawns were decent. The portion was quite small but what followed stuffed me beyond full.
The dessert cart came by with fruits and cheeses and I opted for a bit of everything. I started eating cheese since a prior Business Class flight and it is a must-have every time I fly now. I did not realize a lychee and mango mousse cake came afterwards and I got a slice, too.
Cathay's entertainment system has an extensive choice of programming. However, my focus was on the types of items on its shopping catalogue. Will you buy handbags, earphones, festive mooncakes, and chocolates on board? I guess this wasn't as bizarre as the pots available on Hong Kong Airlines' in-flight shopping booklet.
Time flew by and soon we were bouncing on descent into a wet Mumbai. There is a new international terminal and Business Class passengers have an expedited line for immigration. The immigration officer still took a while to sort out everything, but at least the hall was big and people didn't bunch up shoulder to shoulder. I had issues with the customs line last time but it was less painful this time. Everyone still had to put their luggage into the X-ray machine for scanning but the line wasn't so bad anymore and the area was a lot more spacious. A marked improvement from 2010!
Meanwhile, the slums are still here. The poverty problem is still rife.
The Prince of Wales Museum has a new name - a very lengthy name. The collection is quite good although it has been a long time since I encountered a photography pass requirement.
I still can't believe these historic machines are still on the street.
I returned to the Taj - first time after the terrorist attacks. The pool-side lounge is still screaming Old World.
Time for another trip to Mumbai! There weren't many people at the B section of the airport for Business Class and Marco Polo Club passengers. The agent told me Business Class was full today, which I suspected after online check-in came up with an error after I tried to go back in to change my seat.
I leisurely made my way along the terminal to spot some birds. EK's A380 strangely parked close to immigration today. There were a couple of 747s as well. The airport seemed busier than usual with lots of passengers seated on the floor. Perhaps they were stranded from all the Shanghai cancellations.
The Bridge was also quite busy although it was still easy to find a seat in the main dining area. After a quick bite and soup, I went looking for the noodle bar but couldn't find it.
The lounge stretches long with several open lounges but had very few of the private cabana chairs like at The Cabin. I ended up sitting at the long bar, where the server didn't bother to ask me what I wanted to drink and she didn't know how to make alcoholic drinks anyway.
Not impressed, I decided to make my way to the gate at the end of the fork. It was almost 19:45 and boarding had not yet begun. But they magically got everyone on board and closed the doors on-time.
The standard introductory drinks were served by crew with a smile. Strangely, we took off into the night with the cabin lights on full blast.
They provided a useless design amenity kit. My biggest problem with it is re-usability. There is no zipper and no button. What am I going to do with a cloth bag that is too small to carry groceries, but not secure enough to carry toiletries?
A few years ago, I made a complaint that equipment substitution resulted in flying a regional configuration plane with no lie-flat beds for the red-eye home. Good to see today's flight is in a more comfortable long-haul Business Class.
There is no Cathay Delight this month, so I settled for my 2nd favourite. My Oriental Breeze took some time to come out.
Immigration cards and customs forms were also not available on board. We were told they would be provided upon arrival. Another annoyance ...
Dinner service came next about an hour after we pushed back. There were only 3 choices today, a seemingly small number, with 2 of them being Indian. The lamb dish tasted all right, but was not filling, so I had to go for fruits and cheese at the end. There was no ice-cream but cake was available. By then, I was stuffed.
There is always room for cheese. You likely will go hungry eating in Economy Class, but past the curtain, you will be stuffed.
The IFE seems to have been improved with more TV selection, so I watched a few episodes before catching a doze. I made an observation a few weeks ago on the way to Sydney that the A330 J seat seemed smaller than the same on the 777. I felt this once again tonight.
Tonight's flight would take less than 5.5 hours. Soon, the captain came back and announced we would be descending. We landed earlier than schedule, although taxi in took quite some time.
There were long lines at immigration even for the Business Class lines, and it took about 20 minutes to clear, only to be held up again before entry to duty-free when 2 agents checked your passport has been stamped (not sure why). By the time I got to the luggage belts, my flight had disappeared from the screens and I had to hunt down my luggage, which had already been delivered and the baggage sign changed to Colombo.
Seems I haven't had much luck today from start to finish. There was a very long line leading to the X-ray machines in customs. Luckily, the line moved along so by the time I exited customs, it was already well past an hour of arrival.
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