The taxi finally stopped at the Terminal 1 of Hong Kong International Airport (HKG) after an hour long, chaotic and terrifying drive to the airport. The driver, who didn’t know a word in English, was bone-tired and was almost falling a sleep on every traffic lights we pulled in. I was petrified and tried to chat him up with my basic Mandarin. It was tough and we were not able understand each other but at least I kept him awake. We fought the language barrier nearly whole journey but finally we found our moment of affinity. I used the word “feiji” which means plane in Chinese. He reacts surprisingly vigorous and started to wave both of his hands imitating the birds wings and shouting “feiji”, “feiji”, “feiji”. Additionally he released the steering wheel for a couple of seconds which taught me never mentioned it again and even stop talking at all. When we arrived at terminal entrance, despite early morning, I was already exhausted, so as my wife which was suspiciously silent and holding my hand tide during the whole ride. She also looked grateful that our taxi adventure is over. So was I. Originally we intended to get to the airport by MTR Airport Express train but as our flight was so early the line was closed. In a very good mood we entered a huge and glazed Terminal 1 which was relatively empty at 6 a.m. on that Saturday morning.
The building was very spacious and well-lit in contrast to the darkness outside. It looked very modern, considering it was build in 1998 and absolutely massive and well organized. We didn’t have any problems with finding check in desks of Hong Kong Airlines, but as the queue was quite long we decided to use self-check in machines. Whole process was super efficient and easy. We were asked to scan our passports and were able to choose our seats. Luckily we were able to book two seats on the left side of the plane. I was happy because the aisle separated us from the passengers on our right and we had some privacy. I really like to fly Airbus A330/340 planes in economy as they have 2-4-2 seating configuration. After checking in only for a couple of minutes we stopped by baggage drop off counter and soon we were on our way to security check. It was a bottle neck of the airport. Wide check in area narrowed dramatically once we approach security. The queue looked long and slow, but I soon realized how wrong I was. Although the doors to this area was small the security facilities were also really huge and soon all the waiting passengers (including us) were served. I was happy because it meant we had more time to spot the planes and admire the size, architecture and duty free shops of HKG.
After we entered departure hall it was just after day-break and for the first time I was able to see how beautifully located is the airport in Hong Kong. The green mountains, partially covered in fog, South China Sea waters just close to the runways and planes waiting for the departure in this thrilling scenery literally took my breath away and made me starring at this landscape until my wife told me to stop.
The HKG was built on Chek Lap Kok Island, partially on reclaimed land and was constructed to substitute old Kai Tak Airport which was struggling to cope increasing passenger numbers and attacked by neighboring inhabitants protests. Kai Tak was located next to the residential areas which blocked airplane movements on its sole runway during the night. The decision was made to build a new state of the art airport. It has currently 2 terminals amongst which only Terminal 1 has gates and arrival facilities. Terminal 2 is being used only for check in, mostly by low-cost carriers. Terminal 1 is the 3rd largest passenger terminal in the world after Dubai Terminal 3 and Beijing Capital Terminal 3. In 2013 it handled almost 60 million passengers and was 11th busiest airports in the world by passenger traffic and 3rd by international passenger traffic. Moreover it has surpassed Memphis and becomes the world largest airport by cargo traffic with the impressive result of almost 4,2 million tonnes of loaded and unloaded freight. For such a mega hub, the building was not very crowded what makes you feel more relaxed and a bit like in Singapore Changi airport where softness of the carpets and silence, turn your usually exhausting travels into something nice. HKG has the same character, although it is absolutely more raw and less cozy, still being one of the best airports for passengers. It is also a great place for airplane spotting. As the building walls are wholly glazed and transparent, I was able to see every detail of airport life and a lot of Cathay Pacific airliners standing outside.
HKG is a primary hub for Cathay Pacific (CX) a national carrier of Hong Kong, Dragonair (KA) a subsidiary of Cathay, Hong Kong Airlines (HX) a member of Chinese HNA Group (owner of Hainan Airlines), Hong Kong Express Airways (UO) a small low-cost carrier and Air Hong Kong (LD) a cargo airline. The roof construction is white colored and has an industrial steel finish. HKG is very important for Hong Kong economy and employs around 65 000 people. That is why airport authorities think not only to save what they have but also to expand it further to meet growing demand in South-East Asia. It has beed decided that 3rd runway will be built and both passenger and cargo capacity will be increased accordingly to 97 million and almost 9 million.
The terminal, concourses and gates are all well marked and easy accessible. We had some time left before the departure, so we decided to see Plaza Premium Lounge and rest a bit. Lounge was very big and roomy but crowded. It was however not hard to find free seats. We were really hungry, so we looked forward to grab something tasty. Unluckily, great selection of dishes and appetizers served there wasn’t attractive for us. It is a matter of preferences but if you are not into asian food you might be disappointed. Lounge was comfortable but in my opinion too dark. Additionally I didn’t enjoy the lack of windows and low ceiling. However wide selection of armchairs, sofas and chairs would satisfied even most choosy traveller. 30 minutes passed quickly and we had to go to catch Hong Kong Airlines flight to Shanghai. Instead of using jetway they took us to the bus, which drove us to the plane. I must admit that HKG airpot makes a very good impression and it is defiantly one of the best and most convenient hubs in the world.