Chicago, Hong Kong, Singapore,

The Long Flight: Chicago-Hong Kong

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Sometimes, you are good. Sometimes, you are lucky. Sometimes, you are both. 

On this day, it was the latter.

I was going to get to Singapore, assuming no fails along the way. There were plenty of open seats on both segments of the flight (yes, same airplane but when travelling as an SA, you must get off and standby again for the next segment). The only question was if I could manage to get a full row in Economy or a seat in the middle in Business Class. First was not a possibility, so I was content knowing I was going to get on the flight and not be in a middle seat on a full flight.

Then about an hour before the departure, an aisle seat opened up in Business Class and the way the standby list was going to shake out, the two couples ahead of me on the list were going to be sitting together, which left the lone aisle seat…which I got. Talk about luck.

First, getting Business Class all the way from Chicago to Singapore would made an enormous difference in how I felt when I arrived in Hong Kong. Had I been in Economy, which seemed very likely the day before I left, I would be a bit more beat up. I actually got about seven hours of good sleep (as good as it can get on an airplane) and was actually quite rested when I arrived in Hong Kong. My neighbor in the window seat was also going to Singapore and was a traveller we class as a “road warrior”, as he had made more trips between Chicago and Singapore than you and I could possibly imagine. I applied the “good seat neighbor” policy; I let him know that he could wake me as often necessary if he needed to get up and I would do my best to ensure that he was as undisturbed or as engaged as he desired. He preferred the “undisturbed”…so that’s what I delivered.

Second, when you get a great crew, the trip can be down right fun. On the flight over from Chicago, they were amazing. They were helpful, flexible and actually wanted to be there. I’ve experienced some very long flights in Business Class where I didn’t see the crew much. While that’s fine, it doesn’t make the trip special. This crew made it special. They also made it pass very quickly.

If you are not an aviation geek, then please skip the next two paragraphs. Otherwise, allow me to describe the route to you. WARNING: If you have trouble with latitude and longitude, go get a map or a globe.

We were OFF ORD at 1929Z (129pm CT), our route took us north over Green Bay, then we flew in a NNE direction up into Canada. We entered Edmonton Center airspace at 2030z (01:01 after departure) at N49.75 W085.93, crossed into Winnepeg airspace briefly, then back with Edmonton as we continued on our slightly NNE track (around 015 degrees) until we reached N65.00 W083.73 at 2221Z (421pm CT). As a matter of fact, we did not start heading westbound until about 2230Z (4:20pm CT). We crossed into the Polar airspace (at 70N latitude) at 2257Z/ (457pm CT), we started arcing westward as we continued north and entered Anchorage Center airspace, right of track at LEESL intersection (N85.30/W141.00) at 0108Z/708pm CT (5:41 after departure) at N85.50/W141.00. This would be our furthest north waypoint.

We crossed into Russian Airspace (Magadan Flight Information Region or FIR) at N85.25/W168.58.4 about 15 minutes later and started arcing our way west and south toward Siberia. The dateline (180E) was crossed right at 85N. We made landfall in Siberia at RANEN intersection N73.54.1/E125.29.2, then proceeded south through Siberia into Mongolia at SULOK at 0817Z (12:17am CT), at 10:52 after departure, entering China at POHLO intersection, N44.47.0/E113.15.0 at 0850Z (12:50am CT), 11:21 after departure. We then tracked SSE passing to the west of Beijing, over Wuhan and into the Hong Kong airport, touching down at 1022Z (4:22am CT), 14:57 after we departed Chicago. We were fully an hour early arriving in Hong Kong.

The transfer in Hong Kong was actually really very clean; get off, go through a security check, then back up to the gate. Only problem? While I had a seat, I had no boarding pass. I had to hike down to the transfer desk and get a paper boarding pass before I could pass security. Once through, it was a very short walk to the Airline club, and yes, I purchased another pass. The two hours of peace and quiet, a meal, all the juice and water (or beer and wine, if I chose) I could drink, then a reasonably short walk to the gate.

I slept about three quarters of the flight from Hong Kong to Singapore, just in enough time to eat a light meal and have a bit more of the sparking wine. We arrived in Singapore just before 145am (1745Z). We pushed off the gate in Indianapolis at 745am (1245Z) on Tue Feb 28, and I arrived in Singapore on Thu Mar 02 at 145am (Wed Mar 01 at 1745Z). The entire trip took 29 hours, exactly. All of that said, I arrived in Singapore in pretty good shape physically.

Of course there are some rules I follow when I fly anywhere, but especially when I fly long-haul:
• First, water, water and more water. You cannot drink enough water when you fly.
• Second, no liquor. Now in the context of full disclosure, I broke that rule; I had three glasses of a really excellent champagne on the Chicago-HKG leg and about 1/3 of a glass of port with my cheese plate. Keep in mind, an airline glass is about 1/3 the size of a regular glass. In other words, I consumed maybe eight to nine ounces of wine over three hours.
• Third, limit coffee. Caffeine being a stimulant will make you dehydrated faster.
• Fourth, EAT. Make sure that you eat at regular intervals, no more than every six hours and keep the meals small. The portion sizes were actually more than I expected, but not unreasonable and when you take three hours to eat an airline meal, being able to enjoy doesn’t make you uncomfortable.
• Lastly, get up and walk around. A lot. Moving the blood around is critical to preventing deep vein thrombosis which is a problem on long haul flights. I wear compression socks, take an aspirin before I board the flight (or Alka Seltzer) and walk on the plane at least once every couple of hours for at least 10-15 minutes. If you have a plan for the flight and execute on it…in other words, do what I’ve suggested, you can mitigate how crappy you feel when you arrive at your destination.
Of course, that much travel takes its toll…and it did. I’ll talk about that in my next blog, because there’s a couple of important lessons to be learned (hence the “teaser”).

And the journey continues….