This report details the return leg of my journey to Lijiang, the first part including the reasons as to why I made the trip to the historic city can be found here: Tibet Airlines Airbus A320 Kunming-Lijiang
To start, here are some photos from my time in Lijiang
Looking over the city
A typical street in the heavily touristy old town
Just like Tibet Airlines, Yunnan based Lucky Air is also a rather interesting airline for me. Unlike Tibet Airlines, much more information on the airline could be found online in English. The airline was founded in 2004 as Shilin Airlines and operated several Dorniers around the region courtesy of Hainan Airlines. The airline then went on to operate Boeing 737s and Dash 8s before rebranding themselves as Lucky Air at the end of 2005. The airline has since grown rapidly and today now operates a diverse 43 aircraft strong fleet consisting of A319s, A320s, A330s, Boeing 737-700s and Boeing 737-800s to eighty destinations.
After a peaceful day and night in Lijiang’s Old Town it was time to head back to Kunming to start my long journey back to Korea. I had decided to leave the hotel around eight which should allow me to arrive at the airport with plenty of time before my 1130 flight. In reality at 0750 I found myself standing over the hotel’s owner in the cold courtyard attempting to wake him up so he could unlock the door to the outside world. After a minute or so I succeeded and the weary eyed hotelier gave me a sleepy goodbye and I was off to the airport bus station. After getting slightly lost after making a wrong turn I arrived at the bus station thirty minutes later only to find a bus pulling out, not the best sight considering the sign on the wall claimed that buses run every thirty minutes. However much to my surprise another bus was ready and waiting and so I boarded it, five minutes later we departed.
Mid walk to the bus station
The Airport bus station
No extra legroom on this ride!
The 20 Yuan journey starts off by heading through the grey but tree lined streets of the new town where we seemed to stop every couple of minutes at red traffic lights. Once we got out of the city our journey was quick on the near empty airport road, the final part of the journey taking us along the scenic misty valley where the airport is located, unfortunately I was on the wrong side of the bus for most of the good views.
After 45 minutes, we arrived at the glass terminal building of Lijiang Airport with around ten minutes until check in opened. Landside, the airport features several cafes and shops. Despite the fact that quite a few flights were departing at this time, the check in area didn’t seem too busy at all. As soon as the clock hit 0930, I attempted to check in using one of the machines, to my surprise these worked and I was able to select seat 28A near the rear of the cabin. After this I headed straight to the security area, which took about ten minutes to clear before I was in the significantly busier airside area of the terminal. Despite the terminal’s interesting and unique design, it isn’t the most modern of terminals, there was a distinct lack of seating, the smell of cigarette smoke was omnipresent, the toilets were dirty and of course the wifi could not be used without a Chinese phone number. On the positive side, I was impressed with the number of variety of shops and outlets in the terminal and if wanting to charge your phone there was plenty of available power stations where this could be done.
The spacious check in hall
Not China’s busiest airport but a respectable number of flights
The post security shopping area
One of the piers
Outside, the morning rush was in full swing, Capital Airlines seem to dominate the morning traffic at Lijiang with eight flights departing that morning to Nanning, Tianjing, Jinghong, Shijiazhuang, Wuhan, Kunming, Xi’an and Taiyuan. Local airline Lucky Air operate five morning flights to Luzhou, Kunming, Mianyang and Guiyang. They are followed by China Eastern, Juneyao Airlines and Sichuan Airlines with two flights each. At the bottom of the table are Chengdu Airlines and Tibet Airlines with one flight each. I watched as ‘Magnificent Qinghai’ liveried China Eastern A319 arrived from Xi’an and made a lighting fast turnaround before heading back to the historic city. Most flights seemed to be making equally fast turnarounds. On the far side of the airport at what I thought was a remote stand stood our aircraft, blocked by a Capital Airlines A320.
Airbus A320 Family Airport
Despite boarding scheduled to start at 1100, an announcement regarding its commencement was made at around 1050 and so I headed downstairs to the bus boarding gates where I narrowly missed the first bus to the aircraft. Immediately afterwards the second bus pulled up, being one of the first passengers to board the bus I had to wait for 15 minutes whilst the final stragglers came running to the gate. Eventually, 15 minutes or so before our departure time we pulled away from the terminal and began our short journey to the aircraft which was parked at the old terminal building at an international gate, not that Lijiang currently has any international flights. After disembarking the bus we made our way back inside and up some stairs that led to the jet bridge.
Waiting there was three year old sharklet-fitted Airbus A320, B-8732 sporting Lucky Air’s perhaps BA inspired livery. This aircraft was assembled in Toulouse and was handed over to Malaysian AirAsia on the 27th of June 2014 arriving at the carrier’s Kuala Lumpur base a day later via Dubai Al Maktoum. The aircraft flew for the airline for just under two years before being withdrawn from service in May 2016. The aircraft was then given a temporary French registration as it was converted to an A320-216 with Azur Aviation in Kuala Lumpur. On the 8th of August 2016 the aircraft was ferried to Tianjin to begin its new life with Lucky Air. In the week prior, the aircraft had flown a mere 23 flights, travelling around 13900 miles visiting Beijing, Chongqing, Hangzou, Hefei, Hohhot, Kunming, Lijiang and Taiyuan.
As I stepped aboard I was given no greeting which seems to be a common theme of the trip and made my way to the back of the aircraft. This Airbus A320 was in an all economy LCC style layout and the cabin seemed to be strangely familiar with black leather seats featuring seatbelts with red straps and a red carpet, the aircraft’s interior seemed to have largely remained unchanged since the aircraft’s days with AirAsia. After pushing past the two passengers in the middle and aisle seat I took my seat. The seat was rather uncomfortable with poor LCC style legroom although this wouldn’t be such a big problem on today’s flight considering the short flight time to Kunming. Bottles of water had been placed in each seat pocket which was a nice touch for a low cost airline, aside from this these contained a sickbag, inflight menu and shop catalogue, Lucky Air magazine and HNA group magazine both of which I recall as being in Chinese.
A couple of cabin shots (taken at the end of the flight)
Lucky Air’s headrests appeared to be sponsored by the same people as those who sponsor China Eastern Yunnan’s
A peeling sticker
A look at some of the food options
By 1125 all passengers had boarded. Like on the flight to Kunming most passengers appeared to be leisure flyers mostly from China although there were also a few Korean tourists and a couple of westerners onboard. As soon as the front door was closed an automatic announcement was made in Chinese and English which was then followed by a manual safety demonstration as there were no overhead screens fitted to the aircraft. After this was performed there was a short wait before we were pushed back at 1135 before our two engines came alive. Being located near the end of runway 20 the taxi took no time at all and before I knew it we were taxying onto the runway. Here we held for a two minutes before the engines spooled up and we went flying down the runway and up into the sky, rotating well before we reached the main terminal building. Our departure was pretty impressive and despite our steep time it took a while before we were at a similar altitude to the mountain peaks on each side of the valley.
Ready to pushback
Making our way to the runway
After a short climb we levelled off and hit the first significant patch turbulence of the flight which seemed to continue on and off for the duration of the flight which was quite heavy at times causing some worried looking faces on the passengers around the cabin. This also meant that the crew remained in their seats for the majority of the flight. Outside we took a similar route to the one taken to Lijiang although this time the lack of clouds meant the impressive mountainous scenery could be seen below us. A short while later after passing over the city of Dali the mountains turned to hills and we began our descent into Kunming. In the cabin most passengers were either fast asleep or gripping their armrests as we made a bumpy descent as the cabin crew came around the cabin for the first time and last time during the flight.
Eventually we reached Kunming where we came floating down over industrial scale farms and residential complexes before flying over a holding purple liveried Lucky Air 737-700 and making a bouncy touchdown on runway 21 43 minutes after departing Lijiang. After vacating the runway our taxi took us past the long line of Lucky Air, Sichuan and Kunming Airlines jets as well as the Tibet Airlines A320 that I had seen depart Lijiang a couple of hours or so before. We continued along this line to the HNA wing of the main terminal where we passed a Hainan Airlines Boeing 787 that had recently arrived from Beijing before pulling into our gate at the end of the pier. As soon as we pulled into the stand, all passengers simultaneously jumped up although it seemed like quite a long time before the front door was actually opened and disembarkation began. By the time I reached the front of the aircraft, the cockpit door was open and the cockpit appeared to be missing pilots after thanking the crew I stepped onto the jetbridge where a new crew appeared to be waiting eagerly, ready to start their shift.
Floating over the perimeter fence
A Thai AirAsia A320 bound for Don Mueang
Thanks for the ride!
I can’t really say too much about my flight with Lucky Air due to the length of the flight however the experience was okay. Obviously being a low cost carrier the legroom was not fantastic, although considering I was only sat down for an hour or so it was certainly bearable however for me I imagine on flights over two and a half hours this might have proven itself to be a little uncomfortable. Despite being a low cost airline, when booking domestic flights in China I have noticed that in a number of cases Lucky Air has been more expensive than the traditional full service airlines. Would I pick Lucky Air over an airline like Air China, China Eastern or China Southern? Whilst these airlines are certainly not perfect, I would certainly opt to fly them over Lucky Air.
Thank you for reading!
Please note, the photos of many reports seem to no longer be working however these photos can be viewed on my blog Forever in Y
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