I absolutely loathe early-morning flights, and I absolutely loathe airports that are miles away from the city they predominantly serve. Welcome to Taiwan Taoyuan Airport (TPE), about 30km west of Taipei City Centre.
Of course I'm whinging and there's nothing too bad about that distance, and the metro line extension to the airport due to open in the next year or two will make the journey easy as pie, but leaving the house at 4:45am to catch an 8am flight does leave me questioning my sanity. However, a brisk 35 minute journey at 900TWD (about €22) later I managed to arrive at TPE Terminal 1 nice and early, and I could get everything done and relax a little in the lounge.
I arrived at the check-in desk and there was no queue. Normally I'd walk to the business class counter, as my OneWorld Sapphire status allows me, but in trying to blearily-eyed navigate the labyrinth of the retractable barriers I somehow ended up at the economy class desk for my business class flight.
Given my relatively complex routing of TPE-HKG-SIN-AUH-AMM-LHR and with a maximum of 4 airports permissible on a single baggage tag, the check-in lady could only offer to tag my suitcase up to Abu Dhabi (AUH) because the sectors thereafter were more than 24 hours away. Instead I followed the advice of my fellow Flyertalkers and asked for it to be tagged to Singapore so I could do another check-in there.
The agent also asked whether I wanted to be shifted onto the earlier 6:30am flight (remember it was about 5:20 at this point). My instinctive response was “yes”, because I could use The Wing lounge at HKG for longer, rather than have to skip it because of the short transit time. My boarding passes for TPE-HKG and HKG-SIN flights were printed and off I went to passport control.
It was pretty busy at passport control and I had to wait 10 minutes to be served. After clearance this didn't leave much time before boarding, so I made a run for Cathay Pacific's Business Class lounge to try to get some breakfast. Thankfully the signage is pretty clear, despite having to walk through a construction site to get there! The dark lighting perhaps wasn't what I expected given I'd been to Cathay's lounges in London Heathrow, Frankfurt, Paris Charles de Gaulle and Hong Kong before. Nonetheless it still had remnants of Lunar New Year decorations though.
Whilst I was waiting for my order I took a quick stroll to the food counter beside to assess it. The variety was a bit limited, but the supply was more than enough to feed the hungry lounge visitors. The food was an almost entirely Eastern selection, with very few Western things like omelette or bacon etc. Drinks were the standard airport range: tomato, orange, apple juices and lots of soft drinks.