Thursday, March 13, 2008

Best Post-Flight Thus Far

Last Thursday, I flew from Beijing to Hong Kong. My husband and I were staying at the Four Seasons Hong Kong for a long weekend, but were arriving separately. My flight was arriving first from Beijing and he would follow much later from Shanghai. As I'd never been to Hong Kong as an adult and I knew I would be tired from my time in Beijing, I decided that it would be best for me to just have the hotel arrange for an airport transfer.

I actually do this a lot when we travel internationally or when I am landing alone. (We did this for every new city on this particular trip). When in a foreign country and alone, I feel safer having the hotel arrange for a car to pick me up at the airport and take me directly to the hotel. I can be more free about my means of transportation when I have a traveling companion or when I've already been to the city and am comfortable with the taxis or public transportation options. The cost is clearly going to exceed the cost of a taxi in most (but not all) cases, but I believe it's worth the extra cost to ensure my relative safety and to cut through the trouble of figuring out where to go to find transportation to the hotel. After Immigration & Customs, I'm usually tired of lines anyway.

My flight landed at the International terminal, and immediately upon exiting the jetbridge (4:05 pm), I saw a woman with my name on a placard. Back in the U.S., you usually don't see your limo driver until after you have exited Customs with your luggage. She wasn't actually my limo driver though. She was my cart driver. Apparently, in Hong Kong, upon arrival you can pay to have someone drive you via a quasi-golf cart from your arrival gate to Immigration. Surprise! She was very nice and greeted me with, “Welcome to Hong Kong!” I must say, after a few days in Beijing, a sincerely friendly person was exactly who I needed to see. She placed my bag in the back of the cart, helped me into the back seat and whisked me to Immigration. When I say “whisked,” I mean it. Hong Kong International Airport is gorgeous and huge, but it really just flew by me as I sat in the back of this cart. She finally stopped at Immigration. After the cart trip, I was very glad that they arranged it for me as we covered some serious ground. The airport is huge and we passed several people movers on our way through it.

At Immigration, she handed me my bag and said she would meet me on the other side. As we passed everyone on my plane via the cart and there was perhaps a dearth of landings at the same time, there was no line at Immigration. Immigration didn't seem to even take a minute. Then I handed her my bag again and we walked through Customs without a word from me to anyone. After Customs, she handed me off to a representative of the Four Seasons Hotel and said “goodbye.”

The hotel representative took my bag from her, greeted me and asked me to follow him. Small talk was polite and seemed sincere. We did not walk very far from the Customs exit, took an escalator down one flight and walked outside. A nice black Mercedes Benz S-Class was waiting for me with a very amiable driver. I got in and looked at my watch. It was 4:20 pm. I was off of the plane at Hong Kong International Airport, through Immigration & Customs and into the back of a comfortable car in 15 minutes flat. Wow. Honestly, I think the walk from my gate to Immigration alone would have taken at least 15 minutes - and then I would have been greeted with a line of other travelers from my flight. Wow.

Once in the car, the driver held out a silver platter with three nicely rolled up wet face towels with which to refresh myself. He also let me know that the bottles of Fiji water were new and were meant for me to enjoy during our trip to the city. The drive was really nice. There wasn't any traffic at all and the driver was more than pleasant and would inform me of things like the names of bridges we passed.

When we reached the hotel, I was greeted at the car door by one of the front desk personnel and a porter. I was told that they would take me to my room directly and I could complete the check-in process there. She had all of the paperwork with her as well as my room key. The check-in process was efficient and friendly. When she left my room, I looked at my watch again: 5:05 pm. No joke.

I went from disembarking the plane to sitting in a beautiful hotel room in Hong Kong in an hour flat. In addition, everyone in the chain that “handled” me was friendly and polite. They greeted me by name and made the entire process as painless as possible.

If you're going to be in Hong Kong anytime soon, I highly recommend the Four Seasons Hotel - it's wonderful. If you're going to stay at the Four Seasons, I also recommend that you have the hotel arrange your transportation from the airport. They basically handled my “transportation” from the arrival gate all the way to the hotel and handled it exceedingly well. It was a well spent HK$900 (approximately US$115). I've had a lot of hotels arrange airport limo service for me in the past, and there's a level of service that you come to expect from them. The airport transfer arranged by the Four Seasons Hotel Hong Kong far exceeded my expectations.

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