Saturday, 11 October 2014

New airline + New city = Mandarin Airlines + Taitung (TSA-TTT-TSA)

Welcome to my trip report on Mandarin Airlines!


Flying with Mandarin Airlines was definitely in my agenda and when the opportunity came, I grabbed it without hesitation. I had a few choices in mind: Hualian, Taitung and Kinmen. Hualian city was top in my list but because it didn't have a favourable timing, so I skipped it and decided on Taitung which is at the south-east of Taiwan and the flight timings are better. The ERJ190 aircraft is a great aircraft to fly on and to be able to fly on it again, excited me. It would be my 3rd and 4th time on board this beautiful jet. My previous rides on this beauty are Virgin Australia (Sydney to Melbourne) and BA City Flyer (Madrid to London City). 

The airline's website has English version and even though its basic, there is no problem doing the booking. This airline is under China Airlines so you will be assured of quality and as for the safety record, you shouldn't worry about it. China Airlines used to have bad record in the past but they have gotten that sorted out, thanks to its Skyteam partner, Delta Airlines for coming in and helping them out. This is however, another story. 

Observation deck

There is an observation deck on the 3rd level and you are able to snap some decent shots of planes at the tarmac. Its a photography-friendly airport and there is even an aviation aircraft guide as shown in the picture below. Thumbs up to the airport management for encouraging aviation to the public. 

Some of the airlines I had flown including the special liveries of EVA Air and Mandarin Airlines!

If you visit the nearby neighbourhood, at one of the flats, you are able to take fabulous photos like this. (Credit to the respective photographers)

From the observation deck

Waking up early in the morning is definitely not my favourite activity but on this occasion, I was more than willing to do so. As usual, I took the train to the airport and checked in at the Mandarin Airlines check-in counter. Procedure is exactly the same as my FAT's flight.

Flight routes for the day: 

    Got my boarding pass and got myself one of the rows near the rear. My previous rides on this jet was near the front, so a change was good for me. 

My ride to Taitung! The first in its fleet: B-16821

My 67th airline
Airline: Mandarin Airlines
Flight number: AE391
Aircraft: ERJ-190
Registration: B-16821
Engines: 2X GE CF34-10E5
Seat configuration: Y104
Delivered: 14th May 2007
MSN: 19000087
Route: TSA-TTT
Load: 80%
Duration: 40 mins
Schedule departure: 0745 
Took off: 0755
Arrival: 0840
Actual arrival: 0832
Gate: 10
Seat 24D
Departure runway: 10 
Arrival runway: 04

Boarding took place about 15 minutes before schedule departure, I was one of the first to board. Entering the aircraft, the cabin crew greeted me with smile with greeting, that's a nice touch! Certainly better than FAT's crew. That was certainly a good start in the morning. The flight was full, not a surprise since the domestic flights are not as regular as the Korean and Japanese domestic ones. So quite often, tickets get sold out fast! Best is to book them online, a few weeks before the date of departure. 

Announcements were made and the crew emphasised a few times about the usage of electronic devices on board domestic flights. One of the crew saw me with my phone and told me to switch if off (politely) and she stood there to make sure that I switch it off! That was how serious they took this. 

                  Here are some of the cabin photos of the Embraer ERJ190: 

The leather seat is very comfortable and so the legroom space is generous - its at least 33 inch, I feel.  

I wasn't the first one on board, these passengers were in front of me. 

This was where I sit, had to bend forward to be able to view outside.

Had to take some quick cabin photos before the flight pushed back since they had announced that no electronic devices were allowed to be used during flight. 

Once the aircraft was pushed back, manual safety demonstration took place and we were soon ready for departure, a 5-minute taxi to runway 10. Traffic then was quite light so it didn't take long. 

Beverage was served, I had a choice of tea, coffee or orange juice. I chose the latter. 

What's inside the seat pocket? 

Here are some window-shot photos! 

From take-off to landing. 

  Beautiful weather in Taipei offers you spectacular view like this. 

A smooth climb up on this 40 minutes flights, too short for my liking. 

On approach to Taitung, the South-East part of Taiwan. 

Here is the video of the take-off. 

Welcome to Taitung! 

I took the shuttle bus which is at certain timing in the day, so do get a copy of the time table before you head out. The bus ride to town takes around less than 20 minutes so a taxi there won't be too bad. 

Checking out the city! 

     This is the night market which is usually more happening in the evening. 

Beautiful work by the kids, I have no idea what do these artwork represent. 

This is the old railway station which is now closed. 

Taitung is worth a visit, perhaps just a day or two before you move on to another city. The local people is friendly but most of them do not understand English, so if you go there, do bring along a guide book to help you get your way around, its safe to travel alone and remember to grab a map at the tourist counter at the arrival hall in the airport. 

After that, I headed for lunch at a Japanese restaurant nearby the bus terminal. I needed some air-con and any food at that time would satisfy my hunger. 

Once lunch was done, it was around 2.40pm . I decided to hang around for a while before catching the 3.20pm bus back to the airport. I have to catch this bus, if I didn't, I would have to wait for another 2 hours to catch the bus. Over here, you can use your Taipei Metro card to pay for your bus rides, that's one of the advantages of holding on to one. 

Back to the airport, I did my check-in at the counter. Few people were there and I was allowed to check-in very early and this time I got myself 10A. It was my 4th ride on the ERJ190 and my very first time sitting on the left side of the aircraft. 

The airport is smaller than Makung's so there wasn't much to do over here. I took advantage of the free wifi and watch some youtube and chatted with a couple of friends online. 

These were the flights for the rest of the day and mine was the last flight of the day, that early!

Boarding pass the for the return and apparently I wasn't the first to check-in. 

At the boarding gate, waiting for my ride to come in. 

I was absolutely delighted that a special livery ERJ190 landed and that was taking me back to Taipei. Without looking at the registration on the aircraft, I knew I was flying on B-16829, the only aircraft with the special livery. 

My ride: B-16829

No. 67th airline
Name: Mandarin Airlines
Flight number: AE394
Route: TTT-TSA
Aircraft: ERJ-190
Registration: B-16829
Configuration: Y104
Engines: 2 X GE CF34-10E5
Delivered: 24th July 2009
Leased from GECAS
MSN: 19000302
Schedule departure: 1840 (late)
Schedule arrival: 1930 (late)
Gate: 2 
Seat: 10A 
Load: 100% 
Duration: 50 mins
Departure runway: 04
Arrival runway: 10 

I was curious when the security counters that lead to the air-side was not opened even though the flight's departure time was about an hour away, it didn't matter anyway since there was only one shop in the air-side. Nothing much to do over there except use the free wifi and check whatever your stuff you need to. 

I didn't take too many photos this time since the cabin and drink service was exactly the same. So here are just a few. 

Service on board this flight was not as good as the previous. This set of crew were obviously looking forward to go home, their hand signals were pretty obvious but they were at least walking around the cabin, checking that everyone was settled. 

My ride, the ERJ190 is a great aircraft to fly on! 

My rating: 

Website: 6/10
TSA Airport Experience: 7/10
TSA Airport Check-in Experience: 7/10
TTT Airport Experience: 5/10 
TTT Airport Check-in Experience: 6/10
In-flight service: 7/10 (Return flight was disappointing) 
Cabin interior: 9/10
Cleanliness: 10/10
Seat comfort: 8/10
Punctuality: 7/10 (return flight was delayed)
Aircraft condition: 10/10
Overall rating: 82/100


My flight experience with Mandarin Airlines is positive. The comfort level of the ERJ190 is unmatched and its a preferred aircraft for me when flying on short and thin routes that some airlines operate them on. The cabin crew in general were pretty professional and when compare to the other Taiwanese airlines, the service on AE391 TSA-TTT flight was probably the best so far among 20 over flights with Taiwanese airlines. The Taiwanese airlines could certainly step up in this area to compete with the top airlines in the world. Cathay, Emirates, Singapore Airlines - you name them, that's the target EVA Air and China Airlines should be targeting. EVA Air's subsidiary airline, Uni Air vs Mandarin Airlines - a subsidiary airline of China Airlines, Mandarin Airlines operates only the ERJ190 while Uni Air operates mostly ATR72-600 and a few Airbus A321s. Nothing against Turboprops personally but between ATR72 and A321/ERJ190, I take the latter any day especially in bad weather.

My travelling tips in Taipei

-No domestic flights between Kaohsiung and Taipei (Songshan and Taoyuan)

-Limited flights 

-Always book in advance to avoid disappointment. 

-Uni Air and Far Eastern Transport's websites are only in Mandarin. 

-Uni Air operates A321 (mainly) and ATR72-600

-Transasia operates ATR-72-500/-600 and Airbus A320/A321 (International mainly) 

-Far Eastern Transport operates MD-82 and MD-83 (International mainly)

-Mandarin Airlines operates ERJ190. 

-Taipei Songshan does operate international flights, so check your tickets before proceeding to the airport. TSA = Taipei Songshan TPE = Taipei Taoyuan Airport.

- Free wifi is available at both airports. 

- To get to Taipei Songshan, take the MRT metro train to Songshan Airport startion along the Wenhu line (Brown). 

- To get to Taipei Taoyuan Airport from Taipei Main Station. Besides taxi, you can either take the bus directly to the airport (Bus terminal station) or take the HSR (High Speed Railway) to Taoyuan station. Taoyuan station has check-in counters for China Airlines and EVA Air. From Taoyaun station, take bus 705 (30 yuan) to the airport. 

If you have any other questions, feel free to ask me.

Thank you for reading my trip report! 

Charles Ryan Teo

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