Hong Kong Airlines has launched its direct service to Los Angeles, with the inaugural flight taking off on December 18, 2017.
The new route follows the launch of a daily service to Vancouver earlier this year, with San Francisco and New York set to follow in 2018 as the airline steps up competition with fellow Hong Kong-based carrier Cathay Pacific.
“The launch of our new service to Los Angeles represents another step of our transition from a regional carrier to a global airline,” said Tang King Shing, vice chairman of Hong Kong Airlines.
“As a popular destination for both leisure and business travel, Los Angeles is also one of the most substantial economic engines within the United States. We are delighted to offer our customers more travel options for flights into Los Angeles.”
The LA service is operated by the 334-seat A350 and will fly four times a week initially, before increasing to a daily service from January.
Business Traveller Asia-Pacific was invited along for the inaugural flight HX068. Here are our first impressions of the flight and business class product.
Overall, the business class product is fairly similar to that available on the A330 (read a review of the A330 here).
The aircraft offers 33 business class seats from rows 11 to 21 (without 13 and 14). The seats are arranged in a 1-2-1 configuration, so every passenger can enjoy direct aisle access. (Note, Row 11 does not have seat H as the space is occupied by a wardrobe).
The A350 cabin is decked in grey and red, with a new grey carpet which offers a more modern feeling.
I was seated in 12A by the window. Again, the seat product is similar to that on the A330.
Each seat can recline into a fully-flat bed with a generous length – I am 190cm (6’ 2”) tall and still had room to spare when lying down. Passengers can also look forward to the generous 44-inch seat pitch.
There are also some new details to be found. The main difference is the introduction of newly designed chinaware, glassware, and cutlery in business class, which has been inspired by the Bauhinia flower as seen in Hong Kong Airlines’ logo.
The bowl and appetiser plates are designed to resemble the Bauhinia flower’s petal, while the design of the red butter dish is inspired by the smooth shape of seeds. Meanwhile, the dark brown bread plate resembles the shape of a Bauhinia leaf, and the cutlery’s sleek and slender appearance evokes memories of the delicate Bauhinia stems.
Salt and pepper shakers have also been given a novel appearance, designed in the shape of popular dim sum har gow (shrimp dumpling) and siu mai (pork dumplings). Business class passengers are encouraged to take home these unique condiment dispensers as souvenirs.
Other product changes are more subtle. Like the carpets, the pillows and blankets (present in the seat upon boarding) are now a modern grey instead of purple colour.
The airline has gotten rid of the massage function in the seat (sob), but the touch panel control has been improved with easy to select options and better responsiveness.
The armrest has also been built wider, which is always useful during the flight, and the space between the semi-open foot well has been partially blocked with a cushion, thus avoiding your foot falling into the gap when sleeping.
The in-seat magazine rack has been moved to seat level to allow more space in and around the side table, which is complete with two USB ports (while international charging points are under the seat).
Other highlights included the work/dining table, held vertically in the seatback panel. It is very firm which is useful for working and eating. Another smart design note is that a passenger can push the table away and leave the seat without having to first clear it.
The IFE system has also improved, again with better responsiveness to the touch control, and an improved catalogue of movies, music and TV programme options, plus live broadcasts of CNN, BBC World News and Sports24. Passengers can also experience take-off and landing from different aircraft camera view points.
Wifi is available on the flight with each passenger granted 15-minutes access for free. After that, the charges are: US$4.95 Chart Pass, US$8.95 One-hour Pass and US$18.95 full-flight Pass. I logged onto the free access, which took a few attempts. The service was adequate for messaging, but sending photos was very slow.
Overall I was very impressed with Hong Kong Airlines A350 product – comfortable, ergonomic and subtle upgrades. The attention to detail of the new tableware is a great addition and follows the distinctive design fingerprint as seen in menus and amenity kits. The wifi offering leaves something to be desired, however paid-for connections may offer a stronger signal.