Tried & Tested

Dragonair A321 economy class

12 Sep 2011 by Tom Otley

Check-in I arrived at Terminal 2 of Shanghai’s Pudong International Airport at 0540 for my 0740 departure. On the way there I received an email alert reminder of the flight: “KA857/9 Sep will depart PVG at 7:40. Weather forecast of Arrival City: HKG-Showers:27-31C. Thank you for using Dragonair notiFLY Flight Paging.”

I made my way to zone D but there were no check-in staff to be seen, and already quite a few passengers waiting. Ten minutes later they arrived, but then had a staff meeting for 10 minutes and were only ready for us at 0605 by which time there were several hundred passengers waiting in several queues: business class, Marco Polo, economy and Bag Drop for Self-check-in which is where I was. Once beckoned forward, check-in was quick, and I walked towards immigration.

A large sign said that immigration would try and process 95 per cent of passengers within 25 minutes, and in my case it took just over 20 minutes. Security was quick after that – simply laptop out and jacket off - and I was airside at 0635. I have a gold card with BA ad so could get lounge access up the escalators by Gate 68.

Lounge the Dragonair lounge is shared with Cathay Pacific and is a large airy place, quite new, with comfortable seating and some simple food choices for breakfast, including dim sum and breakfast cereals. There was also free wifi, so I got a coffee and did some work, having first checked that they announced the flights in the lounge.

Boarding I walked down early for my flight and boarding had just commenced, so with the gold card I walked straight onto the aircraft.

The seat this was an A321. For a seatplan, click here. This is a very dense configuration. I was in row 32K (window seat which is the last full row before the emergency over wing exit, but even here there was an extra row – 33 crammed in, albeit with a crew seat and a shortened number of seats (33AB – JK).

The seating is in several different colours with a section of red for several rows of seats and then blue and this makes it even more cramped-looking in my opinion. My knees were pressed against the seat in front. I wished I was in row 35 which has extra leg room. In the seat pocket there was a bottle of water.

The flight: this was uneventful, with no delays or turbulence. I slept for most of it, but the highlight was the delicious meal service of dim sum (or chicken sausage), yoghurt, fruit and apple juice). The dim sum was excellent, and the whole meal refreshing – along with Chinese tea – and filling. The only difficulty was having enough elbow room to eat it but my fellow passenger in 32J was pretty understanding and we had a sort of give and take arrangement in raising the food to our mouths.

Landing: We landed slightly early at 100 at Hong Kong’s International airport, but then were bussed to the terminal. It was very hot (already 32 degrees centigrade) but the ride was not as bad as I thought, and actually dropped us close to immigration – we just took an escalator up – better in a way than an air bridge with a long walk.

Verdict: check-in and bag drop was a real bore – if Dragonair isn’t going to man its desks before 0600 then it will always have a large queue of dissatisfied passengers first thing in the morning. I looked online, and there’s no indication of it (click here to see the page). No one likes getting up so early. Apart from that, and the cramped seating, the service was good, polite, on time and the food the best I have ever eaten in short-haul economy.


Tom Otley

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