Tried & Tested

Dragonair A330-300 business class

30 Sep 2014 by Clement Huang

CHECK-IN

I arrived at check-in about 1310 for my 1430 flight and there was only one group before me at the dedicated business counter. Initially, the staff had difficulty reading the upgraded status in the system, but eventually a supervisor sorted it out. Passport check did not take long but when half a dozen lines converged into two for the security check, a bottleneck formed. Even so, I settled into the lounge by 1350.

THE LOUNGE

Premium lounges in mainland Chinese airports – if they have them – are usually rather limited. In this case, it was a makeshift looking facility located at the mezzanine level on the airside, accessible from two staircases, one from near Gate 6 and the other from Gate 8. There was a lounge area with blue velvet-upholstered faux baroque chairs and a dining area, as well as three computers for guests to use near reception. The free wifi was so slow I ended up using data roaming. 

Food selection included egg drop and seaweed soup, some rather plain-looking fried noodles and fried rice that smelled a little off. If one finds oneself hungry here, the better bet may be the pot noodles. Drink-wise, the fridge offered some locally produced wines by Qingdao Zhuoweinong. I settled for the ubiquitous Tsingtao beer instead. 

BOARDING

Lounge staff came around to advise us to go to the gate at 1405. At around the same time, there was a broadcast announcing the gate had been changed from number 5 to number 7. When I got to the gate shortly before 1410, though, boarding hadn’t actually started. A few minutes later, however, business class passengers were allowed priority boarding. 

THE SEAT

The A330-300 I was on had a two-class configuration, with 42 business seats and 265 in economy. The business class cabin started from row 10 and I was in 16D, but because Dragonair skips 13 and 14 due to superstition, I was actually in a middle aisle seat on the fifth row.

The seat had the fixed-shell design that is identical to regional business class on Cathay Pacific. It was first rolled out on one of Dragonair’s A330s in March last year, featuring an extended leg rest and cradle recline as well as a six-way headrest that aims to provide full support to the head and neck. 

The oversized meal table had a foldout design and was reasonably sturdy, performing relatively well as a work desk. There were additional storage spaces – a small pocket near the 12.1-inch personal monitor for small items such as mobile phones, glasses and pens; a literature compartment large enough for a laptop; and another space near the floor for bags. 

Each seat had its own universal socket (110V) and a USB port. The IFE system has streaming capabilities for Apple products but you have to bring your own dedicated cables. 

WHICH SEAT TO CHOOSE

If you get a window seat there is the usual problem of having to climb over your neighbour to get out if they are in a reclined position. The business cabin is flanked by two galleys so if you are concerned about noise, avoid the bulkhead (unless, of course, if you have a bassinet seat) and the last row. 

THE FLIGHT

I was settled in my seat by 1415. Welcome drinks were served promptly, with choices being various juices and Dragon Sunrise, a refreshing cocktail made with gin and guava juice. At 1440, we were told that due to airspace issues, we would not push off until 1510. Minutes later drinks were being offered and I ordered a glass of 2012 Balance Chenin Blanc from South Africa. We set off again at 1515, only to be told 20 minutes later that mechanical issues had been discovered and we had to return to the gate. Problems were fixed at 1600 but it still took another 45 minutes for another takeoff slot to become available. 

The seatbelt light went off minutes after takeoff and meal service promptly started at 1705. We were first served a fruit salad, followed by the main course. I chose the braised duck breast with bamboo pith sauce, carrot rice and pumpkin ball over the sautéed beef fillet strips with penne. It was a hearty dish and the gaminess of the duck came through well. I wrapped up my meal 1740 and continued watching Law and Order. 

ARRIVAL

Descent was announced 1905, with apologies for the flight delay, and we touched down in Hong Kong at 1935, one hour and 40 hours later than originally scheduled.

VERDICT

I appreciate the first delay was not the airline’s fault, but I do not quite understand why mechanical failures were only found after the second delay. On the other hand, the crew really worked hard to keep passengers happy during the wait. Service throughout the flight was impeccable. For travelling to China, Dragonair is still the airline of choice.


FACT FILE

  • Departure time 1435
  • Flight time 3hrs 20mins
  • PLANE TYPE A330-300 (Type 5)
  • CONFIGURATION 2-2-2
  • SEAT WIDTH 21 inches
  • SEAT recline 36 degrees 
  • PRICE The internet rate for a round-trip business class ticket between Hong Kong and Qingdao is HK$9,600 (US$1,239)
  • CONTACT dragonair.com
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