BACKGROUND Dragonair operates 15 flights daily between Hongkong and Beijing, seven of them codeshared with Cathay Pacific and Air China. On the Hongkong-Beijing-Hongkong route, both the Airbus A321 and A330 are used.
CHECK IN I desired an aisle seat and was informed the only one left was 52G in the last row. I chose it.
BOARDING At 3.40pm, the processing began. A trolley with newspapers in English and Chinese stood by the aircraft door, an open invitation to pick one’s preference. I entered to utter chaos inside the cabin. There was a tour group, many of its members frantically stuffing their Hongkong purchases in all the available spaces they could find.
THE SEAT My flight used an A330, of which KA has three types. The three-class Type 1 (which I had) comes in 1A, 1B and 1C, differing only in the location of the washrooms and baby bassinets. It has 12 seats in First Class, 42 in Business Class and 230 seats in Economy Class, with the latter occupying rows 22 to 52.
Seat configuration in the Economy cabin is 2-4-2 (AC-DEFG-HK) from rows 22 to 46, becoming 2-3-2 (AC-DEG-HK) from rows 47 to 50, then finally to just three seats (DEG) from rows 51 to 52. Seats with extra legroom are 35C and 35H.
The other two aircraft types offered by KA on its A330 are two-class Type 2 and Type 3, with 30 seats in Business Class and 270 seats in Economy. Here, the Economy cabin has a 2-4-2 (AC-DEFG-HK) configuration, occupying rows 22 to 50, becoming 2-3-2 (AC-DEG-HK) from rows 51 to 55, and ending with row 56 with three seats (DEG). Extra-legroom seats are 40C and 40H. With no IFE boxes to obstruct, everything fitted easily. The seat hardly reclines with a wall behind it.
WHICH SEAT TO CHOOSE? Unless being asked again to choose between a middle seat towards the front of the cabin and the final row, I would never again go for the latter. There are several good reasons: the queues that form for the washrooms behind you; the sound of the flushing WCs after ablutions; and the slamming of doors after use. And just because the galley is at your back as well doesn’t mean you’re going to get fed first – the attendants start serving several rows ahead of you and work their way back.
From where I and my two companions sat, we had to crane our necks to catch anything that was being shown on the mini monitor that comes down from a recess in the ceiling during the flight and goes up again before the descent. It may be better to sit on the aisle seats in rows 48 to 50 on either side if you really wanted to view what was playing.
THE FLIGHT Before takeoff, I heard the pilot say the journey would take two hours and 55 minutes. We took off at 4.20pm, after which I quickly fell asleep. The din of voices and movement around me later roused me. The frequent vigorous flushing sounds from the toilet beside me banished any hope of resuming my nap. Only the commencement of the meal service forced the wanderers to return to their seats.
Choosing between seafood and rice or chicken and pasta, I went for the chicken, simmered in a pleasing tomato sauce, followed by the highlight of all Dragonair flights – the Häagen Dazs ice-cream.
ARRIVAL We hadn’t even landed when some passengers jumped up to retrieve their belongings overhead, and this alarmed the flight attendants who kept admonishing them to take their seats.
VERDICT A stressful flight from start to finish, exacerbated by sitting at the very back with all the activity taking place in that area.
CONFIGURATION Depends on what type of Airbus is used, see The Seat section of the review
SEAT WIDTH 45.7cm/18in
SEAT PITCH 81.3cm/32in
SEAT RECLINE 105-116°
PRICE Round-trip Economy Class fare Hongkong-Beijing is HK$5,355 (US$690), including all taxes and surcharges.
Margie T Logarta