Tried & Tested

Dragonair A330-300 New Business Class

14 May 2014 by Dominic Sebastian Lalk

Dragonair A330-300 Business Class

CHECK IN

I arrived at Naha Airport’s International Terminal at 1500 for the 1640 departure of flight KA379 to Hong Kong, a flight of two hours and thirty-five minutes.

Dragonair has been flying to Okinawa since late 2010. Initially, the service was twice-weekly but has since been upgraded to four times a week. Dragonair flights now depart Hong Kong for Naha on every Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday with same-day returns back to Hong Kong. All flights are operated by wide-body, twin-aisle Airbus A330-300s.

Five counters were open for check-in at the time I arrived and I was pleased to learn that I had been upgraded to business class when I was given my boarding pass. Business class is not for sale on this sector but due to the aircraft employed on the route being a wide-body A330, of which all in Dragonair’s fleet feature an extensive business class section, complimentary upgrades are made available to status holders. However, the on-board service equals that in economy class.

I was looking forward to resting in the lounge before the flight but unfortunately never got that far because of irritatingly long queues for security and customs. There were two other flights leaving within a window of an hour before and after the Dragonair departure – Hong Kong Airlines to Hong Kong and China Eastern Airlines to Shanghai –clearly posing a challenge to the systems in place at Naha Airport for the whole clearing process took over one hour. Once through, boarding was announced so I had no time to visit the shared lounge facility.

BOARDING

The international terminal at Naha is small. There are five gates only which are a mere one-minute walk from customs. Boarding for KA379 was through Gate 4 and priority was given to members of the Marco Polo Club (Cathay Pacific and Dragonair’s frequent flyer programme) as well as OneWorld tier holders.

I was in seat 16A – a window seat. To see a seat plan click here.

A crew member offered to hang my coat and help place my bags in the overhead compartment. I then asked for a copy of the South China Morning Post which arrived together with a wide selection of international English-language newspapers and magazines.

THE SEAT

Seating was in a 2-2-2 configuration and the seat was Dragonair’s new business class seat which the airline introduced in 2013 and expects to have fitted throughout the entire fleet by mid-2014. Click here for the seat’s microsite.

Arranged in forward-facing pairs, the seats are a little roomier than the old ones, with the width increased from 20 to 21 inches and the pitch extended from 45 to 47 inches. Relaxing is made easy in the seat’s “lazy-Z” mode by combining the 36-degree recline with the extendable leg rest’s 60-degree upswing. Each seat is encased in a shell which prevents the passenger in front of you encroaching on your space.

dragonair a330-300 okinawa new business class

While the seat was comfortable, especially in the “lazy Z” mode, I found it regrettable that I had to bother my seat neighbour whenever I wanted to get up. With the leg rest fully extended it was impossible to gain access to the aisle without having to ask him to lower it. This is just fine when you know the person next to you but easily becomes a nuisance when two strangers are involved.

The seat also has a large fold-down tray table at 20 inches wide and 14.5 inches deep, but just like mentioned in a previous review of a Cathay Pacific flight (which is Dragonair’s mother company and features the exact same regional seat) it couldn't support the weight of a heavy laptop – not to mention my elbows – making work during the flight a near-impossible task.

The 12.1-inch TV installed in the seatback feels a little inadequate for a new business class product, as many airlines have screens measuring a minimum of 15.4 inches in their premium cabins.

dragonair a330-300 okinawa new business class

WHICH SEAT TO CHOOSE

Business class on this aircraft is in one cabin featuring seven rows only. Confusingly, the first row in the business cabin is row 10, then skipping rows 13 and 14 and continuing on until row 18.

The rule of thumb is to sit as far as possible in the front to avoid noise emanating from the engines. I would, however, advice against choosing row 10 as the immediate proximity to the galley and lavatory might easily become bothersome due to crew rushing past and passengers congregating in the area. Having said that, I would pick any aisle seat in row 11 or 12.

THE FLIGHT

Departure was delayed by 25 minutes due to passengers being held up by customs and immigrations. There were frequent and cheerful announcements from the flight deck updating passengers on the new departure and arrival time.

Dinner service started some short 20 minutes into the flight and consisted of a small side salad, a choice of two entrees – a Japanese beef stir fry with rice or penne pasta – and a chocolate mousse dessert. I had the beef stir fry and this was tasty but insufficient for an adult passenger I thought.

There was a choice of red or white wine, spirits and cocktails to go with the meal service. Cabin crew came around frequently to top up glasses.

The meal tray was cleared almost as soon as I had finished the meal.

I kept myself entertained using Dragonair’s StudioKA – the IFE – for the remainder of the flight. There are hundreds of movies and shorts available on demand in several languages and the power sockets allow passengers to use their own earphones.

ARRIVAL

We landed at Hong Kong International Airport at 1810, a few minutes ahead of schedule. The aircraft parked at a remote stand. Disembarkation was quick and busses were ready to take passengers to the terminal.

The bags came out very quickly and I was landside waiting for a taxi cab to take me to Central by 1835.

VERDICT

A pleasant experience. While I did not appreciate having to clamber over fellow passengers to reach the aisle, the seat itself represents a marked improvement over Dragonair’s previous business class seat and is certainly comfortable for a short hop of just over two hours. In-flight service and ground handling were good. The only downside to the experience was Naha Airport’s crowd mismanagement at security and customs, but this is not Dragonair’s fault.

FACT FILE

•          PLANE TYPE A330-300

•          CONFIGURATION 2-2-2

•          SEAT WIDTH 21in

•          SEAT PITCH 47in

•          SEAT RECLINE 136 degrees

•          PRICE Internet rates for a return economy class flight from Hong Kong to Naha in May start from £315,-.

•          CONTACT dragonair.com

 

Dominic Sebastian Lalk

 

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