Dragonair A330 Economy class

BACKGROUND After suspending this route in 2009 due to the economic downturn, Dragonair (KA) resumed the service in April, starting with four flights weekly and expanding it to a daily operation on May 1. I travelled to the ancient Chinese capital on an A320, which was rather small and dated, but on my way back the flight was serviced by a much more comfortable A330.

CHECK-IN Running late, I arrived at Terminal 2 of Xian airport just over an hour before the 1545 departure time. At first I could not see the check-in counters for Dragonair, and only after asking around did I find them tucked away in a different section of the hall. Luckily, unlike busier Chinese airports such as Shanghai and Beijing, there wasn’t a long queue here so the process was swift, as was passport check. I was airside by 1510.

BOARDING I might as well have been late, as there was very little to see or do airside other than a few small and ordinary looking duty-free shops, and a café that charged more than US$10 for a coffee. (The waitresses tried to ignore the customers anyway.) I was excited for a second when I came across a phone-charging kiosk, but there wasn’t a plug for the iPhone. The only facility that I made use of was the free drinking water dispenser. There was a rudimentary lounge but Dragonair wasn’t listed as one of the airlines with access – and it did not matter, as there was no one and nothing in it other than chairs, and the attendant was snoozing in one of them. Thankfully, the flight was ready for boarding at 1520.

THE SEAT To my delight, instead of an A320 usually used for this route, I was on an A330 with much better seats. On the A320, there was no in-flight entertainment other than magazines, and the armrest could not even be lifted all the way up as the back cushions got in the way. But with my A330 seat everything was much more functional, and there was enough legroom even for my 182cm frame. All the overhead compartments were full so I had to put my box of terracotta warrior figurines under the seat in front of me – but still my feet could comfortably slide either side.

These seats, unlike the forward-sliding type used on many short-haul KA flights, actually recline and feature a universal power socket to the side under the seat cushion. The colour palette of cherry red, celadon green and aqua blue, contrasting with the mandarin yellow headrest covers, is cheerful. Each seat has a 6.5-inch personal TV offering 10 video channels and 16 audio channels.

WHICH SEAT TO CHOOSE? My seat, 25D, was in the fourth row of the economy cabin, which I found very convenient. The lavatories to the front are near, but still some distance away so that you are not disturbed by the sound of the doors shutting and opening. On arrival, I was also among the first five passengers able to disembark after the business cabin was cleared. The aisles are wide enough so I didn’t get bumped, as I often do in economy class on many other airlines.

THE FLIGHT At 1600, the plane began taxiing out to the runway and took off at 1613. Very soon I was catching up on Modern Family, and at around 1640, the meal service commenced. I chose the chicken curry with rice rather than the fish with pasta noodles, and was quite happy with it. I had had a bad experience before with KA economy food – the memory of blanched pork with rice, seasoned by what tasted like ketchup, still haunts me – but this time I gladly finished the whole main course. Stew-like food such as curries are always appropriate for in-flight meals as they reheat well and the spices awaken the subdued taste buds. The crisp Santa Loreto sauvignon blanc was very enjoyable – a fresh, young wine, but it has a long finish. At around 1800, in anticipation of landing, I decided to use the toilet and found the tap out of water. This is the first time that has ever happened to me – it wasn’t as if there had been that many people using the facility, and it was a short-haul flight. Luckily, there was still a little dripping through and I didn’t have to dry-rub the soap off my hands. At 1815 it was announced that air traffic control had requested that the plane circle around for 15 minutes and that estimated landing time was adjusted from 1835 to 1845.

ARRIVAL As usual, it was uneventful and even with the shuttle train ride included, I was at the luggage collection point before 1900. My luggage did take much longer to arrive, however, but within 20 minutes I was landside.

Reggie Ho

Fact File

PLANE TYPE A330

SEAT CONFIGURATION 2-4-2

SEAT PITCH 31in-33in/79cm-84cm 

SEAT WIDTH 18in/46cm

SEAT RECLINE 116 degrees

PRICE The internet rate for an economy flex return ticket on a weekend in mid-August is HK$5,767 (US$743) including tax and surcharges.

CONTACT www.dragonair.com

Verdict

Xian is booming and more international flights are expected for its airport in the near future, especially with the opening of Terminal 3. Until then, flying there from Hong Kong on Dragonair is still the most comfortable choice.

 


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Dragonair A330 Economy class

BACKGROUND My flight was KA894. Dragonair has three types of configuration for its Airbus A330, the one I took was two-class Type 2. Y-class has 273 seats.

CHECK-IN Like most people in Hong Kong, I made use of the extremely convenient city check-in facility at Airport Express’ Hong Kong Station. I had to get a haircut before my trip so I was in Central early. It was three hours before the departure time of 1900 when I arrived at counter 19 designated to Dragonair. There was one group in front of me. But as counter 18 (for Asiana and Ethiopian Airlines) was free, I was directed to it. In no time, I was done checking in. There was still plenty of time for me to browse around at the IFC Mall.

BOARDING My gate was changed from 17 to 32, which was a much longer trek. But at least there was no need for a shuttle train ride and I had more time to relax with a pint at McSorley’s Ale House (which, I heard to my shock and dismay, was forced to close and give way to local chain Spaghetti House!). Boarding was on time and by 1845 I had already put my hand-carried luggage in the overhead compartment and settled in the seat.

THE SEAT As usual, I chose an aisle seat (I was in 35G) even though it was just a short-haul flight. At 183cm and with long arms, it really makes a difference. On this flight, though, I found the seat quite roomy, apparently because of a “cradling” mechanism. There was a lot of space between my knees and the back of the seat in front of me, which was a treat. Usually, one of my knees has to stick out a little to the aisle. The 6.5-inch personal video screen offered 10 video channels and 16 audio channels. I took advantages of it and caught up on Glee.

WHICH SEAT TO CHOOSE? Economy seats start from row 22 and while being near the front allows for a quicker exit, you are also close to some of the toilets. I was in the middle of the plane but it did not take me long at all to disembark. The other lavatories are near rows 39 and 55-57.

THE FLIGHT We took off at 1926 and by 2000 I got my meal. I was delighted to find that the inflight menu featured a dish designed by Lei Garden, a well-known Cantonese restaurant in Hong Kong. There was also Chinese tea by Fook Ming Tong, another established name. It was only a couple of years ago that I had a rather depressing experience with economy class food on Dragonair, a dish of bland blanched pork smothered in tomato sauce, with some equally bland vegetable, served with rice. I couldn’t eat it. I thought to myself: Companies these days rarely pay for business class seats on short-haul fights, but does it mean our palate has to be subject to such abuse? Happily, it seems that the airline has really made improvements on this front. The braised sliced pork in dried plum sauce with steamed rice went down really well. Getting Haagen-Dazs ice cream and premium Chinese tea at the end of the meal was also very satisfying.   

ARRIVAL The landing was smooth and the flight actually arrived early at 2105. In about 25 minutes, I had already passed immigration and was onboard the hotel’s limousine.  

VERDICT How all economy classes should be: Reasonably roomy seats, personal TVs and decent food.

Configuration 2-4-2
Seat Width 18in/45.72cm
Seat Pitch 31-33 inch/78.7-83.8cm
Seat Recline 116 degrees (cradling effect)
Price Internet rates in January start from HK$2,340 (US$301), excluding tax and surcharges
Contact www.dragonair.com

Reggie Ho


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