Tried & Tested

Flight review: Hong Kong Airlines A320 business class Hong Kong-Hanoi

11 Aug 2019 by Michael Allen
Hong Kong Airlines A320 business class Hong Kong-Hanoi; photo by Michael Allen

Background

Hong Kong Airlines flies seven roundtrip flights per week between Hong Kong and the Vietnamese capital Hanoi. The HNA Group-owned airline is one of three full service carriers plying this route, the other two being Cathay Dragon and Vietnam Airlines.

The flight on Hong Kong Airlines leaves at 1605 every day, except on Saturdays when it leaves at 1340 instead.

Check-in

Since I was travelling on an economy class ticket that was marked for priority upgrade at the boarding gate, I had to use the economy class check-in line. Fortunately, there were only a few people in front of me and I waited only around five minutes.

The check-in attendant was polite but mostly unsmiling, though that is fairly normal with customer service in Hong Kong. He forgot to give me my lounge access pass and I had to ask for it. As I was leaving the check-in counter, I was accosted by a young chap who was conducting a survey for Hong Kong Aviation Ground Services (HAGSL). He asked me a series of questions about my experience with the check-in attendant and asked me to rate them from ‘one’ to ‘five’, with five being the best score. I found this a tad ironic given that I was already reviewing the flight for this publication, but went along with it anyway and was rewarded with a free pen marking HAGSL’s 1st anniversary.

The lounge

My ticket gave me access to either the Hong Kong Airlines Club Bauhinia lounge or the Hong Kong Airlines Club Autus lounge.

Since the attendant at the check-in counter didn’t tell me which lounge would be best to go to, I went to the closest one, the Club Bauhinia Lounge. However, the attendant at that lounge said I’d better go to Club Autus as it was much closer to my boarding gate.

Business Traveller Asia-Pacific has previously reviewed the Club Autus lounge and you can read about it here.

Boarding

I also had to use the economy class boarding line, though the line started moving shortly after I joined it and I didn’t have to wait long. When I reached the boarding gate and the attendant scanned my boarding pass, the machine emitted a loud beep and the attendant informed me I was being upgraded to business class. I found it amusing that he apologised to me for the upgrade.

The seat

I was in seat 11C, an aisle seat and the very first row of the aircraft.

The business class cabin on this Airbus A320 has only eight seats in a 2-2 configuration (the economy class cabin has 144 seats in a 3-3 configuration). This made the experience feel rather exclusive indeed. These eight passengers also have access to their own bathroom, which was clean.

The seat is wide and comfortable, with a decent amount of recline – 115 to 120 degrees, according to Hong Kong Airlines’ website. There’s also no need to jostle for armrest space with your neighbour.

There are USB charging ports on the front of the seat, which feels a little aged but not in a particularly negative way. Given that this was a short flight in the late afternoon, I was surprised to find a large blanket on each seat.

Hong Kong Airlines A320 business class Hong Kong-Hanoi; photo by Michael Allen

While most people stowed these away in the overhead locker (with the help of the cabin crew), the Japanese businessman to my left used it and slept for most of the flight, sleeping right through the meal service. So I guess some customers do make use of it.

Which seat to choose

Since this is a small cabin with only eight seats, it’s difficult to say if there is a better seat. It’s worth noting you won’t be able to use your IFE during takeoff and landing in any of the seats, since the screens have to be stowed in the arms of the seats.

Hong Kong Airlines A320 business class Hong Kong-Hanoi; photo by Michael Allen

The flight

Shortly after boarding, we were offered a selection of non-alcoholic welcome drinks. I went for an iced lemon tea, which was very sweet. Usually I order my iced lemon tea siu tim (with less sugar) or even zau tim (with no sugar) in Hong Kong.

We were also offered a selection of newspapers, though there was only one English-language option, the South China Morning Post. We were later offered magazines and I took a copy of TIME.

A cabin crew member was conscientious in explaining the various seat features to each passenger. I was impressed by one Hong Kong crew member who could speak Japanese and was able to communicate with my Japanese neighbour in his own language.

While we were still on the ground (there was a 30 minute delay due to a typhoon), I was offered a look at the business class menu, which I thought was beautifully designed.

Hong Kong Airlines A320 business class Hong Kong-Hanoi; photo by Michael Allen

There were two options for the main: chicken piccata with mushroom risotto or dan dan noodles with minced pork in spicy and sour sauce. The starter was seasonal fresh fruit and the dessert was a delicious dark chocolate and raspberry mousse.

A wide range of soft drinks were available, including juices, fizzy drinks, specialty Hong Kong drinks like milk tea and lemon tea, as well as coffee (including decaf) and six types of tea. Alcoholic beverages were available, but there was no menu for them. One of the cabin crew told me “we have wines”, and I saw another passenger order a Tsing Tao beer. It would be nicer if they could list the alcoholic beverages available on this flight in the menu.

Hong Kong Airlines A320 business class Hong Kong-Hanoi; photo by Michael Allen

The meal service started slightly late due to turbulence. A member of cabin crew helped pull out our tables and put a white tablecloth over it. First we were given a small bowl of nuts, followed shortly by the rest of the meal. My request for a coffee could not be accommodated as hot drinks could not be served during turbulence.

For the main, I chose the dan dan noodles.

Hong Kong Airlines A320 business class Hong Kong-Hanoi; photo by Michael Allen

The whole meal was tasty and the fruit was especially fresh. The only mild criticism I would have is that the bread roll was served only after I had finished my main; I would rather have had it earlier.

After the meal, while I was resting my eyes and listening to music, a cabin crew member brought me the coffee I had ordered before, but couldn’t be served because of turbulence. It was a thoughtful gesture.

Hong Kong Airlines A320 business class Hong Kong-Hanoi; photo by Michael Allen

Arrival

Before we landed, the chief cabin attendant personally thanked each passenger for flying and wished them a good stay in Hanoi. We landed smoothly in Hanoi about an hour late, though this wasn’t too bad considering that Hong Kong had been experiencing a Typhoon 3 the day I departed.

Verdict

A very comfortable flight made all the better by extremely polite and helpful staff. The small cabin of only eight seats lends this product a feel of exclusivity. The food and beverage offering was just right for a sector of this short length, although as mentioned above, it would have been nice to have had an alcohol menu to browse.

  • Price Business class return fares in mid-August start at HK$3,924 (US$500)
  • Flight No. HX528
  • Configuration 2-2
  • Seat width 22 inches
  • Seat pitch 45 inches
  • Seat recline 115-120 degrees
  • Departure 1605
  • Flight duration 1 hour 40 minutes
  • Contact hongkongairlines.com
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