Hong Kong got it’s first direct service to Australia’s Gold Coast in January last year, when Hong Kong Airlines launched a three-times-weekly service. The return flight includes a stopover in Cairns.
I arrived at Gold Coast International Airport (OOL) at 6.45am for my 0940 HX16 flight, however the check-in counters didn’t open until 7am.
Despite there being dedicated business and economy lines signposted, the staff directed me to use the same queue as economy class passengers. Fortunately, there were only a few other passengers and I completed the process within ten minutes.
I passed expediently through the first (domestic) security scan at 0715. As Hong Kong Airlines doesn’t operate a lounge at OOL, or partner with the existing Qantas or Virgin Australia lounge, I was given two A$15 (US$12) meal vouchers at check-in to redeem at the terminal restaurants. I chose to use these before the international security checkpoint (near gates 1 to 6) where there is a better selection of outlets.
I moved to the second security scan for international departure at 0845. The queue was not long but moved slowly due to thorough checks. The immigration check on the other hand was an impressively speedy affair, thanks to high-tech electronic self-scan passport stations – even for international passport holders.
Gold Coast Airport airside
Gold Coast Airport international departure gates
Boarding was called at 0905. Again, there were designated business and economy class lines, but the demarcation was seemingly ignored.
There are no air bridge facilities at OOL, instead all passengers undertook a five-minute walk on the tarmac to reach the aircraft.
There are 32 business seats arranged in a staggered 1-2-1 configuration, from row 11 to 20 (without 13 and 14).
My window seat 18A afforded me plenty of privacy during the flight.
There was a generous amount of legroom, but not much space for storing personal items: the compartment under the armrest (the only holder) was big enough for my glasses and an iPad – if I took out the bottle of Evian water and headset already in there.
The side table was more adequate, with space for a drink and other small personal items.
A personal spotlight at shoulder level offered two levels of brightness, and was located next to the in-flight magazine holder.
The work/dining table was stored vertically in the seatback panel in front, and was very solid and balanced, while an international socket is conveniently situated under the armrest.
However, the highlight has to be the built-in seat massage function – a rare treat.
WHICH SEAT TO CHOOSE?
With a 1-2-1 configuration, each passenger is afforded direct aisle access. However, aisle seats A and K give more privacy than their C or H counterparts, as the table acts as a buffer to the aisle. I would avoid rows 11 and 20, as they are close to the galley.
I stowed my belongings in the empty overhead compartment and settled into my seat. Soon after I sat down, the attentive crew offered me a welcome drink; I took both orange juice and water.
The doors closed at 0940 once all passengers were onboard, and we took off at 1000.
The IFE system – available as soon as passengers were onboard – featured a wide range of new releases and popular movies as well as music albums.
In a relaxed sitting position the touch screen was too far away to reach; however navigating with the handset was convenient and comfortable.
As the Gold Coast-Cairns leg was only two hours and 20 minutes, only a very light breakfast was served: drinks and a muffin (blueberry and the indecently delicious chocolate option). Shortly after, the flight landed in Cairns at 1220.
All passengers were required to disembark at Gate 2, though no clear information was given about when we should board again.
The information screen in the terminal revealed we were scheduled to depart again at 1350 so I did some shopping before a low-volume boarding announcement was made at 1255. I quickly finished shopping and boarded again at 1305.
My seat was prepared with refreshed amenities, including a new pillow and blanket, new headset etc. On re-boarding the aircraft, I was also presented with another welcome drink and a new menu, and this time was given an attractive amenity kit. The white linen bag was printed with Hong Kong-inspired artwork depicting a tram. The contents consisted of an eyeshade, socks, earplugs, dental kit and Loccitaine lip balm and hand cream.
Cabin crew came through to take my food order as the cabin was prepared, and we took off at 1350.
Once airborne, the crew immediately shut all of the windows in the business cabin.
I revisited the IFE system and was pleasantly surprised to find the movie I had started en-route to Cairns was paused where I’d left it, making it easy to resume.
Drinks and nuts were brought round, and it was great to see some special hometown drink options, including Hong Kong-style milk tea and yuan yang (a mixture of milk tea and coffee). However, I opted for a Gonet-Medeville Blanc de Noirs Premier Cru Brut NV champagne from France.
Prawn cocktail starter with marie rose dressing
Grilled beef tenderloin with a demi-glace sauce, gratin potato and seasonal vegetables
Maggie Beer burnt fig, honeycomb and caramel ice-cream
Lunch was served a little while later. The prawn cocktail starter with marie rose dressing was okay – though nothing special. For the main dish I chose grilled beef tenderloin with a demi-glace sauce, gratin potato and seasonal vegetables (the other options were braised barramundi or pan-fried chicken). The beef was a bit overcooked and soaked in too much sauce, though the potato was very tasty. The meal was completed with Maggie Beer burnt fig, honeycomb and caramel ice-cream, which was delicious.
After completing some work, I reclined into a fully-flat position with a simple touch of a button. Though it was a tight fit for my 190cm frame, the semi-open foot well did give my feet plenty of room.
I slept comfortably for about two hours before waking for a “refreshment” at 4.30pm, though really this was a full meal of seasonal fruit, chicken lasagne (or grilled pork-loin) and flourless chocolate cake. The chicken was very tasty – a big improvement over lunch.
We commenced our descent shortly after the tables were cleared, but the pilot informed us airport delays meant we had to circle Hong Kong for half an hour. We finally touched down at 1855 – still ten minutes ahead of schedule.
Immigration was quiet and fairly quick, however I was slightly annoyed to find my “priority tagged” luggage did not emerge until most of the economy passengers had retrieved theirs.
The new route is a fantastic addition to give travellers direct access to the Australian MICE and leisure hotspot. I loved the local Hong Kong touches as seen on the menu and amenity kit, but felt the overall F&B quality could be improved. The service onboard was excellent, but the ground handling of priority passengers left something to be desired.
11 hours 55 minutes (about 1 hour 30 minute stopover in Cairns)
Internet rates for a return business class ticket from Gold Coast to Hong Kong in mid-October start from HK$14,294 (US$1,832) including taxes and surcharges.