Tried & Tested

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

18 Aug 2019 by Michael Allen
Hong Kong Airlines Hanoi-Hong Kong flight, Wednesday August 7 / photo by Michael Allen

Background

This flight was supposed to have taken place two days earlier, on a Monday. The original flight was cancelled due to the strikes in Hong Kong and I was rebooked on a flight two days later on the Wednesday.

I have already published my review of the inbound flight from Hong Kong to Hanoi. For this flight, HX529, the seat product and aircraft type was the same as on my inbound flight.

Hong Kong Airlines flies daily between Hanoi and Hong Kong, with flights departing every day at 5.55pm, except for Saturdays when they depart at 4.40pm.

Check-in

Arriving at Hanoi Noi Bai International Airport by taxi was a breeze thanks to a new highway connecting the city with the airport. There was no traffic jam and the drive was smooth the whole way. Just make sure that you use a reliable taxi company (either get your hotel to book one or use a ride-sharing app such as Grab), as taxi scams abound in Hanoi.

I had to use the economy class check-in counter as I was on a media ticket marked for priority upgrade to business class. The wait was not long and the check-in process was smooth. There was some difficulty communicating with the staff member as her spoken English was not perfect, but then again I can barely speak a word of Vietnamese.

Hong Kong Airlines Hanoi-Hong Kong flight, Wednesday August 7 / photo by Michael Allen

The lounge

Since Hong Kong Airlines does not have its own lounge at this airport, I was given access to the Noi Bai International Airport Business Lounge. You can read my full review of that lounge here.

Boarding

We boarded at Gate 33, which is a short walk from the lounge. Everything went smoothly at first and I boarded using a priority queue for business class passengers.

Hong Kong Airlines Hanoi-Hong Kong flight, Wednesday August 7 / photo by Michael Allen

However, once I got to the end of the airbridge, a staff member had put up a cordon and asked people to wait in the airbridge before boarding the plane. The reason given was that the plane was too hot as there was a problem with the air conditioning. The airbridge was quite hot as the setting sun was beating down on us through the glass. One passenger, also travelling in business class, seemed quite angry about the situation and complained to a member of staff.

After around 15 minutes, and after working up a bit of a sweat, we were let on to the aircraft, which was also rather warm. The pilot came on the tannoy to apologise for the heat and said it was due to the airport not being able to provide cool enough air conditioning for the aircraft. He said he would try to cool down the aircraft as quickly as possible.

The seat

I was in seat 12A, a window seat. 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). As with the flight over, this made the experience feel rather exclusive indeed. These eight passengers also have access to their own bathroom, though I didn’t use it on this trip.

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. Though I didn’t have any neighbour on this particular flight.

There are USB charging ports on the front of the seat, which feels a little aged but not in a particularly negative way. There was a large blanket on each seat.

Hong Kong Airlines Hanoi-Hong Kong flight, Wednesday August 7 / photo by Michael Allen

When I sat down, I found a complimentary bottle of Evian mineral water in the seat pocket in front of me. This was certainly nice to have, given the heat in the cabin.

Hong Kong Airlines Hanoi-Hong Kong flight, Wednesday August 7 / photo by Michael Allen

Which seat to choose?

Since this is a small cabin with only eight seats, it’s difficult to say if there is a best seat. It’s worth noting that 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.

The flight

The aircraft did soon cool down once the air con got going and we took off swiftly from the runway, without having to queue. Shortly after takeoff, the cabin crew announced that the in-flight entertainment would need to be rebooted and this would take around 15 minutes. It didn’t bother me as I had no plan to use it on this journey, though passengers hoping to watch a full movie on this flight may have been disappointed as the flight is only one hour and 40 minutes long – barely enough time for a feature length film.

Unlike on the flight out here, we were not offered a selection of newspapers and magazines, though we were offered a drink. I went for a green tea, which tasted good and was served in a nice mug.

Hong Kong Airlines Hanoi-Hong Kong flight, Wednesday August 7 / photo by Michael Allen

After takeoff, my window seat afforded me the view of a beautiful sunset – the same sun that had caused us to swelter in the airbridge earlier.

Hong Kong Airlines Hanoi-Hong Kong flight, Wednesday August 7 / photo by Michael Allen

I was pleased to see on this flight that an alcoholic beverages menu was provided. On my inbound flight, although alcoholic beverages were served, there was no dedicated menu for them.

The wines on offer were:

  • Charles de Cazanove Brut NV champagne (France)
  • Lake Chalice ‘The Nest’ Sauvignon Blanc (Marlborough, New Zealand)
  • Canyon Road Cabernet Sauvignon (California, USA)

In addition, there was also Smirnoff Vodka Red Label, Gordon’s Dry Gin, Jack Daniel’s Black Label, Glen Moray Classic Single Malt and an “International Selection” of beer.

Hong Kong Airlines Hanoi-Hong Kong flight, Wednesday August 7 / photo by Michael Allen

A business class dining menu, in the same funky design as on the inbound flight, was also provided.

There were two choices of main course:

  • Assorted seafood in tomato sauce with linguine and seasonal vegetables
  • Stir fried beef with lemongrass, jade rice and seasonal vegetables

Starter was seasonal fresh fruit and dessert was black forest cake.

Hong Kong Airlines Hanoi-Hong Kong flight, Wednesday August 7 / photo by Michael Allen

I went for the stir fried beef, along with a glass of the Canyon Road Cabernet Sauvignon.

Hong Kong Airlines Hanoi-Hong Kong flight, Wednesday August 7 / photo by Michael Allen

The meal was rather nice and, unlike on my inbound flight, the bread was served in a timely manner. On the inbound flight the bread had been served only after I had finished eating my mains.

The wine was also a good one and went well with the beef, which was tender.

Arrival

After the meal, I reclined my seat for a nap. It’s worth noting that the recline isn’t too much on these seats, though it’s better than in economy class. Still, there is barely time to sleep anyway since this is such as short flight. I think I had about 15 minutes shuteye before the cabin lights came on and the captain announced we were starting our descent. We landed smoothly at Hong Kong International Airport.

Verdict

The initial issue with the air conditioning aside, this was a comfortable flight with a good food and beverage offering. It’s a short route, so economy class would be sufficient if you just need to get from A to B, but being in the front of the cabin in this flight certainly makes the experience more enjoyable.

Fact file

  • Price Return business class fares at the end of September start at HK$3,542 (US$452)
  • Flight No. HX529
  • Configuration 2-2
  • Seat width 22 inches
  • Seat pitch 45 inches
  • Seat recline 115-120 degrees
  • Departure 1755
  • Flight duration 1 hour and 40 minutes
  • Contact hongkongairlines.com
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