First impressions: I arrived at Hong Kong International Airport at 2115 for my 2335 departure on Hong Kong Airlines. It’s my second return flight with the carrier, which started this route in March of this year. For the previous review on this route, click here.
Check-in for Hong Kong airlines is in Zone 4 where there is a separate check-in area. I was quickly checked in and then helped to carry my bags to a different desk where they were processed. I then went through security where there was no queue and made my way to the lounge.
The lounge: This is between gates 25 and 27, down some stairs (there is a lift as well). It’s small, but has free wifi, a good selection of hot Chinese food and some lovely Essence teas along with soft drinks and alcohol. It can get crowded here, but I found a corner close to a power plug and worked for a while. There is only one male toilet (and one female), so seeing as there was a queue for it just before the flight I left the lounge early and made my way to Gate 522 which is on a lower level, accessed close to Gate 20. These are gates from which you are bussed out to the aircraft.
Boarding: The flight was called slightly late at 2315. There were two lines with Club Premier loaded onto the bus first. We were across to the aircraft fairly quickly and then up the stairs to our seats. Once there we were offered juices, water or champagne and settled down for the flight. We were also given sleep suits, Bulgari amenity bags, slippers and a bottle of water.
The seat: This A330-200 aircraft is configured in two classes – Club Class and Club Premier seating. Club Class are comfortable cradle-style seats which recline but do not go fully flat. Club Premier are fully flat when reclined. The Club Premier seating is in two cabins of 18 seats and 16 seats totalling 34 seats with a seating configuration of 1-2-1. To see a seatplan, click here.
For once I had managed to get a window seat 4A which is a good choice, especially since the bar is not used on these flights so there’s no noise.
The following notes come from the previous review (the configuration is the same as it was then):
There is a bar between the two Club Premier cabins. The seats are in an alternate pattern, so turning right on the aircraft into the second cabin the front row, row 6, had seats 6C, 6E and 6J and 6K, with the row behind being 7A, 7D, 7G and 7H. The aisle is quite narrow, and when previously I had sat in seat 8C I found passengers would bang against the side of my seat.
The seats are comfortable for both sitting and sleeping, with an ottoman seat on which you can rest your feet, or an angled space beneath it for when you are simply watching TV or reading. There isn’t much storage space, but there is an area next to you where you can place books and magazines, as well as a magazine rack. The in-seat power is convenient, and takes a UK plug as well as US.
All cabins on the plane have wifi, audio-video on-demand in-flight entertainment, digital magazines and high-definition TV screens measuring 15.5 inches in Club Premier and 10.5 inches in Club Classic.
The IFE system is easy to use and is operational form the moment you board, so that if you wish you could start watching it from when you board, stopping only when it is interrupted by the safety demonstration. The table is strong and is good for working on, allowing you to take full advantage of the in-seat power. The Onair wifi comes on a scratch card offering 20MB for $37 – it is complimentary, but you pay if you want to use more..
Best seats: The seating configuration is worth noting, in that it is 1-2-1 but in a staggered formation, as follows, 1C- 1E, 1F – 1H, then 2A, 2D, 2G, 2K. The significance of this is that some seats are on the aisle and some are not, and because the aisle is quite narrow, I would avoid those seats on the aisle, namely 1C, 1H in row 1, for instance, and in the next row, the two centre seats, namely 2D and 2G. On the aisle you get bumped into and knocked whenever anyone comes past.
In addition, unless you are travelling with a colleague or a loved one, the pairs of seats which are close to one another and so away from the aisle are probably best avoided, namely 1E and 1F, 3 E and 3F (and corresponding seats in the second cabin).
Lastly, 5C and 5H are next to the bar and on the aisle, and are the seats to definitely avoid. So which is best? Well, out of the 16 seats in this cabin, there are just four – 7A, 7K, 9A and 9K, and if I had to pick two, it would be 7A and 7K, since the two seats in row 9 are up against the Club Classic cabin behind.
The flight: The captain informed us that the flight time was going to be 12 hours and 40 minutes, and that we should expect some turbulence around two hours after take off. I think this sort of information is really useful. The service is still pretty slow. The drinks orders weren’t taken until 1250 and menu orders about ten minutes later but to be honest, once they start serving they whistle through the service, so actually it’s just the delay in starting that you notice.
The menus were as follows:
- Canapes: Salmon roe blinis and pumpernickel
- Starters: chicken breast roll with mushroom filling with parmesan cheese dressing or crab meat with mixed vegetable
- Soup: roast tomato soup or Chinese mushroom and pork soup
- Main courses: grilled beef fillet in mushroom red wine with blue cheese sauce and mixed vegetable; pan fried prawn with Yu Xiang Sauce with steamed red rice and vegetable; Tar Korma lamb with green bean masala and basmati yellow rice or pan friend salmon with harissa sauce and pesto linguini; white Chinese shark fin noodle with wheat gluten curry and sweet and sour sauce.
- Cheese: a selection of fine cheese (not specified).
- Desserts: Mousse white chocolate jelly, macaroon, double chocolate mousse cake; hot black sesame sweet soup; seasonal fresh fruit
For snacks there was also a selection of sandwiches or shrimp wonton soup noodle or Haagen Dazs ice cream.
The wine selection is identical to that offered in March, and I reproduce it here:
- Champagne: Lanson black label
- White wines: Santa Rita Medalla Real Chardonnay 2010, Legende Bordeau Blanc 2010 (Lafite), Winery Terra Palatina, Riesling Spatlese 2011
- Red wines: Santa Rita Medalla Real Cabernet Sauvignon 2008, Legende Bordeaux Rouge 2011 (Lafite), Chateau de Lisse Saint-Emilion Grand Cru 2006
- Port: Sandeman Ruby Port.
By now I was ready for sleep, and the seat is great for this. It reclines fully flat, and the flight attendant put a cover blanket on below and a duvet above, and I borrowed an extra pillow from a neighbouring (vacant) seat.
With that I went to sleep for nearly seven hours, and woke feeling very refreshed in time for breakfast, which was served about two hours before landing in Gatwick (though I saw others having it much later than this, when they awoke).
The breakfast offered was a banana and pineapple smoothie, fresh fruit, cereal and yoghurt, with main course choices of parsley omelette with Emmental sausage, roasted potato wedge and sautéed mushroom, or vegetarian abalone with chicken slice congee with stir fried noodles and assorted dim sum, or French toast with berry compote and whipped cream.
Arrival: We arrived slightly early, and onto an air bridge. From there it was a short walk through an empty Gatwick. IRIS was working, and my bags arrived after a 15-minute wait.
Verdict: Very good, the service might quicken slightly, but that’s just a small thing – the seat is very good, the service attentive and always ready to go the extra mile, and the tickets good value. This was my fourth flight with the airline, and convinced me they really are up there with the competitors on the London to Hong Kong routing.