First impressions: I arrived at Gatwick’s North terminal at 1800 for my 2115 departure on Hong Kong Airlines. It’s my second return flight with the carrier, which started this route in March of this year. I was impressed with it (click here for the original review), but wanted to see if the service on board had become more slick, hence this second review.
Check-in for Hong Kong Airlines at Gatwick North is in Zone C. There was no queue for Club Premier, and a few passengers waiting at Club Classic. I checked in one bag – the airline allows three bags with a total weight of 96kg – and then used the fast track security at which there was a short queue. I then went straight through to the lounge.
The lounge: The airline uses the No1 Traveller lounge. If you are flying with the airline then all items on the a la carte menu in this lounge, along with all drinks, including champagne, are complimentary.
Perhaps because it was the end of the day (and the end of the week – I was flying on Sunday night), the two choices I wanted – a burger or a steak sandwich, were exhausted, as was my final choice of a bowl of chips. The staff were apologetic. I gave up and had a glass of champagne. We did a comprehensive review of the lounge when it opened – to read this click here.
The staff in here were much better than the ones I had encountered a month or so earlier in the No.1 lounge at LGW.
Boarding: Gate 52 was only a short walk away. Boarding had commenced so I walked straight onto the aircraft.
I had tried to select a window seat at check-in, but these had all been taken, so went for an aisle seat. In fact on boarding I realised this was 5C, possibly the worst seat in the cabin being next to the bar and with no overhead storage space since the locker is filled with emergency equipment. I asked if I could move, and so ended up in 3H, which was much better, though still not a window seat. For a seatplan, click here.
Only soft drinks are served on the ground, so I had an apple juice, and was given a sleepsuit. After take off we were also given a Bulgari amenity bag, with eye mask, ear plugs and Bulgari amenities. They also brought round a bottle of water which I was glad of because the drinks service after take off was much delayed.
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.
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, has seats 6C, 6E and 6J and 6K, with the row behind being 7A, 7D, 7G and 7H. The aisle is quite narrow, and sitting in seat 8C, for instance, on the previous flight I had found passengers walking through 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 15.5in in Club Premier and 10.5in 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 was good for working on, and I worked intermittently during the flight, taking advantage of the in-seat power. The wifi worked without problem, though is only useful for light use. The Onair wifi comes on a scratch card offering 20MB for $37 card – it is complimentary, though you pay if you want to use more than that amount.
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 good news is that the service was a bit quicker than on the flight I took in March, but it’s still fairly slow. We took off half an hour late at 2145. Orders for drinks and food were taken together at 2230 and drinks didn’t appear until one hour after take off at 2245. It was nearly midnight before the meal service was concluded. That said, the service once it starts is very attentive.
There is a bar on board, but it isn’t stocked and seems a waste of space to me. Perhaps it will be used on different flight sectors. The menu was as follows:
- Canapes: Salmon cream [sic] fraiche shell [sic] and goat’s cheese and caramelised red onion savoury tartlet.
- Starters: dill and lemon marinated prawns on a bed of fennel salad with a citrus mayonnaise or corn fed drunken [sic] chicken slices with sesame cucumber batons.
- Main courses: mini rack of lamb with braised lamb neck with cos lettuce, parcels of pancetta and onions; braised chicken and abalone, Chinese pak choi with garlic, ginger, and steamed rice or Kadhai Jhinga Curry, steamed basmati rice; Pan-fried Anglesey seabass in a white wine and chervil cream sauce, peasa, broad bean and buttered new potatoes or Choi sum, carrot and shitake mushrooms in oriental sauce served with jasmine rice, broccoli and lotus root.
- Cheese: a selection of fine cheese including Saint-Nectaire, Cropwell Bishop Stilton and Brie.
- Desserts: Almond Amaretti tart with a strawberry coulis, or hot red bean sweet soup or seasonal fresh fruit.
For snacks here was also a selection of sandwiches or plum sauce duck and scallop noodle soup, with Haagen Dazs ice cream as possible extras.
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
When it was time for sleep I put on the purple sleep suit and the flight attendant made up my bed, and then I quite happily slept for several hours. Breakfast was served a few hours before we landed.
Breakfast consisted of strawberry and banana smoothies, fresh fruit, cereal and yoghurt, with main coursechoices of poached eggs Florentine on toasted muffin with grilled bacon and roasted cherry tomato, or shitake mushroom and scallops congee with stir fried egg noodles and assorted dim sum, or Belgium waffles with maple syrup.
Arrival: We arrived on time into Hong Kong and then were bussed to the terminal which at least saved us having a long walk or having to use the transit train. I have a frequent visitor card for Hong Kong and so was quickly through immigration. There was then a 10-minute wait for the bags.
Verdict: A very comfortable seat, a good level of service, and sign that things are improving month on month. I would definitely fly Hong Kong Airlines again.