Review – Hong Kong Airlines A320 Business Class – CKG-HKG

I had read mostly negative reviews of Hong Kong Airlines so I was actually strangely excited to try them out. They are owned by Hainan Airlines, which is a Skytrax 5-star airline, so I figured how bad could they actually be?

Introduction
Review – JAL Sakura Lounge – SFO
Review – JAL 777-300ER First Class – SFO-HND
Review – Tokyo Hilton
Review – Cathay Pacific Lounge – HND
Review – Cathay Pacific 747-400 Business Class – HND-HKG
Review – Sheraton Hong Kong Towers
Review – Dragon Air A320 Business Class – HKG-CKG
Review – Sofitel Forebase Chongqing
Review – Hong Kong Airlines Lounge – CKG
Review – Hong Kong Airlines A320 Business Class – CKG-HKG
Review – Cathay Pacific 777-200 Business Class – HKG-SIN
Review – Conrad Centennial Singapore
Review – Qantas Lounge – SIN
Review – British Airways Lounge – SIN
Review – Dnata (Cathay Pacific) Contract Lounge – SIN
Review – Cathay Pacific 777-200 Business Class – SIN-HKG
Review – Cathay Pacific First Class Lounge The Pier – HKG
Review – Cathay Pacific First Class Lounge The Wing – HKG
Review – Cathay Pacific 777-300ER First Class – HKG-ORD

This was the only flight that I opted to pay for out of pocket as a one-way business class ticket was going for ~$250 USD. Notably, this was only $70 more than an economy class ticket, so for a 2 hour flight that might be delayed, I considered it money well spent. The only daily Dragon Air flight back to Hong Kong did not leave until 1:45 PM and had no award space available. The other Star Alliance and SkyTeam Alliance award redemption options would have required nearly 24 hours of flying to get us to our ultimate destination of Singapore, so it made sense to pay out of pocket for this flight.

Hong Kong Airlines 497
Chongqing, China (CKG) – Hong Kong (HKG)
Depart: 8:10 AM
Arrive: 10:20 AM
Duration: 2 hours, 10 minutes
Aircraft: Airbus A320
Seat: 12C (Business Class)

I reviewed the check-in procedure for this flight in my review of the Hong Kong Airlines Lounge, so I will not rehash that here. Needless to say, it was a bit of chaos at check-in.

I had read mixed reviews of Hong Kong Airlines, most of which were negative, so my expectations going in were exceedingly low. With that said, Hong Kong Airlines is owned by Hainan Airlines (and if fact their aircraft seem to be old Hainan aircraft), which is a Skytrax 5-star rated airline, so I figured it would be better than a lot of the negative reviews I had read.

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Boarding was a bit delayed so we ended up sitting around the gate for around 10 minutes. During that time the gate agents were wandering the gate area and looking at carry-on bags. The gate agent inspected my carry-on and then picked it up to judge its weight. I am certain I was over the 7 kg weight limit that Hong Kong Airlines mentions on its website, but she still just nodded and put a hand-carry baggage tag on my bag. I also think showing her my business class ticket helped in this instance. In any case, it is worth noting to steer clear of the boarding area if you have an over-sized or over-weight carry-on.

When boarding finally began, they did not call for business class first. Instead people had started lining up well before boarding was announced and the gate agents simply started from those in the front of the line. When boarding was announced, we jumped in the line, which at that point was about 40 passengers deep. After a quick check of my passport and a scan of my boarding pass, we boarded through door 1L where we were greeted by the crew. We turned right into the business class cabin where we took our seats in the second row.

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Hong Kong Airlines’ A320’s business class cabin is small with just 2 rows of business class seats in a 2-2 configuration.

HX Configuration

Waiting at the seat was a Hong Kong Airlines branded pillow and blanket.

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After settling in the flight attendant working the business class cabin came by to introduce herself and offer us a pre-departure beverage. The pre-departure beverages were either water or orange juice. I opted for a glass of water.

The flight attendant came by after that to give us each a warm towel which was served on a nice Hong Kong Airlines branded plate.

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Menus were handed out almost immediately after boarding and the flight attendant came around taking orders a few minutes after that. While I appreciate that it is only a 2 hour flight so service needs to be quick, I still would have liked a little bit longer to review the menu and get my pictures. The menu read as follows:

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After meal orders were taken, I set about fiddling with the seat. It was pretty clear that this was previously a Hainan Airlines aircraft as the cabin featured their signature interior. Even the tail art on their A320s is half of the Hainan Airlines logo. This particular aircraft had seen better days, but still had some life left in her.

The seat was controlled via buttons on the side of the seat.

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With 38″ of pitch and 21″ of width, the seats offer plenty of space to stretch out for such a short flight. Each seat had a personal in-flight entertainment unit that popped up out of the center console. It was quite dirty, though I would figure out why shortly.

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The in-flight entertainment system was controlled via a controller that fit into the side of the seat.

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Unfortunately, neither the in-flight entertainment system, nor the controller in the seat worked. I am guessing they had been disabled as a cost savings measure since Hong Kong Airlines is the discount subsidiary of Hainan Airlines. It is also worth noting that they even disabled the light and flight attendant call button on the controller. Not a big deal for such a short flight, but still odd to me.

The seat also featured internationally configured power ports and USB ports.

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After boarding had been completed the captain came on the PA to announce our flying time of 1 hour and 50 minutes at an altitude of 35,000 feet. The business class cabin was only half full with only 4 out of the 8 seats taken.

Once ground control gave us the go ahead, we had an on time departure and were airborne after a quick taxi. We hit quite a bit of chop heading out which delayed the captain turning off the fasten seat belt sign. Once we cleared the chop, the breakfast service began right away.

I had ordered a cold Hong Kong style milk tea and the omelet. The milk tea was served right away and was just ok. Cathay Pacific definitely does them better.

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That was followed by the flight attendant setting my table with a white tablecloth and serving the breakfast all at once.

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We were also offered a selection from the bread basket which included croissants, danishes and biscuits. I opted for a danish, though the picture somehow got deleted so I cannot share it with you.

Even the butter was shaped like the Hong Kong Airlines logo, which I thought was a cool touch.

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About the only good part of the entire meal was the danish. All of the fruit tasted waxy and had a strange consistency to it (maybe it had been previously frozen?). The yogurt was more like milk than anything else and eating it with the tiny teaspoon they provided was so difficult that I just gave up. But possibly the worst part of the meal had to be the main course. The eggs were woefully undercooked and when I cut into the omelet, uncooked egg leaked out onto the plate.

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I took one bite and left the rest wishing for the first time ever to have American Airlines’ eggs (which is saying something!). The bacon was mostly fat and was also only partially cooked and chewy. Overall, I would give the food on Hong Kong Airlines a D-.

What really made this flight good though was the crew. The flight attendant working the business class cabin was exceptional. She smiled the entire flight and was as nice as could be. You could tell she was a bit embarrassed about her grasp of the English language, though it was very good. I told her I thought her grasp of the English language was very good and that her service was exceptional and she beamed after hearing that.

Before I knew it we were starting our descent into Hong Kong. We arrived at a remote gate where there was a bus waiting to take us to immigration. After we landed, the crew jumped up to close the curtain between business class and economy class to let the business class passengers deplane first. Although I do not think this was really necessary given how empty the business class cabin was, I still find it to be a nice touch.

We boarded the bus which ended up being jam packed with every passenger from the flight and headed for immigration.

Final Thoughts

I think Hong Kong Airlines really lived up to its reputation as being a middle of the road airline. The flight attendant working the business class cabin is what really stood out for me as she was fantastic. The seats were perfectly comfortable for the shorthaul flights that Hong Kong Airlines flies, though it would have been nice if the in-flight entertainment system had worked.The food on the other hand was absolutely horrible, even for airplane food.

I definitely would not go out of my way to fly Hong Kong Airlines again, though I do think that for what we paid for the flight that we got our monies worth. It is also worth noting that Hong Kong Airlines is more a discount carrier than a major carrier, so for a discount carrier I think that Hong Kong Airlines probably offers the top echelon in the segment.

If you have flown on Hong Kong Airlines before, what was your experience?

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