Today I had the chance to fly from Hong Kong to Osaka in Hong Kong Airlines’ A330 business class. I’ve looked forward to this flight ever since I booked it, as I’ve flown Cathay Pacific in business class so many times (including on this exact route), and I’d heard that Hong Kong Airlines is currently on a steady improvement trajectory.
Five years ago Hong Kong Airlines was Asia’s joke airline, but in the meantime they’ve introduced flat beds in business class, inaugurated their A350 with a solid product across both cabins, and implemented longhaul routes that don’t seem like they’ve been conceptualised by a 12-year-old. Many of my friends have taken Hong Kong Airlines within the past year, and prior to their flights they’d asked me numerous questions about the onboard experience. I was excited to finally be able to answer them.
Hong Kong Airlines Airbus A330 Hong Kong Airport
This will be a brief “first impressions” report of my shorthaul flight from Hong Kong to Osaka in Hong Kong Airlines’ A330 business class. The full, comprehensive review of my flight will be posted by next week, but as usual, I’m keen on sharing my initial impressions of the flight.
Hong Kong Airlines’ A330 Business Class Seat
Originally we were booked in Hong Kong Airlines’ regional A330 business class both ways, though as of a week before departure our outbound sector was equipment-swapped to Hong Kong Airlines’ longhaul A330 business class product, which they operate on some of their longhaul flights (namely Gold Coast, Cairns, and Vancouver – their A350s feature a very similar, though slightly enhanced version of this product as well).
Hong Kong Airlines’ longhaul A330-300 business class features 32 staggered business class seats, laid out in a 1-2-1 configuration.
Hong Kong Airlines Airbus A330 Business Class Cabin
I’ve been in numerous business class seat configurations before, though this was my first time in this specific type of staggered reverse herringbone configuration. I’d heard all about it, though, so I came in knowing pretty much exactly what to expect.
The thing with staggered business class seats is that some seats are better than others. In this configuration, even numbered rows have window seats positioned directly adjacent to the windows, with a console between the seat and the aisle. These are by far the best seats for solo travelers – they’re private, you get a window view, and the console barricades you from foot traffic in the aisle. I was seated in 18K, and I really liked my seat.
Hong Kong Airlines Airbus A330 Business Class Seat 18K
Meanwhile, odd numbered rows feature seats directly adjacent to the aisle, which aren’t nearly as private. You’re basically seated in the aisle. The aisle isn’t that wide to start with, so when someone retrieves something from the overhead bin across from you, they potentially ram their butt into your face.
Hong Kong Airlines Airbus A330 Business Class Seat 17H
In the center column, odd-numbered rows feature “honeymoon” seats, where you’re seated pretty much just as far apart as you otherwise would be in economy. Thankfully, Hong Kong Airlines provides a large partition that can be raised, making it much less awkward when you’re assigned a honeymoon seat next to a stranger.
Hong Kong Airlines Airbus A330 Business Class Seats 17E and 17F
The seats themselves are tight, especially for some of the longer flights that these planes run, but they’re well-padded and recline into a fully flat bed, so no complaints there.
Hong Kong Airlines Airbus A330 Business Class Bed
While the airline’s A330-200s feature an onboard bar (named the Sky Bar), their A330-300s don’t.
One issue I have is that I’d prefer having hints/splashes of red in future cabin designs, rather than having red be the main colour palette. While I was looking around the cabin, I could hear the Weasleys file in for identity theft. 😉
Hong Kong Airlines’ A330 Business Class Amenities
One point where airlines usually falter is with offering amenities in regional business class. While headphones are offered as normal, the amenity kit is usually left out, and everything that comes with it neglected. The pillow and blanket normally receive a pretty substantial downgrade as well.
Hong Kong Airlines offers the same blanket and duvet in regional business class as they do in longhaul business class. I believe the headphones are the same as well. They don’t offer an amenity kit on the regional route, though they offer slippers. I think that’s more than substantial on a three-hour flight.
Hong Kong Airlines Airbus A330 Business Class Headphones
Hong Kong Airlines’ A330 Business Class Food
I came in with very low expectations of Hong Kong Airlines’ food, as I’d heard that food wasn’t by any means their strong point. While the food wasn’t especially good, it was better than I expected.
I liked the shrimp appetiser.
Hong Kong Airlines Airbus A330 Business Class Shrimp Appetiser
The Japanese-style chicken main course was a little less appealing.
Hong Kong Airlines Airbus A330 Business Class Main Course
While the dessert looked nice, unfortunately the quality went downhill from there.
Hong Kong Airlines Airbus A330 Business Class Dessert
Overall, I was impressed that Hong Kong Airlines offered a full, elaborate meal on the flight, though was a little irritated that it lasted 45 minutes. I’d rather have an abbreviated meal service that was executed efficiently, so I’d have more time to work and relax.
Hong Kong Airlines’ A330 Business Class Service
I was expecting Hong Kong Airlines to be a little bit like Cathay Pacific in training. I was ready to receive weird looks for taking photos, and was also ready to be treated as if I was half my age. I was also expecting ultra-slow, flustered, though well-intentioned service. Since Hong Kong Airlines still has an inferior reputation, I was expecting the cabin crew to mostly consist of people who didn’t get the job at Cathay Pacific.
While the crew didn’t go out of their way to make this flight special, a very elaborate service procedure was executed on this shorthaul flight. I was constantly addressed by (last) name, the purser introduced herself to me prior to the flight, and every time I passed through the galley to use the washroom, a flight attendant would knock on the bathroom door, make sure the bathroom was clean, and hold the door open for me. These were all small details, though they showed that Hong Kong Airlines isn’t messing around with their service ethic.
Bottom Line: Hong Kong Airlines’ A330 Business Class
Hong Kong Airlines isn’t at risk of having one of the world’s best business class products. Their staggered seat is one of the better seats in the industry, though not the best. Their crewmembers are well-trained, though I can’t base my judgment of that on a single flight. Their meals aren’t going to win any Michelin star awards in the near future either, and while I thought the amenities were more than substantial, they weren’t anything particularly special.
That said, Hong Kong Airlines offers a very, very solid business class product. My one question now is if they’re better than Cathay Pacific. After I fly the return flight in their regional business class product and post my full reviews of the experience, I’ll write a separate post comparing Hong Kong Airlines and Cathay Pacific for shorthaul travel in business class. If anything, I walked off this flight with certainty that they’re on a level playing field.
I have quite a bit to say on their lounges as well (particularly Club Autus, which received a lot of hype when it first opened), which I’ll cover in a separate post.
Have you flown Hong Kong Airlines in business class before? How did you find it?