Review: Hong Kong Airlines A330 Business Class Hong Kong to Osaka

Introduction: Feaster Easter in Japan
Hong Kong Airlines Club Bauhinia Lounge Hong Kong Airport
Hong Kong Airlines Club Autus Lounge Hong Kong Airport
Hong Kong Airlines A330 Business Class Hong Kong to Osaka
Hilton Osaka Executive Suite
Yumesenkei Amahara Sumoto Wa-Yo Room
Yumesenkei Amahara Sumoto Dining
Asuka Lounge Osaka Kansai Airport
Hong Kong Airlines A330 Regional Business Class Osaka to Hong Kong


Hong Kong Airlines operates three types of business class seats on their A330s. Their regional A330-200s are outfitted with their regional business class seat, their regional A330-300s are ex-Singapore Airlines and carry a business class seat identical to Singapore Airlines’ (old) regional business class seat, and their longhaul A330s feature their staggered business class product, which I was seated in on this flight.

While booking, Hong Kong Airlines’ longhaul A330-200s and A330-300s carry the codes 33V and 333, so attempt to book yourself on a flight operated by one of these equipment codes (or, of course, the A350) whenever you’re flying Hong Kong Airlines and seated in business class.

Hong Kong Airlines Airbus A330 Hong Kong Airport

I think it’s worth noting that Hong Kong Airlines’ “Manage Your Booking” system (or lack thereof) is terrible. There’s technically an area where you can select your seat as a “value-added service”, though all the seats are blocked off on the system. This was especially a nuisance since our equipment was swapped a total of three times, so I had to select seats four times.

Thankfully Hong Kong Airlines has a functional Live Chat system, which more or less makes up for the otherwise terrible Manage Your Booking system. All the agents I’d talked to were more than happy to change my seat selections according to the seatmap on ExpertFlyer. Unfortunately more and more people seem to have figured that out as of late, as the queues to talk to an online agent have crept up to 6-8 people during my latest queries, with average waiting times of 30 minutes.

The fact that we were equipment-swapped to this configuration a week before departure made me even more excited to board this flight from Hong Kong to Osaka. With that in mind, I left Club Autus at 4:10 PM for our 4:20 PM boarding time. A long line for economy class boarding had already formed, though I managed to be the first in the priority lane.

The gate agents were friendly, though they had to reseat some passengers due to an apparent overbooking. Nonetheless, at around 4:30 PM, the doors were opened, and I was first onboard the Hong Kong Airlines A330.

Hong Kong Airlines 612
Friday, March 30, 2018
Origin: Hong Kong (HKG) Gate: 214 Dep: 17:00 (17:10)
Destination: Osaka Kansai (KIX) Gate: 13 Arr: 22:00 (21:40)
Duration: 4 hr (3 hr 30 min)
Aircraft: Airbus A330-300
Seat: 18K (Business Class)

Upon boarding, I was welcomed by a friendly flight attendant who pointed me to my seat, 18K. I was then approached by another attendant that escorted me to my seat, and granted my request to take a few more pictures of the cabin before it started filling up. The male attendant that did so asked if I wanted my own photo in the cabin, which I appreciated (though I turned down the offer).

Hong Kong Airlines Airbus A330 Business Class Cabin

Hong Kong Airlines’ business class cabin consists of 32 staggered business class seats in a 1-2-1 configuration between doors 1 and 2. There are two types of “mainstream” staggered business class seats out there – Solstys-style staggered seats, and Vantage-style staggered seats. This was the Solstys-style business class seat. I’ve flown the Vantage-style staggered seat before on Swiss, so check out my review of Swiss business class to learn more about that configuration. This was my first time on the Solstys-style business class seat, though it’s popular among multiple airlines – Asiana, Emirates, Etihad and Thai Airways come to mind.

Hong Kong Airlines Airbus A330 Business Class Cabin

Before exploring the cabin, I also decided to snap a quick picture of Hong Kong Airlines’ economy class cabin, configured in a standard 2-4-2 configuration. While the seats looked comfortable, I was glad I wasn’t seated there, as this was a full flight on Good Friday.

Hong Kong Airlines Airbus A330 Economy Class Cabin

The fun thing about Hong Kong Airlines’ business class is that there are multiple seat configurations to choose from. Since the seats are staggered, every seat has its own strengths and limitations.

As you can see in the picture below, some window seats are closer to the windows with a console between the seat and the aisle, and others are closer to the aisle with the console between the seat and the window. This allows space to be maximised, as underneath the console lies the feet of the person behind you.

Hong Kong Airlines Airbus A330 Business Class Seats by Window

I’d selected seat 18K, which was a seat nearer to the window. I really liked my seat – it was private, and the console created a nice cocoon for the seat, protecting me from being disturbed by foot traffic in the aisle.

Hong Kong Airlines Airbus A330 Business Class Seat 18K

The seat was well-padded, and perfectly comfortable, especially for a three-hour flight. It was slightly tight by the shoulders, though the side console gave for extra storage space. Aside from the side console, the seat featured an ottoman, a TV, but no legrest. While the seat was slightly difficult to get into and out of, the walkway shouldn’t be a problematic squeeze for most passengers.

Hong Kong Airlines Airbus A330 Business Class Seat 18K

The side console was a very handy space for paperwork or a laptop during meal service.

Hong Kong Airlines Airbus A330 Business Class Seat Console

The ottoman was large, and provided ample space for my feet in bed mode. The one issue with staggered seats is that there isn’t much storage space. On this flight, the side console was enough to place a laptop and some paperwork, and the space under the ottoman served as another storage area, though that was about it – far too often I found my pillow and duvet either on my lap, or on the floor.

Hong Kong Airlines Airbus A330 Business Class Seat Ottoman

My general preference is to sit at the very back of the cabin, since there’s no one behind me and I can observe the service flow better. Seat 20K on Hong Kong Airlines’ A330 is positioned by the window, so initially I was tempted to assign myself that seat. However, while seat 20K has some extra storage space due to the lack of a television screen behind it, it’s worth noting that the seat is missing a window, which prevented me from choosing this seat in the first place.

Hong Kong Airlines Airbus A330 Business Class Seat 20K

Now let’s move on to the seats near the aisle. These are assigned seat numbers B and H, which is helpful (some airlines assign all their staggered window seats as “A” and “K” seats regardless of whether they’re nearer the window or the aisle), and their consoles are closer to the window. While they’re slightly more spacious (since the “walkway” acts as extra storage space inflight), they’re significantly less private, and I’d avoid choosing these seats on a longhaul flight.

Hong Kong Airlines Airbus A330 Business Class Aisle Seat 17H

Since the side armrest retracts when the seat is transformed into bed mode, you’re basically sitting and sleeping in the aisle, and could quite easily fall into the aisle if you tend to roll around in your sleep.

Hong Kong Airlines Airbus A330 Business Class Aisle Seat 17H

When someone grabs something from the overhead bin across from one of these seats in upright mode, they could potentially ram their butt into their face (disclaimer – oops).

Hong Kong Airlines Airbus A330 Business Class Aisle Seat 17H

They’re open to the point where the ottoman isn’t even separated from the aisle – people can see your feet as they walk past you in the aisle.

Hong Kong Airlines Airbus A330 Business Class Aisle Seat Ottoman

One upside is that the seat is much easier to get into and out of, since it’s directly exposed to the aisle. Still, I’d avoid one of these seats near the aisle if I could.

As you’d expect, the seats in the center blocks are also staggered.

Hong Kong Airlines Airbus A330 Business Class Center Column

The D and G seats are by the aisle, and function pretty much exactly as a B or H seat would, apart from the fact that their consoles aren’t adjacent to the windows.

Hong Kong Airlines Airbus A330 Business Class Seat 18G

Meanwhile, seats E and F are honeymoon seats, and they’re situated as close to each other as economy seats would be. Some couples love being seated close to each other and being cocooned from the aisle. I didn’t get to try out one of these seats, as the flight was full, but I sure wouldn’t want to be stuck here with a stranger.

Hong Kong Airlines Airbus A330 Business Class Honeymoon Seats 17E/F

Fortunately, Hong Kong Airlines installed huge divider partitions between the honeymoon seats that can be raised or lowered, in case two strangers are seated together in these honeymoon seats.

Hong Kong Airlines Airbus A330 Business Class Honeymoon Seat Partition

Anyways, back to my seat. To the left of my seat was an adjustable reading light, which was quite powerful. Once I swiveled it to face forward, it wasn’t obstructive in any way.

Hong Kong Airlines Airbus A330 Business Class Seat Light

The tray table folded down quite easily from the seat in front. It was large and provided a sturdy workspace. I’ve heard complaints about people banging their knees into the pivot that fastened the table to the seatback, though that wasn’t an issue for me at all.

Hong Kong Airlines Airbus A330 Business Class Table

I liked that the table swiveled, which made it far easier to get out of my seat during meal service. As someone who drank a lot of tea and had to look after my family during the meal service, I really appreciated this – it may seem silly, though it made a big difference in accessibility.

Hong Kong Airlines Airbus A330 Business Class Table Swiveled

The seat also featured a big screen, which was touchscreen. The touchscreen function was really responsive, which I appreciated.

Hong Kong Airlines Airbus A330 Business Class Screen

To the left on the console were the seat controls, which were intuitive (I really liked the different ways the seat could be adjusted, and due to the proximity of the ottoman to the seat, I never felt the need for a legrest). The massage function was weak, however, so I wouldn’t get too excited.

Hong Kong Airlines Airbus A330 Business Class Seat Controls

Below the seat controls was the entertainment system remote, which I never needed, due to the responsive touchscreen.

Hong Kong Airlines Airbus A330 Business Class Seat Remote

Beside the seat was a 110V power port, though the seat didn’t feature any USB power ports – an issue rectified on the new A350.

Hong Kong Airlines Airbus A330 Business Class 110V Power Port

Overall I was more than happy with my seat, though I did have one of the best seats on the plane. My mother, sister, and father were seated in 16K, 17H and 16A respectively (I originally assigned us all to sit along a single column by the window, though seat 19H was given away due to an accessibility requirement, so my dad was assigned seat 16A instead).

Also, the cabin was red as ever – the seat was red, the bulkheads were red, the mood lighting was red, the pillow and blanket had red hints, etc.. I wasn’t offended by the abundance of red, though I feel like Hong Kong Airlines is pushing their branding a bit too far with their red cabins. Personally I’d prefer somewhat of a more nuanced cabin with hints of red, though that’s just me.

During boarding. placed on the seat was a pillow and duvet. The pillow was nice and thick, and was the same pillow that passengers receive on longhaul flights.

Hong Kong Airlines Airbus A330 Business Class Pillow

The duvet was also the same duvet provided on longhaul flights, and was plush and comfortable, without being too thick. Hong Kong Airlines certainly doesn’t lack in the bedding department.

Hong Kong Airlines Airbus A330 Business Class Duvet

With the plush pillow and duvet, along with the substantial padding, this seat reclined was very comfortable and cozy in bed position.

Hong Kong Airlines Airbus A330 Business Class Seat in Bed Mode

Also provided at the seat was a pair of headphones, which were adequate. I ended up using my Bose QC35s, as they were better. If anything I was happy that these weren’t economy-style headphones, as up until last year Cathay Pacific was offering economy-style headphones in regional business class products.

Hong Kong Airlines Airbus A330 Business Class Headphones

Located by the headphones was a small bottle of Evian water.

Hong Kong Airlines Airbus A330 Business Class Evian Water

Shortly after I settled in I was offered a pre-departure beverage, with choices of orange juice, water, or lemon tea. I chose a lemon tea, which tasted like (packaged) Nestlé lemon tea with a lemon wedge in it. That’s not very premium, though it is delicious, so no complaints there.

Hong Kong Airlines Airbus A330 Business Class Pre-Departure Beverage

After the door closed, I was offered a hot towel.

Hong Kong Airlines Airbus A330 Business Class Hot Towel

The crowd in business class on this A330 mostly consisted of couples and families headed to Osaka for vacation (as you’d expect, as Hong Kong Airlines’ prices are much cheaper than Cathay Pacific’s). Seated behind me was a large family traveling with an adorable child. The child was adorable, while the parents and grandma were obnoxious and annoyingly loud.

Also, while the cabin was in good condition for the most part, I was amused to learn that the parents seated in the honeymoon seats in the row behind us found a table knife lodged in their seat upon boarding.

After the door closed, the crew came around introducing themselves. The lead flight attendant working my aisle introduced herself as Melva, who invited me to ask her should I have needed anything during the flight. She also passed me the menu, advising me that meal orders would be taken before the meal service.

After that the safety video played, which I found cute, especially with the children’s voiceovers in English.

Hong Kong Airlines Airbus A330 Business Class Safety Video

Hong Kong Airlines Airbus A330 Business Class Safety Video

After the safety video ended, Captain Hugo got on the PA and announced our approximately three-hour flight time to Osaka, also explaining Osaka’s temperature of 17°C, that we’d be getting there on time, and that it was a full house in both cabins (he suspected it was “tight back there [in economy]” – it sure was).

Prior to pushback I used the lavatory. There are two lavatories behind the cabin and one in front, and I decided to use the one in front. Even the lavatory was red, so you really can’t escape the wrath of red when flying Hong Kong Airlines.

Hong Kong Airlines Airbus A330 Business Class Lavatory

Hong Kong Airlines Airbus A330 Business Class Lavatory

We pushed back at around 5:10 PM, and bypassed a variety of interesting aircraft. Hong Kong Airlines more or less dominates the midfield terminal, though our short taxi to the runway entailed views of a British Airways A380 and Jet Airways A330.

View upon Parking at Midfield Terminal Hong Kong Airport

British Airways Airbus A380 Hong Kong Airport

Jet Airways Airbus A330 Hong Kong Airport

During our taxi the crew came around asking if we wanted slippers. I took a pair for the photo opportunity, though didn’t actually end up using them throughout the flight.

Hong Kong Airlines Airbus A330 Business Class Slippers

I appreciated that they offered slippers, and that’s something I’d really like to see on Cathay Pacific, especially on longhaul flights.

Hong Kong Airlines Airbus A330 Business Class Slippers

Along with slippers, we were also passed out landing cards, including a larger landing card for each party, and a separate smaller individual card for each separate passenger.

Before takeoff the crew turned on some red mood lighting (if the red finishes pervading through the cabin weren’t enough already).

Hong Kong Airlines Airbus A330 Business Class Cabin Before Takeoff

We then waited for a few aircraft to overtake us and take off, before we finally took off from runway 07R at 5:35 PM, 35 minutes after the scheduled departure time.

Takeoff Hong Kong Airport

Since we were taking off over runway 07R, we had nice views over Hong Kong – it also didn’t hurt that the weather was great.

Takeoff Hong Kong Airport

Takeoff Hong Kong Airport

Shortly after takeoff I ventured to the economy cabin. Hong Kong Airlines’ economy seats are pretty standard, in a 2-4-2 configuration on the A330 – the handset remotes looked new, and reminded me of Korean Air economy class.

Hong Kong Airlines Airbus A330 Economy Class

I also used the lavatory at the front of the cabin, where I had to pass through the galley. A flight attendant saw me approaching, knocked on the lavatory door to make sure no one was inside, and held the door open for me as I entered, which isn’t something that I’m accustomed to, even in business class. That was very nice of the flight attendant, and I thanked her.

I saw one of the passengers from business class congregating with the crew a lot, and she even held the lavatory door open for my mother in a similar fashion when she needed the bathroom. She wasn’t wearing crew uniform, so I’m guessing she was a flight attendant positioning to Osaka, where she’d be working the late night flight home.

After returning to my seat I checked out the entertainment system. It didn’t seem very extensive, though there were a variety of movies. There were separate eBooks, Tourism (travel information) and About Us sections on offer, though the eBooks section didn’t seem to work.

Hong Kong Airlines Airbus A330 Business Class Entertainment System

Hong Kong Airlines Airbus A330 Business Class Entertainment System

Hong Kong Airlines Airbus A330 Business Class Entertainment System

Hong Kong Airlines Airbus A330 Business Class Entertainment System

Hong Kong Airlines Airbus A330 Business Class Entertainment System

Hong Kong Airlines Airbus A330 Business Class Entertainment System

Hong Kong Airlines Airbus A330 Business Class Entertainment System

As promised, meal service orders were taken shortly after takeoff, before the meal service. The menu read as follows:

Hong Kong Airlines Airbus A330 Business Class Menu

Meanwhile, the beverage list read as follows, with the wine list enclosed inside on a separate sheet:

Hong Kong Airlines Airbus A330 Business Class Beverage and Wine List

If anything, I was impressed by the variety of specialty Hong Kong drinks that were offered, ranging from Hong Kong style milk tea, to Yuan Yang (half milk tea and half coffee – yeah, we’re weird), to lemon tea. For my pre-departure beverage, which was offered 30 minutes after takeoff, I had a Hong Kong-style milk tea, which was on the sweet side. It was served with some nuts, which probably came straight out of a package (they weren’t hot).

Hong Kong Airlines Airbus A330 Business Class Pre-Meal Beverage Service – Hong Kong Style Milk tea and Mixed Nuts

20 minutes later the appetiser was served on a tray. It consisted of a sous-vide shrimp dish, soba noodles, and garlic bread out of a breadbasket.

Hong Kong Airlines Airbus A330 Business Class Appetiser

I liked the flavour of the sous-vide shrimp – they were clearly marinaded, and I thought the sous-vide was smart (sous-vide is a technique where you cook food in a water bath set to a very specific temperature, so it requires the same amount of effort to cook one piece of it shrimp that it does to cook 400 pieces of shrimp). I don’t have as good things to say about the vegetables on the side, or the sauce underneath – the sauce tasted like a bland mayonnaise (it clearly wasn’t a hollandaise), and the vegetables were unpleasant.

Hong Kong Airlines Airbus A330 Business Class Appetiser – Sous-vide Prawns with White Vinegar Celtuce Stick and Hong Kong Hollandaise Sauce

The soba noodles were great, though it takes effort to screw up cooking soba,  cooling it, and serving it alongside a packaged sauce.

Hong Kong Airlines Airbus A330 Business Class Appetiser Soba Noodles

Out of the breadbasket, I selected a garlic bread, which smelled great. It was kind of soggy, though I liked the flavour.

Hong Kong Airlines Airbus A330 Business Class Garlic Bread

For the main course I ordered the Japanese-style chicken dish with roasted leeks (Peking onion!?!), egg, and mixed rice. I wasn’t a fan of this dish – the chicken had some flavour albeit being on the dry side, and I liked the leeks and egg, but the rice was bland, and managed to be soggy and crusty at the same time.

Hong Kong Airlines Airbus A330 Business Class Main Course – Roasted Chicken and Peking Onion in Yakitori Sauce, Japanese Mushroom Mixed Rice and Tamagoyaki

My rice dish was cleared 15 minutes in, though I didn’t receive dessert until almost 30 minutes after the main course arrived, which was a little irritating. It consisted of a matcha tiramisu. While I wanted to like the dessert due to how beautifully it was presented, there was a layer of water underneath the tiramisu, as the mousse had broken. That was disgusting and gave the tiramisu an unpleasant mouthfeel.

Hong Kong Airlines Airbus A330 Business Class Dessert – Matcha Tiramisu

On the tray was a Godiva milk chocolate, which I appreciated.

Hong Kong Airlines Airbus A330 Business Class Meal Chocolate

By the end of the meal service we were already halfway through our flight to Osaka. The length of the meal service almost takes away any merit that the superior seat offers – while I appreciated the elaborate meal and the food quality was fine, the length of the meal service took away any of my hopes to work productively or take a nap, given we only had an hour’s worth of flying time left.

I don’t need an abbreviated meal service on a three-hour daytime flight, though a few of my friends were on the 1 AM redeye flight the same morning in business class and were also in this configuration, and were served a similar meal that almost took up the entire flight. Hong Kong Airlines needs to have an abbreviated meal for redeye flights that maximises time for passengers to relax, especially given that they otherwise have a good seat with great bedding.

Hong Kong Airlines Airbus A330 Business Class Position After Meal Service

I was happy that I could swivel the tray table, as I could leave my seat as desired and work with my laptop on my lap.

Service throughout the meal service was friendly and very well-intentioned, though the flight attendants didn’t have much time to be personable, given they were serving an elaborate meal to a 32-seat business class cabin in a way that they quite evidently hadn’t mastered yet.

After the meal service the crew turned on red mood lighting and dimmed the cabin lights so people could nap.

Hong Kong Airlines Airbus A330 Business Class Dimmed Cabin Lights

By the end of the meal service the sun had mostly set on the left side of the aircraft, so I went to my dad’s seat to get some good pictures out of his window (in retrospect I should’ve assigned seats on the left side of the cabin).

Sunset Enroute to Osaka

After the meal service we were handed hot towels on a cute towel tray.

Hong Kong Airlines Airbus A330 Business Class Post-Meal Service Hot Towel

I worked for around 30 minutes, when Captain Hugo came back on the PA and announced that we were approaching Osaka at an altitude of 37,000 feet. He said that we’d be arriving early at 9:25 PM, and advised us of the cooler 11°C temperature in Osaka. Also around that time we hit some chop, and the seatbelt sign came on, and stayed on until landing.

10 minutes later the captain advised the crew to prepare for landing. They came around making sure all seats were upright and window shades were open, though were fine with me quickly stuffing my laptop into the overhead bin, despite the seatbelt sign still being on.

Hong Kong Airlines Airbus A330 Business Class Cabin Before Landing

The touchdown into Osaka was smooth, and we touched down into Osaka at 9:35 PM. It was a 10-minute taxi to gate 13, given Osaka Kansai Airport is the longest airport terminal in the world. We parked next to an Asiana 767.

Asiana Boeing 767 Osaka Kansai Airport

I bid farewell to the crew, and deplaned through door L1. Immigration was smooth, though what I like about Osaka Kansai Airport is that they take all priority baggage off the carousel and lay them in a line by the side, so I was able to find all of our bags immediately. We schlepped over to Terminal 2 to retrieve our car rental, and from thereon out we drove into Osaka for our hotel and some ramen.

Bottom Line: Hong Kong Airlines A330 Business Class

Under our specific circumstances, Hong Kong Airlines business class was undoubtedly the best way to get to Osaka. I’m especially happy that we got an equipment swap so I got to try out their longhaul configuration, and would be happy with these seats on a longhaul flight. While not all seats in Hong Kong Airlines’ longhaul A330 configuration are created equal, at least they all recline into a flat bed, and there’s sufficient separation between honeymoon seats when required. The crew on this flight was great as well – undoubtedly polished, friendly, and I have nothing but good things to say about them.

There were two areas in which Hong Kong Airlines was superior to their biggest rival, Cathay Pacific. Hong Kong Airlines provides their longhaul pillow and blanket on all flights, and I prefer Hong Kong Airlines’ duvet to Cathay Pacific’s, as it’s plusher. Also, while I like Cathay Pacific’s Hong Kong-style milk tea, Hong Kong Airlines outdid them with Yuan Yang and lemon tea on offer as well, both of which are drinks that are pretty iconically Hong Kong. Admittedly they’re less premium drinks (you’d expect both at a cha chaan teng), so they fit Hong Kong Airlines’ “fun local” branding more than they do Cathay Pacific’s “understated luxury” ethos, though I appreciate that Hong Kong Airlines tries to regionally differentiate their brand. This extends to the seat finishes, even though I believe they went overboard with that.

However, while I like Hong Kong Airlines’ longhaul business class seat, Cathay Pacific’s longhaul business class seat continues to offer more privacy and space. This business class seat is solid, while reverse herringbone seats are world-class. That said, Cathay Pacific’s business class prices are normally exponentially more expensive than Hong Kong Airlines’, so there’s good reason to pick Hong Kong Airlines business class over Cathay Pacific’s on your next flight. Expect an upcoming separate post comparing the two products more extensively.

The one beef I have with Hong Kong Airlines’ product is the meal service. While it wasn’t much of a problem on this daytime three-hour flight, the extensiveness of the meal service proved problematic on a similar redeye flight, where the utility of the solid hard product was negated. Still, I was impressed by Hong Kong Airlines, and wouldn’t hesitate to fly them again.

Have you flown Hong Kong Airlines business class? Did you enjoy it?

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