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

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


Today we were flying one of Hong Kong Airlines’ ex-Singapore Airlines A330s, featuring an angled flat business class product. On the outbound I reviewed Hong Kong Airlines’ longhaul business class hard product, which almost all of their longhaul routes feature, as well as a large number of the airline’s shorthaul routes. However, as the rate of increase of the airline’s routes exceeded the rate of which their A330s were being delivered, Hong Kong Airlines had to lease some A330s from Singapore Airlines, which operate exclusively regionally. (Hong Kong Airlines also has a few other types of business class seat on their A330-200s.)

Despite the fact that these A330s feature an inferior product, they’re actually less dense than the airline’s longhaul A330s. These A330s feature 30 seats between doors 1 and 2, whereas their longhaul A330s feature 32 seats within the same space.

Our A330 was parked at gate 5, and I had a clear view of our aircraft home from the Wing Express, the “people-mover” taking me to our gate area.

Hong Kong Airlines Airbus A330 Osaka Kansai Airport

Once a boarding call was made at the Asuka Lounge, I made a beeline to the gate, where they were finishing up boarding for the infirm. Due to the sheer amount of families traveling to Osaka for leisure during Easter holidays, there were quite a few wheelchairs for the ground crew to fold up. However, the gate agents were efficient, and my boarding pass was scanned shortly after. Excitedly I made my way down the jetbridge towards door L1.

Before I get into the flight, here’s a video review (it focuses mainly on my outbound flight, so the below video will automatically only play from when I start talking about the return flight):

Hong Kong Airlines 619
Thursday, April 5, 2018
Origin: Osaka Kansai (KIX) Gate: 5 Dep: 17:40 (17:35)
Destination: Hong Kong (HKG) Gate: 211 Arr: 20:55 (20:50)
Duration: 4 hr 15 min (4 hr 15 min)
Aircraft: Airbus A330-300
Seat: 17A/11K (Business Class)

I was greeted by a flight attendant, who escorted me to my seat, 17A.

Hong Kong Airlines’ A330 business class consists of 30 business class seats, arranged across 5 rows in a 2-2-2 configuration.

Hong Kong Airlines Airbus A330 Regional Business Class Cabin

Since these aircraft weren’t reconfigured after Hong Kong Airlines acquired them, they still feature Singapore Airlines’ exact regional product, apart from the finishes. While the carpet, bulkhead, and seat upholstery have all been updated with the airline’s signature red, this doesn’t extend to the seat “shells” and bones, which still retain Singapore Airlines’ muted beige colours. China Airlines and EVA Air’s A330 products feature similar seat “bones”.

Hong Kong Airlines Airbus A330 Regional Business Class Cabin

Hong Kong Airlines Airbus A330 Regional Business Class Seats 11A and 11C

Hong Kong Airlines Airbus A330 Regional Business Class Cabin

I’d selected the left side seats A and C in rows 16 and 17 for our family, and chose to sit in 17A, the left window seat in the last row of the cabin.

Hong Kong Airlines Airbus A330 Regional Business Class Seats 17A and 17C

Hong Kong Airlines Airbus A330 Regional Business Class Seats 16A and 16C

The economy cabin looked really well-padded, especially since it was also transferred directly from Singapore Airlines.

Hong Kong Airlines Airbus A330 Economy Class

The business class seats were exceptionally well padded, and reasonably wide for a shorthaul product. There’s more elbow space here than there is in Hong Kong Airlines’ longhaul business class product due to the lack of a side console, though obviously this elbow space is shared with a seatmate.

Hong Kong Airlines Airbus A330 Regional Business Class Seat 17A

Legroom was great as far as angled flat seats go – perhaps ever so slightly on the cramped side while reclined.

Hong Kong Airlines Airbus A330 Regional Business Class Legroom

The seat controls were extensive and intuitive, and were located in the armrest to the left of my seat.

Hong Kong Airlines Airbus A330 Regional Business Class Seat Controls

Below that was the entertainment control, which was one of the standard older versions (though was fully functional).

Hong Kong Airlines Airbus A330 Regional Business Class Entertainment Remote Control

To my right was a reading light that automatically illuminated once it was “popped” out of its shell of sorts, as well as a very substantial privacy partition.

Hong Kong Airlines Airbus A330 Regional Business Class Reading Light

Hong Kong Airlines Airbus A330 Regional Business Class Privacy Partition

In front of me were two mini-lockers (the switches on the side lock their respective drawers), which I really appreciated. Storage can be lacking in forward-facing business class seats, and the lockers served as a very convenient space to store my GoPro equipment. Those who don’t have a GoPro will find the drawer handy for a phone, pens, glasses, etc..

Hong Kong Airlines Airbus A330 Regional Business Class Lockers

Hong Kong Airlines Airbus A330 Regional Business Class Lockers

Between seats were two water bottle holders (more than anything I found this a very good place to put a book).

Hong Kong Airlines Airbus A330 Regional Business Class Water Bottle Holder

Also, power ports were provided under the armrest, as well as USB ports – the airline’s longhaul A330 business class seat lacks the latter feature.

Hong Kong Airlines Airbus A330 Regional Business Class Power Ports

Also, under the console between seats was yet even more storage space, where I found headphones, as well as a handy bottle of Evian water.

Hong Kong Airlines Airbus A330 Regional Business Class Storage Space

While the seats are fully functional, they weren’t in mint condition, as some parts of the seats were (very clearly) held together by duct tape.

Hong Kong Airlines Airbus A330 Regional Business Class Wear and Tear

Overall, I really liked the seat. While I prefer a seat with direct aisle access, the seat was very well padded, and I loved that storage was maximised with the different storage compartments that the seat offered.

Waiting at my seat was a plush pillow and duvet/comforter, and in the storage compartment were headphones in a case. Once again, I love the consistency of amenities that Hong Kong Airlines has long employed regardless of hard product, something Cathay Pacific has only recently learned from.

Hong Kong Airlines Airbus A330 Regional Business Class Pillow

The headphones were wearable, though my Bose headphones were still clearly better, so I used them instead.

Hong Kong Airlines Airbus A330 Regional Business Class Headphones

Shortly after I finished a quick photoshoot of the seat, a flight attendant came over with pre-departure beverages, consisting of a choice between water and orange juice (I believe they were out of lemon tea). I went for orange juice.

Hong Kong Airlines Airbus A330 Regional Business Class Pre-Departure Beverage

Shortly after that the crew came around with hot towels.

Hong Kong Airlines Airbus A330 Regional Business Class Hot Towel

During the boarding process, Hong Kong Airlines played a few promotional videos on the entertainment screen. I loved how they played their business class promotional video, which was cheesy, and didn’t even feature the same business class product as the one we were in.

Hong Kong Airlines Airbus A330 Regional Business Class Promotional Video

Hong Kong Airlines Airbus A330 Regional Business Class Promotional Video

The door closed early, at 5:30 PM. It was a light load in business class today. Everyone in the first few rows essentially had an empty seat next to them, while seated in front of us and on the other side near the back of the cabin were two Chinese families (coincidentally, the family seated in front of us involved one of my father’s old work rivals). The middle column of seats was basically completely empty.

After the safety video played, the cabin manager came around, introducing herself as Elsa. She gave us menus and told me she’d be there if I had any needs or questions, and was very nice to my sister, which I appreciated. After that, captain Chris came on the PA, and announced our flying time of 3 hours and 30 minutes. He said we’d be flying over Naha and Taiwan airspace prior to approaching Hong Kong, and announced Hong Kong’s local temperature of 22°C.

Hong Kong Airlines Airbus A330 Regional Business Class Airshow

Hong Kong Airlines Airbus A330 Regional Business Class Cabin upon Takeoff

We taxied over to the gate, where we had some nice views, including one of a Delta 767.

Delta Boeing 767 Osaka Kansai Airport

View upon Taxiing Osaka Kansai Airport

Captain Chris came back on to apologise that the takeoff sequence would take “a while” since we had to wait in line for takeoff. I was seated on the left side, so I had good views of the Thai A380 and Air Busan A321 taking off before we did. While we lined up, the crew came around and offered to take our pillows and duvets, since they wouldn’t fly around during takeoff (this wasn’t offered on the outbound flight).

Thai Airways Airbus A380 Taking Off Osaka Kansai Airport

 

Air Busan Airbus A321 Osaka Kansai Airport

At around 6 PM we had a long takeoff roll from runway 06R, where we were treated to good views of the airport (though the same couldn’t be said for views of the city, due to how overcast it was).

Runway Osaka Kansai Airport

Taking Off Osaka Kansai Airport

Taking Off Osaka Kansai Airport

The views outside became significantly less gloomy after we overtopped the clouds that loomed over Osaka that afternoon.

Climbout Osaka Kansai Airport

While I wasn’t planning to sleep on this flight, I figured I’d be bereft in my duty not to test the seat out in bed mode. This was probably the most comfortable angled-flat seat I’ve sat in, largely due to the great padding, the relatively gentle incline and the sturdy fold-out platform for my feet.

Hong Kong Airlines Airbus A330 Regional Business Class Bed

Hong Kong Airlines Airbus A330 Regional Business Class Bed

While I was seated next to my sister, I was planning on getting some good footage of this flight for an upcoming project, so I wanted to have some extra space. The bulkhead row 11 was completely empty apart from the left window seat, so I decided to move to the right bulkhead window seat just so I could test it out.

Hong Kong Airlines Airbus A330 Regional Business Class Seats 11H and 11K

These seats are markedly more spacious and feature a ton of legroom, though they also lack the storage lockers that I found useful. In this case I preferred sitting here since the seat next to me was empty, though otherwise there’s virtually no storage space, so that’s something to keep in mind. As someone with an iPhone and GoPro equipment, I personally wouldn’t select to sit here on a full flight, despite how spacious the seat is.

Hong Kong Airlines Airbus A330 Regional Business Class Bulkhead Legroom

The TV screen here is located on the bulkhead (speaking of that, it’s worth noting that these screens aren’t touchscreen, whereas the ones on their longhaul product are), and are marginally bigger.

Hong Kong Airlines Airbus A330 Regional Business Class Bulkhead TV

Once we leveled off the crew sprang into action for the meal service. The menu read as follows:

Hong Kong Airlines Airbus A330 Regional Business Class Menu

The beverage list read as follows:

Hong Kong Airlines Airbus A330 Regional Business Class Drink and Wine List

After we cruised for around 20 minutes, my table was laid (speaking of tray tables, this one was sturdy, and amply large for working).

Hong Kong Airlines Airbus A330 Regional Business Class Table Set

The crew took my drink order during this time. I ordered a lemon tea, which came with some (clearly packaged) nuts in a ramekin.

Hong Kong Airlines Airbus A330 Regional Business Class Pre-Meal Service Nuts and Beverages

Five minutes later the crew came around with the appetiser, consisting of sous vide scallop with citrus salad. Our outbound meal appetiser featured sous vide shrimp – while I’ve heard of that before, this was the first time I’d had a sous vide scallop. There’s a reason for that, though at least it came with flavourful citrus “caviar” that popped in my mouth, and the soba noodles the appetiser came with were delicious.

Hong Kong Airlines Airbus A330 Regional Business Class Appetiser – Sous Vide Scallop with Citrus Salad

I was also offered warm bread out of a bread basket (once again, props to having warm bread, which too many airlines drop the ball on), and I chose a small bread, which was fluffy, moist and delicious.

Hong Kong Airlines Airbus A330 Regional Business Class Bread

Soon my appetiser was cleared, and 10 minutes later the crew came around with the main course. I’d selected the Western option, which was some sort of beef tenderloin with black pepper sauce and egg fried rice. The tenderloin itself was way overcooked, though the sauce packed a punch of flavour, and the egg fried rice had some nice flavour too.

Hong Kong Airlines Airbus A330 Regional Business Class Main Course – Sautéed Beef Tenderloin Cube with Black Pepper Sauce, Egg Fried Rice and Seasonal Vegetables

Dessert was a panna cotta. Hong Kong Airlines has the unique ability to butcher dessert, since the panna cotta was way more gelatinous than it should’ve been. Despite that, the flavours were good, I liked the sauce (despite the fact that I would’ve appreciated a thicker consistency), and the chocolate on top was a nice touch.

Hong Kong Airlines Airbus A330 Regional Business Class Dessert – Panna Cotta with Strawberry Coulis

After the meal service, the crew came around with hot towels on a towel tray, something that stayed coherent with my outbound experience.

Hong Kong Airlines Airbus A330 Regional Business Class Hot Towel After Meal Service

At this point we were less than halfway into the flight, which I thought was a nice pace. The flight attendants were friendly and personable and addressed me by (last) name, despite the fact that I’d switched seats, which I was impressed by. While they seemed more diligent and experienced than the outbound crew, it’s worth noting that the load factor on this flight in business class was also significantly less, which contributed to the quick pace of service (the below photo was taken around 10 minutes after my tray table was cleared).

Hong Kong Airlines Airbus A330 Regional Business Class Airshow After Meal Service

After dinner I decided to quickly check out the economy cabin again, which was much fuller. Despite that, the seats looked relatively comfortable and well-equipped, since they were passed down directly from Singapore Airlines (apart from the red finishes).

Hong Kong Airlines Airbus A330 Economy Class

The business class cabin lights were then dimmed, and not long after, they were turned off.

I decided to turn on my reading light and work for a while, opening my window shade every now and then to check out the amazing sunset outside.

Sunset over Taiwan

At one point I visited the lavatory. While Hong Kong Airlines’ crimson branding bled into most of the nooks and crannies of this plane, the lavatory was largely neglected – it was identical to what you’d expect on a Singapore Airlines A330.

Hong Kong Airlines Airbus A330 Regional Business Class Lavatory

Hong Kong Airlines Airbus A330 Regional Business Class Lavatory

The lavatory featured Verveine toiletries, which were fragrant and enjoyable.

Hong Kong Airlines Airbus A330 Regional Business Class Lavatory Amenities

I worked for half an hour, then took a nap – I was plenty exhausted, and slept well, despite the incline.

Shortly before landing I decided to check out the entertainment system, which was different to that on their longhaul fleet. While Hong Kong Airlines’ own entertainment system on their longhaul fleet impressed me, the system offered on these planes was markedly inferior – it featured a similar selection of movies and TV, though I found the system harder to navigate, and the airshow only featured a rotation of viewing perspectives (on their own entertainment system you can select from a range of view options).

Hong Kong Airlines Airbus A330 Regional Business Class Entertainment System

45 minutes before our published landing time the cabin lights were turned on to their “dimmed” setting, and captain Chris came back onto the PA to address the updated temperature of 25°C, and also that we’d be landing into Hong Kong ahead of schedule.

Hong Kong Airlines Airbus A330 Regional Business Class Cabin Before Landing

During our descent, we experienced some surreally stunning views over Macau and the Cotai strip.

 Views upon Landing Hong Kong Airport

 Views upon Landing Hong Kong Airport

After a short taxi we arrived at gate 211, located in the midfield terminal. I bid farewell to the great crew, deplaned through door L2, and was on my way home.

During our walk to the “people-mover” I saw an observation deck, which many families with young children seemed intrigued by. A bit of fresh air less than five minutes after deplaning? Yes please! Unfortunately the observation deck faced an inward part of the airport where there were no tarmac views at all, to the point where I’m not even sure why they bothered.

“Observation Deck” Hong Kong Airport Midfield Terminal

The roughest part of our journey was probably baggage claim, where we shared a luggage belt with two high-capacity 777s, and on top of that our bags were delayed for quite a while. Despite that, around an hour after deplaning, we were on our way home.

Also, I’d left an IB examination book on the flight, and go figure the airline’s site went down the day I noticed, so I couldn’t contact their lost and found center. Thankfully I had the book replaced, though the best I could do at the time was leave them a voice message on the only hotline I could find; they reached out two weeks later saying they were “looking into it”, though I haven’t heard from them since.

Bottom Line: Hong Kong Airlines A330 Business Class

Hong Kong Airlines offers a solid regional business class product. Personally I wouldn’t avoid this hard product when traveling with someone else on a short flight – the seats are plenty spacious, are designed immaculately as far as angled flat seats go, and I probably wouldn’t get a lot of value out of a fully flat bed on shorter flights anyway. I can’t give Hong Kong Airlines full credit for that, since they mooched off Singapore Airlines’ hard product, and given a workable time schedule I’d probably still elect to fly their longhaul configuration due to the added privacy and storage space, especially when flying solo. Regardless, it’s a great product for flying shorthaul.

On top of that, food certainly isn’t Hong Kong Airlines’ strong point, though I like their local incorporations, such as lemon tea, milk tea, and yuan yang. Furthermore, the crew on this flight was very good.

I can’t begin to say how much better this seat is compared to Cathay Pacific’s regional business class. Cathay Pacific’s regional business class seat is a glorified recliner – it doesn’t recline much, storage space is limited, and the padding can’t measure up. Meanwhile, this seat actually has productivity in mind, and storage is admirably maximised (it does take up more real estate per seat, though – Cathay Pacific fits 7 rows of business class seats in the same space where Hong Kong Airlines fits five rows of seats).

In my opinion, airlines should try differentiating longhaul and shorthaul products by the separate needs of passengers on each, as opposed to the number of passengers they can cram into each configuration. At the same time, I realise that comes at the expense of profit at times.

Hong Kong Airlines’ “own” angled flat seat, featured on a bulk of their A330-200s, is inferior, so I’m hoping to try that out in the near future.

What do you value in a shorthaul business class seat?

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