a row of red seats in an airplane

Up Close With Hong Kong Airlines’ New A350 Economy Seat

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Yesterday I got to tour one of Hong Kong Airlines’ own Airbus A350s. While Hong Kong Airlines currently already flies four A350s, they were meant to be delivered to Azul, so feature a different onboard product. So the rest of Hong Kong’s 21 A350s from hereon out will be delivered with a different product to the one on the first four.

The biggest hype was surrounding the business class product, so yesterday I gave an extensive tour of the airline’s new business class product. However, I realised that the economy class product was also different from what the airline offers on their other A350s, so I thought I’d be bereft in my duty not to check them out as well.

a row of red seats in an airplane
Hong Kong Airlines Airbus A350 Economy Cabin

So, how is Hong Kong Airlines’ newest A350 economy class product?

Hong Kong Airlines decided to outfit their A350s with Recaro CL3710 economy seats. If you’ve flown Qatar Airways’ 777 3-4-3 economy class or KLM’s 777 economy class, you’ll be familiar with this seat. Cathay Pacific’s 3-4-3 777s and Singapore Airlines’ newest A380s and 787s feature a modified version of this seat.

This is different from Hong Kong Airlines’ current A350s – the seat covers are different, the headrest is protruding, and the seatback’s features are sleeker and more modern.

a row of red seats in an airplane
Hong Kong Airlines Airbus A350 Economy Cabin

As you’d expect, economy seats here are in a 3-3-3 configuration.

a plane with red seats
Hong Kong Airlines Airbus A350 Economy Cabin

an airplane with rows of seats
Hong Kong Airlines Airbus A350 Economy Cabin

Let’s start with the positives – the legroom. I thought the legroom in Hong Kong Airlines’ A350 economy class was exceptional, and I could stretch out comfortably even if there were obstructions in front of the seat. This is partly thanks to the fact that the seats are slimline, so the airline can give more legroom without actually reducing the seat count. This comes at the expense of padding, though – more on that in a bit.

a person's legs in a seat with a pocket in the back
Hong Kong Airlines Airbus A350 Economy Class Legroom

Obviously if you’re in the front row you get more legroom, and I thought the legroom by this bulkhead was especially generous.

a seat in a plane
Hong Kong Airlines Airbus A350 Economy Class Legroom Front Row

However, the seats to go for in this cabin are seats 52A and 52K. Row 51 is the exit row, but due to the protrusion of the exit door there aren’t any window seats by row 51. This means that 52A and 52K have a missing seat in front of them, which translates to a heap of extra legroom without losing the window view.

a row of red seats
Hong Kong Airlines Airbus A350 Economy Class Legroom Seat 52A

While there’s no floor storage, I sure can’t complain about basically having direct aisle access from an economy window seat! Most other A350s also have 1-2 similarly generous seats due to how the exit door is laid out (Cathay Pacific’s A350 economy class is among them – seats 60A and 60K should be familiar to the savviest of frequent fliers).

a person's legs in blue pants and blue pants
Hong Kong Airlines Airbus A350 Economy Class Legroom Seat 52K

One thing to note is that the PTV screens for all bulkhead seats, as well as seats 52A and 52K, come out of the armrest. I found the touchscreen system to be incredibly responsive, though there’s no remote here (unlike in business class). For more on the new entertainment system, check out my walkthrough of the new business class product (TL;DR: despite not being a fan of the Thales entertainment system on other aircraft, I thought the interface was very easy to use, but the selection wasn’t amazingly extensive).

a tablet with a plastic wrap around it
Hong Kong Airlines Airbus A350 Economy Class PTV Screen

The seats do recline a fair amount, though I didn’t find the recline to be especially generous.

a row of red seats
Hong Kong Airlines Airbus A350 Economy Class Recline

The tray table was very sturdy, which I enjoyed. Most modern economy class products get this right, however (though nothing disturbs me more than a table that might as well be a flag due to how flimsy it is).

a white rectangular object with a metal handle
Hong Kong Airlines Airbus A350 Economy Class Tray Table

As you’d expect, there’s a USB port under the TV screen, and universal 110V power ports are shared between seats.

I did have a few beefs with the seat, though. First of all, the padding wasn’t particularly competitive – while not actively hard, I wouldn’t find the seat comfortable to sit in for extended periods of time, and I’d try and ask for a pillow if I was booked on a longhaul in Hong Kong Airlines economy class. This isn’t Cathay Pacific’s old 777 or A350-1000 economy class, which features a dedicated layer of padding; that said, it’s on par with the padding on most other airlines in economy.

a row of seats in an airplane
Hong Kong Airlines Airbus A350 Economy Class Cabin

Also, while there is a nook of sorts below the PTV, it opens up directly into the tray table “area”, so it doesn’t serve as a storage nook for small items. If you’re taking a nap you’ll be able to place your phone there (you won’t be able to place a laptop as there’s a partition in the middle), though you wouldn’t be able to take advantage of the nook if your tray table is out, such as during meal services.

I was pleased to see that both the economy and business class cabins had air nozzles, which is far too much of an oversight on modern aircraft. Nothing ruins a flight more than having a great hard product, only to be prevented from getting rest by the lack of air circulation and overly warm temperatures onboard. That’s even more of an important factor given Hong Kong Airlines will be running these planes to Bangkok every once in a while. (The current A350s don’t have air nozzles.)

a white panel with knobs and buttons
Hong Kong Airlines Airbus A350 Economy Class Air Nozzles

While row 52 is great for legroom on longhaul flights, on more scenic routes you’ll want to sit further forward, as your view will largely be obstructed by the wing. Still, though, there’s nothing to complain about having a direct view of the A350’s brand new, shiny, curved winglets. 🙂

a white airplane on the runway
Hong Kong Airlines Airbus A350 Economy Class Wing View

Bottom Line: Hong Kong Airlines A350 Economy Class

I’m glad to see that Hong Kong Airlines picked the Recaro CL3710 seat for their economy class passengers. However, I would’ve liked to see more innovation on the padding front.

I’m quite happy I had the chance to look at these seats. While I do think they’ll make for a comfortable flight (as comfortable as economy gets), especially on the legroom front, they’re not industry leading by any means. I’m glad there’s storage for a phone or a small tablet when your tray table is retracted, though I do wish they had a more robust storage nook as Cathay Pacific does on all of their most recent economy seats.

Cathay Pacific’s A350 economy class seat has a storage nook independent from the tray table that can be used anytime

While in business class Cathay Pacific and Hong Kong Airlines’ hard products are neck-and-neck (stay tuned for a more in-depth comparison), I do believe that Cathay Pacific continues to have the better economy class seat on the A350-900, despite our complaints.

What do you think about Hong Kong Airlines’ newest economy class seat?

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