Hong Kong Airlines Business Class Hong Kong-Bangkok – Perfect service but a limited drinks list
Hong Kong Airlines was founded in the early 2000s and has existed in its present form since 2006. The airline serves 30 cities in ten countries from its base in Hong Kong, with over 20 aircraft, mainly Airbus A320s and Airbus A330s. Hong Kong Airlines is unlike its main competitor, Cathay Pacific (which also has its base in Hong Kong), in that it is not part of any alliance, but is now half owned by Hainan Airlines.
We booked a flight with Hong Kong Airlines in business class between Hong Kong and Bangkok.
At the Airport
Hong Kong Airlines’ check-in was in check-in area ‘K’ at Hong Kong’s Chek Lap Kok airport. Next to the regular check-in desks there were the slightly more exclusive “Club Class” check-in desks, with a long red carpet leading up to the desks. This is a remnant from the time when Hong Kong Airlines flew all-business class between Hong Kong and London.
I checked in at 3pm, three hours before my departure time to Bangkok of 6.10pm. The check-in was quick and efficient and conducted by a young woman who was assisted by a female colleague who tagged the baggage. A boarding pass was printed with my pre-booked seat, 03K, and my bag was assigned a priority tag, one of the nicer ones I have come across, in red with the ‘O’ in ‘Priority’ replaced with a heart. Finally, I received brief directions to the lounge. Overall, a pleasant start to the trip.
Hong Kong lacks a fast track for premium passengers through passport and security control, but being 3pm, the airport was not very busy and all formalities took only ten minutes.
Hong Kong Airlines’ VIP lounge is located between the East shopping area and the West shopping area, between gate 23 and gate 25. The lounge is quite small, but otherwise nice, with comfortable armchairs and offers views of parts of the apron through large panoramic windows. At this time in the afternoon there was not many people in the lounge, no more than 15. The lounge also had a well-managed buffet, offering sandwiches, pastries, simple hot food, beer, wine and spirits.
A positive aspect of the lounge was the reception staff, who were trying to keep track of who was on each flight. As I was about to leave, a woman from the front desk came running and told me that she had just been informed that there would be a gate change for my flight to Bangkok. She asked me to sit down and said she would find out the new gate, which she did.
Boarding and First Impressions
The gate had indeed changed, unfortunately, to a bus gate on the basement level. This was even less enjoyable as the rain was pouring down outside. The staff handed out raincoats to those who desired them.
There were no signs or directions for business class passengers at the gate, something they otherwise tend to be very proper with in Hong Kong. I asked the staff about this and was asked to form a new queue to the left of the ordinary queue. One minute later I became the first passenger to board the bus. Luckily, at the same time there was a break in the rain storm.
Door 2L was used to board the aircraft, followed by a left turn to get to business class. The cabin gave a good first impression, everything was neat and well maintained. The seats were blue with cushions in purple and the headrest of the seat was neon green. The rest of the cabin was mostly white and grey.
The staff immediately came up to greet me and I was addressed by name from this moment onwards. A welcome drink of juice or water was offered along with a hot towel on a small plate. To my disappointment, there was no champagne. I was also offered newspapers and given a landing card for Thailand. A blanket and pillow were waiting for me on my seat as I boarded.
The bad weather and subsequent thunderstorm meant that we soon received information from the captain that take-off would be delayed. Incidentally, the captain of the flight, Captain Petri, was Finnish, which I felt was quite peculiar on a flight between Hong Kong and Thailand. Meanwhile in business class we were offered more drinks. I ordered a glass of juice and a cup of coffee, which was served with biscuits and nuts. We were also asked if we would like to have dinner while on the ground, but I chose to wait. The biscuits were surprisingly good, as was the papaya juice I ordered.
At 7.00pm, 50 minutes after schedule, we finally got permission from traffic control to start the engines. The long delay was due to the traffic jam caused by the lightning, nothing the airline could affect. The delay was handled very well indeed, regular information was relayed from the cockpit and, of course, drinks and snacks were served while we waited. The flight time to Bangkok was estimated at 2 hours and 20 minutes.
Business class onboard the Airbus A330-200 consisted of 24 seats, 4 rows in a 2-2-2 configuration. There was hardly any congestion at the front as we were only three passengers in business class. Economy class, however, was much fuller.
I know the seat well since it is the same model that several other airlines use. Among others, I have previously reviewed an identical seat on a Royal Jordanian flight.
The seat offered legroom of 62 inches, a little above average for business class. The seat does not fully recline to a horizontal position but does have a generous lie-flat position if you want to sleep. The seat is controlled by a control panel located on the armrest, this provides good opportunities to regulate the seat’s functionality. The seat also has a USB socket and a power socket for your laptop, both strategically and carefully placed.
There was a good choice of entertainment on board, with movies, TV shows, games, and flight information, all AVOD (Audio Video on Demand). Excellent noise cancelling headphones were also distributed. Just like with the seat, the in-flight entertainment system was a version I have previously tested with other airlines, therefore, the menu felt very familiar. The screen was stowed in the construction of the seat in front.
I watched the Disney film, Rataouille, during the flight.
The menu was handed out while we waited on the ground, and with the unexpected delay that occurred, the ordering of food and drinks took place before departure. With an expected departure time of 6pm, dinner was to be served on this flight to Bangkok. On offer was an appetiser, three choices of main course, and dessert. The same menu, more-or-less, is also used for lunch.
On the last page of the menu was the drinks list. Surprisingly, the list only mentioned non-alcoholic beverages like juices, soft drinks, coffee, and an assortment of teas. It later transpired that there was beer and wine on board, but no spirits.
Once in the air, dinner service began promptly. Service was very elegant, especially the white cloth laid on the table before me. Hong Kong Airlines has an orchid in its logo, the same type of flower seen on the Hong Kong flag, and this was also present on the porcelain and the salt and pepper shakers. The red flowers on the white porcelain was an attractive combination.
The starter on offer was duck with salad, a dish I always appreciate. Bread was also distributed from a basket and I took two slices of garlic bread. I ordered a glass of red wine, which was really good, though it was a shame the available wines were not mentioned in the drink list.
The three choices of main course consisted of; chicken with mashed potatoes and vegetables, rice with prawns in chili sauce with vegetables, and noodles with mushrooms and beans in an oyster sauce. I ordered the chicken, however, the dish served to me actually consisted of beef. A refill of wine was offered along with more bread.
Lastly, ice cream was served for dessert, two flavours of Haagen Dazs, followed by coffee and tea. There were no spirits available on the flight and, therefore, no chance to mix a liqueur with my coffee, but I chose to keep hold of my my wine glass and had continuous replenishments throughout the flight.
The staff on board were excellent and could hardly have done more during the flight. I was spoken to by name as soon as the opportunity arose, and the service was very attentive overall. Even after the meal service was over, they regularly passed through the cabin and made sure my wine glass was never empty. Although we encountered a delay on the ground, everything was handled very professionally and information was relayed to the passengers along with the serving of drinks and snacks.
After service was completed, the lights in the cabin were extinguished and were replaced by more subtle lighting effects, creating a pleasant atmosphere while the film played on my screen.
The approach to Bangkok was pleasant and we landed at 8:45pm, 1 hour and 20 minutes behind schedule. The aircraft parked at the G-pier. No fast-track cards were handed out in business class so there was a fairly lengthy wait at passport control, however, my checked baggage was the very first to arrive on the baggage belt thanks to my priority tag.
Overall, a good experience, impressive staff and an attentive service both in the air and on the ground. A greater range of drinks on board was lacking and the menu could have advised exactly what was being offered.