The sphere of airplane travel is always evolving as companies constantly strive to win over new clients and keep their existing passengers happily loyal by offering new services, innovations and interesting deals, writes Rachel Smith
The choices are plenty and whilst some companies have long established themselves as unquestionable giants in the field, it never hurts to stay informed on what is new on the market, as you could often find pleasant surprises proposed by challengers that do their best to make themselves a name in the world of international travel. Worthy of note, Hong Kong Airlines has recently extended its routes to North America and as it expands its operations, it is definitely one of the companies to pay attention to in the coming years, for those who wish to try something new.
Hong Kong Airlines is an airline company owned by the People’s Republic of China and located in Hong Kong, with a principal hub at the Chek Lap Kok International Airport and headquarters in Tung Chung. Founded in 2006, the company is relatively young in comparison to other airline giants, yet its fleet of 34 aircraft and its 36 destinations are continuously expanding and it is already Hong Kong’s second largest airline, preceded only by the world-famous Cathay Pacific.
Having previously used the Bombardier CRJ200 and CRJ700, now the passenger airliners consist exclusively of Airbus models: 11 A320s, 9 A330-200s, and 9 A330-300s, whilst cargo flights are serviced by 5 A330-200Fs, and the all-Airbus lineup is no coincidence seeing as the A330 Family is well reputed for its exceptional efficiency and reliability, optimised safety and minimised maintenance costs. 15 more A350s and 9 A330s are also being added to its fleet, with the first A350 arriving in August. Hong Kong Airlines is part of the Fortune Wings Club, along with sister companies such as Hainan Airlines, Hong Kong Express Airways, Grand China Express, Grand China Air and Lucky Air.
Generally, the company has received favourable reviews on all of its plans, even the economy class tickets are considered to be quite good. However, it is Hong Kong Airlines’ business class seats that are particularly worthy of attention. For starters, the business class plan is very attractive, and with the company’s 2017 North America debut, it will be a welcomed addition to passengers’ options for international flights. Hong Kong Airlines had already provided travel for destinations like Australia and New Zealand, most of western Europe, central Russia, and the United Arab Emirates, and now, as of June 30 2017, it also undertakes flights to Vancouver. In the wake of the remarkable success of the Vancouver route and the addition of the Airbus A350 to its fleet, Hong Kong Airlines has announced that in December 2017, it will add Los Angeles to its ever growing list of serviced cities.
Let us now take a look at the different aircraft and the plans that they offer. For starters, the business class on the A330-200 is a very well praised option for lengthy flights. The A330 is a widebody jet airliner designed for medium to long range flights, with the A330-200 in particular meant for routes of up to 13,450 km with a full passenger payload. Whilst it is a shortened version of the original design, it offers the most capacious cabin of all airplanes in its category, measuring 45 m in length, 5.28 m in width and 17.39 m in height. With the Hong Kong Airlines configuration, the A330-200 carries up to 283 passengers, including 24 business class seats.
The business class section is located at the front of the airplane in a 2-2-2 arrangement. It is one of the quietest cabins on jets amongst its kind, plus the customisable ambient lighting and stylish design offer a homely and relaxing atmosphere. The size of the cabin gives space for seats of 46 cm in width, providing the passenger with plenty of comfort and personal space. In fact, the business class seating on Hong Kong Airlines’ A330-200 looks almost as good as first class places on other airlines.
The average person will find the legroom to be perfectly accommodating, on top of that, they will be able to recline fully to enjoy some sleep. The control panel features several options for the seat adjustment and it’s easy to manipulate in order to achieve the perfect position. A pillow, a cozy blanket and slippers are provided for each place in order to accommodate the passenger with the optimal comfort. The generous amount of personal space also makes sure that, in case you have the window seat and your neighbour is completely reclined, you would still be able to make your way to the aisle without having to bother the person next to you. Both seats share a little table in between and a bigger tray table can be found folded within each seat’s outer armrest, whilst the inner armrest contains the personal touchscreen display.
The in-flight entertainment system features state-of-the-art fourth generation technology, allowing the travellers to enjoy even the longest of flights with video-on-demand, local and global news, and a large selection of music. There is a wide variety of TV series and movies, from Hollywood’s most recent to Asian films and anything in between. In addition to that, every seat is equipped with satellite connectivity for personal computers and mobile phones, making it possible to stay in touch with one’s peers on the ground and even get some work done, so that the hours of travel are not wasted on simply waiting to arrive at the destination.
The food aboard Hong Kong Airlines’ A330 business class is a treat compared to what most economy class passengers are used to. Whilst the menu is not the most diverse, the dishes are particularly well prepared and the ingredients are of top quality, in contrast to the lacklustre taste of the majority of airline food. On longer flights, the main course is served twice, along with starters and desserts. In addition, snacks such as nuts and chocolate bars, as well as water and other drinks are often offered in between meals, so there is no chance of a passenger ever going hungry or thirsty.
While we await the emergence of the brand new A350s as part of the Hong Kong Airlines fleet, another popular option is the very affordable business class seat aboard the A330-300 - the 200’s older and bigger brother. Although the range is shorter than the 200 – reaching 11,750 km, its cabin is longer by 5 meters and its max payload is increased from 36.4 to 45.9 tonnes. The business class section now seats 32 passengers in a 1-2-1 configuration, which is a welcome change for those that travel alone because the window seats now enjoy unequaled privacy, while couples can find themselves cozy in the middle row. The seats on the 300 are also bigger than on the 200, measuring 52 cm in width and having a 190.5 cm pitch. Naturally, they too can fully recline into a horizontal position and be converted into a bed for the comfort of night flights. There is a copious amount of space and, particularly in the case of window class seats thanks to the privacy they enjoy, the business class places can almost compete with first class seats provided by other airlines.
For entertainment, the business class seat on the 300 also comes equipped with a large touchscreen monitor and a pair of good headphones. Hong Kong Airlines’ library presents the passenger with a diversity of programs, in English and Chinese, featuring a selection of on-demand video from all around the world that should appeal to different tastes and preferences. The food, once again, is a substantial improvement from the economy class menu. Served on beautiful white china, the three course meals are worthy of a good restaurant. There is also a selection of drinks, and while the crew often serves juice and water along with the snacks, one may also request alcoholic beverages, including champagne, red wine and white wine.
Last but not the least, another part of the Hong Kong Airlines experience that should not be overlooked is its signature lounge – Club Bauhinia. Found within the Hong Kong International Airport, Club Bauhinia is a recent addition to the company’s services that has played an important role in its effort to drop the low-cost carrier image that it has earned over the years and finally appeal to a premium clientele. It is safe to say that the effort was not in vain, because the Hong Kong Airlines’ business lounge, open since 2014, is the perfect place to spend your time before a flight. Club Bauhinia has a full bar with a remarkable selection of drinks, as well as a high grade menu serving Chinese, as well as international dishes. It is a cozy and spacious area with couches, dining areas and work stations that pristinely complements the airline’s in-flight experience.