My review of Hong Kong Airlines Business Class A350 San Francisco/ Los Angeles to Hong Kong and A330 to Taipei
Hong Kong Airlines has been a thorn in Cathay Pacific’s lucrative ‘near monopoly’ of Hong Kong to Asia and Hong Kong to US flights. The corporate owner HNA (which also owns Hainan Airlines and HK Express among many others) has been investing heavily to modernize Hong Kong Airlines from an airline targeting vacationers to non-leisure travelers.
A few months ago Hong Kong Airlines published ‘mistake fares’ that had Business Class fares from the US to many destinations in Asia on sale for just $680 Round Trip. Mighty Travels Premium alerted subscribers FIRST just when it became first available. Start your free 30 Day Trial here to get an alert when the next mistake fare comes along.
In total I got to enjoy three different configurations on Hong Kong Airlines – the First generation A350 Business Class (flying the San Francisco route), the second generation A350 Business Class (flying the Los Angeles route) and the A330 Business Class (flying regional routes).
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Hong Kong Airlines A350 Business Class San Francisco to Hong Kong (First generation)
Hong Kong Airlines is still new to San Francisco airport and does not run their own lounge there. Instead it uses the Air France/ KLM lounge. While not a great lounge it features an eclectic, French-inspired menu and wasn’t crowded this morning. However there was a major winter storm rolling in with delays of up to three hours at San Francisco airport. Flights to long-haul destinations are typically less affected and Hong Kong airlines managed to stay on time.
This First generation A350 (for the airline) features the Solia SOLSTYS Third Generation Business Class seat. This seat is used by a number of airlines like Air Mauritius’ A350 or Iberia’s A350 Business Class It shares a number of features with other popular Business Class seats – it is fully lie-flat, feature a high-definition display and a easy to use remote. It comes with a good amount of storage and power outlets (USB and AC Power).
What isn’t so great is the minimal privacy and that some seats (the seats closer to the aisle) can be uncomfortable when people move through the aisles. Unfortunately that was the seat assigned to me. Most of the seats were taken in this flight – many of the passengers seemed to experience their first Business Class experience as they had purchased the mistake fare seemingly. Everybody was anxious to photograph and explore what Business Class offers.
Pre-Departure drink were offered and as we got underway.
I wasn’t really happen with the scarcity of the meals – this was a flight of almost 15 hours. It was planned with just one meal right after takeoff and a meal just before landing. In between snacks were available but these were basically a hot soup and not so appealing sandwich. I would have hoped for another meal – especially since I wasn’t a fan of the lunch.
I felt the seats were comfortable and I wasn’t so bothered by the minimal privacy. I found the service to be friendly – slightly more attentive and warmer than Cathay Pacific.
The A350 is a more modern plane that is much more quiet and provides a more humid air. Flying feels much more like being on the ground – I actually felt quite good even when landing to at 3 AM body team and little sleep.
There is WiFi on-board but it is paid for and limited to small amounts of data. It’ use it more as an emergency WiFi but would consider it useful to do much online work.
Hong Kong Airlines A330 Business Class Hong Kong to Taipei
I detailed my experience of the Hong Kong Airlines Business Class Lounge here. The A330’s that Hong Kong airlines uses are much older and have gotten the Stelia SOLSTYS I seats. They are largely similar to the newer generations but are less wide and definitely more tired. I was finally tired at 5 Am body time and made use of the lie-flat option to fall asleep right after take off. I wasn’t able to remember much after that though.
Hong Kong Airlines A350 Business Class Hong Kong to Los Angeles (second Generation)
Amazingly for such a new aircraft – Hong Kong Airlines decided to up-the-ante and install a new seat the BE Aerospace Super Diamond seat on these aircraft. Another popular choice that China Airlines Business Class and many others have opted for.
The advantage of the seat is the improved privacy, the fully lie-flat, crisp display and plenty of storage.It also makes every single seat equal – not more panic about seat selection. Plus the cabin looks just so much more beautiful compared to the somewhat ugly cabin design using the Stelia Solstyce seats.
Once thing that is off id that the cart storage of the Economy Class galley is immediately mounted to teh back of the last middle Business Class seats. That unfortunately was my seat assigned to me. While it was rather quiet the most time the constant hard push of food carts hitting the wall made sleeping impossible. While I wasn’t to tired for this daytime flight – if you are make sure you do not sit there!
In fact the cabin was 100% full and there was a lot of noise from other passengers attempting to have a lively discussion across the cabin. The airplane itself seemed brand new and was spotless.
The inflight WiFi wasn’t working on this particular aircraft but flight attendants indicated it was free to use normally.
Again I found the flight attendants to be rather joyful and professional.
I was a bit more happy with the catering on this flight …
We arrived more than an hour early into Los Angeles because of the strong tailwinds early in the flight.
In summary I feel Hong Kong Airlines feels like a startup – there are rumors about the company’s less than ideal liquidity. The staff is well incentivized and joyful and not as ‘robotic’ as Cathay Pacific tenured flight attendants.
The A350 is hands-down my favorite plane for its quiet and elegant flight. I love the higher humidity and the fresh Business Class cabins. I’d strongly favor the Super Diamond cabin if you get a chance to find out before you book though this may be quite subjective.
Both Cathay Pacific and Hong Kong Airlines are a let down in terms of catering. I wish they could improve on that.
Hong Kong Airlines isn’t part of a major alliance but certain flights can be credited with partners like Etihad. Their own program Fortune Wings is quite lucrative when redeeming on Hong Kong Airlines.
Would I fly Hong Kong Airlines again? Absolutely especially when a deal is that good.
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About the author: Torsten is a serial entrepreneur who started almost a dozen ventures on four continents. Torsten's love for travel has brought him to 130+ countries and travel with most of the world's airlines. You can reach Torsten at [email protected]
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