Asiana Lounge Seoul

Asiana Lounge Seoul

The Asiana business lounge is located just after passport control on a mezzanine level overlooking the concourse. Initial impressions are good with a marble reception desk with friendly staff. If you enter to the right you will enter the new expanded wing.

The lounge itself is full of natural light in the daytime and at night when we visited had a nice intimate feeling despite being busy and a large lounge. Even though it was one big space, it had been cleverly sectioned with plenty of table seating to eat as well as relaxation areas, with even a grand piano in the center of the space. Think plenty of dark wood, earth colors and dark furniture to give the lounge a library kind of feel.

So with an impressive lounge environment we were looking forward to visiting the buffet, unfortunately here is where it went downhill. The selection of both food and drinks was very limited, with a selection more appropriate to a regional lounge rather than a flagship lounge in an airport and with an airline serving long haul routes.

They bizarrely had toast available for this late evening departure with what can best be described as a few snacks and nibbles, nothing substantial. Apparently there is more food available at main meal times but what is a main meal time? Airlines seem to be using this as an excuse to cut costs in lounges. Newsflash, meal time is whatever time zone your high paying passenger is on! Alcohol was also limited with a basic selection of 2-3 spirits and a couple of bottles of wine.

In summary, impressive design and well thought out but let down by the food and drink options!

Plaza Premium Arrivals Lounge Terminal 4 Heathrow

Plaza Premium Arrivals Lounge Terminal 4 Heathrow

The Plaza Premium arrivals lounge is situated on the mezzanine level between arrivals and departures landside at terminal 4 Heathrow. It’s a good choice for Malaysia or other airlines with no arrivals lounge at T4.

The entrance and lounge is similar in feeling and design to other Plaza lounges worldwide with natural woods and fabric choices. Right balance of dark and light. It’s nailed the design and it is a relaxing place to hang out after a long flight and grab a shower or breakfast.

The showers were big and clean with a toilet inside the shower room with plenty of space to open a suitcase and a bench to place it on. Very well designed with a rainfall shower.

Breakfast choices of cooked and vegetarian. Cooked unusual in that it’s obviously targeted people who don’t eat pork. Fine as a preference but why no pork based traditional British breakfast? In the end I chose the vegetarian option which was actually really good. It does slightly irritate me that the meat option has obviously been made “universal” rather than having both a traditional British pork option and also a non-pork eaters friendly one. Service was to your table and the only criticism of the service was that it was a little slow. There were only four people in there including me and I would say it took around 15 minutes for the food to come out. It was obviously cooked to order which isn’t necessarily a bad thing but don’t count on it as a lounge you can run in and grab something then go back out.

WiFi was free and fast, no problems.

EVA Air Economy Quick Review Taipei to Hong Kong

EVA Air Economy Quick Review Taipei to Hong Kong

Here’s a quick trip report on Eva Air Economy on a new A330 equipped with Wifi. If you’re interested in wifi prices then jump straight down to the gallery and view the photo.

Eva air is a 5 star Skytrax airline and was founded in 1989. It’s the alternative to the state owned carrier China Airlines. Here’s my quick review of the pros and cons of Eva Air economy class

  • Fast check in at online check in counters. Well staffed and no queue
  • Boarded at end of process so can’t speak for the priority boarding available but boarding was well managed into zones
  • New A330 with Wifi
  • Seat comfortable. Same seat on longhaul should be comfortable and not “bum numbing” Pitch was nothing special and OK for short haul.
  • Snack good for the short haul flight. Other airlines don’t even provide a tray. Metal cutlery on one sector and special Hello Kitty tray and cutlery on their special Hello Kitty themed plane! Organic and filtered water towel included on the tray
  • Entertainment system was good but limited English new releases. Did also have European new releases though.
  • Nice cockpit display on moving map
  • At seat USB
  • Gate to gate entertainment. Loaded early so no boring taxis and waits on the ground!
  • Use your mobile device at all times!

Overall a very decent experience in economy on this short flight, you can see why they deserve the 5 star Skytrax rating.

Hong Kong Airlines Latest New/Old Plane B-LHA J Class Review

Hong Kong Airlines Latest New/Old Plane B-LHA J Class Review

Hong Kong Airlines (HX) has a new/old plane. An emirates A330, registration B-LHA. It’s a 17 year old airframe and a 330-200 series powered by Rolls Royce engines. They plan to buy further of these ex-Emirates aircraft so although the plane itself is old the cabin has been refitted. This is a review of the J class on B-LHA which differs considerably from the other aircraft in the fleet.

Broadly speaking current HX aircfaft consist of fully flat 1-2-1 seating or 2-2-2 recliner style side by side seating. This plane is 2-2-2 but features a product I’ve never seen before in J class. The seats are slightly angled and the cabin has a modern fresh feel. Initial impressions are good, however when sitting down you realize that the cabin seems to have been designed for Asian passengers.

The screen and foot rest feel quite close to the seat at the bulkhead, the seat of choice for a lot of frequent fliers; if you’re sitting in the rows behind then it does feel more spacious. However to be honest the footrest/tv screen is quite weird. It’s a standalone console with a tiny footrest which is open at the back. There’s a large amount of space behind each console at every seat which is strange. It’s a total waste of space which could have been avoided by putting the footrest and screen at the back of the seat or bulkhead thus making it feel less cramped. If this plane is only used within Asia then it’s acceptable in my opinion but for long haul it will feel cramped and there is an issue of stepping over your seatmate in the bulkhead seats. From a commercial point of view it also seems to make no sense as there’s 3 rows of J versus 4 on other aircraft of the same type at HX.

On the positive side, the screen is very impressive and for a change so is the software running it. It behaves like a tablet and is fast and responsive. Very clear and a good size. If anything it’s too responsive and you can scroll through the listings too fast!

The table is in the center armrest and is solid and a good size. It’s comfortable to both eat and work from though as I’m writing this on a 10 inch laptop I can just about see the screen in front. If you were using a large 15 inch screen laptop then you wouldn’t be able to easily watch something at the same time as working. In terms of seat controls they’re down below the center console and aren’t easy to access while the table is deployed, but everything is also accessible through the touch screen so not a big issue. There’s also a regular power plug on the front of the center console.

The seat is firm yet comfortable, a minor gripe is that the take off and landing default position is slightly reclined as on most planes yet you can’t make it more upright to eat or work. It would be more comfortable for using the table if it could be made more upright.

Storage space is minimal and to be honest I’m surprised HX is still ordering seats/planes without taking this into account. The old Singapore 33S aircraft are terrible for this with a large gap down the side of the seat that swallows electronics when you think it’s a side pocket. The A350 that were sidetracked from Hainan to HX also have very poor storage and this aircraft is no different. There is a small mesh pocket on the right of the seat and footrest, which isn’t very deep so could only contain a phone or passport. The plastic pocket to the side of the seat also isn’t deep and not suitable for anything except the smallest items.

The seat goes fully flat and this was a pleasant surprise. The design is clever with the narrow seat fitting flush with the padding to make a wider sleeping area. It was quite comfortable and at first during recline I thought I would be too tall at 6’2″ to lie fully flat bearing in mind the console is close to the seat, but after fully reclining I was able to lie fully fat. The open footrest becomes something of a bonus at this point compared to the tiny foot coffins of other airlines, at least here you have space at the back and even sides to rearrange your feat.

Now a final very serious point, no coffee machine! Flight crew and regular passengers will know how important this is! What doesn’t help is that HX uses a bag of coffee in Y and J which is literally a bag steeped in a pot of hot water and it’s as bad as it sounds. Apparently this plane will eventually be fitted with a coffee machine but in the meantime bring a coffee stick and HX please load some better coffee in J on these aircraft!

Pros

Modern, Light Design

No more excessive red design

Impressive touch screen with good movie and TV options

Comfortable fully flat seat

At seat power and separate USB

Cons

No Wifi

Cramped feeling to some seats with wasted space around console

Tiny footrest

No Coffee Machine!

Hong Kong Airlines A350

Hong Kong Airlines A350

Hong Kong Airlines is introducing A350s into it’s fleet with the first aircraft flying short haul training and familiarization routes between Taipei and Bangkok. I took a flight to Bangkok to experience the new aircraft.

The first sector was a night flight so I had a chance to experience the seat as a bed. The seats are in a 1-2-1 staggered layout parallel to the cabin, i.e not herringbone. First impression was that the seat felt quite close to the screen. I wondered how it would be when fully reclined and how much space there was, but more of that later. The seat has a generous foot rest with space underneath for shoes. It’s definitely a lot more roomy than the coffin box that you get on other A350 business classes. Finnair’s foot section is tiny in comparison and doesn’t leave you much space at all to move your feet. The seat has storage to the left with enough space for a thin laptop if you remove the magazines and place them in the slot under the screen after take off. Missing though is any other significant storage. The side table is large and there’s a cubby hole for the headphones to hang in, but you can’t use this for take off and landing. Even the water holder can’t be used for take off and landing, which is weird but apparently an Airbus rule. It’s a pretty glaring oversight that no storage has been added to the seat that can be used before at cruise.

The seat itself is comfortable to sit and it has standard J class functions with upright, sleep and recline positions with individual controls to tweak it how you want it. Compare to the herringbone layouts it’s nice to sit close to the large windows if you’re in a window seat. When made into a bed it’s fully flat and feels spacious. There’s no width differences between shoulders and legs ala BA. Also as mentioned the foot rest is very roomy compared to a lot of other airlines in J. This make a significant difference in your comfort and ability to move while asleep. The only point I found on the short flight was that it felt quite firm in bed mode and I can see me getting uncomfortable on a long flight. A mattress topper would easily solve this and hopefully something HX invests in in the future. Also, compared to the herringbone layout where you can be quite exposed to the aisle, the window seats are very private with the table and console separating you from the aisle. This should mean a better sleep with less irritation from the aisle.

For work, the table is sturdy and a decent size. The only weird thing is that at least on the window seat compared to the center, the table is off center from the seat. This means that in order to work on a laptop you need to angle the table to get a decent working set up for your screen and keyboard. Bit strange and would have thought this would be easily solved during the seat design by having a longer arm extending from the bulkhead. There’s also onboard wifi, with a free option available if you watch a quick HX video or quite well priced longer options compared to other airlines. I didn’t test the wifi speed but it did seem quite sluggish while simply trying to download a WhatsApp photo. Maybe OK for emails or messages but not much else.

Entertainment wise the screen is big and clear with a decent selection of movies and TV. There’s also live Satellite TV with BBC and CNN as well as a live Sports channel. The camera views are always fun to watch! Headphones are HX own brand and noise canceling.

The cabin itself is improved on other HX aircraft and they’ve finally realized that they had way too much red before. The red bulkhead has gone and the cabin now feels much more light and airy. Also gone are the red curtains.

Where HX shines is in the cabin service. Crew are generally very friendly and motivated to provide a good flight to their passengers. As any frequent flyer knows this can make or break a flight. Where the service does need work is on the food options. HX love to do tie ups with hotels or celebrity chefs but really what’s need is an increase in budget to their meals or a change of caterer. Meals seem overtly fancy often but with a lack of presentation and quality. Simpler but higher quality meals would be a significant improvement.

Finally it’s interesting to note that on these two new aircraft crew report they have quite a high defect rate in the cabin, something I’ve seen before on CX and AY A350 aircraft as well. There do seem to be issues with how well Airbus is fitting out these planes, hopefully their air frame engineering is better than the cabin quality!

Overall HX has the potential to do well with these aircraft on long haul. They need to sort out the defects and fast. Having a toilet non operational on a brand new aircraft for a week isn’t good enough. As is deferring defects that should be fixed rapidly. They also need to work on long haul crew training, meal quality and add a mattress topper like their parent airline Hainan. With their young motivated friendly crew, other airlines better watch out!

Plaza Premium Lounge Hong Kong Gate 40

Plaza Premium Lounge Hong Kong Gate 40

The Plaza Premium lounge is the second lounge in Hong Kong airport, the first located near Gate five close to immigration. This lounge is perfect if your flight departs from one of the gates at the transit stop.

Food from Buffet at Plaza Premium

Food from Buffet at Plaza Premium

The lounge itself is pretty big but the restaurant area gets pretty packed at peak hours and it can be hard to find a table. There’s a good variety of food for a credit card lounge with Western choices such as meatballs, rice, salad bar as well as cakes and desserts. There’s also a noodle bar and Asian favourites as well on the hot buffet. The food was fresh and reasonably tasty. I’d class it as decent quality canteen food, nothing special but good for a bite before your flight.

View from Dining area across apron

View from Dining area across apron

There’s a great view across the apron of the gates and one of the runways, perfect for some plane spotting while you dine. One of the hidden gems is the lounge to the right of the dining area along the corridor. It features some comfy armchairs along with at seat power at every seat which are both worldwide plug compatible and have USB outlets built in. It’s a much more relaxing area than the dining area or the lounge to the left of the entrance. There’s not much food in this area, just some snacks and a coffee machine and drinks fridge.

On the left of the entrance is counter style seating which is perfect for a quick drink and some work on your laptop or tablet. Further to the left Is another quiet seating area with some seating pods. When I visited many people were using these to take a nap but they seem to be more designed for work. Since I last visited a free months ago the lounge had expanded and the area with the pods used to be separated as an airline invitation only section. This has now moved further back and is separated by a rope area, presumably used for airlines that don’t have their own lounge in Hong Kong.

Beer Machine

Beer Machine

Although the lounge advertises a bar on the Premium Plaza website we couldn’t find this. Possibly it’s part of the airline lounge only section. There was however a very interesting looking beer machine that fills the glass from the bottom. Unfortunately by the time I found the machine there wasn’t time to try it out before the flight departed.

The lounge isn’t signposted so follow the signs from the first transit stop at gate 40 towards the Emirates lounge. It’s located up the escalator from the departures level on the opposite side from Emirates.

Overall it’s a decent lounge choice if you have access with a credit card or priority pass. However the rate of HK$580 for access for 2 hours isn’t particularly great value. Hong Kong isn’t a bad airport to hang out while waiting for your flight with free wifi in every area of the airport so it may make more sense to grab a proper meal at one of the many restaurants then chill out by your gate.