Hong Kong Express – HKG – HND

Hong Kong Express – HKG – HND

Despite having travelled through Hong Kong and being an ultra-frequent passenger on Hong Kong Airlines this was my first time taking their sister airline and LCC, Hong Kong Express

Boarding

Boarding was well managed and priority (paid for extra) was respected and controlled. Despite their being two queues ground staff held back the regular queue and processed the priority queue first which makes sense otherwise with a single door aircraft it wouldn’t be priority by the time the two queues mixed down to the plane door!

Onboard

The plane itself was new and clean, I believe the seating is the Recaro slim line seat common on LCCs around the world. It’s not a seat you want to spend a long time in but is fine for a short hop LCC flight. On this flight though I had pre-booked probably the best seat on the plane which is 12A (12F is equally as good). What makes it so good is the unlimited legroom behind the exit but also there is no one to recline into you. You also have the benefit of a window but easy exit for toilet etc. Have a look at the photos for the deluxe legroom!

In terms of the other seating and what to look out for, row 11 has two seats only in the exit row, these are decent as well with good legroom but are a bit isolated. Watch out for 12B,C and 12 D,E which may look like exit rows but are normal seats. Only 12A and F are exit. At the front there’s a bulkhead on both sides of the aircraft so no bashing of legs etc. if you’re seated in 1A-C as on some LCCs that have removed the wall.

Service

The service was average. I don’t have very high standards for LCCs in general and nor should most if you’re paying a good fare for your ticket. However there’s a couple of glaring issues compared to even other LCCs or HK airlines:

  1. They won’t allow any outside food or drinks. Stinky take aways I understand but they won’t allow even outside bottled water and will tell you not to consume it if they see you have it. Sorry but this isn’t on. Yes you want to sell your onboard products but have some common sense! What’s worse is a charge of HK$10 for a cup of water from the airplane tank. Frankly unacceptable.
  2. There were zero announcements from the flight deck at top of descent in fact nothing since take off. So despite flying around in the middle of the night as well as being delayed, with no map and having no idea what’s going on an announcement from the captain might have been a good idea, no? I had to flag down a passing member of crew and ask when we were landing and what the delay was.
  3. They still don’t allow mobile phone use during take-off and landing. As I understand it this is because they haven’t applied to Hong Kong CAD for permission and certification. Other airlines in Hong Kong did this years ago so come on!
  4. The food bore no relation to the menu photos, see my example. Taste, size and presentation were all poor. I feel the cost is being squeezed too much to maximize profit. I wouldn’t order anything again and would smuggle on a sandwich to eat when the lights are down. If you’re going to charge for food and enforce no outside contraband prison style then at least make it decent!

Overall

In summary it’s a decent option if they fly where you want to go and check in, boarding and the plane itself were good and I got what I expected when I paid for the priority service. Where they fell down was on the quality of product and service levels. Often I complain about poor crew but in this case, they were good in the cabin but I felt they are let down by UO quality and procedures. They are issues that are fixable if the motivation is there.

Intercontinental Hong Kong Lobby Lounge

Intercontinental Hong Kong Lobby Lounge

You’ve checked into your hotel, spent an enjoyable day sightseeing and shopping around Hong Kong and simply need a place to rest your tired feet with a cold drink; here’s a hidden gem you wouldn’t necessarily think about. The Intercontinental Hong Kong Lobby Lounge.

When you think of hotel bars you generally assume a non descript bar tucked into the corner of the lobby and in a sense yes this is a lobby bar but what makes this a spectacular choice at the end of your long Hong Kong day is the view; floor to ceiling panoramic views of Victoria Harbour all lit up at night. It’s truly stunning.

They’ve got some great cocktails and as you will no doubt assume they aren’t cheap but then think of it like you’re getting the entertainment of the view or the symphony of lights show thrown in for free nightly at 8pm! There’s also live music from famous Hong Kong jazz musicians such as Eugene Pao.

If you prefer an afternoon visit then don’t miss the afternoon tea, one of the best in Hong Kong.

BA Closing Hong Kong Base

BA Closing Hong Kong Base

In quite a disgusting way to treat people British Airways has announce plans to close their Hong Kong base and lose the experience and language skills of 85 local crew. It’s the latest short sighted move from a company with management solely fixated on cutting costs no matter what effect it has on their service levels or people. Coming hot on the heels of their hacking and loss of credit card information in the last month, where I personally was affected and had to cancel my card you would think they would have a PR office with more sense. Maybe they are hoping no one notices.

No matter what commercial reasons you decide to take for your business there are ways you do things and the letter to the left sent to crew is NOT how you treat people. Stripping rosters with no notice is a robotic, weak and mean-spirited way to behave. If there was ever a way to lose your Hong Kong market share even further to Cathay Pacific and manage to antagonize your customer base at the same time then this is it.

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 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.