Review: Hong Kong Airlines Business Class A350 Hong Kong To Los Angeles

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Review: Hong Kong Airlines Business Class A350 Hong Kong To Los Angeles


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Hong Kong Airlines just recently started flying to the US using their new A350s. As of now the airline flies to Los Angeles and San Francisco, and they plan to add flights to New York soon as well. Given that Cathay Pacific historically has a stronghold on flights between Hong Kong and the US, how does Hong Kong Airlines compare?

Hong Kong Airlines 68
Hong Kong (HKG) – Los Angeles (LAX)
Monday, May 7
Depart: 12:00PM
Arrive: 10:25AM
Duration: 13hr25min
Aircraft: Airbus A350-900
Seat: 18A (Business Class)

I boarded through the forward door, where I was pointed towards my seat by a friendly flight attendant. Hong Kong Airlines’ A350 business class cabin is entirely between doors one and two on the A350. The seats are in a staggered configuration consisting of 33 seats, spread across nine rows in a 1-2-1 configuration. The bright red finishes take some getting used to, that’s for sure.


Hong Kong Airlines A350 business class cabin


Hong Kong Airlines business class cabin A350

In this staggered configuration, you have a few types of seats you can choose from. In the center section, seats alternate between being closer to one another, and being closer to the aisles. The center seats in the odd numbered rows are often referred to as honeymoon seats, because they’re so close together.


Hong Kong Airlines business class honeymoon seats

Then along the windows, seats alternate between being closer to the aisle and closer to the windows. Seats in odd numbered rows are closer to the aisle, and wouldn’t be my first choice, as they feel quite exposed, and it’s also tough to look out the window from these seats.


Hong Kong Airlines A350 business class seats

My first choice of seats would be any of the “true” window seats, which are in even numbered rows. I had assigned myself seat 18A, the window seat on the left side in the third to last row of business class.


Hong Kong Airlines business class seat A350

What makes these seats awesome is that they’re right by the windows, so you can easily look out, and you also have quite a bit of privacy thanks to the console on the aisle-side of your seat.


Hong Kong Airlines business class seat A350

The ottoman and entertainment screen in this configuration are located right next to the seat in front of you.


Hong Kong Airlines business class seat A350

The console to the side of the seat has an exposed storage compartment (where the headphones were hanging), an entertainment controller, a reading light, and two USB outlets.


Hong Kong Airlines business class seat storage


Hong Kong Airlines business class seat entertainment controls


Hong Kong Airlines business class seat USB outlets

The counter itself was large enough to place a laptop on, and on the side of the counter were the seat controls, which were easy to use. Underneath that console and to the side was an armrest, as well as a literature pocket.


Hong Kong Airlines business class seat counter

The 110v outlet was underneath the console.


Hong Kong Airlines business class seat power outlets

While these types of staggered seats are often pretty standardized across airlines, one thing that made this configuration unique was that the seat was much wider than usual. For example, as you’ll see with the ottoman, there was additional padding that was maybe six inches wide to the side of the seat. This meant you had a significantly larger sleeping surface.


Hong Kong Airlines business class seat legroom

That same amount of width was also on an armrest to the side of the seat, which could also become part of the bed when reclined. So I have to say that I think this is the most comfortable staggered seat I’ve ever sat in, thanks to how wide it was.


Hong Kong Airlines business class seat armrest

The tray table was latched next to the TV, and you could place either the whole thing or just half of it down.


Hong Kong Airlines business class seat tray table

While the cabin had the modern A350 overhead units, there were no individual air nozzles, frustratingly.


Hong Kong Airlines business class overhead console

A staggered configuration generally isn’t my favorite kind of business class seat, but this was among the most comfortable out there, thanks to how wide it was. For example, prior to this I flew Vietnam Airlines on their A350. While they have a virtually identical configuration, their seats aren’t as wide, so the extra width does make a big difference.

Perhaps what’s most interesting about these seats is that when Hong Kong Airlines first announced their A350s, they indicated that they’d have reverse herringbone seats on them. However, their first two A350s were supposed to feature a staggered configuration, which is because these planes were initially supposed to go to Azul, but they canceled their order. However, the airline now has more than two A350s and they all have the same staggered configuration, so I’m not sure if they just decided on that for their entire A350 fleet for the sake of consistency, or what.

Already waiting at my seat on boarding was functional and comfortable bedding. The pillow was large and thick, and the blanket was snuggly without being too warm. So while this isn’t the best business class bedding out there, I thought it was solid.


Hong Kong Airlines business class pillow & blanket

Then there were headphones, which were just alright.


Hong Kong Airlines business class headphones

Within about five minutes of settling in, one of the flight attendants stopped by my seat, introduced herself with a big smile, and offered me a pre-departure beverage. The choices were between lemon tea, water, or orange juice, and I selected the lemon tea, which was refreshing.


Hong Kong Airlines business class pre-departure drinks

About 20 minutes after boarding I was offered magazines, newspapers, and a warm towel.


Hong Kong Airlines business warm towel

Then a few minutes later amenity kits, slippers, menus, and landing cards for the US were distributed.

The amenity kit itself had a cute design, and had socks, eyeshades, earplugs, a toothbrush and toothpaste, lip balm, and lotion.


Hong Kong Airlines business class amenity kit

The slippers were sturdy.


Hong Kong Airlines business class slippers

The menu also had some unique art on it.


Hong Kong Airlines business class menu

During boarding I was impressed by the efficiency and competency of the crew. Often during boarding a crew can seem stressed or disorganized, but this crew was extremely functional. I was impressed by the systematic way in which they provided all the pre-departure service while still being personal and not seeming robotic.

At 11:55AM the captain added his welcome onboard on behalf of himself and his “heavy crew” (presumably referring to there being four pilots, rather than their weight). 😉 Based on what I gathered, two of the pilots were local, one of the pilots was Indian, and one pilot was this awesome British lady, who was hilarious. The captain informed us of our flight time of 12hr10min, and expected we’d be departing and arriving right on time.

A few moments later Emily, the senior purser, made her welcome onboard announcement. The main cabin door closed at 12:10PM. The business class cabin was about half full, which is much fuller than I was expecting. Just a couple of hours before the flight only four business class seats showed as taken on the seatmap. I’m not sure if the remaining passengers just hadn’t assigned seats in advance, if they were upgraded last minute (economy wasn’t full, though), or if there were a bunch of non-revs.

At 12:20PM we began our pushback. At this point the crew screened a promotional video highlighting Hong Kong Airlines’ A350 and lounge, which I found to be sort of cute and sort of cringeworthy.

After that the animated safety video was screened.

We pushed back next to two other Hong Kong Airlines A350s — what a beautiful plane and livery!


Hong Kong Airlines A350

Seriously, look at the curves of the A350!


Hong Kong Airlines A350

As we taxied out the crew did their safety checks, including asking passengers in business class to put on their shoulder harnesses. As we taxied out they also took meal orders. I tried to order fish as my main course, and was surprised to find that they had already run out (as the cabin was only half full). The flight attendant apologized profusely, and said that she’d come to me first during the next meal to take my order. She also explained that next time I could pre-order my meal, which I wasn’t aware was an option.

I was at least pleased with how she handled it.

Our taxi to the runway was quick, and by 12:35PM we were cleared for takeoff on runway 25L.


Taking off from Hong Kong

We had a long takeoff roll, and hit quite a few bumps on our initial climb.


View after takeoff from Hong Kong


View after takeoff from Hong Kong

Despite that, the seatbelt sign was turned off just five minutes after takeoff. As we climbed out I browsed the entertainment selection, which was pretty good. There were over 25 new release movies (and lots of older ones), though there were very few sitcoms.


Hong Kong Airlines entertainment selection


Hong Kong Airlines entertainment selection


Hong Kong Airlines entertainment selection


Hong Kong Airlines entertainment selection


Hong Kong Airlines entertainment selection


Hong Kong Airlines entertainment selection

I also checked out the airshow.


Airshow enroute to Los Angeles

Hong Kong Airlines has wifi on their A350s, so I connected to that. You can buy a pass for the entire flight for $19.99, which gives you up to 500MB of data.


Hong Kong Airlines wifi

The catch is that the wifi is outrageously (almost unusably) slow. So don’t expect to get a lot done, though something is better than nothing. Slow wifi still does the trick for texting, at least.


Hong Kong Airlines wifi speed

Service got started very quickly after takeoff. 10 minutes after takeoff bottles of Evian water and warm towels were distributed. Around this time two of the pilots came and took two of the business class seats one row in front of me for their break. One of the captains (the British lady) was hilarious, as I overheard part of the conversation she was having with one of the passengers about shopping.

Tablecloths were distributed about 25 minutes after takeoff, at which point the meal service began.


Hong Kong Airlines business class lunch — table setting

The menu read as follows:

The drink list read as follows:

To start I ordered a glass of champagne, which was served with some mixed nuts. The champagne on offer was Charles de Cazanove, and it was quite decent.


Hong Kong Airlines business class lunch — champagne & mixed nuts

I was brought out a tray with the starter about 45 minutes after takeoff. The starter consisted of prosciutto ham with ricotta cheese with fig and citrus vinaigrette. Then there was also a side salad. The side salad was good, though I don’t eat ham, so skipped most of the starter.


Hong Kong Airlines business class lunch — appetizer

I was also offered a selection from the breadbasket, and chose the garlic bread.


Hong Kong Airlines business class lunch — garlic bread

Next up I was served a minestrone soup, which was alright.


Hong Kong Airlines business class lunch — soup

Given that they didn’t have the fish available for the main course, I instead ordered the braised cannelinni bean and mixed vegetable in puttanesca sauce, with potato rosti. The presentation may have left a bit to be desired, but the dish was tasty.


Hong Kong Airlines business class lunch — main course

Then for dessert I selected the pina colada dacquiose cake (which sounded more interesting to me than ice cream), and it was very good. Since I’m generally a fan of Hong Kong milk tea I figured I had to order one, and I was delighted when I found out that they even had iced milk tea.


Hong Kong Airlines business class lunch — dessert

Just to get a picture of the full meal setup, I also asked for a cheese plate.


Hong Kong Airlines business class lunch — cheese course

At the conclusion of the meal I was offered a warm towel.


Hong Kong Airlines business class lunch — warm towel

I was impressed by the pace of the meal service (it was done about 90 minutes after takeoff) and also how customized it was. Service in Cathay Pacific business class has always felt to me like it’s part of an assembly line, where the crews come through with carts, and everything is done on their schedule. That wasn’t at all how I felt on Hong Kong Airlines. There were no carts, but rather everything was brought out individually as each person finished a particular course and was ready for the next one.

On top of that, the crew was friendly and genuinely seemed to want to make sure everyone had a good flight.

After the meal I checked out the lavatories. There are two lavatories in front of the cabin — one right at the cockpit door, and the other at the front right of the cabin, so the right aisle definitely has better bathroom access.

The lavatory was typical for an A350, and had L’Occitane amenities.


Hong Kong Airlines A350 lavatory


Hong Kong Airlines business class L’Occitane toiletries

Once the meal was done I reclined my seat to try and get some rest, with about 10hr20min remaining to Los Angeles (we were approaching Japan at this point).


Airshow enroute to Los Angeles


Airshow enroute to Los Angeles


Airshow enroute to Los Angeles

Unfortunately I had some trouble falling asleep initially, as it got bumpy for about an hour over Japan. The ride eventually smoothed out, and I got some solid sleep, waking up about four hours out of Los Angeles.


Airshow enroute to Los Angeles

As soon as I woke up I went to the bathroom, and when I emerged the flight attendant escorted me to my seat, held the curtain open for me, and presented me with the menu at my seat to ask if I wanted anything to eat or drink. While I wasn’t really hungry, I figured I should order something to check out their snack menu.

The mid-flight snack menu read as follows:

I ordered the cheese and tomato calzone, which was pretty good, and fortunately wasn’t too big.


Hong Kong Airlines business class snack — cheese and tomato calzone

After that I ordered a coffee, as I knew I wouldn’t get back to sleep. Hong Kong Airlines has a policy against serving hot beverages when the seatbelt sign is on, much like on Cathay Pacific. While the flight was smooth at this point, the seatbelt sign remained on. Fortunately the flight attendant compromised with me, and offered to serve me a “warm” coffee rather than a “hot” one.


Hong Kong Airlines business class coffee

Given the previous issue with drink temperature, I asked if I could have an iced coffee, and the flight attendant gladly obliged.


Hong Kong Airlines business class iced coffee

While I was happy to have some light in the cabin at this point, I’d note that the crew kept the drastic purple mood lighting on the entire flight. Personally I think less is more when it comes to mood lighting, but clearly others feel differently.


Hong Kong Airlines A350 mood lighting

I decided to watch a couple of episodes of Modern Family that i hadn’t seen before.


Hong Kong Airlines entertainment selection

Then I decided to watch Jumanji. Nick Jonas’ role in the movie didn’t make up for how awful the movie was. I guess I could have seen that coming.


Hong Kong Airlines entertainment selection

Before I knew it we were under two hours from landing in Los Angeles, at which point the cabin lights were turned up for the breakfast service.


Airshow enroute to Los Angeles


Airshow enroute to Los Angeles

The breakfast menu read as follows:

To start the service, the crew came around with trays of orange juice and water. Then about 15 minutes later the actual breakfast was served. To start I was served a plate of fresh fruit and some strawberry yogurt. There were also a few choices in the breadbasket, and I selected a muffin.


Hong Kong Airlines business class breakfast

For the main course I selected the Denver omelette of onion and ham with with tomato concasse sauce and seasonal vegetables. I guess I didn’t read the description close enough because I sort of assumed the ham would be on the side, though in reality little pieces of it were in the eggs, so I didn’t end up eating it.


Hong Kong Airlines business class breakfast — main course

After the meal I was offered another warm towel.

At this point we had about an hour left in our flight, and I decided to look through the duty free magazine, and noticed some super cute Hong Kong Airlines flight attendant teddy bears, as well as some other cool Hong kong Airlines branded merchandise. I’ve promised myself I’d stop buying useless clutter, though I was very tempted here.


Hong Kong Airlines duty free


Hong Kong Airlines duty free

At 9:20AM local time the captain made another announcement informing us that we should be landing at around 9:50AM, and be at the gate shortly after that. The crew started preparing the cabin for landing about 30 minutes out, so I put my seat upright and spent the rest of the flight looking out the window and at the tail camera.


Tail camera approaching LAX

The views as we flew along the cost were breathtaking.


View approaching LAX

We had a smooth descent and flew inland a bit, before turning west, passing over downtown, and eventually touching down on runway 24R at LAX at 10AM.


View approaching LAX

While our landing was smooth, we ended up touching down late, and using the entire runway.


Tail camera landing at LAX


Tail camera landing at LAX

From there we had a roughly 10 minute taxi to our arrival gate at Tom Bradley International Terminal, where we parked next to a China Eastern 777.


Arriving at Tom Bradley International Terminal

Hong Kong Airlines business class bottom line

Hong Kong Airlines business class isn’t perfect, but it exceeded my expectations, and I had an excellent flight.

What impressed me most about the flight was the service. The flight attendants working business class were all professional and genuinely seemed like they wanted to be there, which is somewhat rare nowadays. I can’t say enough good things about the crew, not just in terms of friendliness, but also in terms of the flow of the service. I think Cathay Pacific needs to take a close look at their business class service flow, as they could learn a thing or two from Hong Kong Airlines.

Generally I was also pleased with the food, entertainment, the seats (staggered seats aren’t my favorite, but these were the best staggered seats I’ve flown in), and wifi (while wifi was slow, they’ve beaten Cathay Pacific to the punch, though Cathay Pacific is eventually getting Gogo 2Ku throughout their fleet).

Really my biggest complaint is the lack of air nozzles, and I also think a bit of investment in the bedding could go a long way.

But all things considered I’d recommend Hong Kong Airlines in a heartbeat. They offer a first-rate business class experience, which I wasn’t expecting.

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Comments

  1. I absolutely love the menu with all the colorful graphics showcasing the best of HK culture!

  2. @ W — Somehow I accidentally scheduled the last installment to be published first. I’m not sure how it happened, but since it was out of order, figured it made sense to post the other installment first, so things would remain in order.

  3. Lucky, would you mind correcting your future spelling of the words “all right” instead of “alright”? I hate to say it, but it makes me think less of you.

    Aside from that, good review.

  4. @ Nicky — That’s a toughie. I think as of now I’d probably rank it CX A350 J > HX A350 J > CX 777 J, but as all Cathay planes start to get Google 2Ku, my ranking may change.

  5. I know one place on most current aircraft they still nearly always provide an air nozzle. One of your photos shows one…

  6. “She also explained that next time I could pre-order my meal, which I wasn’t was an option.”

    I think you meant to say “which I wasn’t aware was an option”.

    Also:

    “Nick Jonas’ role in the movie didn’t make up for how awful the movie was”

    I think the fact that Nick Jonas was in the movie to begin with should have been an indication that the movie was going to be awful…

  7. Good review.

    “Really my biggest complaint is the lack of air nozzles”. Another reader a few weeks back suggested you purchase a small fan with USB. I just received mine and its excellent. I suggest you heed his advice and pick one up so that you can stop complaining about lack of air nozzles 😉

    BUT, it is good that you point it out so others can prepare accordingly.

  8. I have kind of a random question, but where do you go when youre back in the states? do you have like an apartment in LA or something? With how much you travel id imagine it doesnt make sense to pay rent, do you just stay at friends houses since your parents live in florida, or do you stay at a hotel? Im just curious haha nonetheless great review!

  9. Great review. I prefer that seating arrangement over a fishbone setup anytime.

    I might try HK Air out of SFO at some point. Speaking of which, I thought you were planning to review the UA Polaris lounge there?

  10. Flew HX A330 yesterday CNS-HKG. My expectations weren’t high given the highly competitive pricing, perhaps less than half the price of the CX equivalent. QF not even in the running since they do not do any direct flights into Asia from CNS anymore thus necessitating a backtrack to BNE or SYD and hefty fare.

    HX served two substantial meals in a 7 hour flight. Both were enjoyable. The Australian red cabernet was very drinkable.

    The service was very professional and attentive.

    Extraordinary value for the price paid (AUD2000 return, or AUD1200 one-way) and credits / points bookable to Virgin Australia’s Velocity: business class at premium economy pricing.

    Used 53,000 Virgin Australia points one way business class (no carrier charges just airport taxes levied).

    Note that the sister airline, Hainan, also flies into CNS from Shenzhen (just not of HKG) and unfortunately HX is pulling the CNS flights later in the year.

    Flying home on CX given it is direct (HX flies HKG-OOL-CNS-HKG).

  11. Lucky, how would you compare the seats to the ANA B788 (NOT 789) staggered seats? I flew them a couple of weeks ago NRT-MEX and thought they were super-spacious, possibly the best business class seats I have ever flown (and for my money, better than Q Suites due to the additional storage space).

  12. A concasse is a sauce. You don’t need to say sauce after concasse. Just like one doesn’t say tea after chai.

  13. Not impressed with either the meals offered or the wine list. CX far superior.

    Hard product looks good. Competition is VERY welcome.

  14. It’s hilarious how many people come here to be the grammar police. And lol to the guy who thinks less of Lucky because he spells alright incorrectly….wow.

    Glad we got a review of HX longhaul! Bravo. Hopefully you’ll go again on their reverse herringbone config.

  15. Thoughts on whether there is a market long-term? With United/Cathay already serving all three of those markets Hong Kong is in, that’s a lot of capacity. How can Hong Kong Airlines compete without an alliance?

  16. @ John — That’s a fantastic question, and I’ve been wondering the same thing. Transpacific fares are as low as they’ve ever been, and I question Hong Kong Airlines’ ability to get the lucrative contracts that make this kind of flying worthwhile, given that they don’t have the global reach of Cathay Pacific in Asia, or the reach of United in the US. They need partnerships to even have a shot of making this work, but I’m not sure what airlines they could even partner with.

    My first thought with US airline partnerships is always Alaska, but they partner with Cathay Pacific, so I suspect there’s some sort of non-compete clause in their agreement. I doubt we’ll see a partnership with American (due to Cathay), Delta (because they’re very focused on their joint venture partners), and with United (because they compete head-to-head). So I guess that leaves them with JetBlue, and they’re not all that helpful on the West Coast.

    The business model is a bit of a mystery to me, but given the ownership structure and Hainan connection, who really knows…

  17. Hey lucky. Why is it that you don’t eat ham? I’ve noticed from all different flight reviews that yiull never take a dish with ham

  18. This looks very solid and well worth considering, particularly given the reasonable fares. I’ve always just skipped past , assuming ( incorrectly it seems) that this would be vastly inferior product. In fact it looks great.
    For future reference: ham omelet will always have the pieces of ham inside, never on the side. I don’t eat ham or any other pieces taken from those smart and lovely beasts. It would make me vomit.

  19. The food presentation leaves a LOT to be desired. Sauces shouldn’t be served in takeaway plastic containers in international business class.

  20. The presentation on that bean and rosti dish is awful, but it looks like something I would love to eat.

  21. United doesnt have a direct LAX_HKG flight. CX/AA has a monopoly on this non-stop. AA is not even worth mentioning. Customers flying out of Asia absolutely detest the service standards on US carriers. There is a tremendous amount of mainland/Macau demand for the direct HKG-West Coast route. So HK Airlines can and will likely be profitable on this route when CX is charging USD 6-8K on average for a business class seat and still selling out.

  22. Hard to see much input from Gabriel Choy in the menu. All round, your description of the food made it sound offputting and the wine list looked poor. For me there is very little in this review to suggest a good soft product.

  23. Wow! Thanks for writing this trip report. I’ve been curious about them for a while. With their low-cost branding I wasn’t sure if they were going to be more of a JetBlue or a Spirit. Sounds like they’re taking the JetBlue approach, which is great.

    I also love how their look and feel, from the slightly garish red seats to the menu covers, seems to celebrate the vibrancy of modern Hong Kong. I want to love Cathay, but in many ways they seem still stuck in the colonial era.

    It also seems like they’ve imitated some of the best things about Cathay – especially the premium service – while improving on a lot of Cathay’s shortcomings.

    I hope they start flying to NYC soon!

  24. Thanks for this. Without an alliance connection it is unlikely I will ever fly them. I don’t part with cash easily. However, it certainly is a great option if an alliance ever picks them up.

  25. I had taken Hong Kong Airlines business class in April, the same starter and main course on your menu (but no soup, because of short route), I ordered the ling fish, it tastes good

  26. Shoulder harnesses have replaced seat belts on HK business class? Good idea. How about airbags?

    Best idea: parachutes…a bit cumbersome, but we can’t be too safe in this day and age…

    :-/

  27. @YOW & @AlliW — Go to the live chat portion of HKA’s website. Hold times yesterday were horrible, I gave up after 2 hours, but this morning I only had to wait 10 minutes and was able to make seat selections, no problem.

  28. Hi
    I’ll be flying on Hong Kong airlines to Bali with a stopover in Hong Kong from 5:30 pm until 12:30 pm the next day. Will I be able to go to lounge (flying business class) the night I get there? Do they offer discount rate on hotel possibly d/t overnight lay over? Thanks for any responses!

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