Inaugural Flight to LA - What It's Like to Fly Business Class on Hong Kong Airlines
La La Land, here I come! Two weeks ago, I had the honor of flying on Hong Kong Airlines' inaugural flight to Los Angeles on December 18th at the invitation of the airline. Hong Kong Airlines is relatively new as it was established in 2006 with an expanding network covering nearly 40 destinations across Asia Pacific and North America. It was my first time flying with the airline actually so I wasn't sure what to expect at first, but I have to say that my experience pleasantly surprised me! Comparisons with Hong Kong's dominant carrier Cathay Pacific is inevitable (check out my previous CX first class review here), and I think that the HX business class experience was comparable and in some areas even better. Out of curiosity, I did a quick price search from HKG to LAX for our trip dates and given the drastic price difference of 52% (HK$21,986 vs HK$45,896), I would not hesitate to fly with HX again. The downside is that HX's coverage is not as comprehensive as CX's though, but with its ever-expanding network such as the launch of San Francisco in March, it may just cover where you want to go in the near future.
As part of the inaugural flight experience, I attended the ribbon-cutting ceremony at HKIA where the ribbons were aptly switched out for Hollywood clapperboards, and we also got to check out the brand new VIP lounge Club Autus!
Club Autus is located near Gates 201-230 and designed to provide passengers with an authentic Hong Kong experience. Starting from the entrance, you will be greeted with projections of the most famous cityscapes in Hong Kong.
The lounge itself is bright and airy with different areas to meet travelers' needs such as a resting area for napping, breastfeeding rooms, family zone and even a viewing gallery with floor-to-ceiling windows to gaze at passing airplanes.
Perhaps what's most "Hong Kong" about the lounge is its culinary offerings from Hong Kong style milk tea to the Asian noodle bar and even street snacks like eggettes!
I had the laksa and it was legit spicy.
The eggettes may not be as good as the ones you can get on the streets but I thought it was still a thoughtful gesture to include this iconic Hong Kong street snack for non-Hong Kong travelers to try.
I was also impressed by the thought that went into choosing the tableware like these super cute baby pink and blue coffee mugs.
Drinks included your standard coffee, tea, juice, water but also special cocktails and even Chinese soup like the ones your mom makes at home (yes I tried it and it was good)!
Aside from the noodle bar, the food offerings included both Asian and Western delights like congee, chow mein, curry chicken, sausages, salad bar, sandwiches, etc.
Finally it was time to board Hong Kong Airlines' inaugural flight from Hong Kong to Los Angeles on the Airbus 350!
The business class on the flight utilizes a 1-2-1 seating configuration.
My seat was by the windows where the seat was right next to the aisle as opposed to the seats before and after mine (theirs were right next to the windows).
On the seats were grey-colored pillow and comforter with the bauhinia logo embroidered on them. I was totally in love with the comforter as it was super soft and cuddly (yes cuddly!) - it was probably the best comforter I've ever had on an airplane!
The seat lies completely flat at 180° for a good night's sleep. The only thing that I didn't like about the seat was the seat belt which had a shoulder strap as well as a waist strap (like seat belts in a car) - perhaps it's safer (?) but it was uncomfortable trying to sleep with the seat belt on while lying flat.
Ample leg room for me (I'm 5'4").
Slippers were provided which can be rare nowadays on business class flights.
The seat configuration buttons on the side of the table were simple and easy to use.
There's even a little hook for hanging your light outerwear in front of your seat.
For entertainment, there's the inflight entertainment system which has a pretty good selection of current and class Western and Asian movies. The TV selection, however, was not as comprehensive. I was quite impressed with the touch screen as it was really responsive and easy to use - you can just swipe left or right anywhere on the screen to scroll through the selection instead of having to press on some tiny arrows.
Hong Kong Airlines' own inflight magazine Aspire is available on the side of your seat.
And quite possibly the most exciting feature on the A350 is the inflight WiFi! There are restrictions for the connectivity to work such as the plane has to be at least 10,000 feet in the air and even then it depends on the satellite signal. To get online, you simply turn on WiFi mode on your phone (while keeping it on airplane mode of course) and type www.xilehang.com into your browser where instructions will pop up. There are various plans depending on your needs (Free WiFi, Chat Pass, 1 Hour Pass and Flight Pass) and I tested the WiFi out with the free 15-Min Pass (complimentary by watching an ad). The maximum speed for my package was only 64kbps so it was good for chatting and social media but nothing heavy duty. The 1 Hour Pass and Flight Pass have no speed cap but it probably won't be lightning fast either (max speed of 0.31Mbps download per Australian Business Traveller).
The amenity kit featured designs by Ricebowl Republic which showcases Hong Kong's heritage like the Star Ferry and lanterns on the products. L'Occitane lip balm and hand cream along with your standard toothbrush, toothpaste, ear plugs, socks, and eye masks were provided.
And finally, onto the inflight food and drinks! This Business Class Menu is quite possibly the prettiest inflight menu ever with cultural designs of Hong Kong throughout the pages.
The airline has partnered with local chef Gabriel Choy to design some of the dishes on the menu. For our flight, lunch and breakfast were provided along with mid-flight snacks.
The wine list was small but they do have a nice selection of Hong Kong specialty drinks and tea. I did notice that they didn't offer champagne at the beginning of the flight as a welcome drink so I wonder if that is customary with HX.
The tableware are also specially designed by local design brand JIA which infused the Bauhinia and Hong Kong's cultural aspects into the hardware. The salt and pepper shakers were shaped into iconic dim sum har gow and siu mai which you can take home with you!
For lunch, I wasn't too hot on the starter Foie Gras Stuffed Sachima with Mandarin Marmalade but this flavorful Italian Roasted Tomato Soup was definitely my cup of soup.
For main course, we had 3 choices so I opted for the one designed by Gabriel Choy which was the Black Bean Tapenade Gratin Chicken Supreme with bacon, pumpkin gnocchi in genovese sauce. The flavor of the chicken was decent but I found the meat to be too lean and dry. On the other hand, I quite enjoyed the gnocchi on the side and wouldn't mind eating these off the flight.
I enjoyed the food more on the return flight back from LA (sorry was too tired to take pictures) and they even had a very authentic Hong Kong dish on the menu - Char Siu Rice with Egg! It was even served with sweet soy sauce on the side for you to drizzle over your rice.
Cheers to HX's inaugural flight to Los Angeles!
Overall I found my first flying experience with Hong Kong Airlines to be enjoyable especially with the friendly service from the staff. The feeling that I get from HX is that they are putting in the effort and trying their best to provide a differentiated experience for passengers. They are a young airline and they want to improve so they are very open to feedback. While they may not be a full-fledged competitor to CX yet, at least they represent another choice in Hong Kong - a little competition doesn't hurt and it's what make us strives to do our best right?
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