Hong Kong Airlines: 4-star comfort
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morrow

Hong Kong Airlines: 4-star comfort

24.08.2012 г. morrow
Logo of Hong Kong Airlines

Have you ever seen a newly-opened office or store, with friendly staff in fresh uniforms, all the merchandise sitting in perfect order on the shelves, and everything else clean and sparkling? But at the same time, the building itself is weather-beaten and falling apart? You can probably see where I'm going with this. Hong Kong Airlines is kind of like that, in that it seems to try for excellence in terms of service, cleanliness and style, yet continues to use old, outdated airliners right alongside newer models. However, let's take this one step at a time.

Hong Kong Airport

The airline was established under the name CR Airways, as an operator of passenger helicopter flights. This is where it got its flight code, ICAO-CRK. In 2006, Hainan Airlines acquired nearly half of CR's stock, which resulted in the birth of Hong Kong Airlines with a new logo, brand and livery, as well as a “sister” company, Hong Kong Airways. Cooperation between them is so close that planes are leased back and forth all the time, they have codeshare agreements, and various items aboard planes may sport the logo of either company. The logo of both companies features a bauhinia, the national flower and symbol of Hong Kong.

Hong Kong Airport

Everything sounds great so far, so let's have a look at HKA in action, on round-trip flight from Hong Kong to Tokyo. Unfortunately, tickets to Japan with Japanese airlines are incredibly expensive (even their special discount for tourists doesn't offer much), hence my choice of a Chinese airline. Hong Kong can complain all it wants about its special status within the PRC, but when word reached the Chinese government about HKA's plan to buy several Airbus A380s, it stepped in and forced them to cancel the order. HKA also has the dubious track record of being involved in illicitly transporting poached dolphins from Japan (there's even been about this scandal). However, enough of that, you can always look this stuff up online if you wish.

Anyway, off we go to Tokyo. In Hong Kong, all of check-in area K belongs to HKA, although the airport is actually the home hub of Cathay Pacific. Check-in was a breeze, the staff was fluent in English, and everything went smoothly. After receiving the boarding pass I was also given a tag for my baggage to attach wherever I felt was best.

Hong Kong Airport

Next I went looking for the gate. My gate was located on the way to the monorail station, so after I found it, I kept walking until I got to an area with about five other exits. The flight which preceded mine at the gate belonged to Jetstar, bound for Singapore. I'm a bit jealous that no one from Southeast Asia needs a visa to go there, whereas we Russians do. It would've made a very convenient hub. While I was waiting for my plane, I charged my phone at a USB port in my seat. The Hong Kong airport has all sorts of conveniences. However, you can't charge your laptop unless you have an adapter for the Chinese outlets.

Hong Kong Airport

Boarding was delayed, and a staff member went around the waiting area, marking all the boarding passes with a pen. I don't understand why they needed to do this, considering that all the passes would be checked again at the gate. After the formalities were over with, we were herded onto some odd-looking buses. Unfortunately, my photo came out blurry, but you can still see that it has doors in the center as well as on either end. An interesting vehicle.

Boeing 737-800 of Hong Kong Airlines
Boeing 737-84P. Tail number: B-KBK. © Sneeze Lam / www.airliners.net

Boeing 737-800 of Hong Kong Airlines

Getting to the plane took awhile, as it was on the far end of the airport. We even had to go beneath the runway by way of a short tunnel. We were only let off our bus after the passengers from the first bus had boarded. The only way onto the plane was the forward ramp. While everyone was milling about, I took the opportunity to take a photo of the plane and a bored-looking staff member.

Boeing 737-800 of Hong Kong Airlines

And now a bit about the plane. I think I'll skip talking about the hastily scrubbed paintwork (I guess the plane was just recently purchased? Forgive me, I was too lazy to look it up). I'm not sure how old the plane is, but from the inside it looks more than a little worn. The doors of the storage shelves sometimes had trouble locking, the upholstery was worn out, and I received a sound smack to the knees from the unfolding table when I removed the latch holding it up. If it's any consolation, the cabin was sparkling clean. Oh well. Furthermore, Boeings are notorious for their rough motion when they move in reverse, but this plane shook even while taxing to the runway and pre-flight checks (thankfully, though, not due to the APU). It was especially reassuring to watch the plane's wing bouncing up and down from the window. Before we had even taken off. In other words, HKA's airliners aren't exactly maintained in tip-top mechanical shape. But they are clean! Perhaps it's just cheaper to buy a new plane after the old one is retired. I thought nostalgically of the old Douglas SAS planes, which perform like new even after many years of service.

Business class in Boeing 737-800 of Hong Kong Airlines

Economy class cabin in Boeing 737-800 of Hong Kong Airlines

In the photos above you can see the business- and economy-class seats of the 737. Seats next to the emergency exits were marked with orange cloths, and were off limits to the passengers. Both rows remained vacant for the entire flight. One of the passengers next to me decided to try his luck and moved to one of the seats after takeoff, but was chased back by the flight attendants. The reserved seats were covered with a blanket smile:)

Board magazines of Hong Kong Airlines

Boeing 737-800 of Hong Kong Airlines

Takeoff and climb were very quick; the seatbelt lights went off literally after only a couple of minutes. We took off from runway 07R/25L, which is about 12,500 feet (3800 m) long.

The entertainment system was something akin to the one used by United Airlines; earphones on demand, with controls found in the armrest. I've never really been interested in those. The kit is minimal - a flight magazine, SkyShop, safety instructions, and an airsickness bag. After takeoff they distributed immigration cards for Japan, on which everything was in Japanese. The flight magazine didn't have any explanation on how to properly fill them out (Aeroflot, for example, does this for Russian immigration cards). Working together with my neighbors, we managed to fill out the cards between us. The flight attendants had no clue as to the procedure either, but did find us a sample card in English, so thanks, at least, for that. We used it as a reference to translate the Japanese text.

Economy class cabin in Boeing 737-800 of Hong Kong Airlines

Board meal on the flight Hong Kong-Tokyo

Later we were served meals: a choice of Japanese or Chinese foods. Figuring I'd get enough of the former in mainland Japan, I went with Chinese. The photos above show what I was served. Rice with chicken and greens, purple noodles with sauce and a side of tofu. Water was offered quite often, about 5 times over the 4-hour flight, which is good. I overhydrated.

Boeing 737-800 of Hong Kong Airlines

Lavatory in Boeing 737-800 of Hong Kong Airlines

Towards the end of the flight I visited the restrooms. All in all, quite clean, no smells. Due to thick cloud cover, landing was delayed for awhile, which, together with the earlier delay at the airport, resulted in the flight being 30 minutes late. After taxiing up to the terminal we docked, and the lively Japanese staff began unloading the luggage. We disembarked fairly soon afterward. Tokyo International Airport boasts many travelators and a monorail transport.

Once you get to passport control, you realize that Japan is like a whole other world. I had to submit my passport, my migration card, fingerprints and have my photo taken. After getting through passport control and getting your luggage, you'd also have to go through customs if you had any declared items. There was a list of things they asked for on the migration card that I don't remember anymore. Afterwards, you're free to roam around the airport and go up to the tourist information booths to get a free map of Tokyo's railroads and get travel advice if you bought a JR Rail Pass, which you can get at the railroad station on the floor below. You can also exchange foreign currency there. Trains come by quite often. Aside from the limited express service Narita Express (N'EX), you can also get on the Keisei line going into the city, and transfer to other lines once you get into Tokyo proper. In Japan, there are a multitude of private railroad companies coexisting side-by-side, which results in stations on every street corner.

Tokyo Narita International Airport

Tokyo Narita International Airport

Tokyo Narita International Airport

For my return flight, I arrived at the airport well ahead of the scheduled departure time, so I had the chance to wander around. I couldn't really make the most of the time because I was laden with luggage. The first floor of the building houses all the infrastructure, including the check-in and gates. The second floor is the shopping and dining area. The Japanese are very punctual: everything is neat, tidy and conveniently placed.

Tokyo Narita International Airport

Check in for HKA flights is in block B, at the northern end of the northernmost terminal. Check in started around 3 hours before departure time. When I was there, there wasn't much of a line. Economy class passengers could check in anywhere, whether it was at the business class booths or the booths for premium pass holders. Great service for us commoners, really.

I was questioned for quite a while about my destination and purpose of the trip, then asked to present my ticket, after which I was told that they couldn't check my luggage for the entire 3-leg journey (I could've told them that myself), but by and by I convinced them to let my on board the plane. I even asked them to put a "Fragile" sticker on it, just in case.

Tokyo Narita International Airport

Boarding reminded me of the Hong Kong airport, the layout was pretty similar with a north and south exit. After going through passport control and security, I got to the gate. The scoundrels at security confiscated a pricey jar of jam I'd bought in a store by the Tokyo Skytree. I wonder what they do with all the stuff they take away? I don't believe for a second that they throw all of it away, especially if it's still sealed. Oh well, enjoy the jam. Sorry I couldn't offer you any bread to go with it.

Tokyo Narita International Airport

I got to the gate by monorail, along the way to which there were a few Japanese JAL and ANA Duty Free shops. These companies are arch-nemeses, and position their shops on exactly opposite ends of the monorail station. Finally, boarding began. This time around, they didn't bother putting any check marks on the boarding passes and everything went smoothly. HKA must've read my mind about the pile of junk we flew on last time and this time offered us a brand new A320 with fresh, new livery.

Airbus A320 of Hong Kong Airlines
Airbus A320-214. Tail number: B-LPB. © KSK / www.airliners.net

Airbus A320 of Hong Kong Airlines

Everything about it was lovely, from the cleanliness to the upholstery. Everything looked fresh, with no wear, tear or yellowing to be found. The tables and seats were attached nice and firmly. Although, the armrests were made out of the same plastic as that used in the dashboards of old Ladas, which made my elbows ache something awful by the end of the flight. My first seat was just fore of the turbine, by the window. There's nothing more to really say about the A320, considering it's one of the most common airliners out there. On the photos below you can see the business- and economy-class cabins.

Seats in Airbus A320 of Hong Kong Airlines

Seats in Airbus A320 of Hong Kong Airlines

Before takeoff, the staff distributed wet wipes, immigration cards to Hong Kong, and demonstrated safety procedures. The cabin crew didn't use the PA at all during the flight. Our plane was the first in a very long line of other airliners queuing up to take off. When we were leaving the gate, the polite Japanese staff waved and bowed goodbye, it was very gracious! Takeoff was fast, aside from the fact that we had to turn around through a cloud. After we were airborne, I got the chance to take a quick peek at the surroundings of Narita International Airport.

Tokyo Narita International Airport

Tokyo Narita International Airport

During the flight we were again offered a lot of refreshments. Once before lunch, then again with the meal, then we were offered hot drinks after the food, and then again before landing. Of course, you could also get drinks at any time on demand. The lunch menu had the options of pork and chicken. I went with pork and liked it. The flight was just a little over 4 hours long. It was difficult to get any sleep in the A320, the seats were just uncomfortable, but blankets were still available upon request. It's interesting that the lights weren't dimmed at any point during the flight, but were turned off completely during landing. I didn't notice if the seats by the emergency exits were occupied this time around. Oh yes, and here are the flight magazine and restrooms. I think the safety instructions have the best illustrations of any I have ever seen. smile:)

Board meal on the flight Tokyo - Hong Kong

Board meal on the flight Tokyo - Hong Kong

Board magazines of Hong Kong Airlines

Lavatory in Airbus A320 of Hong Kong Airlines

We landed in complete darkness, but quickly. My seat was almost directly above the landing gear, so I got the brunt of the impact when we landed. After that we taxied to the gate and got off the plane by ramp, then took a bus to the terminal. All this took about 10 minutes, no more, though our luggage was a lot slower in getting there, perhaps about half an hour. Not sure why.

All in all I've got mixed feelings about this airline. On one hand, the English-speaking staff seemed quite friendly and kind, and even offered a guestbook to sign. On the other hand, something's just a little bit off. Though I've taken their flight, I still can't quite put my finger on it. Perhaps I'm just nitpicking. Also, I honestly don't understand why they essentially have two different airlines trying to pass off as one. Maybe they're low on funding?

Flight from Hong Kong to Tokyo
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Asiaplay

WARNING - DO NOT FLY THIS AIRLINE AT ANY COST!!!
- Flight delays really do cost us all time & dollars - problems & no compensation or assistance
(addtionally Hong Kong Airline's staff attitude is very poor & very rude!).

HKG -> BKK (HX775 6/9/2013) -
3+ Hours delay on flight departure / arrival
(NB: delays like this are an issue on short haul flights which should be only 2.2 hours duration).
RESULT: Due to the 3am arrival in BKK, we had to paid ourselves for a taxi to final destination, as the free BKK Airport shuttle bus had finished operation for the night (no public transport options exist at 3am at BKK airport & no staff help from Hong Kong Airlines were their to assist)

BKK -> HKG (HX766 9/7/2012)
3+ hours delay on departure / arrival
Flight original scheduled ETD 8.25pm
RESULT: Lied to and no transportation to final destination offered (arrived home at 5am via self paid taxi)... we were also told that 80 passengers on our flight who had missed onward flight connections to China, were not being taken care of by the airline either (needless to say, all BKK / HKG flights were effected and one can be sure no one on those flights was assisted nor compensated for this problem by Hong Kong Airlines)!

At check-in we were lied to and advised ETD would be delayed to 9.45pm (in fact this was impossible, given that the plane we were to be using ex BKK, had not yet departed HKG!)... so why the lie by HK Airlines staff? ... sadly it was so the airline could save on / avoid offering a food coupon for stranded passengers (at 11.30pm after entering the departure gate, we were given an unattractive snack box which I returned to them... unfortunately the gate was not posted until after 10pm and not staffed until 11pm).

Final departure was after mid-night BKK time (which resulted in a 3.38am arrival in HKG).

At BKK we requested HK Airlines ground staff to assist us with providing a taxi to HK Island and were told their staff Adam Peng could assist us on arrival (unfortunately there was no Adam Peng present upon arrival and their ground staff manager Leo, rudely told us he had the authority to decide if he could assist us - he smugly & rudely advised us that he had decided not to help us with taxi transportation to our destination).
NB: Public transport options do not operate at this time of the morning in HKG.

Hong Kong Airlines did suggest a shuttle bus they wanted to put on for stranded passengers, but a slow option deparing the airport at 4am in the morning which doesn't take you anywhere near your final destination, is not a viable solution when one wants to get some sleep before a days work!

We will never fly Hong Kong Airlines nor Hong Kong Express Airlines ever again - any cost savings one dreams they will get using this airline, will be offset by extra transport costs upon arrival (pls also see flight stats for Hong Kong Airlines - unfortunately we now know that this is not a one off incident for them, but a regular scheduled problem for this airline, on most of their routes! Don't let them ruin your holiday or business trip too!).

PS: "Hong Kong Airlines" and "Hong Kong Express Airlines" are sister companies, both 45% owned and operated by "Hainan Airlines" - funny enough their in-flight video sign-off on arrival says "Thanks for flying "Hainan Airlines"!!!) (don't let the airline names confuse you, these two airlines are in fact China based Hainan Airlines poor service - unfortunately the Hong Kong Government by allowing them to use this airline name, are directly ruining the good name and reputation of Hong Kong itself!).

We just wanted to give users here the hands up, so that all here can make an informed flight purchasing decision...

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AAB

GIVE IT -5 STARS!!! * AIRLINE!! DELAYS, DELAYS, * STAFF!

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