Review: Engaging Myanmar – Dragonair 251 Yangon to Hong Kong A321 Economy Class

Introduction
Dragonair 252 A321 Economy Class Hong Kong to Yangon
Inya Lake Hotel Yangon
Yangon Airways 917 ATR 72-212 Yangon to Bagan Nyaung-U
Hotel Umbra Bagan
Teaching in Myanmar
Yangon Airways 910 ATR 72-212 Bagan Nyaung-U to Yangon
Myanmar Life Hotel Yangon
Dragonair 251 A321 Economy Class Yangon to Hong Kong


I was kind of dreading this flight. While the fatigue after the outbound flight could be salvaged with a nap, the inbound flight was kind of troublesome given it was a redeye under three hours, so technically it would be 4 AM Myanmar time when we got back to Hong Kong.

We left the Myanmar Life hotel for the airport at 11 PM, getting to the airport in about five minutes ready for check-in. While the airport exterior is rather drab (I’d been used to seeing Yangon Airport by now), it was basically still functional, in the sense that neon lights haven’t started hanging down the walls or anything.

IMG_4787

Yangon Airport International Terminal

Our Burmese mentor and tour guide Po bid farewell to us outside the security-only check-in area, and handshakes were exchanged between us before we disappeared into the check-in area.

IMG_4788

Yangon International Airport Outside Area

I made my way into the check-in area, which wasn’t crowded, mostly because our flight was the only one flying at the time. The line was reasonably long, but we were entitled to group check-in.

IMG_4789

Dragonair Check-in Yangon Airport

The lead teacher was bumped up to business class for the flight, which really wasn’t a good sign for the load back in economy.

Dragonair had blocked off the same seats for us, so having the seats arranged in alphabetical order every time someone didn’t assign seats, I was assigned the same seat, 46H, an aisle seat on the second last row, which I was happy with.

After customs (Yangon Airport’s immigration is at individual gates), I made my way with a few of my friends to a coffee shop to change our money back to US dollars, as Myanmar kyat is unexchangeable in Hong Kong.

IMG_4790

Yangon International Airport Post-Customs Area

With a bit of spare time to go, I made my way past immigration and got inside the gate area, which was a level down. I spread out against a few seats to catch up on a bit of rest, knowing the next day would be rather tiring.

IMG_4793

Yangon International Airport Gate Area

Late at around 12:30 AM the inbound flight, our A321, turned up at gate 2 behind schedule, though nothing was said regards our flight being late.

IMG_4794

Dragonair Airbus A321 Yangon Airport

Shortly boarding for business class and oneworld status passengers began, followed by those in rows 40-47. Backpack and boarding pass in hand, I got onto the flight, ready for a nap.

Dragonair Flight 251
Saturday, November 21st, 2015
Origin: Yangon (RGN) Gate: 2 Dep: 01:10 (01:30)
Destination: Hong Kong (HKG) Gate: 525 Arr: 05:25 (05:30)

Duration: 2 hr 45 min (2 hr 30 min)
Aircraft: Airbus Industrie A321
Seat: 46H (Economy Class)

Last year over four days I flew one of Dragonair’s older A330s followed by one of their newer ones and recorded the difference I noticed.

This flight was operated by one of Dragonair’s older (but refurbished) A321 aircraft, B-HTF. While the outbound, B-HTJ, was less than eight years old and was decently quiet, at nineteen years the cabin pressure, noise and humidity on this flight were noticeably of a lower caliber. Nothing beat my China Eastern flight earlier in the year which had less than a year down its pocket, and I was used to ~20-year-old aircraft anyway given I’d flown two of them in the last five days before the flight, but it wasn’t the modernity I was hoping for. Oh well.

Apologies for the photo quality – photo taking and sleeplessness never pairs well.

IMG_4795

Dragonair Airbus A321 Economy Class Seats

Legroom was adequate – as noted, this was one of my favorite economy class seats in the air up until now, and I wanted to see how a redeye would change that.

IMG_4799

Dragonair Airbus A321 Economy Class Legroom

One of my friends was assigned seat 45K, however, there was a lady in the seat. The lady was assigned to sit next in my row in 46K, but she misread the overhead panels, so she proceeded to move beside us and provide a hangdog expression for most of the flight.

IMG_4797

Dragonair Airbus A321 Economy Class Overhead Panels

Speaking of the panels, I liked that there were individual air nozzles, which I got on all four of my flights this week. However, these weren’t adjustable (either that or they were just so old they got stuck).

IMG_4802

Dragonair Airbus A321 Economy Class Overhead Panel and Air Nozzles

You really have to be on an older A321 to realise how spruced up the new ones are. The old ones just look rather drab and boring.

IMG_4800

Dragonair Airbus A321 Economy Class Cabin

Soon the door closed, and the safety video played. Dragonair has one of the most boring safety videos of any airline, which stays true for all the airlines I flew this year.

IMG_4801

Dragonair Airbus A321 Economy Class Safety Video (pretty sure these four were the only people smiling on the flight during the video)

When that finally ended Ayan went to sleep, while I turned on the airshow (I wanted to review their meal offering before sleeping, especially as this was my first time getting a boxed meal on Dragonair).

IMG_4798

Dragonair Airbus A321 Economy Class Screen

I didn’t have a cable so decided to get one at Hong Kong Airport. In the meantime, one of my friends had an extra device to charge, so I let her charge on my USB port.

IMG_4827

Dragonair Airbus A321 Economy Class USB Ports

Shortly after that we pushed back, and as disappointed as I was to be bound for home, I was excited to be able to get back with family. Dragonair’s older windows don’t have the “new” silicon lining on them, rather they have standard A330-style windows – having not been on an Airbus narrowbody for a long, long time prior to the outbound on this trip, these details were rather unmissable.

IMG_4805

Taxiing Yangon Airport

While in business class you can kind of relax during this time, in economy it’s hard not to get bored during an aircraft taxi. I started taking cabin pictures.

IMG_4806

Dragonair Airbus A321 Economy Class Cabin During Taxiing

And soon we were off, after catching the last glimpse of the mystic lights that had so intrigued me when flying in the week before.

IMG_4812

Climbout Yangon Airport

During this time, I was busy trying to take HD closeup pictures of Ayan sleeping, which eventually managed to stifle a laugh from the stone-faced woman in 46K.

Shortly after takeoff, I took the opportunity to photograph the cabin, as I needed the washroom anyway. The aircraft features 148 seats across 29 rows in one single cabin.

IMG_4818

Dragonair Airbus A321 Economy Class Cabin

The washroom was mostly unchanged from the outbound flight, and also featured Nobility amenities, which I won’t rehash.

IMG_4834

Dragonair Airbus A321 Economy Class Bathroom

I explored the seat a little bit before the meal. Evidently the tray table is perfect for working, as it can be folded if desired.

IMG_4826

Dragonair Airbus A321 Economy Class Tray Table

There are no menus distributed on the route, but the aircraft was obviously running one of the Shanghai to Hong Kong routes prior.

IMG_4824

Dragonair Airbus A321 Economy Class Menu from Shanghai to Hong Kong (?)

Soon one of the boxes were rolled out. While I’ve had some unpleasant experiences with boxes, this one was actually really tasty. It featured some type of a smoked beef sandwich that was really delicious, fruit and chocolate.

IMG_4829

Dragonair Airbus A321 Economy Class Snackbox

The meal was served a bit into the flight, and it took around ten minutes to finish. I mean, damn was it tasty.

IMG_4830

Dragonair Airbus A321 Airshow during Dinner Service

I was really done by then, so I slept amazingly well for the next hour, waking up over Hainan.

IMG_4833

Dragonair Airbus A321 Position over Hainan

At that point I lost my glasses. The crew saw, seemed to be genuinely worried, and helped me turn on my light before I eventually found it in Ayan’s seat pocket (he was asleep for the whole time, so I don’t know how it ended up there). While I appreciated service there, the service was average economy class for the rest of the flight.

At that point I dropped off back to sleep, waking up with the cabin crew announcement “30 minutes till landing”.

IMG_4838

Dragonair Airbus A321 Position over Hong Kong

I couldn’t take any pictures of our descent given my distance from the window seat.

IMG_4839

Landing Hong Kong Airport

We touched down in Hong Kong a bit behind schedule at 5:30 AM, where I was ready to get refreshed for the rest of the day.

IMG_4845

Traffic Hong Kong Airport

Unfortunately we arrived at a remote stand, so it took us a lot of time to deplane. First the business class bus left, then the same bus came back and took the first half of the cabin, and so on, so it was near 6 AM when we got to get off the bus. Plus, we almost missed the bus. I wanted to get bumped off the bus so I could get a few tarmac pictures, but there was a space for me, and I was tired anyway, so I got on, not really ready for a new day.

IMG_4846

Dragonair Airbus A321 Economy Class Cabin during Taxxing

Once again we passed through the business class cabin, which was starting to look a bit more comfortable given how tired I was. That said, economy class is exceptional, and business class is regional, to say the least, so I can’t imagine business class being exponentially more comfortable.

IMG_4848

Dragonair Airbus A321 Business Class

I was able to get a slightly better shot of the aircraft, but I know I could have done better.

IMG_4849

Dragonair Airbus A321 Hong Kong Airport

We were bussed to gate 525, where we made our way past immigration. While that was a breeze, one of the buses carrying half our luggages (mine not included) decided to drive to the wrong gate, so some of us had to wait for a little more than half an hour. While I decided to wait for them for a while, I decided I needed another phone cable anyway, so left the group at 7 AM, catching this amazing sunrise from the departures hall airport window (it nearly rivalled those at Myanmar – I kid).

IMG_4850

Sunrise Hong Kong Airport

BOTTOM LINE ON DRAGONAIR A321 ECONOMY CLASS

While it was a little less comfortable than the outbound this time with a full load, the Dragonair seat was padded well, featured good IFE, had fully adjustable headrests and reclined pretty well. This remains my favourite economy seat in the air, and I’ve found it to be exponentially better than any other regional economy class seat I’ve flown lately. The service and food were fine on this sector though nothing special.

While business class was marginally better, it wouldn’t be worth the price for such a short flight (especially with the load they had, too – they were full). I look forward to flying this seat a few more times next year.

DID I ENGAGE MYANMAR?

While the days I had at Myanmar were hectic, I left feeling like it was well worth it. One thing I missed in the teaching report was that on the third night, one of the parents of the kids came to our restaurant and sang us a song in Burmese, and it basically meant “some thank you’s are harder to say”. There’s really nothing I can sum the trip up with apart from that sentence.

Answering my question. Yes, I believe I did a good job on this trip. There’s really not a trip where I could come back feeling enlightened, but this was definitely one of them.

I miss my kids, so I’ll probably get back to Myanmar at the same time. While a tougher journey wouldn’t stop me, I wouldn’t mind flying once more in comfort. 😉

Advertisements

Any thoughts?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s