Is Hong Kong Airlines Really Not The Best Option To Get To Vancouver?

As Jason pointed out, Hong Kong Airlines is launching flights from Hong Kong to Vancouver. The fares go up visibly during the summer, though you can still find flights in early July and from September onwards from HK$21,500+.

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I’ve long expressed an interest in trying out their product, as not only are their fares competitive, they also feature a really competitive business class product consisting of staggered fully flat seats. I’ve shared FlyerTalk member Carfield’s trip report in business class on them from Gold Coast to Hong Kong, which doesn’t seem like the most polished experience yet, though doesn’t look bad.

IMG_6976Hong Kong Airlines Airbus A330-300 Hong Kong Airport

However, it’s pretty obvious that Jason’s pretty much made up his mind that Hong Kong Airlines has, and will continue to offer an inferior product to Cathay Pacific.

IMG_0112Cathay Pacific Boeing 777-300ER Hong Kong Airport

So I decided I’d pick apart Jason’s argument a bit given that I have a lot of time I don’t necessarily need right now (and I’m definitely not going to start with any school work until Monday, given I’ve just been off a stressful week), and see if I’d take Hong Kong Airlines to Vancouver if I was given the chance.

Would I Take Hong Kong Airlines?

There’s no denying that Cathay Pacific runs a smoother operation. Hong Kong Airlines was recently ranked as one of the worst airlines for delays, much of which is attributed to poor aircraft scheduling and delays due to air traffic control restriction controls in Mainland China. Hong Kong Airlines has also had it’s fair share of safety related scandals, giving the public perception that it’s not particularly the safest airline.

While it’s generally accepted that Cathay has higher safety standards when compared to Hong Kong Airlines, it’s worth noting that if Hong Kong Airlines was truly unsafe, then it wouldn’t be an airline. 

I largely agree with Jason’s statistic that Hong Kong Airlines was recently ranked as one of the worst airlines for delays. According to SCMP (the only place I can find them), Hong Kong Airlines ranked 100th on the punctuality table for flights departing within fifteen minutes of scheduled time.

Cathay Pacific came clean, but their current fiancée, Cathay Dragon, came 95th. I can therefore guarantee that both airlines are just at the position they are because of their reliance of flights to the mainland. I’ve heard a lot of delay stories with Hong Kong Express, but the same isn’t true for Hong Kong Airlines – my mom has expressed her concerns because Hong Kong Express and Hong Kong Airlines “were the same airline” (no, they’re related, but they are not the same airline).

img_2943Dragonair Airbus A320 Hong Kong Airport

Hong Kong Airlines offers a pretty standard staggered Business Class product. Although the seats look perfectly comfortable, they don’t offer nearly as much personal space, privacy or storage as Cathay’s Business Class seat. The seats also don’t feature legrests – which certainly isn’t ideal for lounging. Additionally, it looks like someone took inspiration for the cabin from a bowl of curried cow sh*t. The cabin is filled with red. A. Lot. Of. Red.

The overuse of red is also seen throughout the Economy Class cabin, which is decorated very similarly to their Business Class cabin, with red walls, seat covers and headrests.

This comes ironically after Jason and I had an argument about the orange used in Singapore Airlines’ premium economy cabins. He said it was cheap, but I said it was a needed splash of colour. Each to his own, I guess. 🙂

I agree about the legrests – Cathay Pacific wins in that regard. And I do far prefer reverse herringbone seats because of how spacious they are. But no, Jason, that isn’t because of privacy as you suggest, at least with a few of the seats here. Though each to his own – I’d say that a reverse herringbone seat is a little more private than some of the aisle seats in this configuration, and definitely less private than the window seats, but I won’t take that as an argumentative point.

My point would be that curried cow sh*t is brown, not red. Red is not “overused” here, it’s just the theme of the cabin and had been chosen to fit with Hong Kong Airlines’ brand. I could easily say that Cathay Pacific has gone for pretty bland green, white and pale yellow colour tones (I mean, that’s what I originally said when the A350 seats came out in December 2015). It’s about personal taste and is definitely not a bad decision made by Hong Kong Airlines.

Also, those headrests are orange, not red.

Image result for hong kong airlines site:youngtravelershongkong.wordpress.comHong Kong Airlines Airbus A330-300 Business Class

Speaking of Economy Class, Hong Kong Airlines’ Economy seats aren’t nearly as good as Cathay’s seat. Setting aside from the poorly thought out colour scheme, the seats just aren’t as comfortable as Cathay’s seats. While I haven’t personally flown the product, the seats only feature 31″ of seat pitch when compared to Cathay’s more generous 32″, which makes a significant difference on a long haul flight. Cathay’s seat also features a handy storage nook, something that I find is really useful on long-haul flights.

I wouldn’t pay HK$4000-HK$6000 more for an extra inch and a storage nook, but I haven’t tried Hong Kong Airlines’ economy seat and I do admit that Cathay Pacific’s economy seat is my personal favourite, so let’s move on.

In regards to catering, I’d argue that both airlines are equally matched. In Business Class, both airlines don’t feature dine on demand, while in Economy – I wouldn’t exactly worry about having a gastronomic experience. Hong Kong Airlines appears to have larger portions, but I wouldn’t say that their food looks better than Cathay’s. I had a pretty pathetic pork roll a couple of years ago on a short hop to Guiyang, which tasted like it was cooked 7 days ago. Granted – the flight was a while ago so they may have very well improved their catering in the time since I’ve flown them. However, I’ve heard that it still kinda sucks.

Interesting, I also had a pork roll back when Hong Kong Express was a full-service airline and I flew them from Hong Kong to Taichung. Yes, neither Hong Kong Airlines nor Cathay Pacific have especially good food, or so I’ve heard (I’ve had dismal food in longhaul Cathay Pacific business class, and the general rating for Hong Kong Airlines food is D-, despite how good it actually looks online).

Hong Kong Airlines Meal from Hong Kong to Shanghai (according to Navjot Singh, this was actually a good dish)

A big difference that you’ll see, however, is the difference in service between both airlines. In my experience, Cathay Pacific’s crews are generally more experienced and are more polished. Meanwhile, Hong Kong Airlines crews are generally much younger and perhaps as a result colder. Hong Kong Airlines flight attendants also have much less experience on long-haul flights, given that the airline hadn’t begun its global expansion until last year.

My personal experiences with Hong Kong Airlines’ crew have been pretty disappointing. On both of my flights with them, the cabin crew were distant and unfriendly. While they weren’t actively rude, they lacked the friendliness that you’ll see with Cathay crews.

Everything that I’ve read about Hong Kong Airlines’ crews in business class has been exceptional across the board. While that isn’t true for economy (and I’ve had a few dismal crews myself), I’m not going to comment on something I haven’t personally experienced.

What interests me here is that Jason was the one dissing Cathay crews for being b*tchy and cold. Back in March, Jason told me (which I then expressed in my initial report of Cathay Pacific’s A330 business class):

MOST HK BASED FAS ARE B*TCHY AND COLD…

I’ve met 5 Hong Kong Based FAs that are really good.. And they were all new hires.

On both longhaul business class experiences I’ve had on Cathay Pacific, I’ve had pretty distant crews, even if there was an emergency handled extremely well on the former flight. I wouldn’t say that Cathay Pacific crews are a notch above Hong Kong Airlines crews. I mean, it definitely is a huge assertion, given Jason hasn’t flown Hong Kong Airlines in quite a while as far as I remember.

All things considered, they’re not a bad airline. While my experiences with them haven’t been good, you’ll be much better off with flying Hong Kong Airlines than – say – American.

If I were to use your arguments, Jason, American features a reverse herringbone product too. They also feature inflight WiFi, which may even give them the edge over Cathay Pacific, and I’ve heard that on a good day, their crews can actually be amazing.

Bottom Line – Would I Fly Hong Kong Airlines?

I’ve reduced Jason’s valid arguments to:

  • I do agree that reverse herringbone seats are better than staggered seats

That’s about it, but I will add that lounge access policies for Cathay are much better, given that Hong Kong Airlines doesn’t feature lounge access in Gold Coast or Cairns, and I doubt they’ll be much better off in Vancouver. Cathay Pacific features their own, renovated lounges in both locations, including The Pier in Hong Kong and a beautiful lounge in Vancouver.

The price discrepancy can be as big as HK$9000.

screen-shot-2017-01-27-at-21-24-09

At this rate, I would definitely fly Hong Kong Airlines, at least once to try out their product. But I do commend Jason for trying and returning to his “I Love Cathay” persona.

Time to wait for Jason to read this and wait for the inevitable:

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