Category Archives: Dragon Air

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DragonAir A321 - B-HTI - Aircraft

InFlight: KA851 – Wuhan to Hong Kong

Route: Wuhan to Hong Kong

Flight: KA851

Carrier: Dragon Air

Class: Business

Seat: 11A. The seats found on the A321 are very similar to those on the A330 with the slight exception of the foot rest folding down from the seat in front of you, rather than coming out of your own seat. As I’m somewhat vertically challenged (as my partner says anyway) my feet only just reached the fold down footrest and thus I didn’t find it that comfortable to use. If you were taller, it might be handy. The seats recline is pretty decent and its width means I could cross my legs over the seat and get comfortable just like a recliner in your lounge room. Not that my legs need it but the pitch was excellent with about 3 windows in view when reclined – plenty of room for a 2 hour flight. The seats are covered in the same blue fabric as found on the DragonAir A330 although someone in this cabin the style doesn’t look anywhere near as dated as it did on the A330. 

Aircraft: A321 (B-HTI). This was my first time on an A321, which was a nice change to the usual 737-400’s that I fly around Australia on. The A321 is a narrow body single isle aircraft – a stretched version of the A320. The internal layout of the aircraft has business class at the front separated by a galley from the economy section behind. The setup works really well and despite being just narrow body aircraft the interior feels very spacious with the 2-2 business class seating configuration. The stretch also means you are a little bit further away from the engines than on an A320 which reduces the noise in the forward cabin. This aircraft was particularly clean on the inside and had a cosy comforting feel about it.

Terminal: On arrival at Wuhan International Airport you actually clear Customs before you check your bags in. In a similar fashion to arrivals there are channels for declaring and not declaring, on the other side of which is the airline check in area where we presented to the Business counter. Our bags were checked through to Sydney via Hong Kong and we were issued with boarding passes all the way before being escorted by airline staff through immigration and security and then into the Wuhan Business and First Class lounge. The lounge was comfortable albeit only slightly larger than some of the lounge rooms I’ve seen in some new display homes with 2 banks of 4 seats down the centre and a few around the walls. There was a drinks fridge with juices and soft drinks as well as some packets of snacks on one wall and a bookcase with magazines to read at the other end. Although small it opens directly onto the main terminal area and the gates are just across the general seating area from the lounge area.

Departure: The first boarding call for our flight was made although after attempting to join the queue lounge staff advised that they would let us know when Business class would be boarding. As there are no aerobridges at the international terminal buses shuttle passengers the 100m or so between the terminal and the aircraft. Economy passengers board via large buses like the one that we arrived on, however this time business class passengers had a private VIP mini bus to take us to the aircraft. After allowing the first set of economy passengers to board once the aircraft stairs were free we boarding the mini bus and zoomed across to the aircraft to board without waiting for economy. After we were all settled in our seats with a glass of juice, the remaining economy passengers were permitted to board. The exclusivity shown to the business class was a nice touch.

Our departure was delayed slightly after one of the passengers attempted to bring a huge case on as carry on baggage. After about 10 minutes of discussion the bag was finally checked into the hold and the stairs pushed back (not without this poor airline guy having to run to and from the terminal a couple of times – ending up covered in sweat – poor guy). We pushed back from the remote stand and after a very short taxi were departed Wuhan with a very smooth climb into the smog before turning around and heading towards Hong Kong.

IFE: LCD TV screens fold down from the overhead bins shortly after take off and the entertainment program began. I cant remember what the first program was as I was busy with the meal but the second program was Modern Family – best on aircraft TV viewing! Unfortunately that only lasted 20mins before a Chinese news/IT show came on so I decided to try out the radio channels which had several English only channels including an 80’s channel and a new music channel which I ended up switching between during the remainder of the flight. Although its not seat back IFE, it was pretty good for a short flight.  

Meal: The meal service began shortly after take off which on today’s flight was lunch with a smoked salmon with apple and celery salad as the starter followed by a choice of either Sauteed Chicken with Mung Beans served on Steamed Rice and Vegetables or Braised Beef with BBQ Cream Sauce with Farfalle Pasta and Mediterranean Vegetables. I went with the beef and pasta option with some garlic bread which was really a nice lunch followed with the Apricot Strudel with Vanilla sauce as a desert. The food was nice, although the small dishes looked very similar in size and content to the aluminium foil tins that generally get served in economy. Perhaps if plated differently it would look more appealing; although it tasted pretty good so I guess we win on that front.

Crew: The crew were extremely attentive, addressing us by name and quickly clearing the tables after the meal service. I only had the one champagne this time round but as soon as that glass was empty the crew were at the ready to refill me if it was needed. The crew were kept busy prior to take off and again when coming into land as the number of passengers that didn’t seem to comprehend – Seat belts on, Seats upright, Window Shades open was pretty amazing. Despite the seemingly constant reminding of some passengers the crew remained very professional (unlike a previous Qantas flight were one of the crew basically started yelling at people to put their seats upright). 

Arrival: Prior to take off the captain (another Australian crew) advised that he expected a smooth cruise during the flight, however some turbulence due to weather during the decent into Hong Kong. The turbulence never really eventuated however we were put in a holding pattern for about 45mins south of Hong Kong due to weather and airport congestion. As we came out of the holding pattern and began our decent I caught a glimpse of a China Southern aircraft climbing underneath us as we decended. I’m sure the separation was there but it seemed pretty close as it zoomed beneath us. The cloudy weather around Hong Kong seemed to clear some of the smog haze so I got a few glimpses of Hong Kong between the clouds during the final approach and landing which was much better than the view a week or so earlier.

On the ground we pulled up to another remote stand although this time there was no VIP bus for us so we crammed into the standard bus for the 5min drive around the terminal to the arrivals area. Although the bus is annoying if you just want to get into the terminal, I don’t mind it as you get a ground level view of the terminal and get to drive around so many different planes. On arrival we re-cleared security and then made our way to the Cathay Pacific “The Cabin” lounge to wait about 5hours for our onward connection to Sydney.

Overall: Despite the delayed departure and holding over Hong Kong the flight was great. The service by the crew was great, food was tasty and seats comfortable. If you had a tighter connection in Hong Kong you would have been annoyed, but with our 6 hour wait (which was reduced to 5 by the delay) it was probably more enjoyable to be delayed in the air than waiting in the lounge. This was my second DragonAir flight and their service is very similar to their parent company, Cathay Pacific, which makes them a great choice for regional flights from Hong Kong.

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DragonAir A330 B-HYJ

InFlight: KA850 – Hong Kong to Wuhan

Route: Hong Kong to Wuhan

Flight: KA850

Carrier: Dragon Air

Class: Business

Seat: 11A. This seat is an older fashioned recliner seat. Although it looks a little basic when compared to long haul business class, its surprisingly comfortable for a short haul flight. Each blue business class seat has a great amount of legroom, decent recline and an extendable footrest. When reclined it feels like you are sitting in a recliner at home. If I had of taken the offer of a blanket I would probably have fallen asleep pretty easily, although the footrest doesn’t seem to go all the way to your feet and thus feels a little awkward if you use it on its own. The tray table for the meal service folds out of the armrest and is complemented by a central cocktail table between the two seats. Row 11 is the second row of a short business class cabin of only 3 rows, making it feel quite private.

Aircraft: A330-300 (B-HYJ). The wide body aircraft makes it feel very spacious within the aircraft’s 2-2-2 business cabin. This aircraft is configured with 3 classes (first, business and economy). One noticeable difference in business and first is the lack of central overhead bins. The premium cabins had very light loads on my flight so there wasn’t any hassle finding bin space, but when it gets full I’d imagine the overheads would be harder to find space in. The first and business cabins are separated by a hard bulkhead and curtains across the aisle. The business cabin is separated from economy by a large galley. I’m not sure what’s available in economy as I didn’t have the time or energy to take the walk to the back of the bus on this flight. I’m guessing its just a different engine type however I’ve noticed that on some Airbus aircraft the engines sound different to others (more of a high pitch noise than a low dull noise). On this aircraft it was the higher pitch type, which I find a little annoying but you only really hear it during take off anyway so its no big deal. Overall a clean well maintained aircraft, although the choice of colour/upholstery style was a little dated.

Terminal: Hong Kong International Airport is a massive airport. Our original flight landed at gate 16, while our departure was from gate 49, about a 20min walk and train ride. After clearing security we went to the closest lounge to our arrival gate, which happened to be the Gate 16 lounge. We only had about an hour before boarding, and with a 20min transit between gates we didn’t spend a great amount of time exploring the airport. Thus I’ll do a more comprehensive review of Hong Kong Airport on the return leg, when we spend an extensive 6 hours at the airport.

Departure: The doors to the aircraft were closed on time, and the aerobridges pushed away from the aircraft right on time however our departure from Hong Kong was delayed by 35 minutes due to passing thunderstorms. After being travelling for so long already the delay was an inconvenience, I much prefer to be delayed and safe on the ground than being thrown around in a thunderstorm. Even though I love flying, the super hard landing on AirAsia a few weeks ago has made me a little more weary of bumps during flights, thus a smoother thunderstorm free take off was much appreciated. The short taxi to the departure runway minimised the delay before we took off into the Hong Kong haze before climbing and circling Hong Kong until we reached about 15,000 feet then turning towards Wuhan. The captain’s welcome warned of some turbulence however other than a few bumps this didn’t eventuate despite some skirting around several massive thunderstorm clouds on the way to Wuhan. I filmed the departure, but as the haze was very thick its only a short video as soon we dissapeared into the smog.

IFE: In Business Class there is no personal TV’s, instead there are LCD screens at the front of the 3 row cabin which displayed the moving map before the TV programming commenced. I didn’t actually get the headset out, however whatever was showing appeared to be in English with Chinese subtitles.

Meal: On boarding we were offered apple or orange juice or the dragon air signature cocktail – Dragon Sunrise (Gin, Guava and Lemon Juice). Having already had what seemed like a bottomless glass of champagne on my last flight, I went with the apple juice. As we waited on the ground for the thunderstorm to pass we were offered some champagne (which I obliged) and some nuts to pass the time. Once in the air and pointed towards Wuhan we were offered Dinner which began with an appetiser of Duck Terrine with Apple Celery Salad followed by the choice of Thai Green Curry Pork with Steamed Rice or Sole Fillet and Prawn with Miso Beurre Blanc, Potato Gratin and Vegetables. As with Cathay Pacific, Dragonair bring each of the choices to you so you can have a look at them before selecting your dish, which is handy as sometimes menu’s can be deceiving.

Being a non seafood eater, I went for the Green Curry. The duck terrine with apple celery salad was quite nice, although the Green Curry was a little dull so I didn’t finish it all. Although it was served in a nice dish the contents looked like they were from the aluminium foil tins served in economy. A range of breads including garlic are also offered with the meal before finishing it off with a selection of ice creams and chocolates.

Crew: The crew speak English which is a plus, greeted us by name and escorted us to our seats on arrival. With the very light load, I think there were more crew than passengers in the business and first cabins, thus the service as pretty quick (with the exception that they forgot my water, but were overly apologetic about it so all good). My colleague was presented with a survey to complete and joked about giving them a lower rating due to the delays, but in all the crew were pretty good, especially at keeping our drinks full – whether we wanted them full or not. I sensed that they were disappointed when we declined the ice cream for desert as they seemed very eager to give us everything the could over the 2 hour flight.

Arrival: During the flight we skirted around some major thunderstorm clouds before beginning our decent into Wuhan and into the haze. During the decent I counted about 4 other flights zipping around us (which isn’t something you that much of in Australia). Like Hong Kong, the haze is very thick so we were quite low before I was able to make out the masses of fish farms below as we began the final approach. My first landing in mainland China was smooth and uneventful and it wasn’t long before our aircraft was met by a follow me car and we began the taxi towards the terminal. The terminal at Wuhan looks very new and modern similar to many other airports like Kuala Lumpur but on a smaller scale with large windows and a hanger like roof span. Following the little “follow me car” our aircraft taxied past the terminal building with many empty aerobridges to a remote stand across the apron from the terminal building.

After a few attempts, the stairs were brought up to the aircraft door and we were ushered onto awaiting busses. Although the other passengers in Business were in a rush to get off the plane, I we didn’t see the point as the busses had to wait for the rest of the plane to disembark before they left anyway. It was here that we realised that that bright new pretty terminal was not the international terminal, instead a much smaller hanger style terminal was to be our arrival point into China. Although very basic, the terminal was pretty efficient. It only too about 5mins to clear immigration, collect our bags and then clear Customs before being greeted by our hotel driver and being whisked away into downtown Wuhan.

Overall: I was pleasantly surprised with the service and comfort on this short flight from Hong Kong to Wuhan. You can tell that Dragon Air is a subsidiary of Cathay Pacific as the service standards, presentation and cabin attitudes are very similar albeit on a slightly smaller scale (at least in the Business Class). The A330 aircraft as nice as its bigger and thus feels safer than the A330/737 options, especially given the amount of thunderstorms around. If you ever need to get to Wuhan from Australia (I’m still not sure how much, if any, Australia – Wuhan traffic there really is annually) this flight provides a really good connection from the early morning Cathay Pacific flight ex Sydney