Review of Hainan Airlines flight Toronto Beijing in Business

Airline Hainan Airlines
Flight HU7976
Class Business
Seat 16K
Aircraft Boeing 787-9
Flight time 13:00
Take-off 22 Jan 18, 17:15
Arrival at 22 Jan 18, 19:15
HU   #11 out of 123 Airlines A minimum of 20 Flight-Reports is required in order to appear in the rankings. 21 reviews
hometoyyz
By SILVER 3106
Published on 2nd February 2018

Introduction



Hello, flight-report community, and welcome to another of your humble flight-reporter’s signature quicky jaunts to Asia, this time, sampling the business class offerings of Hainan and China Eastern, as well as my first Asian LCC flight, with Cebu Pacific.

The Rundown



HU7976 YYZ-PEK - 1/22/2018 - 787-9 - J - You are here
HX313 PEK-HKG - 1/23/2018 - A330-200 - J - Coming soon
5J151 HKG-CRK - 1/24/2018 - A320-200 - Y - Coming soon
MU5046 CRK-PVG - 1/25/2018 - A320-200 - J - Coming soon
MU207 PVG-YYZ - 1/25/2018 - 777-300ER - J - Coming soon

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Background



There’s a bit of a long story behind this one. But then, isn’t there always a bit of a long story?

I originally wasn’t going to do any silly quick-turnaround mileage runs just for the sake of doing quick-turnaround mileage runs this year. And then it happened. While surfing a forum, I found an amazing deal on China Eastern flights out of Cebu or Clark in the Philippines to Toronto. Now, MU isn’t the best carrier in the world, but it’s a pretty good experience, and more importantly, is very generous with both status and redeemable miles on Delta’s award chart. And you don’t see sub-$2,000 (Canadian) TPAC fares very often. So I kinda had to do it. I booked myself on CRK-PVG-YYZ in January, and the “return” flights (same routing in reverse) a month later.

Now there was just the small matter of getting to Clark — a relatively obscure airfield in the Philippines.

I quickly honed in on Hong Kong as the place to get to, as there was a very inexpensive HKG-CRK flight on Cebu that would work well for me, timing-wise, to complete the trip.

Next, I found SkyMiles availability on Delta and China Airlines for YYZ-JFK-TPE-HKG. Booking this is a pain, because while availability is plentiful, delta.com refuses to present or book any award that transits TPE on CI. You have to call in, feed the itinerary to the agent, and hope they’re one of “the good ones” who know what to do to make it happen, and don’t just give up immediately when the computer doesn’t hand it to them.

For the return in February, I found HKG-ICN-JFK-YYZ. Not thrilling, but I haven’t flown the Korean 77W or 388, and this would allow me to fly both. So that’s okay.

I then started to look for alternate availability, thinking maybe I could use CX or JL F to get me to Hong Kong instead, using Alaska Miles. But I never found anything that totally lined up with what I wanted.

And then, the day after Christmas, I was playing around on Google Flights, and found that Hainan was offering very affordable business class tickets — a bit more than the MU ticket, but still in the range of “quite a bit cheaper than usual” for Toronto to Hong Kong. Hainan has looooong been on my to-do list, with their reputation. And they credit fairly nicely to Alaska. I was intrigued. It turned out it was available on the dates I wanted, with connections on Hong Kong Airlines down to HKG.

The only thing that had kept me from Hainan in the past was its mediocre hard product — 2-2-2 flat beds on its 788s and older 789s. But when I checked it out on ExpertFlyer, it turns out that Hainan is now flying to Pearson with its brand new 1-2-1-equipped 789s. I was sold. I cancelled the two SkyMiles awards — hurray for free cancellations and re-deposits! — and booked this itinerary with Hainan and Hong Kong. And ended up doing my previously flight-reported CX and JL F adventure a few weeks beforehand. Because why not?

And thus, I went from “no paid business class mileage runs this year” to two in the first two months of the year. Somehow, I knew it was going to happen.

Nevertheless, I was quite thrilled to be trying Hainan in particular — there are so few reports on it in general, and on its new hard product specifically. And it’s always kind of held my imagination — I remember seeing Hainan’s 787-8 at Pearson a few years ago — at the time, I believe it was the only Dreamliner at YYZ, and it always looked so striking with that striking red and yellow tail — which was all I saw at the time. I ended up having to look up to whom this cool plane belonged, and at the time, I had never heard of Hainan Airlines. Now, I get to sample its offering.

The only thing that made me nervous going into it was the connection time of around 90 minutes in Beijing — PEK isn’t exactly legendary for either on-time arrivals or departures, or easy transits. Adding to my concerns, in the week leading up the flight, the YYZ-PEK flight on Hainan consistently arrived into Beijing between an hour and two hours late — so I suspected it was due to winds on the route moreso than any operational issue (unless HU really has operational issues that bad.)

But I figured that if I did miss the last HX flight to Hong Kong, at least there’s one first thing the next morning that wouldn’t screw up my itinerary too badly. It would just cut down on my free time in Hong Kong, which would not be great, but would be quite survivable.

One other before-we-get-started note — I was a bit concerned about how to photograph these flight-reports, since Chinese airlines have their weird mindset about using phones in-flight. I prefer to shoot on my phone, but that wasn’t gonna cut it. But then, less than a week before my flight, I see this on Twitter:

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Yahoo! Provided the flight attendants on my flights have been briefed on the new policy, I should have no problem taking pictures with my phone. Or listening to podcasts. At least I’ve still got my iPad camera as backup, should I run into problems.

Day of Departure



My optimism for making my scheduled connection took a nosedive about 10:00 the morning before departure, when I got the following e-mail from Hainan.

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Well, that’s great, isn’t it? So we’re going to leave about an hour late. And I have a 90-minute connection. That means….. yep, I’d say the odds are good I’m going to misconnect. Hopefully, they’ll rebook me pretty seamlessly onto the early-morning HX flight down to Hong Kong. I’ll only end up wasting about $20 on my hotel in Hong Kong, since I booked it mostly on (mostly worthless to me) Accorhotel points.

It’s odd, though — I wonder what’s causing the scheduled-in-advance delay, given that the inbound flight is showing as arriving into Pearson about ten minutes ahead of schedule. Hmmmmm.

Check-in, etc.



Pretty sure I was going to misconnect, but hopeful that misconnect wouldn’t completely screw up my trip (hope springs eternal) I headed to Pearson, getting there about 1:25 pm. It was easy to find the Hainan check-in section at T3.

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The one person in line for business class cleared out just as soon as I showed up, and the agent checked me in. She insisted on weighing my carry-on and backpack, so I’m guessing Hainan enforces cabin luggage weight rules.

After a few minutes, she prints out my YYZ-PEK boarding pass, and presents me with a lounge pass for the Plaza Premium lounge in the international section at Pearson. I ask if she can print out my Beijing-Hong Kong boarding pass as well, especially because I have a relatively short connection in Beijing, but she says the system won’t let her. Along with the boarding pass and lounge invitation, she presents me a sticker, which I’m to put on my shirt before arrival into Beijing — apparently, it identifies me as a transit passenger, and Hainan staff on the ground in Beijing will help out. Hopefully by having a boarding pass, just in case I’ve actually got a shot at making this connection.

Boarding time on the printed boarding pass is 16:20 — about ten minutes after the scheduled departure of the flight. So apparently they’re serious about this delay.

It’s a short walk from there to domestic and international (but not transborder) security, which has changed its look since I was last through here — they’ve opened up the space, and made a single massive queue. It actually looks fairly nice, as far as security checkpoints are concerned.

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There’s no wait for the security checkpoint at the far end of this series of checkpoints, and even with my backpack warranting a secondary search, I’m through security and airside in about five minutes.

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From there, it’s another five-minutes’ walk or so down to the end of the international gates, where I find the elevators up to the lounge level. Unfortunately, there’s not much going on at the gates below, so I just head upstairs.

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Plaza Premium Lounge - YYZ Terminal 3 International



Plaza Premium is located down a hallway upstairs — and it seems like the BA lounge here is undergoing some renovations, so it’s also the lounge of choice for BA fliers right now. They join the HU and MU flights in using this space.

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Inside, my boarding pass is scanned and my lounge invitations taken, and I’m told that they will call boarding for my flight, so enjoy my stay.

The PP lounge here is a decent size, a rather massive main room sub-divided by a semi-wall. One side (the rather empty side) is marked as being held for BA Business Class passengers only. Seating is PP standard stuff, and the lounge is relatively attractive, thought nothing special.



Airside views are pretty good, though, on this very grey Toronto January afternoon.

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Dining area and buffet.

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There are cookies and other snacky items on an island next to the buffet.

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And a drinks station, including coffee, tea, water, and juices.

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A bar with bartender — though he’s not here at this moment — and some dessert items you have to get served to you.

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Salads and other cold items — as always at PP, this includes cream puffs.

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Cauliflower and cheese soup, and lentil and roasted garlic soups.

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A couple of dim sum options.

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Rice and “Italian chicken.”

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And finally, the only made-to-order item, Hong Kong-style fish ball soup.

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I make myself up a little snack — everything’s decent, although nothing special. The Italian chicken seems to just be roasted chicken tossed in Italian salad dressing, but it’s oddly enjoyable. The dim sum is good, the Greek salad quite good, and I enjoyed the garlic and lentil soup, too.

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To make myself a rye and ginger, I request a glass with the CC from the bar, but have to hdd my own ginger ale from the cool with all the soft drinks.

No lounge-specific WiFi here in the PP lounge, but the generic Pearson WiFi is good enough to do the job. Corporate shot time!

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And a check on my ride over to Beijing — which is still looking like it’s going to make good time into Toronto — so our delay definitely isn’t because of late incoming aircraft.

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Sure enough my ride pulls into T3 about ten minutes past two — right on schedule. Welcome to Toronto, B-1345 — just three months old as she arrived into Toronto. Hainan’s 789s with the new cabin are all less than a year old at this point.

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A while later, I catch Jet Airways showing up at a gate right below me, freshly in from Amsterdam.

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A while later, I have a bit more of a snack, trying the fish ball soup. It’s quite good — definitely the best thing I’ve had to eat in this lounge.

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With plenty of time before our (delayed) departure time, I putter, do some work, listen to some podcasts, and ponder the important things in life — like, “Will I make my connection?” and “How does a longhaul international mainline flight end up with a flight number that’s way into codeshare territory for most airlines?”

That entertains me for a while, and then, at about 4:00 — twenty minutes before the scheduled start of boarding — I decide to head on down to the gate, and do a bit of a walkabout to see what I can see around the terminal.

Overall, the lounge is about what one expects from a Plaza Premium lounge — not one of their best offerings, but pretty solid.

Boarding time



There’s not a lot of action in the international concourse of Terminal 3 at this hour. Just this 777 soon to return to Heathrow, for whom that whole section of the lounge was being held.

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Nice to see someone’s still bringing the Queen to YYZ from time to time. Both BA and KL do intermittently bring the 747 to our fair town — BA moreso in the summer. KL just seems to spin a wheel to decide what plane comes to Toronto on any given day — we get 744s, 777s, 330s, and maybe even 787s.

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Up close and personal with Aer Lingus’ A330.

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And finally, my ride over to Beijing today in all her glory. Sadly, just missed a pretty cool Kung Fu Panda special livery by one day.

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Things are starting to get ready over at Gate B29, from which we’ll be departing. A line for economy is forming to the right of the gate, and gets quite long. A priority boarding line starts to the left, and I join it once I figure out what’s going on.

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After a few announcements, and the boarding of numerous wheelchairs, priority boarding started about 4:30, just a few minutes behind (the revised) boarding time.

The Flight Report



Flight: HU7976
From: Toronto Pearson (YYZ)
To: Beijing Capital (PEK)
Date: 1/22/2018
Aircraft: Boeing 787-9
Registration: B-1345
Seat: 16K
ATD (STD): 17:18 (16:10)
ATA ( STA): 19:12+1 (18:35+1)

For the first time in over a year, I step aboard a Dreamliner, boarding at door 2 and being shown to the right aisle and told to turn left. For this flight, I’m sitting in 16K, a starboard window seat four rows back in the large business class cabin between doors one and two.

While it’s a step up from the previous 2-2-2 configuration for sure, I find it curious that Hainan opted for this particular seat on the Dreamliner — I’ve flown it before on a 330, and it feels like it “fits” on the narrower 330 fuselage, but it seems a little “light” in terms of features and storage space compared to similar seats I’ve flown on other 787s.

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The seat, as equipped. I like the pillow.

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Legroom shot, and a look into the footwell. One other limitation of this seat I don’t care for — the seat folds down into a bed by the seat portion sliding forward to meet the ottoman. This means there’s no leg rest that comes up from under the seat, which makes it a bit less comfortable in lounging positions, in my opinion, that competitive seats.

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The forward wall of the pod is dominated by the slide-out IFE monitor, which is playing soothing music and pastoral scenes of nature while we board.

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The outside/rear wall of the pod starts with a rather large storage cubby with a strap for earphones. Without this cubby, the seat would be pretty hopeless for storage. With it, it’s pretty much adequate. Also, there’s a USB port.

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Behind that are the seat controls, a very modern touchscreen wired remote control, and reading light.

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In the front wall of the window-side table one finds the literature, another small cubby hole, presumably for water bottles, and the power outlet.

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A look across the cabin while boarding is still ongoing. 16A and D would end up occupied, but G, across the aisle from me, remains vacant — which works out very well from a privacy point-of-view.

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Service begins with a hot towel, nicely presented.

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Continuing the tour of the seat, the aisle side of the seat includes the “must be kept down for takeoff” armrest, and a deep cubby, home to the amenity kit. We’ll take a closer look a little later.

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The young female flight attendant who leads service on my aisle stops by with a tray full of drinks. On offer are orange juice, water, lemonade, and their “mocktail of the month,” which she never really explains. I opt for lemonade, and it’s okay. Would be better with a little bit of ice. It’s presented with a very small collection of nuts.

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It’s a rainy day outside the window — which I later discover is dimmed by one position. I had no trouble believing it was actually that dark out.

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The on-board “chef” stops by next, offering the menu. Unlike other “chefs” I’ve seen, she participates in other aspects of the service in a passenger-facing way.



Hey… look who’s showed up next door. And look who else is flying a Dreamliner to Pearson these days.

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In a somewhat odd exchange with my main flight attendant during boarding as she’s looking for additional overhead space in the bin above my seat, she asks about my backpack, taking it out, and taking the stainless steel water bottle I carry out of it. I say it’s empty, and she says I should put it in the cubby next to my seat, and (I think she says) I can fill it later. I don’t really plan on doing that, but she seems oddly insistent. I think maybe she’s trying to create some additional space, as she has another backpack she wants to store up there. But then when I check later, even with the other backpack and my two pieces, there’s plenty of room in the bin. So I’m not entirely sure what that was about.

Right before 5:00 pm, the safety video rolls. It’s quite an interesting concept — the plane is apparently Hainan International Tourism Island, and all of the various safety instructions are shoe-horned into that island paradise. It’s interesting, and entertaining, and there are a seemingly inappropriate in 2018 number of young women in bikinis, such as this one, who’s dealing with a smoking passenger. Definitely one of the more unique safety videos I’ve seen, I have to say.

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Pushback at 5:00 on the dot.

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As we taxi, my flight attendant stops by to take drink orders for after takeoff. I request some water, and some champagne. I’m confused for a minute about the followup question she asks, but it turns out she’s clarifying that I want cold water. Meal orders, she says, will be taken after takeoff.

It takes about 15 minutes to taxi our way out to the “farthest” and longest runway at Pearson, from which we’ll be taking off this evening.

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Takeoff — it’s been a while, so I forget how delightfully quiet the front of the 787-9 is, even on liftoff.

In a matter of about two seconds, the runway is disappearing from below us, as we climb into the clouds.

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Soon, though, we’re between layers of clouds, and it’s much nicer.

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They haven’t distributed headphones yet, but it’s time to check out what’s available on IFE. The interface is simple and responsive, even if the flight information along the bottom of the page is a bit suspect.

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IFE selection is not bad, either — there’s only three screens of new releases, and they’re a mix of international films, but under each of the various origins — Hollywood, Chinese, European, etc. — there’s a much broader variety. It’s a pretty good array, even if there aren’t a lot of options that I’m super-excited to see.

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While we climb out, let’s check out the amenity kit — the contents are pretty much what you’d expect, with the addition of some nice Bulgari amenities.

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Slippers are quite nice, and a decent size for even my rather large feet.

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As service begins, the flight attendant asks if she can store my duvet on my ottoman. Well, sure. It looks quite comfortable.

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The FA serving my aisle pops by next to take my order. When I request the scallop and pork Chinese dish, she clarifies that “I’d like to try” the Chinese option, and I confirm. She seemed a little surprised that I went with the Chinese meal.

Headphones are delivered next — to my surprise, they’re standard Bose QCs, with the single-prong plug, even though the seat is equipped with a theft-deterring three-prong plug-in. They’re even the battery-powered version of the headphones.

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Having secured a way to listen to it, I choose my first movie. Ehhhh…. it’s okay, but a little Hallmark Movie of the Week. It appears that Hainan employs the same movie reviewer style that China Eastern uses, and the movie summaries are sometimes more entertaining than the film itself.

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My drinks are delivered. The champagne is a little warmer than I’d like, but is pretty good. Interestingly, subsequent glasses would be much colder — I guess it hadn’t been on ice prior to departure. Drinks are frequently refilled along the way and throughout the meal. The drinks are served with a couple of decent little dim sum items.

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Next, the table is set, and another hot towel offered.

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And then, the bread basket is delivered. I think it’s a nice touch that Hainan offers an individual bread basket in business class. And a cute way of presenting it, too. The garlic bread is pretty good — in fact, all of the items are pretty good.

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Next, my starter with pork and shrimp is delivered — up to and including the main course, service is very personalized. As soon as you’re done and your plate is cleared, out comes the next course. The starter’s pretty good — I particularly enjoy the flavour the bamboo and funguns brings to the party.

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Up next is the soup, very nicely presented. This is the white bean and cauliflower soup, and it’s quite enjoyable. It’s not big on flavour by itself, but the confit and particularly the parmesan cheese perks it up.

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Next up is the salad, offered with an Asian sesame dressing. It’s nothing very exciting, but it’s all fresh enough.

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And then the main course is offered — with impressive presentation. I really like the thought that went into designing the dishes “radiating” out from the central rice bowl. Truly first class presentation, IMHO. My flight attendant asks if I’d like chop sticks or a fork — and I ask for the sticks, but also a fork. I’m not always great with rice with chop sticks, so might as well hedge my bets, right?



All in all, I was very impressed by the number of flavours and textures offered in the main course. I thought everything was perfectly prepared, nicely presented, and tasted great. A really good business class meal.

As the meal service ends, we’re up over the southwest side of Hudson’s Bay.

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Time for my next film — something light that will hopefully keep me busy until the meal is over, and it’s time to go to sleep.

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As she clears my main course dishes, the flight attendant says the dessert cart will be by in a little while, should I want anything else. I guess this is where the personalized pace ends — have to wait for everyone to be done their main, so the cabin crew can devote their time to bringing around the carts.

But about twenty minutes later, true to her word, the dessert cart appears. I’m not feeling terribly full, since most of the dishes so far have been fairly light, so I kind of pig out here, requesting some cheese, some fruit, and the chocolate mouse cake.



Everything is very enjoyable — but still somehow light. Despite having eaten so much, after the meal I’m quite satisfied, but not at all stuffed. I’m quite happy with that.

Dinner done and service items cleared, my flight attendant asks if I’d like some pajamas, and what size. I ask her what she’s got, and say “probably the largest you have.” But she has up to XXXL. I ask her what she thinks, and seeing she’s probably uncomfortable with having to say a large number of Xes, add “Probably like XXL?” She nods, and says that’s probably about right. “They’re really fit for Asians,” she offers.I laugh and say I know what she means.

They’re delivered shortly, and that’s a good enough excuse as any to visit the lav. In this case, I head to the forward lav, which is is really nothing special, aside from a lone flower and some Bulgari products, and is really quite small, especially for changing purposes.



The pajamas themselves are quite nice — and XXL seems to be about right, although XXXL probably wouldn’t be huge. I find them quite comfortable, although the colours don’t really grab me, aside from the splash of Hainan red.

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Back at my seat, as service winds down for the night, a bottle of Evian is offered. Many passengers seem to be buying onboard duty-free. Way more than I’m used to seeing. I haven’t really checked it out to see if it’s extraordinary deals, or if maybe it’s just folks heading home and wanting to “stock up.”

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Meal orders for the pre-arrival meal — including drink orders — are taken shortly afterwards, and permission given to wake me up if I should be sleeping when meal time comes around. Based on experience, I think that’s unlikely, but it’s nice that they ask.

With my movie over, it’s time to check in on the flight. We’re about 8 hours from Beijing, and they’re showing an ETA of 6:45 pm — just about ten minutes behind schedule. So, you’re saying there’s a chance?

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I try to surf the Web a bit — WiFi is apparently offered on Hainan, and is free for business class (and maybe all?) passengers. Unfortunately, this attempt at a log-in screen is as far as I can get, at least up to this point. Maybe it’ll work in the morning.

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Before putting my bed down, I try do what I usually do — pop on a documentary that will be interesting, but probably not keep me from falling asleep. Sadly, the only interesting ones are in Mandarin. Or hosted by Donald Trump, oddly enough. So I grab my own headsets from the overhead and throw on a podcast. I listen to the half hour remaining of it, and then drift off to sleep, the noise cancellers helping to deal with the two overtired little ones who are objecting to their current arrangements in the business class cabin.

I wake up about five hours later, and we’re about 1100 miles and 2:30 out of Beijing. The bed was comfortable enough, and I had freedom of motion. My only complaint is my usual one — I had to wake up quite a bit to change positions because one of my arms — the one under my pillow — is inevitably asleep. I wake feeling somewhat refreshed, but not completely rested, and that’s fine with me. After all, we’re landing in the evening Beijing time, and I’m either going to be connecting on a short flight down to Hong Kong, and then trying to sleep, or being taken to a hotel in Beijing if I don’t make my connection.

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Speaking of which, our ETA has slipped to 7:05 now, which will give me just 1:05 to connect. I’m not sure how realistic that is, but I guess I’m fairly optimistic about it.

After waking up, I notice that 16G is now occupied — not sure from where its occupant came. These seats offer good privacy in bed mode, but the aisle-side casing of the seat doesn’t come forward far enough to offer much privacy when in seating or lounging position.

I choose my next film mostly for an interesting cast, and for its duration, which will fill most if not all of the remaining flight time.

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As the movie starts, my flight attendant pops her head in to me, and asks if I’d like anything else to drink. I request some more water, and it’s promptly delivered. This time it’s Hainan-branded, though. Perhaps there’s only one Evian bottle per passenger boarded?

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The lights start coming up a few minutes after the movie begins, and quickly come up to full brightness ahead of the pre-arrival meal being served.

Unfortunately, the WiFi isn’t working any better this morning that it was last night.

And then a hot towel is delivered.

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As requested earlier in the flight, a black coffee and an orange juice are delivered. I had requested ice in the orange juice, but the flight attendant very apologetically says there’s no more ice on board. That seems very odd, but okay. Nevertheless, it’s quite good.

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My meal is then brought out shortly after. The congee is just plain ol’ congee, but the rest of the meal is quite good — especially the beef with jalapeno and the braised tofu. All in all, I very much enjoyed the whole thing, and once again, very much appreciated Hainan’s presentation of the dish — even if it was served on a tray this time.



After I’m done, the flight attendant picks up my serviceware, and tells me she’ll bring me some fruit shortly. I request a cappuccino as well, and the request is happily honoured.

The fruit comes out a first — a nice selection, and nice and fresh. It’s not EVA good, but it’s very good nonetheless.

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My… coffee…. is delivered next, by a very apologetic flight attendant, who says she tried to make some foam, but couldn’t get it working. So the result is pretty much a latte. And it’s still quite good, and a needed pick-me-up at this early (Toronto time) hour.

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After breakfast, I head up to the forward lav — the only one open once again — I was hoping to see what the ones behind the J cabin looked like — and change back into my street clothes, and start cleaning up the non-essentials I’d taken out during the flight.

Back at my seat, they interrupt the IFE to play the mandatory “If you get sick after this flight, call for help” health/quarantine video. The captain, in turn, interrupts the video to give us a one hour from arrival update. True to HU’s reputation for hiring expat pilots, based on his accent, I would presume our pilot this evening is German, or from somewhere in that region. After that, the video continues — it’s very thorough, covering both health and customs/immigration procedures.

Immediately after that, we get the ever-delightful spraydown of the cabin. Always everyone’s favourite part of the flight experience. Although it’s announced on the PA, we never see the spray happen in the business class cabin. I guess maybe only the riff raff need to be disinfected?

Descent begins shortly afterwards. And just for the record, WiFi remains inoperative. That’s a bit of a disappointment. A nice service touch — the “chef” spends a good ten minutes filling out the arrivals form for the elderly woman sitting in 15G. It’s a little thing, but I think it speaks to Hainan’s service culture — or at least the kindness of that one particular flight attendant.

Soon, we’re on our descent into Beijing — and for the first time since about a minute after takeoff, our windows are at our control. Before this, they had been “locked down” at no more than half brightness — despite basically the whole flight taking place in the dark.

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Yep, our giant 787 is almost to Beijing.

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Final approach — about to touch down just past Beijing’s ginormous T3.

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And touchdown at 6:13. About 55 minutes to make my flight. At this point, I figure the length of our taxi will make the difference between making the connection and not making the connection.

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And the gods are on my side — it’s a direct taxi to T2, and we arrive there about two minutes after touchdown — that plane a few gates over is my ride down to Hong Kong. I’m feeling more confident.

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We pull into our gate about a minute later — with the HX tail still visible a few gates down.

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Fortunately, they’re pretty quick to get the jetway connected, and I waste no time in bolting for door one as soon as it’s open. I wish I’d had the chance to more properly at the end of the flight. Overall, I thought service was very good, and she was particularly good, understanding and personable despite the language barrier between us.

Transiting Beijing



At the top of the jetway, there’s a small army of staff in Hainan Airlines transfer staff garb, including two holding a sign for HX313 with my name and one other name. As soon as I identify myself to them, one of them peels off with me and we’re on our way. She asks if I have my boarding pass, but no, I was not able to get that printed at Pearson.

We stop at the international transfer desk, where there’s only one agent, but it doesn’t really matter because I’m the only client. About two minutes later, I have my boarding pass for Hong Kong.

My escort then shows me to transit security, just across the hall, which is equally empty. Even with the usually strict Chinese security reigmen — take out all major electronics, chargers, batteries, and everything else, and then get the wand afterwards anyways — I’m through security in no time, and remarkably enough, I’m airside in Terminal 2 just 13 minutes after we pulled into the gate.

photo 115

I know it’s probably because it’s a very quiet time, but still, I’m pretty impressed by that performance — that’s the kind of transit experience I expect at HKG, not at dreaded PEK.

A couple of minutes later, I’m at the gate for our flight down to Hong Kong. Boarding has begun, but clearly, I’ll make my flight.

photo 116

We’ll pick the story up from this moment in my next flight-report, chronicling the comparitively short journey down to Hong Kong. Thanks for joining me for this segment, and I hope to see you on future flight-reports!
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Verdict

Hainan Airlines

7.8/10
Cabin7.0
Cabin crew8.0
Entertainment7.5
Meal/catering8.5

Plaza Premium Lounge Management Limited Plaza Premium Lounge (International Departures)

6.5/10
Comfort7.0
Meal/catering6.5
Entertainment6.5
Services6.0

Toronto - YYZ

7.5/10
Efficiency7.0
Access7.0
Services7.0
Cleanliness9.0

Beijing - PEK

7.4/10
Efficiency8.5
Access7.5
Services6.5
Cleanliness7.0

Conclusion

All in all, a great first experience with Hainan Airlines. The new J cabin is not my favourite all-aisle-access product, but leaps and bounds above their previous 2-2-2 Dreamliner business cabin. Their hard product still probably lags a bit behind the soft product in terms of the overall experience, but that’s only because the soft product is so good.

It’s hard to argue with the overall Hainan longhaul experience. Service was excellent, friendly, responsive and didn’t feel any more robotic than it needed to be, and the flight attendant leading service on my aisle seemed genuinely warm. Catering was extraordinary for business class. And there are pajamas, which is always a nice bonus in business class.

All in all, I’d offer a pretty hearty recommendation for HU’s J product based on my experiences on this flight.

With this flight, I have now flown in the most-premium cabin on eight of the current ten five-star airlines, with just Qatar and Etihad left to try. So that’s an accomplishment, I guess.

Related

2 Comments

  • Comment 431233 by
    pwecar 53 Comments

    Hi there, welcome to PEK (albeit a bit short)~
    The second bottle water is actually a Hainan-branded Chinese high-end mineral water bottled from Tibet, a much better choice than those Dasani-ish brands.
    On Chinese retail markets it's 7-8 times more expensive than regular mineral water, same price as Evian. So definitely not a downgrade!
    It's also offered in Economy class, which is great.

    As for the "radiating" presentation, HU branded it as "modular design". If you don't like one of those sides, you can easily change for another one while keeping the one you like.

    Very happy to see another praising review of Hainan Airlines!

  • Comment 431272 by
    Razza_Pr 203 Comments

    Hello, Hometoyyz, and thank you for this FR.

    I hadn't known Hainan opereated YYZ-PEK, as I thought that CA as a Star Alliance partner to AC would be the one to operate it.

    "Along with the boarding pass and lounge invitation, she presents me a sticker, which I’m to put on my shirt before arrival into Beijing — apparently, it identifies me as a transit passenger, and Hainan staff on the ground in Beijing will help out."
    -Hurray for stickers! I do love me collectibles :P

    “With plenty of time before our (delayed) departure time, I putter, do some work, listen to some podcasts, and ponder the important things in life — like, “Will I make my connection?” and “How does a longhaul international mainline flight end up with a flight number that’s way into codeshare territory for most airlines?” “
    - Maybe it was an extra or seasonal flight?

    “KL just seems to spin a wheel to decide what plane comes to Toronto on any given day — we get 744s, 777s, 330s, and maybe even 787s.”
    - Always good fun. I remember when BA switched their LHR-YVR equipment from 787 to A380. Talk about capacity jump and yield per seat nosedive!

    “Legroom shot, and a look into the footwell.”
    - Are you seriously tall, or is the seat.. shortened? That looks a bit too close for comfort to me.

    “The on-board “chef” stops by next, offering the menu.”
    - The menu is large for J class, it seems. Something one should expect when going to a restaurant on the Bund..

    “It’s interesting, and entertaining, and there are a seemingly inappropriate in 2018 number of young women in bikinis, such as this one, who’s dealing with a smoking passenger. Definitely one of the more unique safety videos I’ve seen, I have to say.”
    - Is Hainan not the Chinese carrier said to have hosted a bikini competition for prospective flight attendants, because quote application had to be selective unquote?

    “Takeoff — it’s been a while, so I forget how delightfully quiet the front of the 787-9 is, even on liftoff.”
    - The GE engine is noticeably quieter than the RR counterpart. It’s got fewer moving parts, so it’s probably cheaper to maintain/insure, too.

    Presentations of the first meal service looked great, and that main course was especially spectacular!

    “I had requested ice in the orange juice, but the flight attendant very apologetically says there’s no more ice on board.”
    - Odd indeed. Did everyone ask for extra ice in their beverages, or was the ice machine broken?

    “With this flight, I have now flown in the most-premium cabin on eight of the current ten five-star airlines, with just Qatar and Etihad left to try. So that’s an accomplishment, I guess.”
    - I was able to find your premium flights on SQ, NH, LH, HU, CX, and BR. Are you looking to sample QR out of YUL, or is EY out of YYZ more likely? That makes nine 5-star airlines, are you sure you’re not missing one, or am I just unable to find your report on airline # 10?

    What are your thoughts on LH's new "refreshed" livery?

    Cheers!

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