June 19, 2024

Flight review: Changsha to London with Hainan Airlines

THE FLIGHT: I travelled in Economy class on a Hainan Airlines Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner (flight HU7963) from Changsha Huanghua International Airport (CSX) in China to England’s London Heathrow (LHR).

THE CHECK-IN: Changsha Huanghua International Airport’s international departure terminal is spacious and modern. At the entrance, everyone in the group was swabbed for explosives. We were held by the door for a couple of minutes until the test returned negative results.

My check-in was as part of a large group that travelled to China with Wendy Wu Tours. Consequently, it was not possible to check in online ahead of the flight. The group’s tour leaders shepherded us to the correct desks. The team from Wendy Wu Tours kept checking to see that all was well, just as the had done throughout the trip.

On reaching the check-in desk I expressed a preference for a window seat for the 11 hour 30 minute flight but was informed the Hainan Airlines flight was full and that none were available. Instead, I was allocated an aisle seat. Overall, the check-in process proved straightforward.

After checking in for our scheduled 2.30 pm departure we proceeded as a group through security and border control.

THE BOARDING: A single queue formed and snaked around seating in the ground-floor waiting room and we departed from Gate 54 on time. Hainan Airlines’ staff were courteous and professional. They welcomed me to board a bus to transfer to the Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner waiting to fly passengers to London.

After climbing the steps, members of the cabin crew welcomed me aboard and gestured for me to head right to take my seat.

THE SEAT: My seat was 45C, an aisle seat in a 3-3-3 configuration. Covered with red patterned fabric, the seat was comfortable and featured an adjustable headrest. However, 45C’s positioning – across the aisle from a toilet – would not have been my ideal choice of placement had I been given full freedom of choice.

The entertainment system featured an 11-inch seatback screen from Panasonic Avionics. The display and sound quality were good. Yet when the passenger in seat 44C reclined, the screen was closer to my face than I would have liked. Unfortunately, it wasn’t possible to change the angle of the screen to enhance my viewing experience.

Map on an 11-inch seatback display from Panasonic Avionics on a Hainan Airlines Economy class flight.
11-inch seatback display from Panasonic Avionics in a Hainan Airlines Economy class cabin.

THE SERVICE:  Cabin crew members were smartly attired, with female staff wearing patterned uniforms and male team members high-collared grey jackets. Designed by Laurence Xu, the elegant uniforms were inspired by traditional Chinese costumes.

The cabin crew headed along the aisle to distribute earbuds, amenity kits and a printed menu listing the food choices available to Economy passengers during the flight.

Dinner featured a bread roll and butter, an appetiser of marinated shrimps with chopped onion, tomato, cucumber and carrots, a choice of three main courses and a dessert of vanilla cheesecake. I opted for braised beef in black pepper sauce with potato, long beans and carrots, and was happy with my choice. Lightweight birchwood cutlery, from Xiamen Inflight, was supplied.

A couple of hours before landing another meal was served. Again it included a bread roll and butter. The appetiser was smoked beef, tomato, bell pepper and corn. I chose a main course of fried rice with pork, shiitake mushroom and dumpling-like sticky rice siu mai – it was tasty and filling. The dessert was a mini chocolate muffin and sliced fruit.

A broad choice of soft and alcoholic drinks was available with the meals. Yet to my surprise, it was only possible to order a beer with the meal. I discovered that midway through the flight on settling down to watch a movie. I don’t normally drink alcohol on flights but sipping a cold beer during the film appealed. After calling the cabin crew through the seatback screen I was informed that “alcoholic drinks are not being served” at that point in the flight. Instead, I ordered a jasmine tea.

The choice of inflight entertainment included films, television shows, documentaries and music. The films included European productions, Hollywood movies and Chinese cinema. I opted for The Volunteers: To The War, a Chinese film released in 2023 about the People’s Volunteer Army’s entry into the Korean War. Afterwards I viewed something lighter – the first couple of episodes of the comedy-drama series God Friended Me, about an atheist contacted by God on Facebook.

For a short while, I played with the Seat Chat option available on the IFE system. Unable to find fellow passengers to communicate with in any of the themed chat rooms, I passed the remainder of the flight snoozing or reading the book I’d brought.

The flight landed on schedule in London.

THE VERDICT: Flying Economy on Hainan Airlines flight HU7963 between Changsha and London marked the end of an enjoyable trip to China and I would consider flying with the airline on future long-haul flights.