Hainan Airlines is China’s only Skytrax 5 star rated airline and is the largest airline in China that does not belong to a Global Alliance. Hainan Airline’s Business Class reviews are hard to come by, as the airline still does not have a large global presence, but as the airline is growing rapidly to the United States, Europe, and beyond the borders of China, I jumped on my opportunity to review the Airline’s Business class product and earn some Alaska Airline Miles. I flew Hainan Airlines 787 Business Class on the 787-8 between Los Angeles and Changsha, China
Airport & Ground Service
Hainan Airlines does offer complimentary limousine service to business class passengers, however as I was connecting from another flight at LAX I skipped out on this service and walked myself from T6 to T2. The minuscule check in area consisted of only 4 counters, and nevertheless crowded and chaotic. I stood in the business class line, that was poorly marked, but stood out with a red carpet and waited my turn to check in. Check in was efficient and I was provided with a VIP lounge invite to Air Canada’s Maple Leaf Lounge and directed to security.
Security was a complete joke, the line snaked around upstairs and then down the escalators and back down the hallway towards the western most check in desks. I was able to use TSA Precheck (not from my Hainan ticket) to clear security somewhat faster, but as they were funneling non Precheck individuals into the Precheck line and then separating them after boarding passes were check. This resulting in a nearly 30 minute wait for non-expedited Precheck. Once through that mess, I headed towards the lounge to relax before flight.
Hainan Airlines 787 Business Boarding and Pre-Departure
Boarding and Pre-Departure service on Hainan Airlines 787 reminds me of a bad day at an amusement park. Even before boarding was announced, the Chinese passengers had lined up in the masses. There was only one line, so business class passengers had to either wait in line when it was time to board or find their way forward by snaking through the seats. I did the former. Once on the plane, I was directed to my seat, but as I was in the rear business class cabin, passengers cut through the seats to get to the right side of the aircraft. This made boarding seem messy and not very luxurious in business class on a 5 star airline! What was more annoying was that every 5 seconds someone was walking over me/in front of me. For whatever reasons, they FA had the galley curtains closed during boarding process, preventing passengers from passing through the galley between 2L/2R to the opposite side of the aircraft.
An example of people cutting through in front of me (above) Preflight beverage & snack (Below)
During the slapdash boarding, the very nice male flight attendant offered business class passengers their option of pre-departure beverages of water, orange juice, or mango juice. I opted for the mango juice and found it to slightly carbonated—odd! Shortly after, Edison (the FA) came by with fancy salted nuts, a warm towel, and then my choice of propaganda filled newspapers such as the “China Daily Times”. Menus were distributed and as the rest of the cabin prepared for takeoff, Edison circled back and took meal and drink orders.
Hainan Airlines Business Class Inflight & Meal Service
After we pushed back from terminal 2 we circled around LAX and took off from the southern runways towards the west, we were finally on our way towards Changsha! Service was slow to begin and Bvlgari amenity kits and headphones being delivered to passengers about 45 minutes after takeoff. Headphones were only by request and forgotten about initially, which I found to be slightly annoying. The flight attendants were busy in the galleys and running around the aircraft looking for items as if it was the first time working the 787. Everything seemed disheveled, as if the crew wasn’t use to the long haul route or the configuration of the 787. Which as this is a new route and the only long haul route from Changsha, it might be the actual case, but unlikely as Hainan has been operating the 787 for several years.
Dinner service began 1 hour into the flight with canapes being offered first. The canapes were a mixture of different meat items on sticks, and reminded me of the 3am after a night of drinking street food I use to snack on when living in Beijing! The canapes were not served with a beverage initially, but finally after I was already done munching on this snack the first round of beverages were served! The delay between the food and the drinks seemed lengthy as usually they are served at the same time. Later to find out that beverage service was an ongoing issue throughout the entire flight!
After the Canapes were cleared, each tray was set for dinner and dinner service began. Dinner service was fantastic, with each course being served individually and brought out on trays to the table. Everyone, regardless of choosing the western meal or Chinses style dish also received individual bread baskets with a variety of options, making nearly everyone happy—especially my seat mate! Dinner was absolutely fabulous, I didn’t love the asparagus soup, but everything was cooked perfectly! The salmon tasted fresh, the salad was crisp, the gnocchi tasted as though it was boiled onboard, and the presentation was fabulous! Dinner wrapped up with a dessert cart passing through the aisles with all the options on display. I opted for the cheese, and indulged in some of the best cheeses I’ve had inflight. By this point I had drank the Hainan Kool-Aid and I was loving this airline for their soft product!
Before wine was served it was always presented to the passengers and then a sample was provided to ensure it was of decent quality. Once I approved of the flavor, the glass was filled completely.
The only issue with the meal service was the continuation of lack of beverages. The crew would clean up the dinner dishes, but never offer to refill drinks or remove stemware. At one point I had 5 glasses in my area, as I had switched the white wines I was drinking, so I had 2 wine glasses, my water glass, and the glass my Whisky was in that I was enjoying before dinner service began. It was a bit ridiculous. Then throughout the course of the flight, every time my seatmate or I would request a drink, rather it be tea, water, or more wine, it would take nearly 20 minutes before they would serve it. The lag in service was a bit annoying!
There was no service for the remaining 10 hours of the flight, after dinner was serve with the exception of a pre arrival meal being served about 2.5 hours before landing in Changsha. There was a snack station set up with water, juice, and snacks and items that could be requested from the menu. I was so full from dinner I just napped and watched movies and when I wanted a drink I approached the galley, asked an FA and then waited about 20-30 minutes before the drink would arrive.
The Pre-arrival meal was just as delicious as dinner, but instead of opting for the western dish, I opted for the Chinese tofu option. The meal again was flavorful and fresh and service was lacking in the beverage departments. I was only drinking water, but when my glass was empty, that was it. The final meal was not as big of a production as the first, but was accompanied by a decent side of fresh fruit for dessert.
Hainan Airlines 787 Business Class Seat & IFE
The Hainan Airlines 787 seat is very similar to the seat to LAN’s 787. The business class cabin is comprised of 6 rows in a 2x2x2 configuration spread across the forward and mid cabins of the aircraft. The seat has a decent IFE system with games, movies, and tv shows, but most movies are not very recent or are class B films. Many of the “Hollywood” films I had actually never even heard of! Despite this, I was able to find decent movies to pass the time, and I soon forgot that Hainan had listed “The Maze Runner” and “The Devil Wears Prada” in the new release category.
The seat makes into a bed that is just over 6 feet long, and when it’s time for bed the crew will prepare your bed for you with a fitted sheet and thin mattress pad along with a very heavy blanket and an extra pillow. The bed was good enough, but with the warm cabin temperature, I woke up sweaty as the blanket was too heavy and I was sleeping in basketball shorts. The bed is also not completely flat, as the leg rest extends to connect with the ottoman, leaving ridges throughout the seat. This is annoying as it creates pressure points in your calves and ankles. Hainan should consider a thicker mattress pad to resolve this issue.
Although the seat is comfortable and the IFE is laughable at times, the hard product of Hainan Airlines 787 was decent. The 2x2x2 configuration provides very little privacy and requires those sitting at the window to step over the people next to them. Arm rests to raise between the seats to provide a little extra privacy and there is little storage at the seats except for under the ottoman which extends under the seat in front of you. It’s large enough for a laptop bag, your shoes, etc, but is not easily accessible when flying. The cabin does not offer the best set up, but it will do. 5 star worthy? Not particularly! But hell, at least there’s a little massage function built into the seat to relieve pressure from different areas of your back during the 14 hour flight.
Each passengers also receives a Bvlgari amenity kit which has all the bells and whistles that you would need for the flight. The kit includes a toothbrush and toothpaste, socks, eye shades, ear plugs, comb/brush combo and Bvlgari branded lotion, refreshing towel, and lip balm. The case bag is very sturdy and made of fantastic materia that can be reused, by far one of the best made cases I’ve been given for an amentiy kit in a long time.
Changsha Airport – Baggage Claim, Customs, & Limo Transfer
Upon landing in Changsha, the flight attendants closed the curtains between business class and economy to ensure that business class passengers were not trampled by the masses in coach. Immigration was a breeze, taking only a few seconds before being released into the baggage claim area. I had checked a bag, and had to wait nearly 45 minutes for my bag, as it was one of the last ones off the plane, despite being marked with a business class priority tag. Clearly the ground staff at CSX did not care about priority luggage. Then as I was exiting customs, the xray machine broke directly in-front of me, causing the queue to grow even longer as people were directed from “nothing to declare” line to the line for those with declarations. Thankfully the custom officer looked and me, and just waved me through, before making everyone else go to the other line.
Once out of custom, I found a very well dressed Chinese man holding a very large 2 feet by 2 feet red sign that read my full name. I pointed towards him and he smiled, took my bag and lead me to his Mercedes. He drove me to my hotel, taking nearly an hour and a half and driving in circles a few times, but I had finally arrived to my hotel, nearly 2.5 hours after landing in Changsha. The ride was long, but it was free so I could not complain.
Hainan Airlines 787 Business Class Review Wrap Up
Hainan Airlines 787 Business Class is not world’s best business class, in fact I would say that my service and the hard product I experienced on China Southern A380 on a similar timed flight between Los Angeles and Guangzhou was better than Hainan, and China Southern is only a 4 star airline. Despite this, Hainan Airlines 787 does offer a solid product and an excellent soft product. I believe that if the FA were better on this flight, then this flight would be nearly perfect!
Skytrax ratings are a bit of a joke, and anyone who flys a lot, know that a four star airline often times offers a better experience then a 5 star airline, and vice verse. How Hainan Airlines made this list baffles me, but the product is a solid and the airline offers a great business class experience. I would easily choose to fly Hainan Airlines 787 again if I was flying to China. The FAs were friendly, the English was decent, and the overall offering was great. The only problem was the leg in service when it came to refilling my water glass and cleaning up. Hainan needs to work on their ground experience, but inflight is where this airline wins!
For ideas of what to do in Changsha – see what I did during my 64 hour stay