How is HK Express? Narita to Hong Kong, HK Express UO849

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Ticketing

I did not choose this ticket and am not generally a fan of partial service airlines. However, it is worth noting that on some routes, HK Express consistently offers prices which are far below that of other airlines. Their prices are also good if travelling one-way, whereas airlines like Cathay typically do not offer one way tickets at roughly half the price of a return. Also, HK Express has frequent promotions, some of which we highlight here on HK Travel Blog. So, if you are looking for a cost effective flight to or from Tokyo, they may be a good fit for your needs.

HK Express has quite a few flights daily from Narita. One odd thing about this one is that the flight time was blocked at five hours and fifty five minutes – almost an hour more than most of them and far in excess of the four hours and ten minutes flying time which the captain announced was expected.

At the Airport

I arrived at terminal two of Narita airport about four hours in advance of the flight but the check in desk was not yet open. It opens three hours before the flight. For later flights one may be able to check in earlier as the desks will be open for earlier flights.

The check in is in “Aisle F” which is actually a separate room at the front of the main checkin area. Trolleys are not permitted inside, inconveniently. This whole setup feels odd – HK Express (and indeed Hong Kong Airlines, who were using the same area when I first arrived) are not in the budget terminal three, but their separate checkin area feels as if they are somehow different to the other airlines in the terminal.

The checkin staff were friendly and there was no queue. The airline issues a proper paper boarding pass, which I like as it is more sturdy. They also attached a tag to my cabin luggage to show that it fitted within their requirements.

I find security in Japan highly efficient but they outdid themselves here – I went to a lane with only one passenger, but a member of security staff came over to beckon me to a line with no one in front of me. Immigration was also fast.

I made my way to gate 94 which turned out to be a regular gate, not a gate hidden in some obscure cranny of the terminal.

Equipment

The flight was operated by an Airbus A321.

Someone’s child was in my allocated window seat, beside her, so I made my way to the final row where there was an empty row. The downside of this was that the seat did not recline.

There is no onboard entertainment, though the inflight magazine has interesting articles geared towards leisure travellers. There are no USB ports or power sockets.

Flight

Boarding was delayed by fifteen minutes due to the late arrival of the incoming aircraft. Boarding was swift, with a small sign reminding passengers that external food and drink is not allowed. (Airlines can ban externally purchased alcoholic drinks from being consumed onboard, but I don’t know whether it is enforceable for an airline to ban external food or drink in this way – if you know, please comment below). This was on my mind partly because there was a shop selling snacks and beverages immediately beside the gate.

We pushed back half an hour after scheduled departure, then sat for a while. Finally the assembled ground crew and a couple of ground agents waved and some bowed as we taxied away. We took off almost an hour after scheduled departure.

We arrived in the shadow of the control tower, where a bus came to take us to the door close to immigration. Despite leaving more or less an hour after schedule, we arrived half an hour or more before schedule, which is largely to do with how generously padded the schedule was.

Service

There is really not much for a HK Express crew to do on a flight like this. They did a safety briefing and went through with a meal cart quickly after takeoff, and were then in the cabin to serve food and drinks or clear them away. There was no hard sell of anything.

Food and Drink

I didn’t buy any food or drink and indeed there was not a menu in the seatback pocket of my seat or those beside it. I asked the crew for the menu – it is below. Payment can be made in HKD, RMB, U.S. dollars or the currency of the country of origin/arrival, as well as by Octopus or credit card, so it is a pretty convenient set up. Hot water is chargeable. Prices are high without feeling extortionate.

Blankets were also on sale for $100.

Conclusion

As with my previous HK Express flights, I felt this plane was clean, the cabin crew professional and the overall experience adequate. Given how competitive they are on price, they offer quite a good value equation. I still feel vaguely concerned about their safety as a general prejudice against “low cost” carriers, although HK Express have fortunately not had any specific cause for concern in this regard to date.

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