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Since my Finnair flights to London depart from Chongqing, I have to position myself from Hong Kong. Flights departing from Shenzhen to mainland China destinations are consistently cheaper than departing from Hong Kong, which is why I choose to depart from Shenzhen. Hainan Airlines is an Alaska Airlines partner. I credited this flight to Alaska mileage plan, which earned me 400 Alaska miles on this discounted economy ticket.
Travelling to Shenzhen airport is relatively easy from Hong Kong; I chose to take the cross-border bus via Shenzhen Bay checkpoint, which cost me 130HKD one way. The methods to travel between Hong Kong and Shenzhen airport will be covered in a separate installment.
I arrived at Shenzhen airport at 7:50pm for my 8:45pm flight, Hong Kong and Shenzhen experienced thunderstorms on that day, and it took almost double the time than normal to get to Shenzhen airport from Hong Kong. Hainan Airlines uses check-in aisle C in Shenzhen. The check-in agent assigned a priority seat in the bulkhead row given my elite status with Hainan Airlines. This is one of the better seats in economy, as Hainan does not have premium or extra legroom economy.
Shenzhen airport domestic departure has a dedicated security lane for premium passengers. It’s only available to those travelling on business or first class and not those with airline elite status travelling in economy.
I arrived at the gate at 8:20pm and the flight was already on final call, despite the estimated boarding time of 8:15pm. I was among the last to board, but there was still ample space in the overhead bin.
22 June 2018 HU7757 SZX-CKG 2045 2315 B738
Seat 31B economy class
My seat is at 31B, a middle seat in the bulkhead row. Just as I seated, a flight attendant came by addressing me by name to welcome me on this flight. She also handed me a bottled water and some newspapers.
This is a brand new plane delivered only months ago that features new slimline seats. Economy class is the usual 3-3 configuration, Business class is similar recliner seats with two rows in 2-2 configuration but with refreshed design and functionalities. The economy seats are less comfortable than those they use to offer but acceptable for short domestic flights in China. The seats also do not have any headrest which is a feature I greatly value in economy class seats. However, I am delighted to find out that the seats offer individual air nozzles, which is a blessing since Chinese Airlines tend to keep their cabin warm. There is also no IFE at individual seats, instead, there are overhead screens, which is consistent with other Hainan 737s.
Boarding ended at 8:35pm but we were delayed pushback by the tower. We finally pushed back at 8:50pm and took off after 10 minutes of taxiing. The climb out is smooth as the weather started to clear up, but the seatbelt sign remained on for a very long time.
Service began soon after the seatbelt sign switched off. Packaged peanuts and drinks were served. Hainan Airlines does not provide meal service for economy passengers on flights departing after 7:30pm.
30 minutes after the drink service, the crew came around to collect trash from passengers, and no other service was provided thereafter. Nevertheless, when you press the bell, the crew is always happy to provide more drinks and snacks for you.
I spent some time working on my computer until I noticed the overhead screen is playing Tom and Jerry. It seems to me an odd choice as in-flight entertainment to be played in the overhead screen. Since I was slightly tired after a week of working and studying, I decided to just lay back and enjoy the cartoon for the rest of my flight.
We began our descend around 10:40pm and flight attendants came around to perform landing safety checks. The mood lighting was turned on as we approach Chongqing. We landed at 11:15pm and arrived at the gate in a mere few minutes.
The entire flight is quite enjoyable. Nonetheless, a narrow-body economy flight is just a narrow-body economy flight. It is simple and just works by transporting you from A to B. The new plane featured less comfortable seating but have a refreshed cabin. Hainan Airlines is a carrier that I would recommend for economy travel in China. Their service is much better compared to the big 3 Chinese carriers (Air China, China Eastern and China Southern), and their crews have slightly better command of English based on my experiences.