To Beijing – Dragonair A320 or A330? (Economy Class)

Last June I went to Beijing and my trip report came out last month – since I just compared Cathay and Air New Zealand economy class, I’ll compare Dragonair’s A320 and A330, though I don’t have as many pictures to support my thoughts.

Timetable

The A320 is put there for good reason – it’s mostly for travellers transferring from other destinations, such as Adelaide (arriving Hong Kong at 13:45, with not enough time to catch the 3 o’clock KA 902), Bandar Seri Begawan (a KA codeshare on BI coming to Hong Kong at 13:35, also short of time to catch the KA 902) or Surabaya (arriving Hong Kong at 14:05, probably really a little too late to catch the KA 902 15:00 flight). KA 974/5 is just put there for no big touristy reason:

Summer timings

KA 974 HKG – PEK 16:00 – 19:15 320
KA 975 PEK – HKG 20:30 – 00:05 320

Winter timings

KA 974 HKG – PEK 16:50 – 20:10 320
KA 975 PEK – HKG 21:00 – 00:35 320

Note: Dragonair now operates A321s on this route from Thursday to Sunday.

The other A330 flights are timed pretty well:

KA 900 HKG – PEK 08:00 – 11:15 333
KA 901 PEK – HKG 12:30 – 16:10 333

KA 902 HKG – PEK 15:00 – 18:20 333
KA 903 PEK – HKG 19:30 – 23:00 333

KA 904 HKG – PEK 18:00 – 21:30 333
KA 905 PEK – HKG 08:00 – 11:40 333

KA 906 HKG – PEK 19:00 – 22:30 333
KA 937 PEK – HKG 07:40 – 11:15 333

KA 908 HKG – PEK 12:00 – 15:15 333
KA 909 PEK – HKG 16:30 – 20:10 333

KA 992 HKG – PEK 14:00 – 17:20 333
KA 993 PEK – HKG 18:30 – 22:05 333

Conclusion: The A330s have a much higher frequency.

Redemption with Miles

I paid cash for Economy this time, but I believe the A320 and the A330 have similarly priced seats in business class in terms of miles.

Conclusion: I don’t have enough experience to create one.

Cabin

While the A320’s cabin is smaller, has stylish lighting and is more intimate, I much preferred the spacious A330 cabin.

KA 974

Dragonair A320 cabin

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Dragonair A330 cabin

That said, I’d prefer a widebody anytime over a narrowbody, due to stability, so I guess this can’t really be argued in terms of Dragonair alone.

Conclusion: The A330 wins here.

Seat

On the A320, no headrests are given. The seat’s reasonably tall and a little bump in the seat can act as a fixed wing headrest, but there’s really nothing to support your head.

On the A330, things are much comfortable with a headrest, albeit a seat that feels slightly less wide.

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Dragonair A330 seat

Also, the recline on the A330 is substantially deeper, and more stable (the person behind me on the A320 managed to kick my seat up).

Solution: Albeit a slightly wider-feeling seat on the A320, the A330 is a clear winner here.

In-flight entertainment

While none of the aircraft have PTVs, the A330 has drop down screens, even though the TV shows they played on the PTVs were unrecognisable.

However, the A330 has some special feature I’m crazy about:

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Music!

There was substantially relaxing classical music playing when I inserted the provided headphones inside, even though the provided headphones were just OK. However, this is like radio: it’s not on demand, it’s just a variety of different channels to choose from.

Conclusion: No entertainment vs. limited entertainment – I’d definitely choose the A330.

Toilets

I didn’t take pictures, but it’s worth saying that the toilets on the A320 are much quieter than the A330. (On the A330 – damn, when I flushed the toilet a tissue on the floor started flying.) That said, the A330 has slightly bigger toilets.

Conclusion: Though it’s a minor point, the A320 wins here.

Food

I didn’t eat any main courses on either flight, so I can’t make a judgement. However I ate ice cream and had Coke on both flights, and they were both good.

Conclusion: From what I know, it’s a draw.

Service

As much as the service was pretty abysmal on my flight to Beijing, they were faster, so I suspect that on flights that they listen closer to each word customers say I keep quiet, the service will be better on the A320. My thoughts are that the smaller the cabin, the faster the service, since I only saw one flight attendant working our aisle on the A330 and quite a few working our aisle on the A320 (there was only one). Of course, on the A330, the purser sometimes came to help.

Conclusion: As long as misunderstandings don’t happen, the A320 wins here.

Conclusion of conclusions

Due to the timings and the seat, the A330 gives a clear win here – and it’s not that the service on the A320 is that meant to be up a notch, so I’d choose the A330 anytime.

I’ll be doing comparisons every time I take different products in the same trip, though Singapore is not one of them.

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