LONDON – On the 12th of June 2018, Hainan Airlines launched Scotland and Ireland’s first direct, mainland China flights.
It operates four times a week and part of the flight includes a short hop between Edinburgh and Dublin.
I decided to try it out and booked my flight exactly one week after the inaugural.
When the opportunity for a short haul, widebody flight pops up, Aviation Enthusiasts take it, just like I have with this particular flight.
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Flights like this are a rarity in Scotland, apart from British Airways Boeing 767-300ERs on the shuttle flights, however the last of these is on the 31st of October 2018, as these will all be retired at the end of the year.
I’ve have been fortunate to fly on their Boeing 767s on two occasions in February 2017 and March 2018.
The route was first announced on the 14th of March 2018, initially, the Edinburgh to Dublin flights weren’t bookable, however, this changed during the middle of April 2018.
My flight cost £74 one way, however, some of the one-way fares cost £54. A really good price this, as its a much better option than Ryanair and Aer Lingus in my opinion.
On Tuesday’s & Saturday’s, the flight operates Beijing-Edinburgh-Dublin-Beijing, whilst on Thursday’s & Sunday’s it operates Beijing-Dublin-Edinburgh.
When I flew on this flight it was operated by an A330-300, however, the aircraft type has now changed to a mix of Boeing 787-8s & 9s.
I decided to have a look at Hainan’s website to further investigate this and it’s bookable as a 787 until the end of March 2019.
It is an early start for this flight, an 8 am departure from Edinburgh and I live on the West Coast of Scotland.
I’ve always preferred flying from Glasgow, however, my recent flights from Edinburgh have started to change my perception on this viewpoint, I now see both airports are unique, with their own offerings, but both have disadvantages at the same time.
I was first to check in at 6 am, which is when the Check-In opened. I was issued a paper boarding passes, which also displayed my name in Chinese, as well as in English.
The Check-In area was very quiet as well, which indicated to me the flight might be quiet. Passing through security to the departures area was a breeze, it took less than 5 minutes.
Once I was through I looked for my gate, which was gate 4.
Gate 4 is one of a handful of widebody stands within Edinburgh.
Interestingly on the departure board, it included both Dublin & Beijing, because some passengers from Edinburgh will be continuing onwards to Beijing, from Dublin.
There is a lot of construction work going on at Edinburgh, which was very noticeable, as I walked through the departure area.
Recently the airport opened an expanded departure area, I flew through this area a few months earlier whilst parts of it were still under construction.
It’s really good to see the construction work progressing very quickly.
To pass the time, I did some spotting at Gate 6, where there is a window that offers a great view of a lot of the runway and main taxiway.
To my left was the A330 I was due to fly on. My A330 was B-6527 parked on Gate 4.
It was delivered new to Hainan Airlines in January 2011, meaning it was seven years old at the time of this flight.
It was time to board, and the gate was very quiet. My hunch at check in was correct, the flight was to be very quiet.
The same staff that did the check in an hour earlier also did the boarding.
Boarding did not take long at all, less than 5 minutes. Stopped for a few quick photos, before heading to the plane.
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As I approached the plane, there were complimentary earphones for passengers to take, then as I walked on I was given some oatcakes, a bottle of water and a homemade Ham & Cheese Sandwich.
A really nice touch was the complimentary stuff, however, I didn’t like how it was given as you boarded the plane, as my hands were a bit full with my phone, boarding pass, passport, and jacket.
It was a bit of a challenge, juggling everything until I got to my seat.
To give Hainan Airlines the benefit of the doubt, the flight is short and it was probably easier for them to give the food when we boarded to save time.
The crew were very welcoming as well, all smiling and wearing their new uniform, which was only introduced a few weeks before my flight.
The cabin was very red and in a 2-4-2 configuration, which is the standard on most A330s.
This is my 5th flight onboard an A330 and I’ve always found them to be spacious, with this flight being no exception.
I was lucky to have a whole row to myself since the flight was very quiet. I think there were 50 people at the most on the flight.
In preparation for the Dublin to Beijing flight, there was a blanket and pillow at my seat as well. The pillow was quite firm and the blank was a good size as well.
My seat for this flight was Seat 33K, a window seat. I watched some videos on YouTube beforehand and asked if it was free at check-in.
The seat had a perfect view of the engine, I prefer engine view window seats overwing view wing seats, simply because I like to hear the sound from the engines.
Push back was bang on 8 am and it’s certainly interesting with the way Gate 4 is situated. Gate 4 is a diagonal stand, meaning a normal pushback isn’t possible.
With the way, the pushback works at this stand the aircraft ends up right in the middle of the taxiway to Gates 6-10.
Not entirely efficient, especially at peak times, as it holds up other aircraft.
However, it is the way the airport was designed and is overcapacity. Before I knew it I was rolling down the runway, listening to the powerful engines.
Takeoff was quick because the plane was practically empty.
Right after rotation, I noticed the fourth road bridge and Queensferry crossing, as the morning was so clear, with superb visibility.
About 5/10 minutes into the flight the seatbelt sign went off however, it was quickly put back on again for the remainder of the flight.
There was a fair bit of turbulence, however, it was nothing too serious, just a few bumps here and there.
As I ate my Ham & Cheese Sandwich, I thought it didn’t taste like anything special, just your conventional Ham and Cheese Sandwich.
It was very filling but didn’t provide a unique taster as I would have imagined on a flight like this.
I decided to have a look at the In-Flight Entertainment System (IFE).
It did have a touchscreen which was fairly responsive, there was a remote as well.
I found it quite easy to navigate, with it having a wide selection of Movies (including a lot of the latest blockbusters), TV Programs, Music and Games.
Certainly more than enough to keep me occupied, on a 10+ Hour flight to Beijing. There was an interactive flight map as well, with a Hainan liveried plane.
I thought this was a nice touch, as surprisingly a lot of IFE systems don’t have this.
The legroom was excellent. I’m slightly above the average height, so having excellent legroom was a big bonus.
Economy seats onboard provide between 31 and 32 inches of seat pitch with a width of 19 inches.
Personally, legroom is something that can be a deciding factor if a flight was good or not, as well as if I’m going to fly with an airline again.
The seat itself was very comfortable and roomy it also had an adjustable headrest, and it reclined.
It was great for the quick hop, over to Dublin, and would do me just fine on a longer flight.
Before I knew it we had started our descent into Dublin, a straight in approach and landing.
It was a very straightforward approach, not having many sights on the way in due to it being significantly cloudy, thus not enabling me to see the landmarks.
The landing was very smooth, interestingly, no reverse thrust was used, just standard braking. The aircraft used the full runway.
I’m very familiar with the Dublin Airport layout, as I’ve flown in many times because of family reasons. Dublin Airport has two terminals, Hainan Airlines use Terminal one.
After landing I got a quick look at their Business Class seat from a distance.
The Business Class onboard this particular aircraft sits 32 people in a 1-2-1 configuration offering 64 inches of seat pitch.
This A330 has their older product. Deliveries from November 2017, have a brand new cabin product and their Business Class has completely changed.
Their older Business Class seats are similar to the one Iberia, Etihad & Alitalia use onboard their Airbus Long Haul aircraft.
Overall, this flight was great and from what I got a taster off, Hainan Airlines have a solid Long Haul product, no wonder they have a 5 Star Skytrax rating.
A rating awarded correctly. The seat was comfortable and the legroom was great. The complimentary food, especially on this short flight, was a nice touch.
The IFE system had a lot of entertainment on it, plenty to keep me occupied, especially on a much longer flight.
Their crew were welcoming, friendly and well presented in their new uniform.
My only issue was the food getting handed out as soon as you board. Apart from this tiny issue, everything was great.
From an Aviation Enthusiast’s point of view, this is a brilliant opportunity to fly on a widebody aircraft, for a good price.
If I decide to go visit China during my future travels, there is no doubt, I will heavily consider flying with Hainan Airlines.