Winston Aldworth

Winston Aldworth is the Herald's Travel Editor.

Flight Check: Hong Kong to Kathmandu on Dragonair

Winston Aldworth flies Flight 192 from Hong Kong to Kathmandu.

A Dragonair Airbus A330-300. Photo / Creative Commons image by Wikimedia user Ellery Cheng
A Dragonair Airbus A330-300. Photo / Creative Commons image by Wikimedia user Ellery Cheng

The plane: Airbus A330-300.

Class: Business.

Price: $1480 return, just for that leg. You can get return business tickets from Auckland to Kathmandu for $6665 or economy class for $2089.

On time: Perfectly. It's a somewhat fiddly route, with a one-hour, sit-in-the-plane stopover in Dhaka, but everything rolls smoothly and we're into Kathmandu on time.

About three minutes into the flight we seem to be in the maw of the storm that forced Hong Kong's bosses to shut down the whole city earlier in the day. The lightning is the freakiest part, but the wind is fierce, too. I cling to a dimly recalled factoid: An airliner's wings can bend until they touch above the plane without snapping. Supposedly.

A few minutes after take off, the screen in front of me showing our journey's course says both: "Distance from origin: 70 miles" and "Distance to destination: 70 miles".

Have the pilots called it quits and pointed us back to Hong Kong? Is that even wise?

Suddenly, we're clear and a gorgeous young Nepalese woman is offering me a cocktail. Air travel, huh?

Seat: Big and wide. Old-style business class - which is fine by me. If you pulled it out of this bird and popped it on the bridge of the Starship Enterprise, JT Kirk would hardly notice the difference. Except when he pushed a button on the armrest to order a photon torpedo only to have a gorgeous young Nepalese woman bring him a cocktail. Would James Tiberius Kirk complain? Hell no.

Fellow passengers: Mostly solo Europeans up front; Indian and Nepalese families with a smattering of backpackers in economy.

How full? First class - two seats out of 12 taken; business - 10 out of 24; economy - only a few empties from heaps.

Entertainment: One movie plays. It has Barbra Streisand in it, so I can't watch it or else I'll have to gouge my eyes out. That's how we Waiuku men roll.

The airline magazine isn't great, but the range of newstand mags and papers is superb. Hong Kong to Dhaka takes about four hours, while the Dhaka to Kathmandu leg is an hour and a half, so get your sleep on the first bit if you can.

Service: Lovely cabin crew. One has a snappy catchphrase for every time he serves something to anyone: "Enjoy it!" He brings me duck breast. "Enjoy it!" Icecream. "Enjoy it!" And water. "Enjoy it!" Water is joy-neutral, mate - it's what you add to it that brings the buzz. But his attitude is great.

Food and drink: Drinks keep rolling. The food is good.

Toilets: A little on the snug side, but tidy.

Luggage: First class gets 40kg, business 30kg and economy 20kg. Handy because if you're flying into Nepal, you're probably carrying a bunch of trekking gear. Marco Polo Club members get extra.

Airport experience: Kathmandu is highly random. The ratio of armed soldiers to travellers is higher than most Kiwis could ever feel comfortable with, yet somehow I kind of accidentally walked completely past the main security checkpoint. Tip for young players: Make one last toilet stop on board the plane.

Would I fly this again? Enjoy it? Yes!

Winston Aldworth travelled as a guest of Cathay Pacific.

- NZ Herald

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