Hainan to begin new non-stops to China from East and West Coasts

China’s Hainan Airlines will launch three new non-stop itineraries to China from the gateway U.S. cities of San Jose, California; Boston and Seattle in June.

Hainan Airways will become the first airline ever to offer non-stop service between Silicon Valley and China when it commences non-stop service from San Jose’s Norm Mineta Airport (SJC) to Beijing (PEK). Starting June 15, the carrier will offer five flights a week aboard a Boeing (NYSE:BA) 787 Dreamliner to Beijing. You can read more about the Dreamliner here.

Hainan flight arriving at SEA
The flights, with scheduled flying times of 12 hours 25 minutes westbound and 11 hours, 45 minutes eastbound, will depart SJC on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday at 1:10 p.m. and arrive in Beijing at 4:40 p.m. the following day due to the crossing of the international date line. Return flights will depart Beijing at 2:30 p.m. on the same days of the week, arriving at SJC at 11:10 a.m. the same day.

Starting June 20, the airline will begin three-times-weekly non-stop flights from Boston’s Logan International Airport (BOS) to Shanghai Pudong International Airport (PVG). On Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, a Boeing Dreamliner will depart BOS at 4:35 p.m., and arrive at PVG at 7:45 p.m. the next day. Return flights depart on the same days of the week at 11:55 a.m., arriving at BOS at 2:35 p.m. The new flights have scheduled flying times of 15 hours, 10 minutes westbound and 14 hours, 40 minutes eastbound. The flights will be in addition to service from BOS to Beijing, which was expanded from four weekly flights to daily flights as of May 1.

On June 22, the airline will begin four weekly non-stop flights from Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA) to PVG. Flights aboard an Airbus A330 will depart SEA on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday at noon, arriving in Shanghai at 4:30 p.m. the following day. Return flights are on the same days of the week, departing at 1:15 pm., arriving at SEA at 9:30 a.m. The new flights have scheduled flying times of 13 hours, 30 minutes westbound and 11 hours, 20 minutes eastbound. The new flights will augment non-stop service from SEA to Beijing, which was expanded from five times weekly to daily service on May 1.

Business Class excellence

Hainan holds mainland China's only 5-Star airline rating from the airline rating organization SKYTRAX, which has also given the airline accolades specific to its Business Class service. In the most recent annual SKYTRAX awards, Hainan was bestowed the honor of Best Business Class cabin and was cited for excellence in its Business class amenities. Read more about the 2014 SKYTRAX World Airline Awards here.

However, according to SeatGuru.com, there is a significant difference between the space available to passengers in Business Class compared to the main cabin on the airline’s Dreamliners, which will serve BOS and SJC initially, and eventually SEA. The 36 flatbed Business Class seats on the Dreamliners are 22.5 inches wide with a pitch of 74 inches, giving passengers up front plenty of room.

Economy seats are another matter: they are only 17 inches wide, among the narrowest in the industry and certainly narrower than most aircraft configured for intercontinental flights. Pitch is similar to domestic aircraft, at 31 to 32 inches. For comparison, All Nippon Airways’ (ANA) three-class Dreamliners have economy seats that are 17.2 inches wide. Economy seats aboard the two-class Dreamliners, which are more commonly used for trans-Pacific routes, are 18.6 inches wide with pitch of 33 to 34 inches, more in line with United Airlines (NYSE:UAL) domestic Economy Plus seats.

Logo AirlineThat said, Hainan took delivery of its two newest Dreamliners in February and March, according to Boeing data. It is possible that those are the two planes that will be placed into service on the BOS and SJC routes and will be configured differently than those already in service, though an airline representative was unable to speak to any future plans about reconfiguration.

The seats aboard the airline’s A330s, which will initially be used on the SEA/PVG route, are among the more generous in the industry. Its 32 flatbed Business Class seats are 21 inches wide with pitch of 64 or 74 inches, depending on the version of the aircraft. More impressive are its 19-inch-wide economy seats, though pitch is fairly standard at 31 to 32 inches.

For comparison, the economy seats aboard my 10+ hour flights between SEA and Frankfurt (FRA) in March were 17.5 inches wide. At a bit over six feet tall and slightly under 200 pounds, I found the seats and the legroom better than adequate, though not as comfy as Business Class. An extra 1.5 inches in seat width on flights that are more than 13 hours long would be most welcome indeed.

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Photo by Carl Dombek
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