Junior reporters go behind the scenes with Hong Kong Airlines

Compiled by John Kang

Young Post junior reporters and Posties' little journalists went to check out Hong Kong Airlines, from how the food is made to a tour of one of its aircraft. This is what they thought...

Compiled by John Kang |

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From left: Jennifer Chan, YP junior reporters Belinda Ng and Nike Lai Kei, and Winnie Lo.

Smells like grandpa's undies

We don't think much of airplane food. It's often bland, boring, and in disappointingly tiny portions.

However, as we found out, a considerable amount of work goes into each product.

Feeling clinical in germ-free lab coats and hair nets, we made our way to the Gate Gourmet's food preparation facility, where the food is made for Hong Kong Airlines.

A lot of work goes into making airline grub.
Photo: John Kang/SCMP

Strict measures were taken to ensure the hygiene of the manufacturing environment. We stood under adhesive rollers and giant wind blowers, which made sure every speck of dust and dirt was removed from our clothing.

The detergent we used carried a whiff of your grandfather's old underwear (that's how you know it's definitely clean!)

The kitchen was quite different from the one at home. Dozens of workers busy themselves at their workstations on the assembly line, where each takes charge of a different part of the production process.

There's even a station just for someone to wrap tin foil over the food.

Henry Lui

Ambition and affordability

Hong Kong Airlines is a newcomer in Asian aviation and will celebrate its ninth birthday this November.

Young Post junior reporter Anirudh Kannan checks out the flight deck.
Photo: John Kang/SCMP

They're taking advantage of their youth by branding themselves as typically Hong Kong - "young, fresh, and energetic," says Michael Burke, assistant director of the commercial department.

With an average fleet age of just 3.1 years - one of the lowest averages in the world - they are certainly one of the youngest.

They hope to convince customers to make the switch from established airlines with an irresistible affordability and patriotic image that involves using the Bauhinia - Hong Kong's floral emblem - as its logo.

Stanley Kan, director of service delivery, is confident that customers will be hooked.

"I'm never worried when customers travel with Hong Kong Airlines because I trust my staff," said Kan. "People will love it because they'll know what we can provide."

Despite the patriotism, they're not the flag-carrier for Hong Kong. That's a reputation held by the 70-year-old veteran Cathay Pacific.

Only time will tell whether Hong Kong Airlines will fulfill their dream of representing Hong Kong.

Anirudh Kannan

More than flying a plane

When it comes to flying a plane, most of us would assume landing would be the most nerve-wracking part.

Turns out, it is the take-off that is the biggest cause for concern, as First Officer Ming Woo of the Hong Kong Airlines explained.

"During take-off, the full tank of flammable fuel alongside the rapid acceleration of the aircraft, means the chance of an explosion increases - it is a critical moment."

Woo has been with Hong Kong Airlines for six years, and was joined by Captain Windsor Wong in the cockpit of the relatively new, three-year-old Airbus 8332.

With such passion for flying, it wasn't hard for the pair to reveal the most interesting part of their job.

Young Post junior reporter Nike Lai Kei joins Officer Ming Woo in the cockpit.
Photo: John Kang/SCMP

"There are never two flights that are the same," Woo explained, adding "new crew, new passengers, ever-changing weather; we have to learn to adapt to it all".

"Talking to customers is sometimes difficult because of the diverse backgrounds of people you meet, and there are often many unexpected situations during flights. But I love the challenge," Wong adds with a smile.

"I remember one flight; visibility was so poor I could only see the runway. To make matters worse, my cabin attendant notified me of an argument in the cabin between two groups of people.

"One was complaining about how the other was moving their seats way too far back, depriving them of leg space.

"The conflict turned ugly when a magazine was thrown at a passenger, grazing her cheek and causing it to bleed. So I decided to issue an 'unruly passenger' letter, and call for an ambulance at the destination.

"But I was in for a huge shock when I found out the situation didn't actually happen."

This was actually part of his training to become a captain; the crew made up the whole story, so he could learn how to tackle multiple challenges, including situations outside the cockpit.

"There is definitely an element of pressure. It's all about learning to adapt. This includes the 20-20 vision; we don't need to possess that naturally since we aren't flying military aircrafts, so we'll wear glasses if needed!" Woo reveals.

This was definitely a visit to remember - not only because of such myth-busting, but also thanks to the pilots' interesting anecdotes that we wouldn't have otherwise heard about.

Belinda Ng

Serving the skies

Have you ever thought about being a flight attendant?

It's a job Hong Kong Airlines' Winnie Lo and Jennifer Chan have been doing for three years. We met up with them to find out about their career.

Being a flight attendant involves strict rules. Lo said: "There is a minimum arm-reach of 212cm as well as a physical fitness test to pass during the pre-employment medical assessment. There's also make-up training."

Chan said: "You need to be friendly and full of passion. The best part of my job is meeting different people from all around the world."

In a job involving uncertainty and risk, the flight attendants must think quickly to solve problems. Chan said: "We have 'examinations' everyday. It's really challenging!"

Lo said: "We've had to teach some travellers basic safety rules, such as how to put on a seat belt."

Many don't realise how much work goes in to making first or business class customers comfortable, either.

Chan explained: "There are only seven people to serve 24 passengers in business class. And we have to memorise the customers' names and provide them with more precise service and care, for instance, preparing a piece of steak with a glass of red wine for the first class passengers' in-flight meal."

Regardless of your rank or role, team work is a top priority when flying.

Fancy giving it a go?

Nike Lai Kei