Aircraft: Airbus A330-300
Beijing (PEK) to Seoul (ICN)
Depart: 8:30 AM on Friday (8:45 AM actual)
Arrive: 11:35 AM on Friday (11:11 AM actual)
Duration: 1hr 26mn
Seat: 13L Business Class
This is a continuation of my trip from Los Angeles to Seoul. About 30 minutes prior to boarding time, I left the Air China First Class Lounge and walked over to my gate. From the lounge, the gate was not that far away but I wanted to take a leisurely stroll through the terminal and check out the rest of the airport. I arrived at the gate with a few minutes to spare and took some pictures of the dirty bird before boarding was called.
Boarding started with business class passengers and Star Alliance Gold members and we boarded the aircraft through door 1L. I presented my boarding pass to the flight attendant and made my way to seat 13L on the right side of the plane. Economy class passengers boarded the aircraft through door 2L so there was no traffic walking through the business class cabin. My first impression of the business class cabin was that it was sleek and beautiful! Unlike the Air China first class cabin on the Boeing 777-300ERs, this business class cabin was new, modern and very chic.
Note: there are two versions of Air China’s Airbus A330-300s. Seat Guru only shows one configuration but there are actually two, as I later found out on my flight from Shanghai to Taipei. This flight had the newer of the two configurations and my flight to Taipei had the older version.
This version of the A330-300 was configured with a three class cabin layout: business, premium economy and economy. There are five rows of seats in a 2 x 2 x 2 layout for a total of 30 seats in business class. There’s a small premium economy section behind business class with 16 seats in a 2 x 4 x 2 layout. I didn’t try them out but they appeared to be standard economy seats with extra pitch, similar to United’s Economy Plus. Behind the premium economy section, there are 255 standard economy seats for a total aircraft capacity of 301 seats. On this flight, 10 of the 30 business class seats were occupied and there were two flight attendants working the cabin.
This Airbus A330-300 was configured with Air China’s new business class seats. However, they are not the same seats as the new “Capital Pavillion” business class seats found on their Boeing 777-300ERs. These fixed shell seats are very similar to Turkish Airlines business class seats in shape and design but were not as nice.
These seats offered 20 inches of width and 58 inches of pitch (compared to Turkish Airlines 22 inches of width and 72 inches of pitch). They were also not truly lie-flat. The lower portion of the seat extended to the ottoman and offered a flat surface but the upper portion of the seat only reclined to 170 degrees.
There were plenty of storage spaces for your belongings. I stored my carry-on bag in the overhead bin, my backpack in the storage space underneath the ottoman and my cellphone in the cup holder at my seat. Every seat was also equipped with a personal reading light, privacy divider and USB/universal electrical outlet.
Despite being nearly lie-flat, the seat was actually very comfortable. I much prefer these seats over the traditional angled lie-flat seats still found on Lufthansa or Thai Airways. Due to their fixed shell design, you still maintained your personal space when the passenger in front of you reclined back and the center armrests can be raised to add additional privacy between the two seats. These seats were totally fine for this short trip and I can still see them being comfortable on a much longer trip.
It should be noted that my picture with the seat reclined is not a true representation of the maximum recline. I took a picture of it in that position thinking that was the maximum recline but I didn’t realized that it was just stuck on something. When I later reclined the seat fully, it met the ottoman and the back portion of the seat lowered itself a bit more. Sorry.
Waiting at my seat were a set of Air China branded headphones, slippers and a pillow. As I settled into my seat, the flight attendant came by to offer me newspapers, a warm towel, Korean arrival forms and a glass of water or orange juice. She then unwrapped the slippers from their plastic packaging and laid them down at my feet for me. I changed into the slippers and tried playing with the IFE (in-flight entertainment) system while the rest of the plane was boarding but was unable to. Just like my last flight, Air China did not make their IFE system available until we were in the air which was very annoying. So I just played with my phone and took some more pictures instead.
There were three dedicated bathrooms for business class passengers. The bathrooms were on the small size but had a bench for changing clothes and was stocked with Air China branded body products.
After a few minutes, we began to taxi around the airport and to the runway.
As we reached our cruising altitude, the seatbelt signs were turned off and the flight attendants came by to set our tables and prepare for our meal service. There were no menus for this flight and the flight attendants provided us with two options: a western or Chinese meal. The western option was cereal and an omelette and the Chinese option was congee and dumplings. I choose the Chinese dish as I find they are usually better than the western options.
Meal service started with another hot towel, ramekin of nuts and a second round of drinks. Our meal was then served all at once on a single tray. Unlike my first class flight from Los Angeles, this meal was decent and I ate most of it. During my meal, the flight attendant came back again to refill my drink without me needing to ask.
After lunch, our plates were cleared and I took some time to explore the IFE system a bit more. This was definitely a newer system and the monitor was really nice. Even with all the window shades opened, the 15’’ monitor was clear and crisp. There was a decent selection of movies including Captain America 2, Grand Budapest Hotel and Divergent along with a selection of TV shows, music, games and a moving map.
Service wise, the flight attendants were all great. Their English wasn’t the best but it was good enough to convey their message. They made a genuine effort to understand and assist us and proactively took care of all the passengers. Even on this short flight, they walked the cabin frequently and asked if we needed anything. Air China has a bad rep for their service but I really don’t know why. On this trip, I flew them three separate times and each time, I found them to be helpful, courteous and genuine.
Overall, this was a pleasant flight and I thoroughly enjoyed my experience on this short hop to Seoul. The hard product was great. The seats were comfortable in both sitting and sleeping modes and the IFE system was new and responsive. The soft product wasn’t bad either. The food was decent and the service was attentive. Their in-flight catering really is their weakest link but I would definitely fly them again.
Other trip reports in this series:
- Introduction: How we booked our trip using United miles
- Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge at LAX
- Air New Zealand Lounge at LAX
- Air China “Forbidden Pavilion” first class Los Angeles to Beijing, Boeing 777-300ER
- Air China first class lounge at PEK
- Air China business class Beijing to Seoul, Airbus A330-300
- Hilton Seoul
- United Airlines “BusinessFirst” Los Angeles to Tokyo Narita, Boeing 787-8
- Asiana business class lounge at ICN
- Asiana business class Seoul to Tokyo Narita, Airbus A330-300
- Conrad Tokyo
- Hilton Tokyo
- ANA business class lounge at NRT
- Thai Airways “Royal Silk” business class Tokyo Narita to Bangkok, Boeing 747-400
- Thai Airways Royal Silk Lounge at BKK
- Thai Airways “Royal Silk” business class Bangkok to Auckland, Boeing 777-200
- Hilton Auckland
- Emperor Lounge at AKL
- Air New Zealand Koru Club Lounge at AKL
- Air New Zealand “Business Premier” Auckland to Shanghai, Boeing 777-200
- Air China business class lounge at PVG
- Air China business class Shanghai to Taipei, Airbus A330-300
- EVA Air Evergreen Lounge at TPE
- EVA Air “Royal Laurel” business class Taipei to Los Angeles, Boeing 777-300ER