This flight review of Air China’s business class is a continuation of my trip from Auckland to Los Angeles. About 15 minutes prior to boarding time, I left the newly renovated Air China Business Class Lounge and made my way over to the boarding gate. The gate was not that far away but I wanted to get there early just in case I needed to secure my place in line. This was my third time flying Air China on this trip and I was used to and fully expecting a chaotic boarding process. Air China does a horrible job with boarding and unfortunately, this flight was no different. It’s literally a free-for-all with everyone for themselves. And to make matters worse, this gate did not board directly onto the aircraft. We boarded a bus that then took us out to a remote stand where our Airbus A330-300 was waiting.
Even though I was in business class, I ended up in the second bus to the aircraft and encountered the same free-for-all up the stairs to the plane. Instead of trying to shove my way through, I just stood back, relaxed and took some pictures of the very dirty bird while everyone shoved and pushed their way up the stairs. The boarding process was so slow, the plane departed nearly an hour after the scheduled departure time.
Flight: CA 195
Aircraft: Airbus A330-300
Shanghai (PVG) to Taipei Taoyuan (TPE)
Depart: 2:40 PM on Thursday (3:37 PM actual)
Arrive: 4:35 PM on Thursday (4:49 PM actual)
Duration: 1hr 22mn
Seat: 13L Business Class
When picking the best seats for an aircraft, my go-to site is Seat Guru. I really like their site. It’s easy to navigate and understand and I find their information is usually up to date with new models and configurations. Well, once in a while, they are wrong and don’t have the correct information. This was one of those times. Seat Guru only shows one seat configuration for Air China’s A330-300 but there are (at least) two, as I found out on this flight. My previous flight from Beijing to Seoul had the newer of the two configurations and this flight to Taipei had the older version. The newer version was actually really nice and I could see that product being comfortable for longer flights. This one. . . not so much.
This version of Air China’s Airbus A330-300 was not as nice. It’s configured with a two class cabin layout: business and economy. There are six rows of seats in a 2 x 2 x 2 layout for a total of 36 seats in business class. On this flight, 6 of the 36 business class seats were occupied and there were two flight attendants working the cabin. They must not do a lot of upgrades from economy fares as every economy seat appeared to be occupied.
Because this configuration was not listed on Seat Guru and I couldn’t find any information on Air China’s website, I don’t have the actual specifications for you. But they appeared to be pretty similar to the newer version which offers 20 inches of width and 58 inches of pitch. They were also not truly lie-flat.
There weren’t any storage spaces, large or small, at the seat and all items had to be stored in the overhead bins. I find this incredibly annoying as I like to have my cell phone (for pictures), passport and other small items close to me during flight. I ended up having to keep everything in my pockets or on my lap. Every seat was equipped with a personal reading light, tiny privacy divider and universal electrical outlet.
Despite being an angled recliner, the actual seat itself wasn’t half bad for this short flight. I much prefer these seats over the traditional angled recliners found on Thai Airways. But even then, I don’t want to be sitting in this seat for longer than a few hours. Due to their fixed shell design, you still maintained your personal space when the passenger in front of you reclined back and the outside armrests can be lower to give you some additional width.
Waiting at our seats were a set of Air China branded headphones, slippers, blanket and a pillow. As I settled into my seat, the flight attendant came by to offer me newspapers, a warm towel, Taiwan 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 flights, 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.
After a few minutes, we began to taxi around the airport and to the runway. The Air New Zealand Boeing 777-200 that I flew in on was still at the gate.
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 waffles and fruit and the Chinese option was congee and dumplings. I choose the Chinese dish as I find they are usually better than the western options. The flight attendant later came back and told me the Chinese option was not available and asked if it was okay for her to prepare the western meal for me instead.
Meal service started with another hot towel, ramekin of nuts and a second round of drinks. My meal was then served all at once on a single tray. I’ll let you judge by the pictures but I’m pretty sure that was just an Eggo waffle. Lol. It wasn’t the most filling meal but considering this was a short flight, I didn’t mind so much as I knew there would be food waiting for me in the EVA Air Evergreen Lounge in Taipei.
After lunch, our plates were cleared and I took some time to explore the IFE system a bit more. This was an old system and the monitor was really crappy. The screen was literally the size of an Amazon Kindle and even with all the window shades closed, it was hard to watch anything. I ended up just playing with my phone for the duration of the flight. There was a small selection of 20 movies movies including Captain America 2, Need for Speed and Noah.
Service wise, this crew was fine but their English was not the best on this flight. I actually had a hard time understanding anything they were saying. And to be honest, when the FA was describing the meal selections, I had no idea what the Western option was. It was only when she presented the tray was I like, “Ohhhh, waffles.” I just laughed to myself and felt bad for not understanding.
Other than the English, everything else was fine. They were great with the customers and came around the cabin a couple times to check on the passengers. Considering there were only six of us on this short flight, there wasn’t much interaction going on. For some reason, 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. I just wished their English was better (but I’m sure they also wished my Chinese was better as well).
Overall, this was a pleasant flight and I enjoyed my experience on this short hop to Taipei. The hard product wasn’t the best or comparable to their newer A330-300 configuration but I thought the seats are actually better than Thai’s angled recliners. The seats were comfortable in both sitting and sleeping modes. However, the IFE system was old and outdated. Bring some personal entertainment if you find yourself on this aircraft for any flight longer than a few hours. The food was decent and the service was attentive. Their in-flight catering really is their weakest link.
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