Flying Business Class on Air China’s Boeing 777-300ER

Ni hao from Beijing! I just flew Air China business class from Paris to Beijing, aboard one of their (fairly) new Boeing 777-300ER aircraft. Of course a full trip report will follow after my trip, though I figured I’d share some initial thoughts of my experience.

Summing up my experience in one sentence, I was actually really pleasantly surprised and would definitely fly with Air China again in the future.

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Air China has fully flat beds in business class on the 777-300ER, in a 2-2-2 configuration. They’re slightly better than standard forward facing flat bed seats since they’re all slightly angled away from the aisle, making the seats a bit more private than usual. The foot cubbies are small in theory in that you place your feet between the seats in front of you, much like on Austrian or Brussels. However, the leg area is much more spacious since your entire lower body doesn’t have to go into the “cubby,” but rather just your feet.

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The seat was extremely well padded, possibly the best padded airline seat I’ve ever sat in. On top of that the pillow and blanket were top notch, the best I’ve ever had in business class.

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The amenities on the flights were impressive. There were L’Occitane amenity kits, slippers, and even pajamas. Kind of funny Air China gives out all of that, while Singapore doesn’t even give out an amenity kit in business class.

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The service was well intentioned and ranged in execution based on how well the flight attendant spoke English. One of the flight attendants working my aisle spoke excellent English and couldn’t have been friendlier or more charming, while I had a hard time communicating with some of the others, and I think as a result they were a bit more cold/reserved.

For example, they take away the menus after you place your order, so I had no place to reference when I was served each course. I’d ask what they were serving me, and after looking at me for a few seconds I’d usually get “I’m not sure how to say” as an answer.

When they came around with two dessert options I pointed at one of them and asked “what is this?” She said “cake.” I said “okay, and what about that one?” “Also cake.” Well that’s helpful.

The food was edible though nothing special. I was rather excited when a Kit-Kat was served with the appetizer and salad. I couldn’t figure out whether I was supposed to eat it with the appetizer, or why it was there.

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The highlight of the meal was probably the menu/drink list, though, given the endless entertainment it provided. It’s the first time I’ve seen a tea designed to make people irritable. 😉

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But I really can’t properly stress how nice the cabin as such is. The seats are super comfortable and cabin has a really cool, modern feel. I’d fly Air China again in a heartbeat.

Next up, the 787!

Comments

  1. What routes will the 777-300ER serve out of the US? I see that they are using a 747-400 out of SFO and a 777-300 (no ER?) out of each of LAX and JFK.

  2. Air China doesn’t fly the 777-300 to the US, only the 777-300ER. They only have 2 -300s and they seem to fly regional routes with the occasional foray into Europe.

  3. Also cake! Good illustration of the language barrier.

    Oh I think they served that tea on the American flight to Tampa last week which may explain a lot. 😉

  4. @Jonathan, Air China has an excellent safety record. You may be thinking China Air based in Taiwan? Glad you had a better experience with Ms. Wang compared to Ms. Peggy 🙂

  5. So how are the seats in 747-400 flying out of SFO. I am booked in August 2014. Do we have any reviews anywhere?

  6. And I am taking advantage of their 72 hours free transit visa in PEK. The connecting flight is just 45 minutes short of 72 hours, so what will happen if the schedule change to slightly more than 72 hours? Am I screwed then? I do not want to spend close to $100 for each of us (we are five) Has anyone experienced such a situation?

  7. Haha it’s not to make you feel irritable, but for people who feel irritable. I know, bad translation lol

  8. Nice report Lucky. About the functions of the tea, there is a mis-translation from Chinese to English. the Chinese version actually says that the tea is suitable for those who want to lose weight and those who feel irritable.

  9. @Caveman, based on my experience, immigration is not extremely strict in China. If your flight is scheduled within the window, it should be fine. Delays are pretty common in PEK so schedule changes are not rare. The only issue you would possibly face is that hotels aren’t allowed to accept guests whose visas are expired but it’s not an issue unless you stay an extra night.

  10. @Caveman The Chinese government is generally know to be super flexible and laid-back, so I doubt you’ll have any problems gallivanting about PEK on an expired visa.

    ARE YOU MENTAL?!?!?!

  11. @ Scott — To the US I believe it flies to Houston, Los Angeles, and New York. All the 777-300ERs should have the new product as well.

  12. @ caveman — The 747 has angled business class seats, so if t at all possible you’ll want to avoid them and try to get on a 777.

  13. @ caveman — If there’s a schedule change in advance you may be in trouble, and that’s not because of anything you might face on arrival, but rather because when you’re departing it’s their job to check and be sure you have a visa. If you’re scheduled to be there for more than 72 hours and don’t have a visa, they have to deny you boarding. So I’d suggest crossing your fingers and hoping there’s no schedule change in advance.

  14. The fine for overstaying is 500 yuan per day ($80). If he’s leaving the same day, I don’t see what the issue is. If you’re worried, just make sure you get through emigration before the 72 hour window.

  15. @ Ryan @ Willie — Figured as much, but was amazed and entertained by how poorly translated the menu was for such a major airline. You’d think they could pay someone to translate properly and not make the menu be a source of endless entertainment.

  16. @Lucky- Knowing both Chinese and English gives me a lot of entertainment when visiting China. Bad translations are everywhere. Big companies and the government are no exceptions.

  17. @ Scott — Hands down EVA. Still a much better hard product, in my opinion. I love reverse herringbone seats!

  18. Go for Dim Sum at Ocean City in the ID. Point to any dumpling and ask what it is – the answer is always “Meat inside”

  19. Did you have a chance to check out the F seats? They are 1-2-1 straight. That’s where the comparing should be.

  20. @ anon — I just walked past them, and they looked nice. Snapped a couple of pictures which I’ll include in the trip report.

  21. Looks to be a significant competative advantage over UA flying those routes. I dread the UA dormitory, 4 in the center, biz class.

  22. if you enjoyed Air China’s Business Class chair then you’ll have no problem with UA’s BusinessFirst chair in the sCO configuration (Dreamliner and 777) as they’re identical with the exception of the center console (it seems Air China’s center console is better laid out). I hope you can do a United Dreamliner trip report soon, I’d love to see what you think. Safe travels and thanks agin.

  23. @Lucky – this is the same seat as on the Aeroflot 777-300, which is easy to book using SkyMiles, often with 2 seats per flight.

  24. The Kit-Kat bars represent their own food group (chocolate). As such, they are legally incorporated into any course served, ever.

    BTW, a coworker used to request Kit-Kats whenever I travelled to London. According to him, the UK Kit-Kats were far superior to the US ones.

  25. @Colleen – He’s right! The Kit-Kats in the U.K. have a much better chocolate taste to them than their counterparts in the U.S. Same goes for Cadbury.

  26. I flew a CA -300ER two weeks ago LAX to PEK in first class. I’m shocked that you liked the seats so much; the seats in first were hard as rock! They don’t really lie flat, either, as there’s sort of a bump in the middle from the seat hinge, as if it was pushed just past flat. And the cabin was hotter than an LH cabin, although after two weeks of flying around China I’ve discovered that the Chinese aren’t fond of a/c on planes. (Their landings are not for the faint of heart, either: 5 out of 5 flights ended with a last minute touch down and dramatic braking, such that an overrun seems inevitable.)

  27. Definitely an interesting cabin layout…kind of like the new LH business class, except the center seats point in the same direction…

  28. I think your “initial thoughts” posts are the perfect lengths and level of detail for trip reports/product reviews. I read this one in its entirety, and I’d read many more of your trip reports if they were this length. Too many, unfortunately, are “tl;dr” for me (usually due to photos), which is too bad, because I really enjoy your writing style.

  29. Thanks for this! Our family of four (with two young kids) is flying Air China business class in January, and I have read mostly negative reviews, so it’s nice to hear one that’s a bit more positive. We are getting excited!

  30. CA business class seems popular out of Beijing. I was trying to book business class from Beijing to Frankfurt but the price is almost 20% more expensive than comparable Lufthansa (which operates A380, but the seat is less nicer.) End up booking with LX but I was VERY surprised the price was so much higher.

  31. @caveman In fact, China’s 72-hour visa free transit rule is that you can stay until the END of the third day after arrival. For example, if you arrive at PEK/PVG/CAN/CTU on Sept 20, you can stay until 11:59pm on Sept 23.

    The Chinese version of this rule can be found at http://e.weibo.com/1923634871/AamRxahw9

  32. Good rundown, look forward to the full report. Am deciding whether to use AC out of Eur. Had read similar reports saying seat great, food not so. Also, when just transiting PEK, which I did this year, you have to go through passport control, get a stamp and security which I don’t like. Oh, and to use the AC lounge computers you have to use your passport to get permission slip from the Ministry of Information. No joke. Did I mention the air pollution? No, it wasn’t fog, but rhymes. The 72 hours visa is a bonus if you can use it.

  33. @ Steve — Agree on both counts. Found it odd that I had to get my passport stamped, and also found the lounge internet situation weird.

  34. The pajyama shirt looks retro Mao. Perhaps, Lucky, you could wear it, have your picture taken and photoshopped above Tianamen Square with a banner exclaiming ‘The Long Mile’. A poster child for the Gen Y/Millenial cultural travelution. Can’t make this stuff up.

  35. @ Eric — That’s tough to say without knowing how many miles you have/your financial situation. If we value United miles at 1.5 cents each, that’s the same as paying a total of $800 for an upgrade. That could definitely be worth it for an upgrade on a 14 hour flight in my opinion.

  36. @lucky thanks. I’m booked in E-class, so current UA looks like 30,000 + $350 each way. Do you know if that changes tomorrow? Can’t seem to find any info about the $350 after 1/31…

  37. @ Eric — Those are redemption rates for upgrades on United. You can’t redeem United miles to upgrade on Air China if you’re booked in the “E” fare class unfortunately.

  38. Hey Lucky! First off, I’m a HUGE fan of your trip reports and detailed reviews of all things travel.

    I redeemed miles for PEK-SFO for two seats before the UA partner award structure changed. It was specifically because Air China was set to change the route to using the B77W. Depending on which website I look at, it seems like they are. FlightAware shows it as a 777-200 for some reason (which they don’t even have) but all others show 77W.

    Anyway, I sprung for “Forbidden Pavillion” (First) but now I’m scared because I’m reading all of these horrible stories about Air China, the service, not getting help when needed…just awful, awful reviews. Yours is actually one of the only positive ones I’ve seen. Most people say they wouldn’t put their worst enemy on them.

    What is your opinion based on this flight (realizing a crew can make or break one!)? Overall do you think they would be pretty consistent and would you not hesitate to take the B77W again? As you walked past first, what was your impression? Some people say it looks very “sterile” and that the seats are like concrete.

    Thanks!

  39. @ SFOFlyGuy72 — I wouldn’t hesitate to fly them again, and actually kind of want to fly their first class. The first class hard product is excellent, just don’t have high expectations of the food or service. But ultimately I’d say it’s still superior to first class on a US airline.

  40. Thanks! That’s kind of what I figured. Flying Cathay over in first so I’m SURE the difference will be night and day. Kind of want to end the vacation the Cathay way but currently they only have one seat open but I’ll keep checking!! 🙂

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