US Airways Club Charlotte
US Airways Envoy Class Charlotte to Paris
Hilton Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport
Star Alliance Lounge Paris
Air China Business Class Paris to Beijing
Air China Business Class Lounge Beijing
ANA 787 Business Class Beijing to Tokyo
Hilton Tokyo Narita Airport
Tokyo Narita Airport Hello Kitty Check-in
EVA Air Hello Kitty Business Class Tokyo to Taipei
EVA Air The Star Lounge Taipei
Taipei Airport Hello Kitty Gate
EVA Air Hello Kitty Royal Laurel Class Taipei to Los Angeles
I was really looking forward to my flight on Air China, thanks in no small part to how much award space they release. They’re one of the most generous Star Alliance airlines when it comes to releasing award space in premium cabins, so I was curious to see what their onboard product was like. While I’ve avoided their old planes (for good reason), their new 777-300ERs actually look quite nice.
Air China 934
Paris (CDG) – Beijing (PEK)
Monday, October 14
Arrive: 12:25PM (+1 day)
Aircraft: Boeing 777-300ER
Seat: 15H (Business Class)
We boarded through door 1L, which meant we got to walk through the first class cabin, which consists of eight fully enclosed suites in a 1-2-1 configuration. Truth be told thanks to this little hobby of ours I don’t remember the last time I actually had to walk past a cabin to get to my seat… 😉
The business class cabin is huge and consists of a single cabin, as opposed to other airlines where it’s broken up into two or even three cabins.
There are seven rows of business class in a 2-2-2 configuration, for a total of 42 seats. All the seats are fully flat and angled slightly away from the aisle, so they’re considerably more private than standard forward facing fully flat business class seats (like those offered on LAN and Turkish, for example). These are also identical to the seats United has on their ex-Continental 777s.
We had the two center seats in row 15, which is the third to last row in the cabin.
Because of the way the seats are angled, your foot “cubby” is actually between the seats in front of you. While it’s not a huge space, I didn’t find it to be nearly as restrictive as the “throne” seats on Austrian and Brussels, for example.
At my seat were an extremely comfortable pillow and blanket, possibly the best I’ve had in business class.
Angled behind the seat to the right was some storage space. Compared to the lack of storage space most other airlines have in business class I found the area to be huge, though it is “exposed.” Still a great place to throw anything you may need during the flight, since it can’t easily fall out.
The seat controls were located to the left of the seat and pretty intuitive.
Immediately under that were the entertainment controls.
Also waiting at the seat were some headphones, which were reasonably good. Not Bose, but not bad either…
Lastly, also waiting at our seats were amenity kits and slippers. The amenity kits were L’Occitane branded
The contents were about average for what you’d expect for a business class amenity kit.
Once most of the business class passengers had settled in the flight attendants distributed hot towels. Rather than just handing them to you, they were served on plates, which I thought was a nice touch for business class.
Shortly thereafter we were offered pre-departure drinks. I just had some water.
After that the menus and drink list were distributed.
Lastly, a cart with pajamas was rolled through the cabin. That’s right, Air China offers pajamas in business class. Now they’re not especially high quality and I had brought my own, but that’s still impressive given that there are very few airlines that offer them in business class.
So on the whole the cabin was really impressive, I thought. There was just something calming about the way the cabin was laid out, and the mood lighting was also among the least intrusive I’ve experienced, which I appreciate.
We pushed back at roughly 8:20PM with a completely full business class cabin, at which point the safety video began to play. While I can’t find it online, the Air China 777-300ER safety video has to be one of the (unintentionally) funniest I’ve ever seen, especially when they get to the part where they’re evacuating the aircraft. Most airlines just have people in civilian clothing evacuating the aircraft in safety videos, while Air China has people in (what looks like) astronaut suits that make some of the most exaggerated movements ever. If anyone can find the safety video online I’d love to see it.
The safety video was really long, and they played it twice, so it took us almost the whole way to the runway. The flight attendants seemed super vigilant about safety, because before takeoff they came around to each individual passenger and said “please make sure your seatbelt is fastened and mobile phone is switched off.”
At 8:35PM we made it to runway 27L, where we were number one for takeoff. We had an extremely long takeoff roll and gradual climb out for our 9hr20min flight to Beijing.
So the first hour of the flight was bumpy, in particular the first 30 minutes, where we hit some serious chop. During that time I browsed the entertainment selection, which was surprisingly expansive.
I was actually hoping to just watch the moving map, though the screen said “Application is disabled by Crew.” I brought this to the attention of one of the crew members, though she just shrugged and something seemed to be lost in translation.
I decided to watch a couple of sitcoms until the service began.
In the first hour of the flight the crew made eight (8!!!) announcements. Five of them were identical, informing us “the crew will attend to your matters once the weather gets better.” About an hour into the flight the ride smoothed out and captain made his welcome aboard announcement, including “my crew will do their best to service you tonight.” Will they, now?!
Interestingly the seatbelt sign wasn’t turned off once during the flight, despite the flight being mostly smooth. Instead the seatbelt sign was always left on, and when the captain actually wanted us to be seated he’d just “ding” again, at which point the flight attendants would make an announcement to be seated. Odd.
Anyway, about an hour after takeoff the dinner service began. The menu read as follows:
The menu also had this insert about “understanding tea culture:”
Then the drinks list read as follows:
Service began with drinks and nuts.
At that point the flight attendant came around with a tray of amuse bouche. I wasn’t actually sure which items corresponded to which things on the menu. The particular flight attendant serving these didn’t speak English very well, so when I asked what they were, she simply said “I’m not sure.” I would’ve just consulted the menu, but unfortunately they collected those immediately after meal orders were taken (which doesn’t make much sense to me).
After that was cleared, a tray was brought out with the salad, appetizer, and… a Kit-Kat?! The starter consisted of duck liver, while the salad was pretty basic with just lettuce, cheese, cucumbers, and croutons.
At that point a selection of bread was also offered, and I selected some garlic bread and a breadstick.
Next the main course was served, which was a beef fillet accompanied by potatoes, mushrooms, and carrots. The beef was pretty tough, but other than that it was good.
Then for dessert I was served both fruit and a pineapple pastry. Both were quite good.
Meanwhile my friend had the “Paris brest cake.”
I also had some cheese to finish off the meal.
After the meal service was complete bottled water was distributed. The entire meal service was finished maybe three hours into the flight. In terms of service, the flight attendants were certainly well intentioned. I think the issue is when there’s a communication barrier and the flight attendants are forced to speak a language they’re not fluent in, it can often come across as indifferent service. In reality I think they just weren’t comfortable speaking in English, so at times the service felt “cold.” There was one flight attendant working business class that was totally fluent in English, and she couldn’t have been nicer or more charming.
After the meal I ordered some tea. I asked the flight attendant to surprise me with whichever one is her favorite, which she did.
After dinner I reclined my seat into the flat position and tried to get some sleep.
The seat was actually really comfortable, and I slept for a couple of hours. For whatever reason I couldn’t sleep more than that, so woke up with just under five hours to go to Beijing.
I headed up to the galley to look at the snack selection, which was nicely displayed.
One of the walls is also painted with a bunch of Air China destinations, which I thought was pretty cool.
In addition to the snack bar there was a snack menu, which read as follows:
I decided to get some work done on my laptop for the next couple of hours, until breakfast service began about 90 minutes out of Beijing. The breakfast menu read as follows:
Service once again began with hot towels.
After that I ordered some coffee.
I was hoping to order the dim sum for breakfast, though unfortunately they forgot to cater it, apparently. Since “four happiness pasta” didn’t sound like an especially tempting breakfast option, I instead went with the “egg pancake.”
It was okay, and served with fruit and corn flakes.
We were also offered a selection from the breadbasket.
30 minutes out of Beijing we began our descent and the flight attendant got on the PA to thank everyone for flying with Air China. During that time the flight attendants got in the aisle and bowed.
Our descent into Beijing was smooth and it was a beautiful day. We had a smooth touchdown on runway 34L at 11:55AM, 30 minutes before our scheduled arrival time. Unfortunately the taxi to the gate took 25 minutes. Beijing Airport is ridiculously huge. You know that’s the case when the landing gear isn’t even out when you begin flying over the airport. 😉
We only had a two hour transit in Beijing, so I was quite looking forward to getting off the plane via a jet bridge and going to the lounge for a shower.
I nearly crapped myself when I noticed we were pulling in to a remote stand. This instantly conjured up images of the last time I had a remote stand in China, which was for a domestic flight. That bus made a Tokyo subway during rush hour look empty.
All I could do was hope for the best…
Anyway, on the whole Air China totally exceeded my expectations on the new 777-300ER. The hard product was phenomenal (both seat and entertainment), food was mostly edible, and service was generally friendly. I wouldn’t hesitate to fly them again, and would actually like to try their first class product next time.