Review: Air China Business Class Paris to Beijing

Introduction
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
Depart: 8:20PM
Arrive: 12:25PM (+1 day)
Duration: 10hr5min
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… ;)

Air_China_Business_Class_77701
Air China 777-300ER first class

Air_China_Business_Class_77702
Air China 777-300ER first class

Air_China_Business_Class_77703
Air China 777-300ER first class

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.

Air_China_Business_Class_77704
Air China 777-300ER business class cabin

Air_China_Business_Class_77705
Air China 777-300ER business class cabin

We had the two center seats in row 15, which is the third to last row in the cabin.

Air_China_Business_Class_77706
Air China 777-300ER business class cabin, seats 15D & 15H

Air_China_Business_Class_77707
Air China 777-300ER business class cabin, seats 15J & 15L

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.

Air_China_Business_Class_77709
Air China 777-300ER business class cabin, seat 15H

Air_China_Business_Class_77714
Air China 777-300ER business class cabin, seat 15H foot cubby

At my seat were an extremely comfortable pillow and blanket, possibly the best I’ve had in business class.

Air_China_Business_Class_77710
Air China 777-300ER business class cabin, seat 15H pillow and blanket

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.

Air_China_Business_Class_77712
Air China 777-300ER business class cabin, seat 15H storage unit

The seat controls were located to the left of the seat and pretty intuitive.

Air_China_Business_Class_77713
Air China 777-300ER business class cabin seat controls

Immediately under that were the entertainment controls.

Air_China_Business_Class_77715
Air China 777-300ER business class cabin entertainment controls

Also waiting at the seat were some headphones, which were reasonably good. Not Bose, but not bad either…

Air_China_Business_Class_77716
Air China business class headphones

Lastly, also waiting at our seats were amenity kits and slippers. The amenity kits were L’Occitane branded

Air_China_Business_Class_77717
Air China business class amenity kit and slippers

The contents were about average for what you’d expect for a business class amenity kit.

Air_China_Business_Class_77719
Air China business class amenity kit contents

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.

Air_China_Business_Class_77718
Air China business class hot towels

Shortly thereafter we were offered pre-departure drinks. I just had some water.

Air_China_Business_Class_77720
Air China business class pre-departure water

After that the menus and drink list were distributed.

Air_China_Business_Class_77721
Air China business class menu and drink list

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.

Air_China_Business_Class_77728
Air China business class pajamas

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.

Air_China_Business_Class_77722
Air China 777-300ER business class cabin

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.

Air_China_Business_Class_77729
Air China business class entertainment selection

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.

Air_China_Business_Class_77730
Air China business class entertainment selection

I decided to watch a couple of sitcoms until the service began.

Air_China_Business_Class_77733
Air China business class entertainment selection

Air_China_Business_Class_77741
Air China business class entertainment selection

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:

Air_China_Business_Class_77723

Air_China_Business_Class_77724

The menu also had this insert about “understanding tea culture:”

Air_China_Business_Class_77727

Then the drinks list read as follows:

Air_China_Business_Class_77760

Air_China_Business_Class_77761

Air_China_Business_Class_77762

Air_China_Business_Class_77763

Air_China_Business_Class_77764

Air_China_Business_Class_77765

Air_China_Business_Class_77766

Air_China_Business_Class_77767

Air_China_Business_Class_77768

Air_China_Business_Class_77769

Air_China_Business_Class_77770

Air_China_Business_Class_77771

Service began with drinks and nuts.

Air_China_Business_Class_77735
Diet Pepsi and snack mix in Air China business class

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).

Air_China_Business_Class_77736
Air China business class amuse bouche

Air_China_Business_Class_77737
Air China business class amuse bouche

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.

Air_China_Business_Class_77738
Air China business class starter and salad

At that point a selection of bread was also offered, and I selected some garlic bread and a breadstick.

Air_China_Business_Class_77739
Air China business class bread

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.

Air_China_Business_Class_77740
Air China business class main course

Then for dessert I was served both fruit and a pineapple pastry. Both were quite good.

Air_China_Business_Class_77742
Air China business class dessert

Meanwhile my friend had the “Paris brest cake.”

Air_China_Business_Class_77743
Air China business class dessert

I also had some cheese to finish off the meal.

Air_China_Business_Class_77744
Air China business class cheese plate

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.

Air_China_Business_Class_77745
Air China business class bottled water

After the meal I ordered some tea. I asked the flight attendant to surprise me with whichever one is her favorite, which she did.

Air_China_Business_Class_77746
Air China business class tea

After dinner I reclined my seat into the flat position and tried to get some sleep.

Air_China_Business_Class_77747
Air China 777-300ER business class cabin after dinner

Air_China_Business_Class_77749
Air China business class seat in bed position

Air_China_Business_Class_77750
Air China business class seat in bed position

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.

Air_China_Business_Class_77752
Air China 777-300ER business class snack bar

One of the walls is also painted with a bunch of Air China destinations, which I thought was pretty cool.

Air_China_Business_Class_77751
Air China 777-300ER business class galley

In addition to the snack bar there was a snack menu, which read as follows:

Air_China_Business_Class_77725

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:

Air_China_Business_Class_77726

Service once again began with hot towels.

Air_China_Business_Class_77755
Air China business class hot towels

After that I ordered some coffee.

Air_China_Business_Class_77754
Air China business class 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.

Air_China_Business_Class_77756
Air China business class breakfast

We were also offered a selection from the breadbasket.

Air_China_Business_Class_77757
Air China business class pastry

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.

Air_China_Business_Class_77758
Air China 777-300ER parking at remote stand

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.

Comments

  1. AdamH says

    Got a remote stand at PEK on an inter-asia flight in C. I was the only passenger in biz that day and got a private bus. Not quite an S-class transfer, though I appreciated the privacy and the quick get-away.

  2. beachfan says

    Nice report, thanks!

    Have you reviewed the first class cabin yet? If so, can you provide a link?

    Also, were the foot cubbies big enough so you could roll onto your side and still have your feet fit easily? Would someone with large feet (size 12 6E) have a problem?

  3. says

    @ beachfan — Haven’t flown their first class yet, though hope to soon. Yes, foot cubbies were a good size. I’m a side sleeper and have size 12 shoes, and didn’t have any problem sleeping.

  4. Erik says

    Almost exactly 1 year ago, I flew the China Southern A380 and they also gave out pajamas in business class (which they interestingly called “First Class” even though the fare was a C/J code. Their true First Class was called something like “Platinum Suites”). They also provided a thin “mattress” in addition to a duvet, which did a decent job of smoothing the gaps in the lie-flat seat. CZ’s food was similar to your experience, nothing to write home about.

  5. JB says

    Slightly off-topic: The Paris breast cake is actually a “Paris-Brest”, named to commemorate a bicycle race between those 2 cities. Puff paste with whipped cream filling, it is intended to call to mind a pneumatic bicycle tire. Gotta love those translations…

  6. JB says

    Thanks for the report! Questions as a single traveler: Is there much (any) privacy between adjacent seats? Also, did you notice if there’s access from the window seat to the aisle when beds are deployed?

    -J

  7. says

    @ JB — Yes, actually quite a bit of privacy between seats since the seats are staggered at an angle a bit. It’s actually what I liked most about the seats compared to more traditional forward facing seats.

    If you’re in a window it shouldn’t be too tough to step over the person in the aisle when they’re reclined.

  8. gobluetwo says

    Nice trip report and makes me want to try Air China. I must say, though, that your meal choices left something to be desired. Not particularly adventurous, wouldn’t you say? I, for one, thought the squid salad, dim sum/congee, and rice vermicelli soup sounded fantastic.

  9. Carlos says

    I flew Qatar business and pajamas were also handed, along with a givenchy amenity kit. Food was really good (the best i had on my trip including LH and TG F and SQ and SA C). The service was friendly and the chief purser came to introduce herself to all business passengers. Seats were confortable and entertainment had a long variety. The best experience I had on C, on par with some F minus the larger seat.

  10. Peter says

    Chinese menu entrees = sauteed chicken, sauteed fish or sauteed vegetables. Do I detect a theme?

    A-hem…that diet coke has a pepsi logo on it. The brand police will be after you.

    Movie snacks? Cool! (where is the popcorn, however?)

    In summary, I guess they did their best to service you. ;-)

  11. beachfan says

    @ Lucky;

    Thanks! Reviewers have been disclosing their height when talking about leg room, with today’s design, shoe size is important too!

  12. Craig says

    The typos and errors in the spirits section of the menu are wild!

    Country misspelled, none of those drinks are “Rum” and there are extra spaces, etc. throughout.

    At least one editor, graphic designer, proofreader would speak English and catch those?

    I understand the Engrish problem, but I wonder if service can be counted on with such sloppy work? Do United flights to Japan have as many Japanese typos? I’m curious.

  13. says

    @ Peter — If I’m not mistaken they do have popcorn in first class, though. Guess it’s too premium for business class. ;)

    And thanks, fixed Pepsi/Coke mixup. Won’t happen again!

  14. hotelisto says

    Thanks for the report ben. I have been waiting for this one for quite some time as I’m contemplating a trip on CA over the holidays.

    I was curious do you know which cities CA currently serves with this aircraft or one with a similarly updated business class product?

  15. says

    @ hotelisto — They fly it to Houston, Los Angeles, and New York in the US. In Europe I know they fly it to Frankfurt and Paris as well. I’m sure there are other cities, but those are the ones I know off the top of my head.

  16. says

    Virgin Atlantic has a little-known 75K roundtrip redemption in F on Air China between London and Beijing (and only those cities for Air China). Throw in the current 30% Amex transfer bonus and that’s a sharp discount to using MileagePlus (160K) or Miles&More (180K) for the same flights. YR is about $300 plus departure taxes. Partner award booking on VS often requires multiple phone calls over a period of time.

  17. Heather says

    I fly to Beijing regularly from AMS (at least every other month) and I have been trying out different airlines (within Star Alliance and OneWorld) and I have to say, in terms of seat, Air China is by far my favourite and I will take them over the LH A380 any day – particularly on the flight to Beijing where I want to sleep. I find the food to be good and although there is a bit of a language barrier, it is nothing that isn’t insurmountable. China Southern on the other hand – flew them once, and never again! Air China though – very much enjoy them.

  18. Andrew B says

    I’m actually really impressed with the hard product — looks really classy and comfortable. I agree that it’s hard to judge the service when there’s a language barrier, but overall this report has made me really want to fly Air China!

  19. wwk5d says

    Lucky, how are these seats for peoople traveling together? It’s also interesting that the middle seats both face the same direction.

    Are you allowed to mix and match items from the Chinese and Western menus? Also, the Chinese really like their main meals sauteed, don’t they? ;)

  20. steve says

    The pajyama shirt looks retro Maoist. Perhaps, Lucky, you could have your picture taken in them holding a little red Air China menu. Put the photo besides Mao’s in Tianamen Square with a banner heralding ‘The Long Mile’. A poster child for the Gen Y/Millenial cultural travolution. Can’t make this stuff up.

  21. says

    @ wwk5d — The seats are great for people traveling together. They’re slightly staggered so you have a bit of privacy, but can still easily talk. I’d say it’s possibly the best configuration for people traveling together.

    As far as I could tell it wasn’t possible to mix and match the Western and Chinese options.

  22. says

    This past May, I flew MUC-PEK on Air China’s business class on an A330. The seats were the older version, like the ones you find on LAN. There was ton’s of leg room. The new seats look nicer.

    I didn’t even get a menu on my flight. The FA just asked if I wanted the Chinese or Western menu. I chose Chinese and just went with it.

    My amenity kit was the same as your but oddly enough I found 2 toothbrushes in my kit.

    I also pulled into a remote stand but there were 2 vans for the premium passengers (more than enough room) and regular buses for everyone else.

  23. Stuart Falk says

    In order to get the best use out of my Mileage Plus points, I’m looking at booking a round trip to southeast Asia for next December. While availability isn’t yet posted, the chances are I’ll have a choice between Asiana and Air China in first class to Seoul and Beijing respectively with onward connections in business class (though the connection time in Seoul looks tight at only one hour). Between the two, which would you choose?

  24. says

    @ Stuart Falk — I’d say Asiana definitely gets the edge. They have a phenomenal first class product with amazing service and food. Actually probably one of my favorite first class products of any airline.

  25. Brandon says

    I’m surprised you didn’t like arriving at a remote stand. It’s kind of cool to get off the plane with no gate, and get to go on the tarmac.

  26. UAPhil says

    Lucky, I just finished a Silk Road tour; took several domestic flights. Noticed that all the Chinese airlines (China Southern, China Eastern, Air China, and some smaller domestics) leave their “seat belt” signs on for the entire flight. (I flew the over-water segments in Biz on a US Airways 90K award, thanks to your blog.)

    I also discovered that when you transfer domestic to international in Beijing, you must claim your luggage from the domestic flight, check in for the international, then go through security and immigration. Recommend allowing at least 3 hours for this transfer :-(.

  27. snoopy says

    The food looked dodgy. Do you think their regional business class would be similar?

    Oh, and you seem to always travel with a “friend”. Any chance we’ll be introduced to your special friend any time soon? Maybe you can proove your mom wrong? ;-)

  28. wwk5d says

    @Brandon

    I think Lucky only enjoys it if there is a luxury car or special premium-passengers-only van or bus waiting to take him to the terminal :D

  29. Thomas says

    I’ve always burnt my United points on International economy flights, but given the recent devaluation, it’s motivated me to try out a higher tier experience. Fortunately, a trip just came up for me to go back to Beijing in late January. Can you offer (or anyone for that matter) some advice/tips for business class from LAX-PEK? Plane? Preferred seats? um, excuse my noobie question but do i get to keep the PJ? -_-;

  30. says

    @ Thomas — Los Angeles to Beijing would be the same 777-300ER that I flew. I’d say all seats in the cabin are more or less equal. Given the mild premium for business class I’d definitely recommend booking it.

  31. UAPhil says

    Thomas – another option to consider is paying 90,000 US Airways miles for the same business class roundtrip itinerary. (For me that would be a no brainer, since even with the devaluation UA miles are much more usable/flexible than US miles. Naturally your “mileage” may vary :-).)

  32. Thomas says

    @UAPhil: thanks for the advice. Using less miles on US is definitely the wiser choice. I fly economy to get the most flights out of my miles so rarely do I consider flying anything but. After much hesitation, I didn’t get in on the recent US gift promotion so don’t have enough miles in that account =(. Spending 120k United miles is painful but luckily, Chase UR is easy enough to come by.

  33. JohnB says

    Thanks Lucky, great report! I wouldn’t have even considered Air China for award travel. I would have thought Air China too chancy for a bad trip. You proved that theory wrong.

  34. italdesign says

    Not impressed with the service from your description. I’ve flown their Y several times (unfortunately) and feel the same kind of “indifference” (but worse in Y, of course). It’s not a language issue, but an attitude issue.

  35. PB says

    “It’s not a language issue, but an attitude issue.”

    Agreed.

    They are the first airline, I am aware, doing an intercontinental long haul flight between two countries where no one from the crew speaks the languages of those two countries.

    Chinese only and very poor English, with heavy accent, between Brazil and Spain.

  36. jd says

    Using UNITED award miles for either Air China A330 flight CA173 BEJ to SYD(can’t find if it is 200 or 300) Business
    or Asiana 777-200(no ER)SEOUL-SYD OZ235 and OZ601- Business.
    Need the newest seats that lie flat and nicest craft. Any comments on plane seats,& food?? Pictures anyone?

  37. says

    @ jd — They’re both going to have angled flat products. Asiana will generally have much better food and service, but neither airline has an amazing hard product to Australia.

Trackbacks

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *