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China Southern A330 First Class Guangzhou to Tokyo Narita
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China Southern 385
Guangzhou (CAN) – Tokyo (NRT)
Monday, February 10
Aircraft: Airbus A330-200
Seat: 1K (First Class)
Guangzhou to Tokyo Narita is one of the shorter routes on which China Southern offers three class service. This particular flight was operated by one of their Airbus A330-200 aircraft, which is pretty cool since it has just one row of first class. The cabin is in a 1-2-1 configuration, with fully flat seats.
Via SeatGuru, here’s the seatmap for the first and business class cabins on the A330-200:
The combination of the first and business class configuration is actually pretty impressive, since the aircraft has fully flat seats in both first and business class. The nice configuration isn’t really surprising, given that China Southern flies this aircraft to many longhaul destinations, including Australia and Europe.
Anyway, I quickly found my seat, 1K, which was the window seat on the right side of the aircraft.
The cabin felt really unique. I’ve never been in a first class cabin before with just one row, and on one hand it felt super exclusive, but on the other hand it felt a bit claustrophobic. On the whole I really liked it, though… I think.
The seats are staggered slightly in that the window seats are a bit further back in the cabin than the center seats. So I feel like even if the cabin were full, the window seats would have felt pretty private, while the center seats would have kind of felt as if they were the middle of a stage.
The business class cabin looked surprisingly nice as well, with fully flat forward facing seats. There were two rows of business class in the forward business class cabin, and then another two rows in the rear business class cabin, for a total of 24 seats.
Anyway, once settled into my seat I explored the features a bit. The seat had a fairly large ottoman, and on it already were a blanket and duvet in a zippered pouch.
In the ottoman was a storage unit, perfect for a pair of shoes or a laptop.
The seat controls were on the left armrest, and were intuitive.
Then behind the seat to the right were the entertainment controls, headphone jack, and USB port.
Then on the front right side of the seat was the power outlet.
Waiting at my seat were two comfortable pillows, though given that I had all of first and business class to myself (that’s right, not only was I the only first class passenger, but there was no one in business class either), there was no shortage of pillows. 😉
Once settled in I was welcomed aboard by the friendly flight attendant that would be taking care of me. While there was still a communication barrier, she seemed genuinely friendly and proactive. She offered me a Japanese immigration form and headphones almost immediately.
She also offered me a pre-departure beverage. I asked to see the champagne, hoping that the champagne on the Los Angeles to Guangzhou flight was just a fluke. After seeing it was also Duc de Paris I just asked for a glass of apple juice.
While on the ground I was also presented with the menu, and my order was quickly taken. My menu was taken immediately after placing the order, which is the same thing that happened on the previous flight.
Right on schedule at around 9:30AM we began our pushback and taxi to the runway. The safety video began to play, and as is the norm at many airports in Asia, the ground crew waved goodbye to us as we began our taxi.
Our taxi to runway 2R took about 10 minutes, and during this time the crew made a couple of announcements, including one informing us of our flight time of 3hr30min.
Our departure runway was only a very short taxi from the gate, so about five minutes after pushing back we were holding short of runway 2R.
Once a China Postal Airlines 737 landed we were cleared for takeoff, and began a really quick takeoff roll at 9:40AM.
Our climb out was steep and smooth, and made me realize just how massive Guangzhou Airport is. We must have been 1,000 feet in the air before we were no longer over the airport.
During the climb out I browsed the entertainment selection, and decided to watch an episode of Person of Interest.
The seatbelt sign was turned off about 15 minutes after takeoff, at which point service began. The flight attendants started by closing the curtains between cabins. Even though I was the only passenger, they still did the full “bar setup” in front of my seat.
At that point the meal service began, starting with hot towels.
The lunch menu read as follows:
When I had placed my order I was informed they didn’t have any of the grilled beef tenderloin. I guess they skimped on catering because there was only one premium cabin passenger. So between the chicken and rice I chose the latter. I wasn’t sure what exactly to expect from “tri-color rice.”
First I was served the appetizer, which was Japanese inspired and extensive.
As far as the main course goes… well… I mean… really?
I don’t really know what they mean by tri-color rice, because the two things next to the white rice definitely weren’t rice. And the dish just smelled horrible, like warm dog food. Which I don’t really get, since it was supposedly just rice, no?
And what’s with the plating? Were they saving the other half of the plate for the return flight?
So I had a bite of the main course and then sent it back. After that I was offered a fruit plate.
And then a cheese plate. I had some tea to accompany it.
Anyway, the service throughout the meal was friendly and attentive, though given that I was literally the only passenger in the front half of the plane, I’d hope so. 😉
About 90 minutes into the flight I decided to get some sleep. I walked around the cabin for a little bit while the flight attendant did the turndown service for me. The bed was actually super comfortable, and I’d have no qualms choosing the seat for a longhaul flight.
After resting for a bit – I swear I hadn’t even fallen asleep – I decided to head to the bathroom for a quick tinkle. Literally the second I closed the lavatory door the flight attendant made an announcement saying we were on our final descent into Narita and would be landing shortly. That’s odd, I thought, since we weren’t even descending, let alone on our final descent!
I get back to my seat – there’s no way I was gone for more than a minute – and my seat is in the upright position, window shades open (ALL of the window shades in the first and business class cabins), and duvet is gone.
Man, I figured I must have slept really well and not remembered it. I mean, surely it wasn’t the alcohol…
I turned on the inflight entertainment, and we’re still 800 miles out of Narita – roughly 1hr40min out. So I was in fact only laying down for about 20 minutes.
I showed the flight attendant the screen and she said to me “we land in 30 minutes.” I said “but… the screen says we have 800 more miles to fly.” “We land in 30 minutes.”
Rather than cause a stink I was curious to see how it played out. Did the captain have some sort of turbo charged engines he was planning on using for the last 30 minutes of the flight?
Nope, about 10 minutes later the purser came up to me and apologized profusely because they “were confused over the time, we are actually landing in 1hr30min.”
They were really apologetic and wanted to make my bed again, but at that point I figured it wasn’t worth it and decided to just recline my seat and watch shows on my iPad for the rest of the flight.
Anyway, about an hour later we did actually begin our descent, which was pretty turbulent.
The views as we came over the coastline were gorgeous, and a few minutes later the gear came out we initiated our final approach.
We touched down on runway 34L at 2PM, and once we vacated the runway we just held position for about 10 minutes. At that point the purser came on the PA to inform us that there was still an aircraft at the gate, and that we would need to wait another 10 minutes.
As it turns out we were waiting for an Alitalia 777 to push back, and sure enough within about five minutes it pushed back and we were able to park at gate 23 for an on-time arrival.
Upon arriving at the gate I headed for immigration where there was no queue. I took the bus to the Hilton Narita Airport, where I’d be spending the night.
China Southern’s A330s are nicely equipped for shorthaul flying, so I found the hard product to be great. I also though the crew meant very well and was friendly, though being the only “premium” cabin passenger on the flight, I’d sure hope that’s the case.
The food left a lot to be desired, and I found it bizarre that the crew was off on our landing time by an hour. Everyone makes mistakes and this one wasn’t horrible or anything, but I still found it a bit puzzling.