Air China Starting 747-8 Flights Beijing To Guangzhou

There’s no denying that while the Airbus A380 is the best plane in the sky in terms of passenger comfort, the Boeing 747-8 is certainly the sexiest.

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Lufthansa Boeing 747-8

The 747 is the queen of the skies

The 747 will always be the “queen of the skies” for me, and I’m really sad to see so many airlines retiring them. I think many of us grew up flying the 747, and seeing them retired marks the end of an era.

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747-8 wing

Yes, I may have shed a tear or ten when I watched the Singapore 747-400 retirement video (especially 4:40 in):

The 747-8 was in theory a breath of fresh air for the 747 “line,” though in practice it has been a complete flop. While several airlines operate cargo versions of it, only three airlines have ordered them for passenger service:

  • Lufthansa (19 on order, 15 of which have been delivered)
  • Air China (5 on order, none of which have been delivered)
  • Korean Air (1o on order, none of which have been delivered)

The issue is that airlines are switching to smaller, more fuel efficient planes which allow them to optimize yields, operate more frequencies, and serve smaller markets, which is ultimately what passengers value most.

While I’ve loved flying the 747-8 on Lufthansa, it’s exciting that a second airline is finally taking delivery of the passenger jet!

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Boeing 747-8 upper deck

Air China will be next to take delivery of the 747-8

Air China will be taking delivery of their first Boeing 747-8 in the next few days, and will begin passenger service with it as of October 11, 2014.

Air China’s 747-8 will first operate daily service between Beijing and Guangzhou. Per airlineroute.net, the schedule will be as follows:

CA1315 Beijing to Guangzhou departing 11:00AM arriving 2:10PM
CA1316 Guangzhou to Beijing departing at 3:30PM arriving 6:40PM

Obviously Air China’s long term plans aren’t to fly the plane domestically, though doing so at first serves two purposes:

  • Familiarizing their crews with the new aircraft (you don’t want to launch longhaul service without having first tested the service concept on a shorthaul flight)
  • Waiting for the second 747-8 to be delivered, as it takes two 747-8 to operate a daily longhaul service

As is the norm for flights within China, the flight is only being sold as two cabins. So business class is being sold as first class, and economy is being sold as economy — it doesn’t look like they’re selling the first class or premium economy cabins (though they may seat passengers there nonetheless).

Air China hasn’t announced their inaugural longhaul 747-8 route yet, though my money is on it being between Beijing and Los Angeles. I certainly could be wrong, though.

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Air China 747-8

How will Air China’s 747-8s be configured?

Air China’s 747-8 aircraft feature 12 first class seats, 54 business class seats, 66 premium economy seats, and 233 economy seats, for a total of 365 seats. As a point of comparison, Lufthansa has eight first class seats, 80 business class seats, and 298 economy class seats on their 747-8s, so they actually have a slightly more dense configuration (though also don’t have a premium economy cabin).

I’m most curious to see what the cabins will look like. To the best of my knowledge Air China hasn’t yet unveiled their 747-8 first and business class cabins, so I’m curious to see if they stick with their current product, or come up with something new.

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Air China 777-300ER first class

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Air China 777-300ER business class

What do you think? Will Air China have a new first and business class cabin on the 747-8s, and which longhaul route will they debut it on?

Comments

  1. “There’s no denying that while the Airbus A380 is the best plane in the sky in terms of passenger comfort”

    Debatable for sure. In business class, in particular, I know of lots of complaints due to the oversize business cabin and impersonal service that often results. That’s among other complaints like a chaotic boarding process or that often 380’s consolidate away a frequency that many passengers preferred. Also the A380 upper deck is narrower than a 777 and much narrower than a 747 main deck. Given the same seating layout (which is really only going to happen in first or business class), the Boeings would be more spacious.

    “The 747-8 was in theory a breath of fresh air for the 747 “line,” though in practice it has been a complete flop.”

    I’d like to see some numbers to support this.

    Given that it’s not a completely new plane, only a re-design and upgrade, and that they already have 120 orders, I would be surprised if this wasn’t a profitable program for Boeing. As the A380 is not a viable cargo plane, I expect a healthy (though not likely overwhelming) supply of cargo orders to keep rolling in for the 747-8 as older 747’s continue to be retired in the coming years.

  2. I feel we may be seeing this on the IAH-PEK route. Air China has been achieving some pretty impressive loaf factors on the 77W and J+F are always quite full.

  3. Air China – good hard products, HORRIBLE soft products

    Their 777-300ER business class was very good in terms of seat comfort, IFE system, and amenities.
    The food, service, and customer service at the airports are ATROCIOUS.

    The food was like prison food. I couldn’t take more than a bite of it. And I was HUNGRY like a wolf starved for weeks. Not one of the FA’s spoke English or another language other than Mandarin. Not even Cantonese.

    Airport customer service was worse. Air China’s delayed a flight and you miss your connection. It should be their responsibility to rebook you on the next flight. Nope. They say too bad and just hide in the back room.

  4. I am flying PEK-CAN Oct15 and Oct22…fortunately hadn’t booked the Oct22 flight yet. I am seeing coach and first availability using LM. I’ll send you pics of the configuration!

  5. The hard product of Air China can be good but the soft product is not

    Nobody will understand you in the flight and the services are just incompetent.

  6. I got more info for premium coach on Air China’s 747-8 from another blog. The seats will both be in the same 3-4-3 setup and use the same seats as coach, but with 20% more pitch(probably at least 36″ based on their premium coach seats on the A330-300’s and 777-200’s). All seats on their 747-8’s will have PTV’s, which is big cuz on their other premium coach equipped planes, premium coach has PTV’s while regular coach doesn’t, they have the overhead TV instead. It’s likely that the 747-8 will use same seats used on the 777-300 in each cabin based on how recently those seats were introduced on Air China.

  7. During my tour of the Boeing plant a month ago, the “747” assembly area had two Air China 748 planes in last stages of assembly (engines & interiors) and right after that there were at least 2-3 Korean Air 748s. The guide did say that they are no operating at full capacity although they must be under a deadline as they were working on some of these 748s during our tour even though it was a Saturday.

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