Introduction: An Insane Week In The Sky
Review: China Eastern Business Class 777-300ER Los Angeles To Shanghai
Review: Grand Hyatt Shanghai
Review: China Eastern Lounge Shanghai Airport
Review: China Eastern Business Class A330 Shanghai To Colombo
Review: Hilton Colombo
Review: Qatar Airways Business Class A340 Colombo To Doha
Review: Oryx Lounge Doha Airport
Review: Royal Air Maroc Business Class 787 Doha To Casablanca
Review: Hyatt Regency Casablanca
Review: Royal Air Maroc Lounge Casablanca Airport
Review: Royal Air Maroc Business Class 787 Casablanca To Doha
Review: Qatar Airways Business Class A340 Doha To Colombo
Review: Saudia Business Class 777 Colombo To Jeddah
Review: Saudia Lounge Jeddah Airport
Review: Saudia Business Class 787 Jeddah To Manchester
Review: Pakistan Airlines Business Class 777 Manchester To New York
Review: Airspace Lounge New York JFK Airport Terminal 5
Review: JetBlue Mint A321 New York To Los Angeles
China Eastern departs out of Tom Bradley International Terminal, and uses the Korean Air Lounge. I’ve reviewed that lounge before, so won’t be doing so again with this report, other than to say that I’m not a fan of it. It’s typically way overcrowded and has a limited food selection, especially compared to the Star Alliance Lounge and oneworld Lounge at LAX.
Our flight was leaving from gate 156, located at the far end of the concourse at TBIT.
Boarding began at 11:55AM, starting with first & business class, and we managed to be the first passengers aboard.
China Eastern 586
Los Angeles (LAX) – Shanghai (PVG)
Tuesday, July 26
Arrive: 5:30PM (+1 day)
Aircraft: Boeing 777-300ER
Seat: 11A (Business Class)
We boarded through door L1, where we first found ourselves in the China Eastern first class cabin, which consists of just six seats (I’ll have pictures of that at the end of the review).
China Eastern’s 777-300ER business class cabin consists of a total of 52 reverse herringbone seats, in a 1-2-1 configuration.
There’s a forward mini-cabin with just two rows of business class.
Then the rear business class cabin has a total of 44 seats, spread across 11 rows.
Ultimately reverse herringbone seats are among my favorite hard product, though I find the finishes on these seats to be rather boring, personally. I realize that’s a function of personal preference, though I far preferred the China Airlines reverse herringbone seats I experienced a few weeks prior.
I had assigned myself seat 11A, the window seat on the left side in the fourth row of the main business class cabin. China Eastern has the Cirrus-style reverse herringbone seats, similar to what’s available on Air France, Avianca, Cathay Pacific, Finnair, etc.
The entertainment screen popped out of the seat in front.
Below that was the ottoman, which was spacious. To the left of that was the 110v outlet.
The seat controls were located at the bottom left of the seat, and were easy to use.
Above that were the entertainment controls, reading light, headphone jack, USB port, etc.
Then next to that was a partly enclosed storage area, with headphones and bottled water.
The headphones weren’t especially good quality.
While the bottled water itself was fine, they certainly didn’t spend any extra money on its branding. 😉
Then on the bottom left of the seat were a couple more storage compartments, where the amenity kit and slippers for the flight were located.
The slippers were decent quality, and I appreciated that they came with a shoe bag.
The amenity kit had Clarins products, though was very bare-bones. It just had earplugs, a dental kit, and two Clarins amenities.
Those included cream and lip balm.
Also waiting at my seat were a pillow and blanket, which were pretty good quality. The blanket was comfortable yet not too heavy, which is perfect since most non-US carriers keep their cabins pretty warm.
Overall I thought the seat itself was great, as were the pillow and blanket. While I didn’t love the finishes, I also recognize that seat comfort as such is more important than the finishes.
About five minutes after settling in a flight attendant came by to offer hot towels. I should note that over half of this crew was male, which I’ve never before had on a Chinese carrier. As a matter of fact, I don’t remember ever having a male flight attendant on Hainan or Air China.
Moments later he passed through with pre-departure beverages, including orange juice, champagne, or “the China Eastern cocktail.”
He just held out the tray, and I said “excuse me, what is this one?” “It’s the China Eastern signature cocktail.” “Yes, but what’s in it?” “I don’t know.” Alrighty then…
Boarding was pretty efficient. While the business class cabin was only booked to be about half full, last minute there seemed to be quite a few upgrades, because business class ended up only having a few empty seats. I’d note that we were the only western passengers in business class, best I could tell. Most of the passengers seemed to be older Chinese couples, and also some Chinese families.
Towards the end of boarding, the flight attendant came around with the menu and wine list for the flight. However, we couldn’t actually keep them, but instead he just held the page open for us, let us look at it for a minute, and then took our order.
China Eastern seems to rely on a single printed menu for the entire year, since there are four sets of menus in each booklet. They’re color coded, and China Eastern alternates the menu based on the month.
Beyond that, the menu can apply for any sort of flight timing, since for a given month it lists lunch, dinner, and breakfast options, even though only two meals will be served. I had asked about the possibility of having the western starters with the Chinese main course, and was told that wasn’t possible. More on the food later on…
At 12:30PM the main cabin door was closed, and the cabin manager welcomed us aboard “this China Eastern A330” (we were in fact on a 777). She informed us that the flight time would be 12hr30min.
We began our pushback within a couple of minutes, with an Asiana A380 off our left wing.
After pushback we had to hold position for about 15 minutes due to congestion, which the captain announced over the PA.
At around 12:45PM we began our actual taxi, and as we taxied out to runway 25L we passed the gorgeous Air New Zealand 777.
We also saw the China Eastern A330 headed to Chengdu via Nanjing.
We then taxied past American’s Terminal 4…
And then past Delta’s Terminal 5…
Then at 12:55PM we were cleared for takeoff, and had a beautiful climb out over the California coastline.
The seatbelt sign was only turned off about 15 minutes after takeoff.
At this point I connected to China Eastern’s inflight wifi. China Eastern is the only Chinese carrier to offer inflight wifi. As I’ve explained in a previous post, you need to register before the flight in order to use it. This is both a good and bad thing. The good news is that it’s free, though the bad news is that if you don’t pre-register, there’s no way to buy wifi aboard anymore.
The system of logging in can be a bit confusing, since you have to enter your flight number, the ID number (which in my case was my passport number), and your verification code, which you’re given when you register for wifi before your flight.
I’d note that the wifi was significantly slower than on other airlines. Furthermore, as is usually the case in China, most Google based sites were blocked, though I was able to get around that with a VPN. Still, some internet is better than none, so kudos to China Eastern for offering onboard wifi.
After connecting to the wifi I browsed the entertainment selection, starting with looking at the airshow.
Rather bizarrely, China Eastern has a system where you can order food through your personal television, though the menu on the TV is much more extensive than otherwise available. Go figure the food ordering system doesn’t actually work.
On this flight I would have killed for a decent looking filet.
The entertainment selection was okay for a Chinese carrier. The movie selection was surprisingly decent, while the TV selection was terrible, with just a few western sitcoms.
After browsing the entertainment selection I checked out the two lavs, located in front of the main business class cabin. They were fairly spacious, though already smelled terrible, despite the fact that they seemed to have some odor neutralizing crystals hanging in bags from the handles, door, etc.
While I wasn’t familiar with the brand, the toiletries were decent.
The real fun on this flight started when I returned to my seat, as Matthew and I both noticed a strong cigarette smoke odor in the cabin. We brought it to the attention of the cabin crew, and they said “oh, it’s the oven.” Hmmm…
At that point the meal service began. The lunch menu read as follows:
The beverage list read as follows:
Service began with tablecloths being distributed.
After that the canapés and hot towels were offered. This consisted of balik salmon with blinis & a goat cheese zucchini roll, which were quite decent.
After that drinks were offered with mixed nuts. I ordered a gin & tonic.
Then the starter was served, including summer squash and red quinoa salad with marinated prawns, as well as cauliflower veloute.
The shrimp were fairly tasty, and the combination of tomatoes, cheese, and walnuts, complemented it nicely.
The cauliflower veloute was also nice.
I wasn’t served a spoon with the soup, and it took several minutes to flag down a flight attendant to get one.
Bread was offered once the appetizer plates were cleared, which seemed a bit backwards. We also weren’t served water with the meal, despite asking repeatedly.
Once appetizers were cleared, the main courses were served. Matthew had the pan seared veal chop.
I would have gone with the Chinese option, but I don’t eat pork, and they weren’t willing to serve me the Chinese main with the western starters. I also don’t eat veal (at least let the animals live a little before slaughtering them, in my opinion!), which left me with the braised duck with fettuccine.
It tasted every bit as horrible as it sounds, and the smell was perhaps the worst part. They at least cleared it quickly.
Then dessert was served, including cheese and fresh fruit.
Lastly, Haagen-Dazs ice cream was served, without a choice of flavors. I asked about a spoon, and was told it was already in the top of the cap. While they do indeed have tiny built-in spoons, the last time I used one of those was at recess in middle school. Most airlines still serve you a “real” spoon with ice cream.
Lastly the crew came around with a box of chocolates, which was a pleasantly surprising touch.
After lunch I ordered a cappuccino. I was served hot water with a nasty powder, rather than a freshly made one.
I had noticed in the galley that they had a legitimate espresso machine, so was confused by why they weren’t using it.
Later in the flight I ordered another one and specifically asked for a freshly made one rather than a powdered one, and was told they don’t have that. Later I wandered into the galley to go to the lavatory and noticed the crew having a huge cappuccino party in the galley, making cappuccinos for themselves with illy pods. At least eight crewmembers were in the galley drinking them while chatting. Well, I’m happy they enjoyed the cappuccinos at least.
The meal service was done about 90 minutes after takeoff. I appreciated that the service was quick, since I hate when a mediocre meal is drawn out for hours on end.
While the crew was quick, they were sloppy and weren’t friendly. They didn’t smile once, and communicated very abruptly. Furthermore, the service was disorganized. Bread was served way after the starter, water and drink refills were never offered, etc.
After the meal I decided to work for a bit longer on my laptop. I eventually headed to the galley to check out the snack selection. There was a small basket setup with nuts and other sweets, including Ritter Sport chocolate… mmmm!
I’d note that while the cabin was quite bland, there were at least some decorative flowers near the galley, which added a pop of color.
Eventually we were passing over Alaska headed towards Russia.
While I wasn’t hungry, I figured I’d order what was described on the menu as a “Western Western Exquisite Western Snack.” It consisted of a stale piece of bread with some salmon, as well as a side of fruit. The fruit was decent, though I’m not sure what made it triple Western or Exquisite. 😉
After having the snack I decided to take a nap for a bit. The bed itself was great for sleeping, and the pillow and blanket did the trick.
Here’s the airshow when I went to sleep:
Meanwhile here’s the airshow when I woke up:
Altogether I managed to get about 3.5 hours of sleep, which was pretty good.
As I’ve mentioned before, the smell of cigarette smoke was prevalent in the cabin throughout the flight, and we eventually figured out that the pilots were smoking like chimneys the entire flight, probably every 15 minutes or so. Here are the two posts I wrote on that, which have a lot of interesting comments from readers as well:
- Live From 34,000 Feet: Someone Keeps Smoking On My China Eastern Flight
- We Tried To Call Out Our Flight Crew For Smoking…
As you might guess based on the above, we called out the crew, and hilarity ensued.
About 90 minutes before landing the pre-arrival meal was served. The menu read as follows:
I wanted to go with the Chinese option for this meal, though they were out by the time they got to me. So since I don’t eat pork, I had the shrimp, scallops, and fennel ravioli.
The starter consisted of Boston lettuce with toasted pecans and cherry tomatoes.
I will say that the ravioli was better than the pasta dish I had with the first meal, though it was still pretty lousy.
Meanwhile Matthew had the pork tenderloin.
At around 4PM Shanghai-time the captain provided us with updated arrival information, informing us we should be landing at around 4:30PM. The views on approach were quite nice, and it was a fairly nice day by Shanghai standards.
While the touchdown itself was smooth, we had a ridiculously abrupt stop, as the pilots seemed to not only apply the reverse thrusters and speed brakes at high speeds, but also the actual brakes at high speeds. This caused the sensation of being pushed forward much more than usual (and this was in spite of the fact that we had plenty of runway remaining).
Clearly the crew didn’t correctly do their safety checks, because as we taxied in an older Chinese passenger walked back to her seat, having been in the lavatory during landing. As we taxied in, the flight attendant held her by the wrist and walked her back to her seat.
Fortunately our taxi to the gate took only a few minutes, and we were there by 4:35PM, almost an hour ahead of schedule.
We pulled in right next to a China Eastern A330. We arrived at a gate, which is a blessing, since on my last flight into Shanghai we had a remote stand, which wasn’t fun.
As we waited for the plane’s door to open, the flight attendant at L2 was texting on her phone, though turned around so she was facing the door rather than passengers, thinking passengers wouldn’t notice. I thought that was really unprofessional, to turn away from passengers as they deplane, rather than bid them farewell.
On that note, I should mention that while all Chinese airlines prohibit passengers from using cell phones on the plane (even in airplane mode), China Eastern didn’t seem to enforce that rule.
We deplaned through door L1, where we got to see the first class cabin, consisting of just six seats.
There were two center seats, which actually convert into double beds. This is the only first class product in the world that converts into a double bed, other than Singapore’s Suites Class.
On top of that there were four fully enclosed window seats.
Immigration was pretty quick, and within a few minutes we were off to the Grand Hyatt Shanghai.
China Eastern 777 business class bottom line
China Eastern has a lot of potential. Their new 777s have a great first & business class product, with reverse herringbone seats and wifi, making it the best hard product offered by an airline based in mainland China.
Unfortunately that’s where the positives end. The service was sloppy and borderline rude, the constant smoke in the cabin (and lying about it) was unpleasant, and the main courses were disgusting.
Still, China Eastern has a great hard product and wifi, which are two of the features of business class I value most.
It’s so disappointing when an airline has so much potential, but is a complete flop when it comes to the soft product.