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
While our last flight on China Eastern was extremely underwhelming, based on our layover we figured out that China Eastern was on to us. I was curious to see how this flight would compare, as a result.
China Eastern 231
Shanghai (PVG) – Colombo (CMB)
Thursday, July 28
Aircraft: Airbus A330-200
Seat: 3C (Business Class)
This flight was operated by one of China Eastern’s outdated A330s, featuring a total of 24 business class seats. The cabin was in a 2-2-2 configuration, with four rows of angled business class seats. This immediately reminded me of Malaysia’s former 777 business class, which had similar seats.
We had assigned ourselves seats 3A & 3C, on the left side of the cabin in the third row.
The seats had plentiful legroom, though the cabin did feel a bit outdated.
The personal televisions were located on the seatbacks, as well as coat hangers, magazine racks and pockets.
There was a small privacy partition between seats that could be extended.
The seat controls were located on the aisle-side armrest, and were easy to use.
Meanwhile the entertainment controls, as well as power outlet and headphone jack, were located underneath the center armrest.
Waiting at my seat were a pillow and blanket, which weren’t nearly as comfortable as the ones on the previous flight. The blanket in particular reminded me of what you may get in longhaul economy.
Also waiting at our seats were headphones, though they were flimsy ones that I assume are the same as in economy.
While the hard product on this flight was extremely underwhelming, the service wasn’t. This crew was incredible. Let me say right off the bat that clearly they were “briefed” on us, but they provided a level of service that I imagine the crew on our previous flight couldn’t have provided even if they wanted to. So while it was clear we were getting special treatment, I don’t know if they almost somehow staffed this flight with an “A-team” crew last minute, or what.
Upon boarding we first took some pictures of the seats, and then moments later Wendy came by to introduce herself, and even addressed us by name. She seemed to be a bit confused by our picture taking, and said “is there something special about this seat?” We laughed, and just explained that we loved trying new products.
Shortly thereafter she offered pre-departure beverages, with the choice between water, champagne, and orange juice. We were also offered warm towels.
The cabin filled up pretty quickly, and eventually 21 of the 24 business class seats were occupied. In the center section of the last row were two pilots in uniform.
We asked Wendy about this, and she explained that the crew does a same day turn from Shanghai to Colombo, so they have two sets of pilots — WOW! The flight is seven hours in each direction, with the outbound flight departing at 2PM, and the return flight getting back to Shanghai at 6AM the following morning. The crew had to be at the airport at 11:30AM for their briefing. That’s a long day!
The boarding door closed at 1:55PM, and the jet bridge was pulled. While there were no announcements from the pilots, about five minutes later Wendy came by our seats and said “I have some bad news…”
“…we are delayed by maybe one hour due to weather.”
Okay, of course I wasn’t happy about a delay, but I was expecting something much worse when she said she had bad news. For example, if our flight were canceled the rest of our trip would be thrown off completely.
The flight attendants still screened the safety video, and I found it pretty funny that they made a special announcement saying “anyone who smokes severely violates law and takes criminal responsibility.” Hear that, pilots? 😉
Since we were looking at an hour plus ground delay due to a thunderstorm, the crew closed the curtains between cabins and served us a snack, starting with setting tables.
I ordered a glass of champagne, and we were offered some sort of a salmon sandwich, grapes, and mixed nuts.
The dish itself wasn’t nearly as good as it looked, but I appreciated the effort.
What impressed me most was that they closed the curtains between cabins, and throughout the ground delay there were two flight attendants standing behind row four observing the cabin to see if anyone wanted anything.
After the snack we were offered more refills, though just requested some water.
I checked out the lavatory at the front of the cabin, which was spotless. The toilet paper was even folded over, as you’ll find on some premium airlines (and every subsequent time I visited the lavatory, it was equally spotless).
While the personal televisions were active on the ground, we got all the entertainment we needed from the lady seated across from us, who probably spent 30 minutes trying to get the perfect business class selfie.
She even gave us a spot in about half of her selfies.
After about 90 minutes, Wendy announced over the PA that “this flight has now been released due to weather conditions.” Moments later we began our pushback, and after that I noticed that the ramp agents were waving at us, just as you’ll find in Japan. Perhaps it’s standard in China as well, but I’ve never noticed it.
Our taxi to the departure runway was quick, as we taxied past a China Eastern A330 in the new livery (which I think looks much nicer).
At 3:40PM we were cleared for takeoff on runway 35R.
We hit some light chop on the climb out, but then the ride quickly smoothed out.
The seatbelt sign was turned off about five minutes after takeoff.
Shortly after that we were handed immigration cards for Sri Lanka.
After that the crew distributed some basic amenities, like a toothbrush and eyeshades.
Then we were presented with the menu for the flight, which Wendy proactively told us we could keep.
Much like on the last flight, there was an entire year worth of menus on this flight. However, this time it wasn’t strictly sorted by month, but also by whether it was the first or last half of a month.
The menu read as follows:
The beverage list read as follows:
Service once again began with warm towels.
After that tablecloths were distributed.
Then mixed nuts were served — I just had a still water to drink.
After that the entire meal was served at once. I find this a bit puzzling, given that it’s a daytime flight lasting over six hours. Even in the US the meal would typically be served in multiple courses.
Matthew had the steamed bossa fish.
Meanwhile I ordered the bolognaise with spaghetti, simply because I wasn’t especially hungry and figured I’d get a picture of the other option. The spaghetti was about as good as you’d expect.
There was no dessert, other than the fruit.
While the meal itself was underwhelming, this crew really was top notch. Again, I realize the crew was probably on their best behavior, though this crew was next-level excellent, so I almost feel like they weren’t just a “normal” crew.
After the meal, Wendy presented us with an adorable handwritten note telling us how important our suggestions are, and several times during the flight emphasized how she appreciated feedback on their service.
After the meal I briefly browsed the entertainment selection. The screens were really grainy, so the quality was horrible.
In terms of the selection itself, it also wasn’t very good.
There were a few western TV shows and movies, though that was about it.
We were rather tired at this point so decided to nap. I reclined my seat into the bed position, and saw just what horrible shape the seat was in. Usually I can’t sleep in angled seats, but in this case I was tired enough that I managed to get some shuteye. However, this was one of the bumpier flights I’ve had in a while, so I woke up every so often due to turbulence, along with the seatbelt sign going on.
When I woke up there was a bottle of water on the center console.
The airshow didn’t work for most of the flight (when I’d select it, the screen would just go black). However, prior to landing, as we approached Colombo, it worked again.
We had a smooth touchdown in Colombo at 7:25PM, and from there it was just a five minute taxi to the gate. Despite our 90 minute delay on departure, we ended up arriving only about 30 minutes late.
Upon arrival in Colombo we technically had to get a visa on arrival, though managed to get that waived since we were connecting within 24 hours. However, that required talking to the “chief immigration officer.”
China Eastern A330 business class bottom line
China Eastern’s regional A330s feature outdated seats and are in really bad shape. The food on this flight wasn’t very good either, with everything being served on one tray (which perhaps was a blessing, given the quality of the food).
However, the service on this flight was spectacular. It’s not just that the crew was on their best behavior, but they were so polished that I can’t imagine they had just received the standard training. I felt like I was on Singapore Airlines in terms of the friendliness, attentiveness, and poise, of the crew.
Too bad we couldn’t get a crew like this on our previous flight from Los Angeles to Shanghai…