Hello from Seattle! I just flew Xiamen Air’s 787 first class between Shenzhen and Seattle. As I explained in a previous post, I was on a discounted business class ticket, but managed to upgrade to first class at the airport for cash.
I’ve enjoyed reviewing the various products of Chinese airlines, including Air China business class, China Southern first class, China Eastern business class, Hainan business class, etc., so was curious to see how Xiamen Air’s first class product compared.
As some of you may remember, my China Southern first class flight a couple of years back was less than stellar, and China Southern owns a majority stake in Xiamen Air, so… 😉
Xiamen Air’s 787 first class cabin is intimate, consisting of a single row in a 1-2-1 configuration. It’s not an especially private product, but is comfortable, and a nice upgrade over the 2-2-2 business class configuration. The seat is virtually identical to China Southern’s A330 first class, which I also flew a couple of years back.
Oddly there were already three passengers in first class when I boarded, despite the fact that the flight showed as being “F3” (meaning in theory I was the only passenger). Business class was sold out, so I suspect they were either operational upgrades or employees.
I was a bit surprised to find that first class amenities were the same as in business class, including the amenity kit, pajamas, etc. The menu was even identical, which really surprised me. It’s not that it was a fluke, as the menu specifically said it was “first class,” but it mirrored what they had in business class.
The difference was that the plating in first class was significantly better. So while it was the same food, there were no trays used. Overall the food was excellent, though, even if it wasn’t “first class.” The reality is that Xiamen Air’s business class catering (food & drinks) is better than what China Southern had in first class when I flew them.
While the food was identical and just plated better, in first class Xiamen Air has proper bedding, including a mattress sheet. So I got a solid six hours of sleep, thanks primarily to the fact that this plane didn’t have wifi (I was planning on working the whole flight because I thought the flight would have wifi, but it didn’t — oops!).
They also had a few cute touches to the service, like a scented card they gave me when I went to sleep, which the crew insisted would make me sleep better.
Speaking of the crew, I really can’t say enough good things about them. They were fabulous beyond words. I commented on how good the crew was on the way out, though I was cautious about drawing too many conclusions, since the company’s president was on the flight.
This crew was every bit as good, if not better. They were charming, so incredibly attentive, and had an eye for detail. It was like flying with a great crew on JAL, Singapore Airlines, or Cathay Pacific. The fact that there were two flight attendants assigned to four passengers didn’t hurt either.
Every time they placed a fork or knife on my tray they did so with incredible precision. Every time they served me something they’d gesture towards it and say “please enjoy.” Every time they served me a coffee it had different “art” on it. They had the most genuine smiles, and during the meals would bring out extra things and say “this is delicious, you must try it.”
The crew was so genuine and lovely, so that was really the most pleasant part of the experience.
While Xiamen Air doesn’t do a lot to differentiate their soft product in business and first class, the overall feeling I came away with is what a professional operation the airline runs. The flight attendants on both sectors were incredible, the food delicious, and the amenities excellent, at least by business class standards.
If you upgrade to first class, don’t do so with the expectation of being offered Krug and caviar. Instead do it for the added privacy and personal space.
Regardless, all around Xiamen Air greatly exceeded my expectations, and is in the same league as Hainan.