Review: Xiamen Air Business Class 787 Seattle To Shenzhen

Introduction: Flying China’s Other 5-Star Airline
Review: Four Points By Sheraton Seattle Airport South
Review: The Club At SEA Seattle Airport
Review: Xiamen Air Business Class 787 Seattle To Shenzhen
Review: St. Regis Shenzhen
Review: Shenzhen Airport Lounge
Review: Xiamen Air First Class 787 Shenzhen To Seattle


Xiamen Air 846
Seattle (SEA) – Shenzhen (SZX)
Friday, September 30
Depart: 1:25PM
Arrive: 6:15PM (+1 day)
Duration: 13hr50min
Aircraft: Boeing 787-8
Seat: 12D (Business Class)

I boarded through door L2, where I was immediately greeted by two friendly and professional flight attendants. Upon verifying my boarding pass, one of them escorted me to my seat, which was to the left of the entry door.

Xiamen Air is one of only a couple of airlines to offer a first class cabin on their 787-8 aircraft, which consists of a total of four seats, in a 1-2-1 configuration (I’ll be reviewing first class for the return sector, as I managed to upgrade with cash at the airport).

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Xiamen Air 787 first class cabin

Immediately behind first class and also in front of door L2 were 12 business class seats. Xiamen Air offers pretty standard forward facing fully flat business class seats, in a 2-2-2 configuration. There were a total of 12 seats in this cabin, and then behind door L2 is another row of business class, for a total of 18 seats. The rear cabin feels private, though at the same time everyone walks past you during boarding, so there is something to be said for the forward business class cabin (which is still quite private).

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Xiamen Air 787 business class cabin

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Xiamen Air 787 business class cabin

As you can see, each seat had an ottoman in front of it, which becomes part of the bed when the seat is fully reclined.

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Xiamen Air 787 business class cabin

The bulkhead seats are unique in that the personal television is extended from the center console, rather than being attached to the seat in front (on this plane, 12 of the 18 business class seats have TVs like that, given that only one row is non-bulkhead).

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Xiamen Air 787 business class cabin

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Xiamen Air 787 business class legroom

I had assigned myself seat 12D, which was the center aisle seat on the left side in the second row of business class. I chose a seat in the center section so no one would have to climb over me in order to get out of their seat.

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Xiamen Air business class seats 787

At my seat I had a personal television attached to the seat in front of me, and also a coat hook and a small center storage compartment.

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Xiamen Air business class seats 787

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Xiamen Air business class seat 787

Also underneath the ottoman was another storage compartment, which was perfect for storing shoes, a laptop, etc.

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Xiamen Air business class seat 787

The seat controls were located on the center console, and were easy to use.

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Xiamen Air business class seat controls

The entertainment controller was located underneath the center armrest and to the right, though it could also be taken out so that it’s easier to control.

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Xiamen Air business class entertainment controls

There was also a small bottle holder underneath the center armrest, where there was a small bottle of water waiting for me.

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Xiamen Air bottled water

Within moments of settling in, one of the flight attendants came by my seat to introduce herself. She grabbed the slippers underneath my ottoman and placed them by my feet, asking that I take my shoes off so she could place them in the shoe bag. That’s incredible service for business class.

In general I haven’t found service on Chinese carriers to be great, though this crew was exceptional. They were so friendly, competent, charming, and poised.

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Xiamen Air business class slippers & shoe bag

Moments after the “slipper service,” a flight attendant offered me a hot towel, which was very thin, almost like a paper towel.

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Xiamen Air business class warm towel

Then I was offered a pre-departure beverage, with the choice between champagne and fruit tea.

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Xiamen Air business class pre-departure beverages

I selected the champagne, as did my seatmate (he was originally from China but lived in Seattle for 20 years, and was traveling back with his two friends, who were seated across from him).

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Xiamen Air business class pre-departure champagne

As boarding continued I was eventually offered an amenity kit, from Crabtree & Evelyn.

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Xiamen Air business class amenity kit by Crabtree & Evelyn

The amenity kit was reasonably well stocked, with earplugs, an eye mask, a comb, a toothbrush and toothpaste, lip balm, lotion, and an iPhone pouch. I found the iPhone pouch especially interesting. It was basically a velvet pouch with strings and the Xiamen logo, that almost looked like a jewelry bag. I had no clue what it was until the flight attendant explained it to me.

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Xiamen Air business class amenity kit contents

I was also presented with headphones for the flight, which were decent quality, though I still used my own, as usual.

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Xiamen Air business class headphones

The first class cabin stayed empty for most of the boarding process, until a guy finally boarded with a huge entourage, and a lot of shopping bags. Best I could tell there were several Xiamen Air management employees in business class, and he chatted with them for a bit.

My first assumption was that this was Xiamen Air’s president. So I Googled for a picture of Xiamen Air’s president, and sure enough, that was him.

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Xiamen Air president in first class

By 1:15PM the main cabin door closed, and within a couple of minutes the welcome aboard announcements were made. As this was done, the flight attendants stood at the front of the cabin and bowed. I love Xiamen Air’s flight attendant uniforms, and also was impressed by how poised the crew was as they stood at the front of the cabin and then bowed.

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Xiamen Air flight attendants bowing

After that the safety video played, which I found to be hilariously over enunciated.

Then eventually the crew came through the cabin with signs reminding passengers to turn off their electronics (on one hand it seems a bit trashy to walk through a cabin with signs, while on the other hand I guess it’s quite effective).

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Xiamen Air flight attendants telling passengers to turn off electronics

By the way, I should also mention that on Xiamen Air passengers had no issues using their cell phone throughout the flight when in airplane mode. At least in the past this was banned by the Chinese aviation authority, so I’m not sure if that has changed, or what.

At 1:20PM we began our pushback, and taxied out to runway 16L, which is on the opposite side of the airport. Since I was in the center section I couldn’t really see out the window, but by 1:40PM we began our takeoff roll.

Our climb out was smooth, and five minutes after takeoff the seatbelt sign was turned off, at which point the crew closed the curtains between cabins.

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Xiamen Air business class cabin after takeoff

After that I decided to browse the personal television selection. I started by looking at the airshow, which had various perspectives from which you could view the progress of the flight.

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Airshow enroute to Shenzhen

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Airshow enroute to Shenzhen

I sort of wish I had a window view, since the views as you depart Seattle and fly North up the coast are stunning.

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Airshow enroute to Shenzhen

I also then browsed the entertainment selection.

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Xiamen Air entertainment selection

The movie selection was decent enough. There were about 40 titles from which to choose, though for the most part the movies didn’t appeal to me.

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Xiamen Air entertainment selection

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Xiamen Air entertainment selection

There were also some TV shows, though those were especially bad. There were no western sitcoms, and the only comedy choice I considered was “Just For Laughs.”

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Xiamen Air entertainment selection

The good news is that Xiamen Air offers wifi on their 787s, and it’s free. Not all 787s have wifi yet — I thought they did, but learned the hard way on the return flight, when I found out that plane didn’t. However, I believe most of them do.

To log into the wifi you just need to enter your seat number and the last six digits of your ID (I entered my passport number, and it worked, though I’m not sure if there was actually any validation).

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Xiamen Air inflight wifi log-in

Then you also needed to enter a verification code. This is a bit puzzling, since you have to ask the crew for it. They generate a unique code for each passenger.

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Xiamen Air inflight wifi log-in code

With that I was able to log-in and stay connected to the wifi for the entire flight. While the system was by no means high speed, the quality was decent enough, especially when you consider that it’s free. With the exception of JetBlue, it was probably the fastest free wifi I’ve ever had.

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Xiamen Air inflight wifi log-in

After takeoff the flight attendants distributed pajamas. They came in plastic packaging, though the flight attendants offered to unwrap them for each passenger. It’s impressive that they offer these in business class, though I was a bit surprised the flight attendant gave me XXL pajamas.

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Xiamen Air business class pajamas

The pajamas were decent quality, though a bit too big for me, as I expected.

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Xiamen Air business class pajamas

Also after takeoff I was offered a light blanket in addition to the pillow that was at my seat during boarding.

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Xiamen Air business class pillow & blanket

Later in the flight I was offered a thick blanket when I was ready to sleep, which was extremely comfortable.

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Xiamen Air business class duvet

I also briefly checked out the business class lavatories. There were two of them located between the business class cabins, and they were pretty standard for a 787. One thing I found odd is that they didn’t have paper towels in the lavatory, but rather only had tissues. However, every time I emerged from the lavatory a flight attendant would be standing outside to offer me a hot towel, which I found… interesting.

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Xiamen Air business class lavatory

One of the other cool things was that the lavatories had windows. Given that the cabin windows were dimmed throughout the flight, this was a nice way to occasionally get some natural light and check out the views.

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Wing view enroute to Shenzhen

About 20 minutes after takeoff meal orders were taken. I hadn’t realized that there was a menu in the seat’s literature pocket since boarding, so I was caught off guard when I was asked what I wanted to eat.

The menu read as follows:

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The drink list read as follows:

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About 30 minutes after takeoff the captain came on the PA to advise us of our flight time of 13hr30min, and that he anticipated a mostly smooth flight.

It took a while after takeoff for the crew to get everything set up, and finally about an hour into the flight the crew served drinks and mixed nuts, along with offering warm towels. I ordered a glass of champagne, which was a very nice Perrier-Jouet Grand Brut.

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Xiamen Air business class lunch — mixed nuts, towel, and champagne

About 20 minutes later the crew distributed the appetizer and salad tray.

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Xiamen Air business class lunch — salad, appetizer, and bread

The salad was fairly plain, though had tasty and crunchy croutons.

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Xiamen Air business class salad

Meanwhile the peppered beef appetizer was quite flavorful.

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Xiamen Air business class appetizer — peppered beef with quail egg and crab salad

I was also offered two types of bread.

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Xiamen Air business class lunch bread

While Xiamen Air’s business class catering is all on trays, it’s interesting that they offer a new tray with each course. In other words, once my salad and appetizer were cleared that tray was taken, and then I was brought another tray with the main course and soup.

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Xiamen Air business class main course

I had ordered the ginseng chicken soup, which was extremely flavorful.

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Xiamen Air business class main course — American ginseng chicken soup

Then I ordered the stir-fried lobster tail with vegetables, which was incredible. Again, it was extremely flavorful.

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Xiamen Air business class main course — stir-fried lobster tail with vegetables

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Xiamen Air business class main course — rice

After the main course was finished, I was brought another tray with fruit and dessert.

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Xiamen Air business class dessert

The fruit plate consisted of a few types of melon, pineapple, and strawberry.

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Xiamen Air business class dessert — fresh fruit

I was also offered a refreshing lime tart.

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Xiamen Air business class dessert — lime tart

After that was cleared, I was offered Haagen-Dazs vanilla ice cream as well.

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Xiamen Air business class dessert — ice cream

I was also offered coffee. Unfortunately they didn’t have cappuccinos, but the coffee itself was decent.

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Xiamen Air business class coffee

The entire meal service took a bit over two hours, and overall I was extremely impressed by the quality of the food and the friendliness of the crew, both of which greatly exceeded my expectations.

I worked for a bit on my laptop, and soon enough we were already over Anchorage.

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Airshow enroute to Shenzhen

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Airshow enroute to Shenzhen

I decided to work for a few more hours. Maybe three hours after lunch a flight attendant proactively brought me a vanilla latte in a Starbucks cup, which I thought was cute.

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Starbucks vanilla latte in Xiamen Air business class

When I went to the galley I saw that they had packages of Starbucks Via instant vanilla lattes set up on a galley cart. I’m not sure if this is a standard offering, or just something to celebrate the launch of their Seattle flight.

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Starbucks vanilla latte in Xiamen Air business class

I was also offered more bottled water throughout the flight. I appreciated that they had lots of bottled water, as some airlines only load one bottle per person.

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More bottled water

With about five hours to go to Shenzhen, I was quite tired and decided to try to nap. Unfortunately that was unsuccessful, as the cabin was so noisy. Despite the intimate cabin of just 12 seats, there were multiple parties having loud conversations, and also a couple of people (including my seatmate) playing games on their cell phones without muting the sound.

I still stayed in the horizontal position for a couple of hours, and I got a bit of rest.

The crew was so attentive throughout the flight, and came through the cabin every few minutes to see if anyone wanted anything.

A bit over three hours before landing the crew turned on the cabin lights in preparation for the pre-landing meal.

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Airshow enroute to Shenzhen

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Airshow enroute to Shenzhen

The pre-arrival menu read as follows:

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While meal orders were taken three hours before landing, the actual meal service only began about 45 minutes later.

Service once again began with hot towels.

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Xiamen Air business class warm towel

That was followed by a tray with a salad, appetizer, and piece of garlic bread.

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Xiamen Air business class dinner

The salad consisted of walnuts, cucumbers, and dried cranberries.

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Xiamen Air business class dinner salad

The starter had cajun chicken and king crab, and was excellent.

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Xiamen Air business class appetizer — cajun chicken and king crab

While a bit soggy, the garlic bread was still quite good.

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Xiamen Air business class dinner garlic bread

After the appetizer and salad tray was cleared, I was brought the main course tray.

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Xiamen Air business class dinner

I decided to mix things up and order the creamy tomato soup.

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Xiamen Air business class dinner — creamy tomato soup

Then I had the stir fried shrimp with vegetables and Szechuan sauce, which was excellent.

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Xiamen Air business class dinner — stir fried shrimp with vegetables and Szechuan sauce

That was served with a side of fried noodles.

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Xiamen Air business class dinner — fried noodles

After that tray was cleared, I was brought a tray with fruit and a chocolate cake.

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Xiamen Air business class dinner dessert

The fruit was tasty, and I appreciated that the selection was somewhat different than the fruit served with the first meal.

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Xiamen Air business class dinner dessert — fresh fruit

The chocolate cake was much bigger than it looked, and had a soft center.

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Xiamen Air business class dinner dessert — chocolate cake

After that I was also offered some Chobani yogurt, ,though I was full at that point. Much like with the first meal, I was very impressed.

After the meal I decided to watch a couple of episodes of “Just For Laughs,” given that I was tired at this point, and couldn’t really think anymore.

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Xiamen Air entertainment

Xiamen Air’s president came to business class to talk to some of his colleagues who were seated in the bulkhead row. He had stayed in first class for the entire flight, so naturally once he came to business class the crew was nervous as could be, and they all stood there seeing if they could get him anything (in fairness, they had been attentive to everyone throughout the flight).

Finally at around 5:50PM Shenzhen time, the captain came on the PA to provide us with updated arrival information, and informed us we may have to enter a holding pattern for a short while. Sure enough we did enter one for about 10 minutes. At this point the crew began preparing the cabin for arrival, including once again walking through the cabin with the “no electronics” signs.

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Airshow approaching Shenzhen

Finally at 6:20PM we touched down in Shenzhen. As we touched down I heard one guy clapping and cheering loudly, and then realized it was the company’s president. Not surprisingly, others followed his lead.

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Airshow approaching Shenzhen

Our taxi to the arrival gate took about 10 minute. They were deplaning through door L2, so they brought the president to the very front of the plane. However, he saw that the captain had emerged from the cockpit, so he yelled “Tommy” and seemed to congratulate him on the good job he did flying, to the point that he gave him a noogie.

The president had one of the most impressive welcoming committees I’ve ever seen. I was the second person off the plane, and below is what the jet bridge looked like as I walked off. Of course there was a special car waiting for him.

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Xiamen Air president’s entourage

Fortunately it was just a short walk to immigration, where there was no queue. Within about 15 minutes I was in a car to the St. Regis Shenzhen.

Xiamen Air business class bottom line

Xiamen Air very nicely exceeded my expectations. Let’s start with the negative, which is the hard product. It’s perfectly fine, but for a longhaul flight it would be nice to have direct aisle access from every seat, and not to have a seatmate.

However, everything else about the flight impressed me, from the friendly crew to the excellent food to the free wifi. As far as I’m concerned, Xiamen is on the same level as Hainan, which is a Skytrax 5-star airline.

In the past I’ve said that “business class is all about the hard product,” and I still generally believe that. However, I’d take Xiamen or Hainan business class over China Eastern’s reverse herringbone business class any day, given how pathetic their service is.

Too bad there’s not yet a Chinese airline with the service of Xiamen or Hainan and the hard product of China Eastern.

All things considered I’d highly recommend Xiamen Air, though.

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Comments

  1. Isn’t China Airlines very close to the service level of Haninan and Xiamen? They are based in Taipei but they are a Chinese carrier (China airlines ) and they have the best hard product out of all of them.

  2. Not to be skeptical or anything, but could the level of service be because of the presence of the president of the company on board? Want to hear your review on the return if the level of service was the same!

  3. @Ryan I think EVA Air might be the better Taiwanese carrier, though China Airlines is also great. They both have reverse herringbone seats though I’m not sure their level of service was as great as Hainan or Xiamen, based on Lucky’s reviews.

  4. @ Ryan — Totally agree, EVA and China Airlines are much better. However, for the purposes of this I’m not including a Taiwanese carrier as a Chinese carrier, much like I’m not including Cathay Pacific.

  5. @ John Sia — I was skeptical and had the same thought, but the service on the return was even better. There’s only so much you can “fake” service, especially since many airlines just don’t train their crews to such a high level. I think Xiamen Air is just in a higher league than most Chinese carriers.

  6. @Asia that is an awful analogy. The airline is called “China Airlines”. Libya’s airline is not called “Air Saudi”

  7. @Ryan : China Airlines (CI) has NOTHING to do with Mainland China. It’s 100% Taiwanese airline because the formal name of Taiwan is Republic of China.

  8. @Ryan well Taiwan’s official name is the Republic of China whereas mainland China is officially the People’s Republic of China.

  9. #tbt the days when I was living in Fuzhou, China.

    Almost 19 years since the first time I flew MF, they still get this sign reminding ppl turning off electronic devices. Guess things havnt changed much in 2 decades 🙂

  10. Glenfiddich 15 in J is a great offering. While US carriers continue to offer Dewar white label in F. @Lucky, why don’t US airlines put even the slightest bit of effort into their alcohol catering?

  11. Benjamin: XXL? Well don’t act so surprised, honey, clearly it looks like somebody might have become a bit rotund, or shall we say, widebodied. I know whose fat little fingers have been too liberal with those Little Debbie Snack Cakes! Well, honey, you don’t have to worry about a thing because my husband and I are still loyal fan of yours. We would love to invite you to Western Estates’ Wintertacular! To where should we send the invitation?

    P.S. We will make sure we’ve got all the snack cakes that will fit in that little tummy of yours!

  12. @Asia

    I wouldn’t put SQ and AC on the same level, either.
    Going through all the countries in that list, I can’t really consider US airlines “outliers”…

  13. Any issues with smoke ( like you pointed out in previous reviews of China carriers)?

    Thanks for this useful review. Must say the food looks good and I especially like the plating of the fruit.

    Nice to hear about the president cheering. Pretty good employee affirmation and motivation !

  14. @Asia

    Don’t think income per captia is at play here. The problem of “big three” (CA, MU, and CZ) Chinese airlines is the lack of competition. They don’t need to improve service on their long-haul international routes since they profit mostly from domestic market where they dominates. They don’t really care about competing with foreign carriers. Similar reason applies to DL, UA and AA. While for airlines such as CX, SQ or CI, they don’t have domestic market so they have to be competitive.

  15. Great Review! I’m planning a trip to Thailand in a couple of weeks. I was going to use miles but now I’m seriously considering flying from SFO to SEA and snagging one of the sub 2k fares on Xiamen (SEA, SZX, XIA, BKK) . I was a bit nervous as I couldn’t find any b-class reviews but this one has set my mind at ease.

    Thanks!

  16. @Jake P – Nice to see others have similar priorities to myself. Good Scotch is a must on a long-haul flight.

  17. @ Lucky

    Have you heard anything about Xiamen’s partnership with Alaska? I’ve seen this new partnership reported in print in both Seattle and Xiamen, but haven’t heard anything from Alaska. I’m hoping the Mileage Plan program links up quickly so we can see something similar to the great earning potential on Hainan.

  18. As for phones in flight mode Dragonair have stream to your own device entertainment and iPhone/Android app and it’s well used. Can’t be a regulatory thing anymore…

  19. I was on this same flight, back in coach. I can tell you that they still have a policy against cellphones even in flight mode, as I was asked to shut mine off 🙁

  20. This review about China based Xiamen Airline really opened my eyes. Looking forward to try it someday.
    One question, I see the seat cushion and the ottoman are same leather and water proof. Personally, i think it is not comfortable, what do you think?

  21. A perfect and decent airways from my hometown Xiamen! I am very proud that Xiamen Airways is recognised by Lucky!

  22. As this was a chinese airline, was there any “great china firewall” for the wifi? I mean, did all pages work, including google and social networking sites, which are usually blocked in mainland china?

  23. For anyone considering booking Xiamen air based on this review I’d like to share my experience. On October 24 I booked a biz ticket from SEA -BKK with a layover in Xiamen. Six days later I received a very brief email stating my return flight from BKK was cancelled.

    ‘we re sorry to inform you that flight MF 834 20 NOV, from Bangkok to Xiamen has been cancelled due to company flight rescheduling. For more information please contact the agency where you booked your ticket. ‘

    I called the number on the website and after waiting on hold for 15 minutes I spoke with an agent who was unable to locate my ticket using the ticket number provided by Xiamen Air. She was able to locate some record using my passport number, however she is not able to cancel my ticket because she doesn’t know my ticket number.

    Overall this is the highest degree of incompetence I’ve encountered dealing with a reservation office. So a warning, if you do book Xiamen Air don’t count on having your ticket honored and don’t expect a refund to be easy.

  24. I had a great Business Class flight from Seattle to Shenzhen on December 7th, returning in Coach on December 19th. I had a very similar experience to the account detailed in this article, and it was also my very first ever long haul Business Class flight. I loved it. Service was outstanding, food, seat, airplane, all outstanding. Coach on the way home was a bummer in comparison, but the food was much better than Delta Airlines long haul offerings, and the 787 beats any other plane in the sky in my experience for overall comfort. I and my girlfriend (who lives in China) spent 4 nights in Xiamen and I can recommend that as well. Great town and the beach is super.

  25. Hi Lucky:
    What is a better redemption option for flights from SEA to SZX? Is it possible to use delta miles to book Xiamen air flights from SEA to SZX? Or should I look into a different mileage program?

    Thanks!

  26. Wow, thanks for the great review Lucky.

    I’m doing some flight searches now for December and the cheapest business class flights were for Xiamen. I admit I have never heard of them before and this is the first time the airline came up on any search engines for me (I used cheap tickets).

    For the price, this seems like a great value. Plus it’s a member of Sky Team, which is a bonus.

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