China Eastern owns Shanghai Airlines, hence both earn miles with SkyTeam airlines. They were serving the Shanghai to Hong Kong routes with A320/A321s and A330s respectively, so I chose the latter, and luckily it was priced at the same cheap $64 one way as the rest of China Eastern’s flights. This way I could try a more regional airline and still credit my miles to Delta.
I was excited that my flight departed from Hongqiao, the secondary airport in Shanghai. Our friends said I should count on an hour to the airport from their home in central Pudong, but to my surprise the ride took a mere 28 minutes.
Just like Pudong Airport, and most other means of transport in Shanghai based on my experience, there was a security check at the door. They quickly scanned my bags and I entered the check-in area, which was relatively nice and appeared to contain a Chinese celebrity (judging by the fact that everyone was photographing her). It’s worth noting that since my flight was international, it departed from the much smaller terminal 2, which is not used by the majority of flights out of Hongqiao.
After clearing security and passport control in only 5 minutes, I had time to kill. I ended up doing what any travel blogger without lounge access would do (not that there were any good lounges to use) and wandered around the entire terminal. It was dirty and had virtually no good restaurants, which was unexpected since the entrance check-in hall gave such a good impression.
Eventually, I proceeded to my gate on the lower floor. This area was even dirtier than upstairs, but I decided to stay because of the great view of the tarmac.
I asked the gate attendant if I could change seats and she gladly let me come around to the computer and pick it myself. I found the rest of the ground staff to be equally friendly.
Shanghai Airlines Flight 837
Shanghai (SHA) to Hong Kong (HKG)
October 7, 2016
Aircraft: Airbus A330-300
Seat: 32L (Economy)
Once boarding commenced, we were put on a bus and driven less than 50 meters to where the aircraft was parked. My first thought when I saw our A330, which is usually such a stunning aircraft, was how they could possibly have made it look any uglier. The livery looks beyond dated and the aircraft was filthy.
I proceeded up the stairs where I was greeted by the crew, who were alright considering the language barrier.
Before heading for my seat, I took a quick peek into business class, which looked pretty nice for a two hour flight. There’s certainly novelty to flying an A330 on a flight this short.
The economy cabin itself looked decent and the seat was fine. No one was seated next to me, which made the flight a lot more comfortable, but overall the legroom and seat width were alright. The cabin was around 50% full.
Once the safety video started playing I realized the video screen in front of me didn’t work. The crew walked past it several times during the screening and didn’t raise an eyebrow.
Meanwhile, boarding had been completed 20 minutes prior to our scheduled departure. We ended up waiting for 40 minutes before we pushed back and took off almost an hour behind schedule. Even while we were at the gate I got told off for using any electronic device – and as I was reminded, phones are strictly forbidden in flight mode as well. I could hardly see, never mind take pictures, through all the dirt on my window anyway.
Once in the air, the man in front of me reclined his seat. Wow – the recline was ridiculously generous in these seats. That’s clearly positive or negative depending on who is the one reclining.
Just a few minutes later the crew served a hot dinner. There was a choice between pork with noodles or seafood rice. With some hesitation, I chose the latter. It was served with a bread roll and butter, “mustard silk,” a mystery meat potato salad, melon, Biscoff cookies and water.
So, what to say… The rice was completely inedible (I could borderline taste the flavor of food poisoning) and the top right starter was equally bad.
Thankfully, the fruit was fresh and the Biscoff cookies were good.
I also liked that the meal came with a wipe.
This so called “mustard silk” was an adventure – and not a very enjoyable one sadly.
The white bread was as pale and nutrition-less as they come – I loved it! The crew brought me more when I asked, which I appreciated.
After enduring the oversized mess of a meal, I got some work done. Shanghai Airlines offers wifi, though it had to be preordered, which I hadn’t remembered despite Ben having mentioned that in the past as well.
Every time I looked up there was something amusing to see. At one point, the man in front of me with the reclined seat was using his phone. Without a word a male attendant suddenly rushed over, grabbed the phone out of the man’s hand and turned it off. OK…
Before landing I also saw one of the female flight attendants cutting her nails on the counter in the galley.
Soon enough we started our descent into Hong Kong and the seatbelt sign was turned on. I quite enjoyed the views as we flew in, especially with the wing view I had managed to get.
We touched down 20 minutes behind schedule and had a quick taxi to the gate.
While disembarking I managed to snap a few pictures of the business class cabin again.
I had an entertaining first flight on a Chinese airline. The crew were fine to me, though I know Chinese people often have a different way of communicating with each other. I’m not sure if the flight attendant snatching the phone would be considered acceptable, or the flight attendant cutting her nails on the counter in front of passengers, but I found that lack of traditional service mindedness a little shocking. The food could also have been influenced by my preference for western-friendly food. The rice tasted like food poisoning waiting to happen, so I wasn’t going to risk anything. Overall though, I’d have a hard time refusing to fly Shanghai Airlines again given the price, especially when the second cheapest option was $250+. I’ll see it as cheap entertainment next time around.
Would you fly Shanghai Airlines if the price was right?