Air China 747-8 First Class In 10 Pictures

Ni Hao from Beijing! I just got off my Air China 747-8 flight from San Francisco to Beijing in first class. There are a few reasons I was excited about this flight, not the least of which is that Air China is the only airline on which I haven’t flown the 747-8 (I’ve already flown the Lufthansa and Korean Air 747-8 aircraft several times — sadly those are the only three airlines that chose to order the plane).

Beyond that, I’ve always been fascinated by Chinese airlines, and the huge variance in quality. For example, I’ve had great experiences in Hainan business class and Xiamen business class, while my experiences in China Eastern business class and China Southern first class haven’t been so great.

So, how was my Air China 747-8 flight? Pretty great, overall. No, they’re not at risk of being ranked as offering one of the world’s best first class products, but compared to my other experiences in first class on Chinese airlines, this was a solid experience.

Air China’s 747-8 first class cabin consists of a total of 12 seats, spread across three rows in a 1-2-1 configuration. What’s odd, however, is where the cabin is located. Air China has 54 business class seats, spread across the nose and upper deck of the plane.

Meanwhile the first class cabin is on the main deck behind business class and in front of economy.

It’s an odd layout, but in fairness it means that the cabin is really spacious, given how wide the 747 cabin is. Off the top of my head I can’t think of any other airline operating the 747 that has a similar configuration in first class.

Air China’s first class seats aren’t fully enclosed, but they are semi-private, with permanent privacy shields along the side of the seat.

I was very impressed by the crew. Both of the flight attendants taking care of me were exceptionally friendly, polished, and well intentioned. In fairness, having two flight attendants taking care of just you doesn’t hurt either.

The food was the disappointing aspect of the flight. It wasn’t terrible, but there was absolutely nothing “first class” about it in terms of the quality or presentation. For example, in first class most airlines heat the elements of a dish individually and then plate them, while Air China takes the “casserole dish” approach, and just heats the whole dish and serves it.

Service began with warm mixed nuts, and was followed by Chinese appetizers, including a vegetable roll, eel, and pork.

Then there was a minestrone soup.

The main course was the strangest part. Air China has a “daily special,” where on different days of the week there’s a different special (which seems really weird for an airline). The only thing is that they didn’t have the Wednesday special, but rather had an off-menu special, which consisted of lobster. So I had that.

For dessert there was fruit, cheese, and cake.

The food was edible and fine, though completely unmemorable.

On the plus side, I found the bed to be extremely comfortable, and I got about six hours of sleep, which is about as much sleep as I’ll ever get on a plane.

There were also comfortable pajamas, as well as a L’Occitane amenity kit with a pretty limited number of items in it.

The entertainment selection was alright. Since there’s no wifi I watched a couple of movies.

I’ll have a full trip report soon, but overall Air China first class was better than I expected. The highlight was the excellent crew, the comfortable bed, and the lack of onboard smoking (at least that I could smell). However, there’s a lot of room for improvement when it comes to the food. I believe there’s very little differentiation between Air China’s first and business class catering, so in business class I would have been reasonably impressed, while for first class it left me disappointed.

Still, if you’re traveling to Beijing, it’s tough to beat the convenience of a nonstop flight on Air China.

If you’ve flown Air China first class, what was your experience like?

Comments

  1. I assume with this cabin layout, there is no way for First Class to deplane before Business Class?

  2. Funny, those plates look oddly like a Corelle pattern I saw at Bed, Bath, and Beyond the other day…

    With a product this poorly executed, why they even bother trying to sell it amazes me.

  3. FA’s have to walk through first to serve the forward most business cabin? Seems like a lot of traffic through the first cabin.

  4. The problem with calling this product F is that it invites comparisons to the competition. Vintage champagne, caviar, seat side tossed salad, farm-to-table ingredients, customization of service to fit personal needs, cappuccinos and full bedding. The experience was functional, not memorable.

  5. “I assume with this cabin layout, there is no way for First Class to deplane before Business Class?”

    Actually, I think CA gave the opposite as the reason for F in that part of the cabin. Easier to assure that F does deplane before J, and enjoys the widest possible cabin. Remember that L2 is the door most often used in a single jetway set up.

    “FA’s have to walk through first to serve the forward most business cabin? Seems like a lot of traffic through the first cabin.”

    There is a galley between the nose business cabin and the one behind it, which is in front of F. There is a galley directly behind F, which would allow for the FAs to not bother with the J cabin.

    https://www.seatguru.com/airlines/Air_China/Air_China_Boeing_747-8.php

    “What is the cabin pressure of 747-800?

    Is it the same as 787?”

    No. As a metal plane, the 747-8 can’t take advantage of the lower pressure altitude. That said, Boeing has put the 787’s humidification system on the 747-8, which is also helpful.

  6. I once flew their 777-300 to FRA from PEK and the first meal service literally consisted of pizza.

  7. We flew Air China’s Forbidden Pavilion in their 777 on a trip from Houston to Beijing back in March. Your description pretty much sums up our experience. Great seats and service, considering the language barrier, and nice amenities including the PJs.

  8. Are the seats upholstered in silk? If so, that´s impressive, even if we don´t know how long they will last…

  9. Last year we flew IAH-PEK in the Pavilion Class and there were only us. They did not load the F meals I could sense that as the FA told me “not to be bothered with the menu as there was none of the dish available.” Then she recited 4 different main courses to choose from and informed us 3 of them only 1 available, and the 4th had 2 available…
    Not only the foods not memorable, they were barely edible.

    Same amenities. The cloth bag is really flimsy though ironically I find it good to store a Tom Tom GPS when I need to minimize the space used (versus a hard case).

    As for services, well, can’t say it was good or bad…. They became very casual due to we are also Chinese… The crew just came to chit chat a lot, to the point I wanted to tell them to go away and let me have a few hours of sleep…

    Never again for us to fly them.

  10. The meal looks worse than the dog vomit DL served last summer in Business Class from ATH to JFK, and served on the same linoleum used for the floors in the lavatory.

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