Air China 737 Business Class In 10 Pictures

Hello from Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia! After flying Air China’s 747-8 first class from San Francisco to Beijing, I spent a night in Beijing before continuing the next morning to Mongolia. I think a lot of people assume it’s tough to get from the US to Mongolia, but there are several options that will get you there in just one stop, so it’s quite accessible.

Of course I’ll have a full trip report soon, but in the meantime I wanted to share my initial impressions.

This flight was operated by one of Air China’s 737s, which I hadn’t flown before. While perhaps not the most modern livery, there is something I love about Air China’s distinctive planes.

Air China’s 737s have a total of 12 business class seats, spread across three rows in a 2-2 configuration. The purple seat finishes seem like they’re a bit overdone, but hey, maybe other people like it more.

The seats were similar to what you might find on a domestic flight within the US, except the legroom was better and there was a legrest. I’d say the seat pitch was maybe 40″, which is great for a flight of under two hours.

Continuing with the bright colors, there was a purple pillow and red blanket. The blanket came packaged, while the pillow didn’t.

There were also slippers, which you don’t often see on a two hour flight.

There were only two other people in business class, and there were two flight attendants taking care of us. Much like on the last flight, the crew was exceptionally attentive and well intentioned. I realize it’s a limited sample size, but based on most of my recent flights, I feel like service on Chinese airlines is starting to improve significantly.

The flight left before 9AM, though they still served drinks with nuts after takeoff.

For breakfast there was the choice between a Western and Chinese option. Since I prefer not eating pork, I went with the Western option, though even that had pork.

The Western option consisted of an omelet with ham and something else that I couldn’t identify, a pastry or croissant on the side, and cereal.

Then for dessert there was a little fruit plate.

The pilots didn’t smoke on this flight (at least not that I could smell), so I appreciated that. The cabin crew was also extremely attentive for the entire two hour flight, and constantly offered drink refills, etc.

There are certainly some quirks to flying with Air China, though. For example, they always leave the seatbelt sign on, and just push the button again when there’s turbulence. To me this seems counter productive, but whatever.

Furthermore, they prepare the cabin for landing way early, about 40 minutes out, but that seems to be how they’re trained. That’s a third of the flight where you can’t use your electronics, the window shades have to be open, seat upright, etc.

And then there’s the stupid cell phone rule, which still applies.

Anyway, the good news is that I was more than happy looking out the window for the tail end of the flight, given the views flying over Mongolia. We had a pretty roundabout approach, which was almost like free flightseeing, as we got a little tour of the area surrounding Ulaanbaatar.

Overall Air China exceeded my expectations. The flight attendants were attentive and friendly, the cabin was relatively clean, and the flight was on-time.

Comments

  1. @Lucky- If you don’t mind me asking, will you ever be able to review an Air Transat flight preferably between Canada and Europe? I haven’t found a good one on the internet and I really like your reviews.

  2. Just did PEK-SYX in air china first. Same experience. Super friendly crew, great attention to detail, all around a fantastic flight that exceeded my expectations.

    It made me want to try them internationally in F now….so I can’t wait to read you review to see if it is worth the miles!!

  3. Seriously Ben, you had a couple of flights on 1 Chinese airline with smoking pilots; do you really have to state “The pilots on this flight did/didn’t smoke.” every time you fly a Chinese airline now?

    If that the case, should you report whether “the staff did/didn’t drag or hit a passenger.” every time you fly United?

  4. I fly Chinese airlines twice a week. Service is still horrible. You don’t know what you’re talking about so shove it.

  5. I’m Chinese.

    The pilot smoking stereotype is bad. There’s not many crew that would smoke onboard.

    Although the service on the international sector seems bad when comparing to others, XD if someone can complain about the service that the Chinese airlines provide when flying domestically, he/she’d probably from heaven. After flying domestic flights in West Europe and US, I can jump into that conclusion, because I don’t expect Africa and Russia to have better service than WE or US.

  6. @Sunshine Wang
    Why so hostile. Why don’t you just mention to Ben that you have more flying experience on Chinese airlines recently and it not improving as much as he thinks.

  7. The reason that they leave the seatbelt sign on the whole time, prepare the cabin early etc is because Chinese customers are rude AF and don’t follow the cabin crews instructions. They play that audio before the flight takes off saying that there are penalties and you could go to jail blah blah blah but no one cares because no cabin crew will ever make an example of someone for fear of losing face.

  8. @Jason, hahaha you are right! @Lucky, Ben you have to report dragging passengers for every UA report.

  9. I don’t quite understand why Lucky would use a very strange tone to talk about China all the time.

  10. @jason I actually fly to China at least once a month (both international and domestic routes) and I find that there is smoking on about 75% of the flights, so I do not think it is at all unfair that he brings this up. In fact, as someone that reads his reviews regularly, particularly for Asian flights, I find that incredibly helpful.

  11. So Air China is another airline that bans phones in flight mode usage as well?

    If so, i cant take photos. Lol

  12. @Flyingfish

    All Chinese carriers ban phones even if they are in flight mode. That’s also why I tend to avoid them.

  13. @Flyingfish It’s not an airline policy, but the government (CAAC) bans cell phones on all Chinese airlines. Airlines had complained about the rule, fearing they might loose competitiveness on international flights, but CAAC doesn’t do shit.

  14. The seats look like something you’d find on a U.S. airline in the 1980s.

    But otherwise quite elegant — especially the large white linen tablecloth and the crockery. I like how the cocktail napkin has the Air China logo placed in just the right spot for a picture. Whether intentional or not, it looks great.

    The food itself looks a little weak. I’d be curious to know if a Westerner with a stomach not accustomed to Chinese food safety can eat Chinese airline food, even prepared Western-style. After all, I’ve always been told that China was like Mexico in that you don’t drink the water, don’t drink anything with ice and avoid local fayre.

  15. Trust me, you want a no cell phone rule in China. 11th year living here and many people like to use “shout mode” on their phones or watch video at full blast. I’ve been giving out those disposable headphones from hotel gyms on flights and trains as a hint. Even works sometimes.

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