After a great flight from Los Angeles to Xiamen on Xiamen Air’s Boeing 787-9, it was time to connect from Xiamen to Chengdu. Generally my experiences flying within China haven’t been great, including the lounges, planes, airport experience, etc. This was very different.
Xiamen Airport was mostly a breeze to connect at. While most Chinese airports just have contract lounges for domestic flights, Xiamen Air operates their own lounge in the domestic terminal, which was gorgeous. It was by far the nicest Chinese domestic airline lounge I’ve ever seen.
During my layover I noticed something a bit unusual. I have a tendency to track my flights a lot more than necessary, including the seatmaps, how full they are, etc. Hours before departure I noticed that our flight to Chengdu was showing as “F8J8,” meaning that they were selling eight first and business class seats. I found that a bit odd, given that our flight was scheduled to be operated by a 737-800, which features just eight business class seats.
Given that at a minimum the two of us were in business class, that didn’t make sense. I chalked it up to a glitch, and didn’t put much thought into it. We were driven to our remote stand in a special business class bus, which once again greatly exceeded my expectations. I’m used to being in buses to remote stands that resemble sardine cans, while we could comfortably sit in this bus.
And then it all made sense — we pulled up to a 757-200 rather than 737-800. Don’t get me wrong, in absolute terms this wasn’t actually that exciting, but as an aviation geek there’s something thrilling about not getting what you were expecting.
Even more surprising than the exterior was the interior. Xiamen Air has four 757s, though as it turns out, we were on the only one that features three classes of service.
There was a first class cabin, consisting of just eight seats, in a 2-2 configuration. These seats were identical to American’s old business class product, aside from the finishes.
Immediately behind that was a small business class cabin, consisting of eight seats, in a 2-2 configuration. That’s where we’d be seated, along with the six other business class passengers. There was one lady seated in first class, but she didn’t get any service.
While there were overhead monitors playing TV shows, I was also pleasantly surprised that personal entertainment systems were distributed for the roughly two hour flight.
This flight left at 7:30AM and had breakfast service, though I can’t say it was really up my alley. The choice was between plain congee and mixed-grain porridge. Either option was served with a pear-style steamed bun, fried salted cake, purple rice meatball, steamed coco twisted roll, fruit plate, and marinated egg.
The crew was courteous and attentive, and the flight landed in Chengdu on-time.
Xiamen Air really impresses me. They had a gorgeous domestic lounge at their hub airport, great transport to the remote stand, friendly service, and personal entertainment. Personally I didn’t love the food, but I’m sure others would feel differently. Getting the last minute equipment swap to a 757 was a special treat as well, especially as this is the only plane they have with such a configuration (which is a bit quirky, if you ask me).