Introduction: A Weekend In Mongolia
Review: Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge Los Angeles Airport
Review: United Global First Lounge San Francisco Airport
Review: Air China First Class 747-8 San Francisco To Beijing
Review: Hilton Beijing Airport
Review: Air China First Class Lounge Beijing Airport
Review: Air China Business Class 737 Beijing To Ulaanbaatar
Review: Holiday Inn Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia
Review: Ulaanbaatar Airport Lounge
Review: MIAT Mongolian Business Class 767 Ulaanbaatar To Frankfurt
Review: United Business Class 777-200 Frankfurt To Houston
Review: United Club Houston Airport
Review: United First Class 737 Houston To Los Angeles
Air China 901
Beijing (PEK) – Ulaanbaatar (ULN)
Friday, July 14
Aircraft: Boeing 737-800
Seat: 3L (Business Class)
At the door I was greeted by the purser and one of the business class flight attendants, and escorted to my seat. This version of the 737 has 12 business class seats, spread across three rows in a 2-2 configuration.
Much like on their longhaul planes, the business class seats are purple. Hmmm… okay.
Legroom in business class was generous, and felt better than what I’m used to in the US. SeatGuru suggests that there’s 38″ of seat pitch, though it felt like a bit more to me.
I also quickly peeked into the economy cabin, which looked pretty standard for a 737.
I had assigned myself seat 3L, the window seat on the right side in the last row of business class.
Unfortunately there was an empty bottle of water and a wrapper in the seatback pocket in front of me — there’s certainly room for improvement on the cleaning front.
On the right side of my seat were the seat controls, which were manual and easy to use.
Underneath the center armrest were two power outlets — one for each seat.
Already waiting at my seat on boarding was a purple pillow and an orange blanket. I was happy that they had a pillow & blanket at all on a short flight, given how many airlines don’t nowadays. However, I didn’t get the sense that they had been cleaned anytime recently.
Also at my seat were a pair of basic headphones, which I’d expect in economy and not business class.
A few minutes after settling in, the purser came by my seat to introduce herself by name, welcome me onboard, and offer me a hot towel.
I was also offered a pre-departure drink, with the choice between water and orange juice.
I was then brought a pair of slippers, which is impressive for such a short flight.
Boarding was efficient, and most of the other passengers were pretty civilized. During boarding I worked on my laptop, and I was even offered a couple of drink refills. About five minutes before the door closed, the flight attendant came by to ask whether I wanted the Western or Chinese breakfast after takeoff. I selected the former.
Just a minute before the door closed a couple showed up, who were seated in row two. It was just the three of us in business class, while economy was probably about 80% full.
At 8:30AM the main cabin door closed. About five minutes later we began our pushback.
At that point the safety video, with the adorable pandas and large bosomed women, played.
At 8:40AM we began our very quick taxi to the runway (at least by Beijing standards). I found it funny that as we taxied, the crew came by each empty business class seat to buckle in the pillows and blankets. Hah.
By 8:50AM we were holding short of runway 01, and just had to wait for an Etihad 787 to land. Once the plane was clear of the runway, we were cleared for takeoff.
We had a quick takeoff roll, though the views on the climb out weren’t that great.
We hit a bit of chop as we went through a thick layer of clouds, but the ride was smooth after that.
About 10 minutes after takeoff the crew drew the curtains between the galley and business class, and between business class and economy. At this point they also turned on the inflight entertainment, which played on the drop-down screens overhead.
About 30 minutes after takeoff the captain made his welcome aboard announcement, informing us of our flight time of 1hr50min, and that we should be arriving at around 10:40AM.
Unfortunately neither power port in my row worked, so I moved up to row one so I could charge my electronics.
Shortly after moving seats the meal service began, starting with a warm towel.
After that I was brought a tablecloth.
Then I was served the water I had ordered, along with mixed nuts. It’s a bit odd to have nuts as a pre-breakfast snack, though if it makes it any more normal, the almonds had a honey glaze.
Next the entire breakfast was served on a tray. Breakfast consisted of a croissant, some cereal, and an omelet. The cereal was fine and croissant flakey.
Meanwhile the omelet was fairly bland and oily. Personally I don’t generally eat pork (I love pigs too much), and there was a big piece of ham over the top of the dish.
Next I was offered a fruit plate as dessert.
Lastly I also ordered coffee, which was clearly powdered, though still tasted fine.
The crew was excellent throughout the flight. They were friendly, attentive, and charming. I was offered several drink refills throughout the flight, and they’d come through the cabin every few minutes to check on us.
I then spent a short while working. I should note that in the meantime there was a pilot napping in row three. He wasn’t just napping upright, but rather was hanging over the center tray table console as if he wasn’t conscious. I’m also not quite sure why they need a relief pilot when their entire day of flying is likely just five hours (to Ulaanbaatar and back).
The business class lavatory was at the front of the cabin, and featured some cute Air China branded bottles and a flower. The crew also did a good job of making sure economy passengers didn’t use the business class lavatory.
30 minutes before landing the crew prepared the cabin for arrival, which is awfully early to do so. Electronics had to be turned off, seats had to be put upright, etc. A few minutes after that we began our descent.
Since I had no other entertainment options, I read the newspaper, which had an interesting story about how demand for turkey legs at Disneyland China is through the roof.
Even more interesting was the interview with Alex Cruz, the CEO of British Airways. *barf*
On descent the purser said to me “I notice you take a lot of photo, do you want me to take photo of you?” That was a nice offer, though I declined.
As we descended further I enjoyed the views of beautiful Mongolia.
I could even see what looked like some sort of a yurt resort.
I was impressed by how varied the landscape in Mongolia was. One minute you thought you were in a desert, and the next minute it felt like a park with endless trees and greenery.
Eventually we approached the city of Ulaanbaatar.
Our final approach felt very unsteady, and we had a rough touchdown at Chinggis Khaan Airport at 10:45AM.
We rolled out nearly to the end of the runway, and then turned left onto the taxiway. Maybe it was just my imagination, but I felt like the taxiway had a significant downwards slope.
As we taxied to the terminal we passed a Mongolian 737, a Boeing Business Jet, and eventually a Korean Air A330.
We pulled in next to the Korean Air A330 that had just arrived from Incheon a short while later, at around 10:50AM.
Unfortunately they didn’t have any immigration forms on the plane, so we had to fill them out upon arrival in the immigration hall. Despite that, and despite having arrived right after another big plane, I was landside within 10 minutes.
Air China business class bottom line
I had a pleasant experience in Air China business class. The crew was friendly, the cabin fairly empty, the seats spacious, and the food edible. There’s certainly a bit of room for improvement when it comes to cabin cleanliness, the quality of the food, and the power port working, but otherwise it was a solid flight. While I’d rather avoid this plane for a longer flight, for a sub-two hour flight it was great.