China Southern A380 Business Class In 10 Pictures (Hint: The Service Was Awful)

Hello from Guangzhou! I just flew China Southern’s A380 business class on the 15hr10min flight from Los Angeles. I was curious to see how this flight would turn out, given the, ahem, interesting experience I had when I took this exact flight in first class a few years back.

How was China Southern business class? The cabin was comfortable, the bedding was good, and the service was possibly the most bizarrely incompetent that I’ve ever experienced. I just don’t get it.

Let’s start with the seats. China Southern has a comfortable staggered business class configuration on the upper deck of the A380. Along the side of the cabin are lockers, which are great for storing things. I managed to snag a “true” window seat, so I found the seat to be great in terms of the privacy and comfort.

The amenities were good for the most part as well. There was a comfortable duvet, a mattress sheet, and each passenger got two pillows. The pillows were really thin, but I was able to sleep comfortably by using both of them and then getting two more from an empty seat to cuddle with.

There was also an amenity kit, slippers, and some fairly good headphones, though there were no pajamas.

The food itself wasn’t bad, but the problem is how poorly executed the service was, despite the crew being well intentioned. First let’s talk about the actual food. There were some nuts and drinks prior to the meal.

Then there was an appetizer of shrimp, scallops, and crab leg.

Then there was clam chowder with bacon curls.

For the main course I ordered the stir fried lobster in ginger garlic sauce, with seasonal vegetables and steamed rice. This was quite good.

Then there was a fruit plate and cake for dessert.

The problem was that for both meals, the crew didn’t clear a single plate or glass until the entire meal service was finished. They just kept giving me more and more food, even though there was nowhere to put it on the tray anymore. How can you see a tray like this and say “hey, let me serve this guy some more food before I clear anything?” BUT THEY DID. Craziest of all, they asked “where do you want me to put this?”

I couldn’t believe myself, and this wasn’t a fluke. I saw the same happen to everyone, and the same also happened at breakfast.

Drink refills were also non-existent, and getting any sort of a special request during the meal was impossible. For example, for breakfast there was cereal and yogurt, though I wasn’t offered a spoon. I asked twice for a spoon, but it never arrived, so I just used a fork. They also offered a single fork and knife for the whole service. You’d think they could offer a different fork for a garlic lobster course than they do for a fruit plate.

During the flight the crew only responded to call buttons and never passed through the cabin, which I don’t necessarily mind, since it minimizes noise. They were quick to respond to call buttons, though between meals cold drinks were served in plastic cups. This was a flight of over 15 hours, so I asked mid-flight if they had any snacks, and the flight attendant offered me a “sandwich,” which was a tiny, disgusting wrapped vegetable sandwich. That’s not exactly substantial.

That’s only the beginning, so I’ll save the rest of the trip report.

The one area where China Southern deserves tons of credit is for their champagne. When I flew them a few years ago in first class they served Duc De Paris, the most disgusting $5 per bottle cat urine I’ve ever tasted. Now they serve Taittinger in business class. That’s possibly the single biggest sparkling wine quality upgrade any airline has ever made (in fairness, I’d probably say the same if they had gone from Duc De Paris to Korbel, so…).

On the plus side, the cabin was kept relatively cool, there mostly weren’t smoke odors, and I slept extremely well. Still, China Southern’s soft product leaves a lot to be desired. Crazy as it may sound, I wouldn’t necessarily recommend avoiding them, though. I slept great, so just come in with the right mindset and the flight can be pleasant.

In terms of the transpacific business class products offered by Asian SkyTeam airlines, I’d probably rank China Airlines as best, followed by Korean Air, followed by Xiamen Air, followed by China Southern, followed by China Eastern. But perhaps that’s a fun topic for a more in-depth post.

If you’ve flown China Southern business class, what was your experience like?

Comments

  1. To treat yourself better, simply do not fly Chinese airlines anymore (except those in Taiwan). Please.

    Hainan Airlines’ Skytrax 5-star is even more unfounded than Lufthansa’s.

  2. Treat Yourself to Economy, Asian Carriers have excellent economy products vs the US and most products around the world. Been waiting for this one for a LONG time. I didn’t know it was THIS AWFUL. I’ve seen numerous trip reports in CZ business and nothing like this. I guess they happened to be crap again, and then, all the Business Class FAs will be fired lol

  3. Do you have a better picture of the wrapped vegetable sandwich, i really want to see what that was because it just looks like a cake

  4. But your only real complaint is they didn’t clear your plates after the meal? They were at least polite and responsive unlike on your TAP flights.

  5. @Morley, hard to agree though, hainan had one of the best service on terms of both hard and soft product on their 788/789, for all my past tpac sectors. It’s by far better than any other mainland Chinese Airlines, though just a bit better than Korean. But given the price it’s the best price- quality ratio for all Asian carriers.

    Regards,
    Michael

  6. flew CZ to AMS from MNL via CAN a few years ago. The service was as you described it. They had the best of intentions but the service was poorly executed. At one point in the meal service during the CAN-AMS leg, I asked for a glass of milk to go along with my cereal for breakfast. I don’t know if it was the language barrier or the lack of attention to detail but I was met with rather confused looks and bewilderment. After several attempts of asking for milk, I simply gave up.

  7. I do’t think the issues you bring up rise to the standard of AWFUL. Maybe slightly off, but not AWFUL.

  8. @Dan R

    Didn’t they have a Dutch crew member? I went on this flight once and there was a male Dutch flight attendant who was very professional and attentive.

  9. Clearing away the plates after each course would have been preferable, but even though they didn’t its HARDLY an insurmountable challenge to eating and enjoying your meal! Looking at the pic, you could have just scraped the salad remains into the soup bowl and then stacked the two bowls together on top of the salad plate….and hey presto! MORE SPACE!!

  10. It’s just different eat style, Chinese customers used to take all eat dishes at once and eat ASAP, they will probably be mad for western style eating take 2-3 hours……the flight attendant didn’t both you, maybe some language barrier, the bed is good, I was waiting to see how bad the service was, but I don’t understand why Ben keep complaining this……

  11. Indeed I rather think the TAP flights were AWFUL service, where they were indifferent or offered no drinks or food at all…

    No crew were hostile or nasty on this CZ flight and they responded to call bells. It was hardly AWFUL service!

    You could have just stacked the plates under each other for more space, Lucky…or are you too delicate to do that?

  12. “TAP’s soft product left a lot to be desired, though. The crew wasn’t friendly, the food was just alright, the wine selection was disappointing for an airline based in a country with incredible wines, and the amenities were unmemorable.”

    “TAP consistently publishes low fares in business class, so I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend them, assuming you can get the new business class. The most important thing in business class is the seat, and that’s an area where TAP does well, assuming you get one of their reconfigured planes.”

    According to Lucky, the most important thing is the seat! So why the bitchfest about the “awful service” on CZ when at least they were well-intentioned and polite?!

  13. I really like the cabin on CZ A380, and as you said that (together with flight punctuality) are probably the most important criteria when flying in Business. That said in my experience flying transpacific or EU-China segments with CZ, their soft product has always been plain disappointing if not ridiculous. I tend to prefer flying MU on their new 777 product these days, service is a bit of hit or miss but they sometimes have really great crews, which never ever happened to me on CZ…

  14. Hmmm, compared to your TAP review, this seems to get much lower marks from you despite TAP clearly being worse. I sense some bias here…

  15. Two ways of looking at it, from what I am hearing:

    1. They’ve improved from last time!
    2. It’s still not good and they’ve got a long way to go.

  16. @Jake @Shaun

    Really? You are both suggesting that a business class passenger–on a prestigious route, no less–should act as his own busboy?

    It’s amazing the number of apologists there are for dumbfoundingly lousy service.

  17. Judging from the pictures both hard product and meals look good. Service is always hit or miss on any airline. You may have just had bad luck. I would fly with them in a heartbeat considering the cheap biz fares.

  18. @imperator

    I think rather Ben is an apologist for TAP, recommending people with them despite having hardly any flights with good service or food.

    The one misdemeanor on CZ causes Ben to label the service ‘awful’. Giving the impression CZ is a poor airline despite Be admitting:

    Champagne was good
    Food was good
    Seat was good
    Flight attendants were polite and responsive

    Not clearing away a plate is not ‘dumbfoundingly lousy’ service. For that I suggest you look at TAP.

  19. “Jake says:
    January 31, 2018 at 7:23 pm

    Didn’t they have a Dutch crew member?”

    Well, heck there’s your answer.

    There are only two things I can’t stand in this world: People who are intolerant of other people’s cultures, and the Dutch.

  20. Too bad service wasn’t to par. I booked this flight in Business for an upcoming business meeting in Beijing but going to look at some other options now… Has Chinasouthern lifted their cell phone ban? If so, were there any issues or concerns from the cabin crew?

  21. You put China Airlines as first, which… I mean it’s reverse herringbone but I feel it’s a lot less privacy than the Korean Air kosmo suite. I’d put KAL first because of that…

  22. Did Ben ask them to clear away the plates? I was skeptical about China Southern before (actually I do not do the China big 3 unless no other choices ). This review kind of makes me wanting to try them…. the food looks decent, they have got a decent champagne, they do not bother you till you call them…. that sounds perfect for me…. would like to have a better amenity bag obviously…….

  23. No offense Lucky but you come off as kind of a twat here. I hope you are never overtly rude to those who serve you.

  24. and THIS is the airline AA is drooling, swooning, and fawning over, and desperately wants to invite into oneworld because they’re all so desperate for ANY mainland partner ?

  25. And skyteam is well rid of them. Never mind on board I made a complaint and their customer service is awful. No ability to respond professionally and complete lack of understanding of a simple issue
    They don’t take any responsibility even if it’s something entirely within their control such as a technical delay as happened with me a few weeks back flying via Seoul. They told me as I had a Korean Air ticket I must refer to Korean Air – their flight and their flight number

  26. CZ is fine, short haul and long. The plate clearing issue is cultural and is not a big deal . I prefer this to the grumpy grannies on AA .
    I’d love to treat you to a glass or two of Duc de Paris

  27. @DC though I agree that Taiwanese airline EVA Air is a great airline, Ben was comparing Chinese SkyTeam airlines, not star alliances nor Taiwanese airlines included. EVA air is a pleasure to fly on as apposed to Chinese airlines though.

  28. @DC though I agree that Taiwanese airline EVA Air is a great airline, Ben was comparing Chinese SkyTeam airlines, not star alliances nor Taiwanese airlines included. EVA air is a pleasure to fly on as apposed to Chinese airlines though.

  29. @DC Ben did say of the Skyteam Airlines, but I am sure Ben likes them, too.

    @AST; @Jake; P Mat; Andy; Jake; Shaun; Zheng I agree. It seems that CZ has improved a lot. I am indifferent with them, but for Ben to talk about how awful everything was and is on TAP, I don’t get how he can criticize China Southern. There is definitely some bias in his reporting. Even though on TAP, they would give you dirty looks or simply ignore you, but Ben would still recommend flying them? At least, the FAs on CZ had more polished manners and they were more helpful and well-intentioned. I must commend Ben for ranking CI as having the superior business class product amongst the SkyTeam carriers. They are very good in business class and they are still generally cheaper than others compared to CX where service in business class has noticeably gone downhill. No matter why Hong Kong Airlines is ready to challenge them directly on the west coast US to HK routes.

  30. @Ben

    I guess the crew’s English were sufficient enough to understand your requests to clear those plates. Oh, right, you didn’t even ask.

    Again, I saw no awful service here, maybe they lack mind-reading capabilities since you didn’t even ask. As someone who took the transpac route once every few months for work in C, I can tell even the lousiest mainland Chinese airlines have WAY better service than the big U.S. 3.

  31. @Stefan

    Although Lucky asserts he is polite and not an assertive person, it never really comes across that way.

    Reading this just makes him sound needy and it seems he wanted to find fault with something…and he struggled to do so.

  32. @AST; @Jake; P Mat; Andy; Jake; Shaun, Stanley; Darren

    五毛门好!
    Hello wumaos! I’m also from Asia (Korea Republic) and I know what East Asian culture is like! All East Asian airlines except those in PR China take away dishes after it is finished. Same with those in Republic of China (Taiwan) who have authentic Chinese culture (not altered by Mao)
    Don’t blame your lousy, Mao culture for your bad services. If that lazyness and unfriendliness is your culture, you have a big problem.

  33. @Jay dude, don’t bring others down based on your Korean superiority complex syndrome. The rest of the guys and I I just agree that no matter the service couldn’t have been that bad for something so minor. Speaking of which, Korean Air and Asiana Airlines also have their moments when Service is downright awful and rude at check in and on the flight. It happens everywhere. Any other airline would be better than your northern brethren airline, Air Koryo.

  34. @Stanley
    I never specified “Korean” airlines – I meant all airlines located in East Asia, except PR China. Includes JAL ANA China Airlines Cathay Pacific etc. Even Xiamen Air of PRC is not like this mess of China Southern!
    Oh, I’m Korean but I think JAL ANA Cathay all have better services than Korean Air/Asiana on average. (Still KE/OZ is far ahead of MU CZ! Never tried CA yet)
    Ps. North Korea is not our “brothers” – they are our enemies, enemies of world peace.

  35. So bad that I’m willing to fly into Shanghai and then fly to Guangzhou from Hongqiao on China Eastern’s Shanghai Airlines.

  36. @Jay all right. Duly noted. I totally can respect and understand your last comments. MU has gotten better, I think. They are at least better than CZ. I loved your P.S. comment. Much admiration for you. Thank you for the sincere clarification. I think your second message is much better. Cheers.

  37. @Jay

    Good comment, although I was saying that service can’t be so awful if all Lucky could complain about was a lack of plate-clearing. It could have been like on TAP where he didn’t get served any food…and no plates…end of problem lol

  38. Darren wrote:
    “I guess the crew’s English were sufficient enough to understand your requests to clear those plates. Oh, right, you didn’t even ask.”

    Yeah,maybe FAs thought he wasn’t finished,since they’d expect an empty (finished) dish.
    Not sure about airlines,but in some countries it’s disrespectful to leave something on the dish.
    However i think FAs should’ve asked smth like “How was this dish? Are you finished? May i take this?”,so i just think the problem is lack of communication, usually the language barrier.

  39. @Zheng is exactly right. While giving us everything at one time might seem ridiculous, to Some Chinese, it’s ridiculous to serve sporadically.

    I just took Xiamen for the first time in J. The service is very friendly and they try hard but the English skills are not good. The new 787-9 seat is great though and very quiet and private. Everything is very clean and professional. The food ex-LAX was mediocre to say the least but ex-XMN was surprisingly good both intra-Asia and transpacific. For $2150 LAX-XMN-CGK/SIN-XMN-LAX it was a great option.

  40. @ Zheng – Really ? You talked about chinese customers but you would never see this kind of service onboard CX or KA and not even AA on LAX-HKG !!!

  41. oy… so East Asia has a lot of nationalism going on, and that is clear from the comments. Lucky, I’m trying to look at this from a neutral perspective. The TAP review noted ok seats, crappy food, and disinterested crew. The bottom line was that you wouldn’t hesitate to recommend them because despite these failings, the seat was good and the prices are low. For China Southern, you found the seats good, the food ok, the crew well-intentioned but with some service issues. But your bottom line is that you “wouldn’t necessarily recommend avoiding them.” This isn’t the full review, so I look forward to an explanation of why additional service failings caused such a different experience from TAP. I can understand why your Chinese readers are bit offended.

  42. I flew CZ JFK-CAN in business back in October 2017. I couldn’t use my phone during flight at that time so I am only going off what I can remember. I don’t remember my plates piling up during the main dinner service. I will note that I experienced the same in that the FA’s didn’t refill cups during meal service. I slept most of the flight so I didn’t have a mid-flight meal. I’d say CZ is just OK; I wouldn’t avoid CZ business long haul but it also wouldn’t be on the top of my list.

  43. But why couldn’t he just stack his own plates?

    CZ are always the cheapest J flights from EU going East or so it seems. I could handle stacking my own china (that doesn’t quite make you a busboy by the way) for a cheap flat bed.

  44. I guess I have a different perspective.

    I fly to China every month from LAX. 22 trips in 24 months. I go to various locations.

    It’s all about sleep. Nothing else really matters, IMHO.

    China Eastern(A330), Hainan(787), China Southern(A380) all have good beds, able to sleep at least 8 hours.

    Air China is over-rated for sleep.

    A good sleep, is good enough for me.

    If your looking to airlines to fill your need of culinary and wine excellence, you are barking up the wrong tree…

  45. Wow you really got all the Chinese mad about this… guys if you pay for business, that would be awful service.
    Additionally, this is just a preview. I’m sure in the full review, there will be more issues.

    When did everyone get so defensive? So he liked TAP better than China Southern… you would probably be the reverse just because you identify more with Asian airlines.
    Fucking relax.

  46. If you must go to Guangzhou, just take CX to HKG, and then take the bus (or the short hop on KA to CAN).

  47. Funny the “not clearing plates-issue” because here in NL I always get annoyed at the Japanese sushi places that they keep on clearing plates… even before you are even finished… and staff is … Chinese !?

    Now I wonder: wouldn’t the “poorer” service be linked to the A380 where mostly the whole upper deck is business class? Just too big? I mean usually busines is like 10-20 pax while om A380?? Not sure the crew is provided accordingly?

    P.S. stop mentioning the TAP experience as comparaison because that was obviously an union action, not standard procedure

    For the rest Ben, keep up the great job, enjoy reading your posts 🙂

  48. As another reader said also, Chinese like to keep all plates , as they mix courses. For example , eat fruit plate first and fish later. So airline is catering to Chinese customers .
    When in Rome !!

  49. @adrien

    It’s a labor issue on TAP to have surly disinterested crew who interact as little as possible? Even on the flight where Lucky got food and drinks, the crew sounded awful.

  50. @Matt

    I’m not Chinese or Asian. Don’t you think the service Lucky got on both of his TAP flights was awful?

  51. I read through the article and found that the possible only problem is not cleaning your plates until the last. That might be their standard protocol which could be discussed and improved. It is interesting to see what is your standard of “awful service” since I did read your other travel reports and this does not look like the worst one.

  52. You put China Airlines before Xiamen????? You recently said Xiamen was the best chinese airline (besides Cathay) ?

  53. I did this flight from China to LAX. I was very, very comfortable in the business class seat, 1-2-1 configuration on the A380.

    Service is not comparable to US standards. So what. It’s not a US carrier. The fight attendants did their best and the food was excellent.

    Alcohol, (cocktails) are not their thing. So it takes a little work, and perhaps a trip to the galley for a refill.

    Personally, I bring a few airline bottles with me and “refresh” my drinks at my own pace on foreign carriers.

  54. @Schar Ben is right. Despite the confusing name, China Airlines (CI) is the flag airline of Taiwan (ROC), not from Communist China (PRC). That being said, China Airlines is a Taiwanese Airline, while Xiamen is a Chinese Airline. In this case, Ben was comparing the best Transpacific airlines, not Chinese Airlines, so Taiwanese airlines could of course be included. Hope this clarifies!

    I’m actually quite surprised Taiwan’s EVA Air (BR) was not included because it’s a five star airline that has arguably one of the best business class products in Asia.

  55. Service generally sucks on US Airlines @Marty Many readers here would wholeheartedly agree especially American Airlines. JAL flight attendants and check in staff are amazing.

  56. Good food, good service, comfortable bed, then you rate them “awful” just because the plates issue? You need to learn how to organize your space. My 6-year-old son can do a much better job. Seems like you are just a typical spoiled brat.

  57. I’ve flown this route several times in the last 2 years and my experience does not match yours. I had a problem with a broken seat and a non-functioning lavatory, but service was very good. They cleared one course before bringing the next (though to be fair, there wasn’t much time between each). I found the meals substantial and didn’t get hungry…though nibbled at the range of fruits, chocolate etc available at the snack bar. My fruit was served with its own fork. I’m sorry you didn’t have a great experience. In terms of bang-for-your-buck business class, CZ is outstanding.

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