Review: China Airlines Business Class A350 Kuala Lumpur To Taipei

Last year my friend Yaroslav reviewed Qatar Airways Qsuites on a flight between London and Doha. The feedback was great on that post, so he’s back with another airline review.

Yaroslav is a software entrepreneur and traveller from Kiev, Ukraine. In his free time he enjoys photography, filmmaking and writing endeavours, which he shares on his Apertoura.com project (instagram.com/apertoura).


For the past 2 months, together with my wife Sofia, I’ve been traveling throughout South East Asia. A byproduct of this trip was the opportunity to fly a number of new airlines and airplanes, and try out various aviation products available in this part of the world. The majority of them have been well reviewed on this blog, except one ,  which has not been tested by Ben and the other OMAAT contributors, and was also a personal interest to me.

The review will be about the China Airlines A350–900 business class product on the route from Kuala Lumpur to Taipei. For me, the A350 is the most interesting, beautiful, and pleasant plane in the sky today. I’ve been pretty late to the party, only trying it with Lufthansa from Delhi to Munich last spring and with Qatar from Doha to Frankfurt last summer. I’ve also attempted to fly the A350 with Cathay Pacific but in a double unlucky coincidence I had to cancel the trip and as I found out later , the plane was swapped to a 777–300 last minute.

China Airlines currently has a total of 11 A350–900, with 2 more on the way. The first A350 was delivered to the airline in September 2016.


China Airlines A350 seatmap

All of these planes have a reverse herringbone business class product similar to what you would find on Qatar Airways A350–900/787/A380, Cathay Pacific A350/777/A330, Finnair A350, and many others. There are a total of 32 seats located in a single large cabin, in a 1–2–1 placement. All seats have direct aisle access.

It’s amazing how a lot of these larger planes, with very comfortable products are often used on short and medium haul routes in Asia. Very different from Europe where the best we can expect is the middle seat blocked and some slightly better food. I dream of the day where paying or redeeming miles for a flight from say Kiev to Madrid or Frankfurt to Palermo will allow you to lay down or at least lounge for a bit, while enjoying wi-fi connectivity gate-to-gate.

So, without further ado, I will proceed with the review.

China Airlines 722
Kuala Lumpur (KUL) – Taipei (TPE)
Depart: 2:25PM

Arrive: 6:55PM
Aircraft: A350–900 (B-18901)
Cabin: Business Class

We arrived almost 3 hours early to get some tax refunds, as well as to arrange for our luggage to be checked in to our final destination. On our first ticket we flew Kuala Lumpur  to  Taipei  to  Frankfurt with China Airlines, and on the second one  from Frankfurt to Kiev with Lufthansa. Thankfully the 2 airlines have interline agreements and after only some brief deliberation, the agent at the Business Check-in counter tagged our luggage to the final destination, issued boarding passes for the first 2 flights, lounge invitations for Taipei, and a Priority Immigration facility invitation for Kuala Lumpur. With all of this paperwork we were off to immigration.

At the middle of the day, Kuala Lumpur International Airport isn’t too full, so going through passport control was quick, as was the mandatory customs screening. A short train ride to the satellite building of KLIA1 and we were at the entrance to the China Airlines lounge.


Entrance to the China Airlines lounge

To be honest, I was quite surprised to figure out that for the once daily (on certain days — twice daily) flights that China Airlines operate to Kuala Lumpur they have a proper lounge set up. The agent told us that no other airlines use this lounge, although SkyTeam elites are free to visit.


China Airlines KUL lounge decor


China Airlines KUL lounge decor

The lounge itself is small, but cozy ,  with Chinese vases and some Taiwanese memorabilia adorning one of the walls. Otherwise there was just the food area and fairly dense seating.


China Airlines KUL lounge decor


China Airlines KUL lounge decor


China Airlines KUL lounge seating

In terms of food I would say it was above average with some pretty good fried noodles, beef and grilled vegetables. A selection of pastries, cup noodles, and soft drinks were also available. The coffee machine was very basic — capable of making just espresso or double espresso.


China Airlines KUL lounge buffet


China Airlines KUL lounge buffet


China Airlines KUL lounge buffet

The tea choices were wide in comparison, with about 8 different kinds, most from Malaysia’s Cameron Highlands.


The tea served in the lounge is made here. Photo from an earlier trip.

The highlight of the lounge, at least for me ,  were the expansive views of the 32R runway. Unfortunately all seating next to the windows was occupied, so I had to resort to being the annoying person shooting with a long lens over the shoulder of patrons who just want to rest and have a meal. On the bright side ,  I managed to capture the moment the inbound flight from Taipei landed and taxied to a nearby gate.


China Airlines A350 landing in KUL


China Airlines A350 with Mikado Pheasant livery


And a Lucky Air plane 😉

After having some noodles and coffee (both quite ok) we went to the gate early, as the security in Kuala Lumpur International Airport is just before the boarding area. There was practically no congestion at the check, so moments later we were boarding the beautiful aircraft. The crew greeted us at the door and led us to our seats. They seemed a bit too reserved though, without the enthusiasm that I often encountered with Middle Eastern airline crews.


China Airlines A350


China Airlines A350


China Airlines A350

The aircraft interior was absolutely gorgeous. The brown and beige tones, in my opinion are the optimal color scheme for a reverse herringbone setup. It gives out such a stylish, elegant vibe. Sophisticated without blingy, understated with a solid touch of class.


China Airlines A350 business class cabin


China Airlines A350 business class cabin


China Airlines A350 business class cabin

Moments after settling down we were offered steaming hot towels, a welcome drink (still or sparkling water, orange or apple juice) and some packaged nuts. At this point we were about 10 minutes behind schedule and boarding was not going too quickly, with everyone going through the front door. At least that left ample time to review the seat.


China Airlines A350 business class seat


Steaming hot towel


Pre-departure snack and drink

I really loved the materials and textures of the seat and the surrounding cabin, which seemed well thought out and complementary. The only inharmonious element was the industrial light grey of the ceiling. Although I’m not sure this is something that could be customized by an airline.


China Airlines A350 faux wood panel


China Airlines A350 business class shell texture


China Airlines A350 business class seat fabric

The seat has a lot of storage space for smaller items, but I failed to find a place to store my 13″ laptop. Within the side counter was a larger container just for storage and a slightly smaller one housing the IFE controller, a power outlet, dual USB ports and the headphone input. Within the armrest (which can be raised and lowered) was storage space for the headset.


China Airlines A350 business class seat storage


China Airlines A350 business class seat storage


China Airlines A350 business class seat storage

What neatly separates the China Airlines reverse herringbone seats from many others is the small details — things like the lamp, which is very ornate , expensive looking and the mirror built into the cover of the storage housing the IFE controller. When the window shades are closed and you are lounging with a blanket and a cup of fragrant mint tea — the lamp’s warm glow makes for a very cozy place to be in.


China Airlines A350 business class seat lamp


China Airlines A350 business class seat mirror

There is more than enough legroom — while in the upright position I had plenty of space to stretch my legs — and I’m 6’3″. The seat controls are exceptionally easy to use. Lumbar support is adjustable in one position.


China Airlines A350 business class legroom


China Airlines A350 business class seat side table


China Airlines A350 business class seat controls

For comfort, design, and convenience I would rate the seat top marks. The only issue I had was limited storage space for larger items like a laptop , but otherwise it was a very comfortable space to be, even for a longhaul flight, and surely for a four hour flight.

The product in general is very similar to the 777, but has some small, mildly noticeable differences:

  • 777s have overhead bins in the middle, in addition to the ones on the sides. This makes the cabin on the A350 much more airy.
  • The lamp at the seat is more sophisticated on the A350. The one on the 777 just resembles a lamp.
  • No mirror in the central storage compartment on the 777.
  • Lumbar support is controlled in 2 positions (upper and lower) on the 777, rather than in 1 position (lower) on the A350.
  • On the 777   the business class cabin is separated into two , with the  forward one housing 6 rows, 4 seats in each, and the mini-cabin , housing  4 rows, 4 seats in each.
  • The A350 seat has a car-style diagonal seatbelt in addition to the regular one.


China Airlines A350 business class headphones


China Airlines A350 business class slippers

No amenity kit was provided for this flight. Just a small pillow, not-too-thick blanket, set of headphones (noise cancelling, but not branded ones like Bose, not comfortable at all) and some high quality slippers. Even the bottle of water present inside one of the seat compartments on longer flights, was absent on this one.

Once boarding was complete the staff distributed menus and took orders for the dinner service.

This was a limited dinner service, as the menu only had options for the entree. I chose the grilled chicken thigh in plum sauce, along with some jasmine tea and still water.

The captain soon announced over PA about a delay of 15–20 minutes due to late arrival of the aircraft and shortly after we began our taxi.

The take-off and climb were rather bumpy and turbulent, but I didn’t really care about that, as I was pre-occupied and fascinated with the quiet operation of the A350s engines. On full thrust you could still whisper to your companion and he or she would clearly hear you.

China Airlines’ whole long haul fleet of 777s and A350s has Wi-Fi installed. So once the aircraft crossed 10,000 feet I attempted to connect. Connectivity is provided by Deutsche Telekom and is reasonably priced at 21.95 USD for 24 hours (16.95 USD for 3 hours or 11.95 USD for 1 hour) with no data usage limits. As I had a 14 hour flight to Frankfurt later in the day I purchased the 24 hour package which would last me both flights.


China Airlines A350 Wifi speeds

The seatbelt signs were turned off about 20 minutes into the flight and the cabin crew immediately closed all blinds. Anticipating the meal service starting soon I checked out the remaining parts of the seat — the table and the IFE.


China Airlines A350 business class table


China Airlines A350 business class table


China Airlines A350 business class table

The China Airlines IFE was average, not to the level of Emirates or Qatar offerings, but still having enough quality content for a medium or long haul flight— there were a few recent movies, half a dozen popular series with several episodes each and an interactive flight map.


China Airlines A350 in-flight entertainment


China Airlines A350 in-flight entertainment


China Airlines A350 in-flight entertainment

Approximately 40 minutes after take-off the appetizer was served — chicken satay with peanut sauce and cucumbers. It was tasty, maybe just a bit too chewy for my taste. The side was a regular cucumber and something that the flight attendant described as also cucumber, yet it lacked any pronounced taste or texture. To drink — I had some still water.


China Airlines chicken satay

After the appetizer something apparently broke down in the food & beverage department, as the entree was served an hour and 30 minutes later. Being a daytime flight most passengers were watching movies, reading, working — so it had less impact than on a redeye long-haul, but still, I would have preferred a quicker meal turnaround time.

While waiting for the food, I decided to try out the lounge and bed mode of the seat.


China Airlines A350 seat


China Airlines A350 seat


China Airlines A350 seat

The seat proved to be great. Mattress pads are reserved for longer flights but thanks to the softness of the seat — it was decently comfortable when lying down. With the pillow and blanket it was cozy, warm (the cabin temperature was kept lower than usual) and pleasant. There was enough space to lie down on the back or on the side, even for my larger frame. I would have no problems getting a good night’s sleep in this seat. Later in the flight I even managed to doze off for a brief moment.

With still no food in sight I went to explore the rest of the plane.

Curiosity brought me to the onboard bar, where one could presumably get some noodles, snacks, sweets or drinks. But to my disappointment it was mostly filled with trash from the slowly proceeding meal service. And when the crew saw me taking pictures — they immediately closed the doors under the premise that it would be nicer that way.


China Airlines A350 bar (closed)

In my opinion this is a lost opportunity, especially on a daytime flight. There is no complicated routine to set it up and it does give the passenger incentive to walk around, grab something to eat, and leave the flight with this small memorable experience. After all — it’s not something we are used to on planes.

Sometime around the mid-point of the flight, dinner was finally served.


Smoked chicken mango salad


Grilled chicken thigh in plum sauce


Seasonal fresh fruits

The smoke chicken mango salad had a vibrant fresh taste. The chicken was again a bit too chewy to my liking, but perfectly done in terms of the taste. And the fruit platter was a nice completion to the meal. Generally I liked the food, with my only reservation being the very long process of getting it to the passengers. The crew was working in a very automated fashion, without proactively clearing plates or offering refills. Even when requested I would get the impression that I was disturbing them with my requests.


Ice cream for dessert


And a cappuccino

After dinner I was offered a choice of vanilla or chocolate ice cream. It was hard as a rock, but after some digging in, I managed to enjoy it. The cappuccino I had it with was also nice.

As the passengers were finishing their meals the first officer announced that we will be starting descent soon.

Bottom line

I left this flight with mixed feelings — the hard product, although not as ground-breaking as the QSuites or Apex  — is perfectly solid and is probably more than enough for a flight of any duration. The lack of interest from the crew during the flight, strange long process of the meal service, lack of the advertised snack bar — it all downgraded the impression. I wouldn’t go out of my way to fly China Airlines medium-haul business class again, but there certainly are worse ways to fly.

Enjoy this review? Check out hundreds of other reports on airlines, hotels, and airport lounges worldwide!

Comments

  1. Great guest review, nice photos, looked like a magazine shoot. Did every single photo have to be on like f/1.8?

  2. Not a dig at you specifically but why do you bloggers always review first and business class when 95% of flyers are in economy? These reviews are pretty useless for the vast majority of flyers. You would certainly get more views if you reviewed economy cabins and experiences.

  3. Oh how I love Yaroslav’s reviews!

    Lucky and Yaroslav, I went to a gallery show the other day for Jeffrey Millstein. He does large format transportation photos:

    https://a.1stdibscdn.com/archivesE/upload/a_143/1510960162730/Newark_Terminal_B_master.jpg

    https://secure.i.telegraph.co.uk/multimedia/archive/03211/LAX-Los-Angeles-ai_3211614k.jpg

    https://s3.amazonaws.com/media.ai-ap.com/dam/cropped/2017/11/09/milstein_9up_w3q1hjj.JPEG

    Thought you might enjoy his work.

  4. You would certainly get more views if you reviewed economy cabins and experiences.

    Lol – that’s not how this works.

  5. The photos were great, and a really good review. And I was impressed with his shoes… I initially thought Mr. Lucky final got rid of the old sneakers that show up in some of the reviews.

  6. @Donald Osborne

    This is a blog about redeeming miles and points with a large focus on the premium experience. If I’m going to be dropping a wack load of miles I’ve gone to the effort of collecting, you bet I’m going to research for the best possible ways to redeem them. There are also plenty of economy class reviews out there that get consistently published, you just have to look. If this blog doesn’t satisfy your reading/travel interest requirements, pick a door!

    Agreed on Yaroslavs reviews. Loving the great photography and style of writing. More!

  7. Airlines want you to sit your back end down and shut up. Why would they encourage you to walk around and bother FAs even more???

  8. WOW that cabin is beautiful. I usually don’t care too much (and laugh when Lucky complains about “puke colored” Asiana cabins), but man, China Airlines did that right. Good photos don’t hurt either!

  9. @Donald There’s a lot more variation with Business seats vs Economy seats. My employer pays for me to fly business on trans-pacific and trans-atlantic flights. I read the reviews here to see if I’ll be stuck playing footsie with my seatmate (Lufthansa A330 config), or in a middle seat of a 2-3-2 (Emirates) or even worse, a 2-4-2 (United 777s).. and I choose who to fly accordingly.

  10. Yaroslav – this review is incredible. Second only to Lucky in terms of writing, and in terms of photos the best I’ve ever seen on this blog. Holy cow.

    @Lucky – more from him!

  11. Great photos and review, but one small request would be to have more pics of the lounge itself rather than close-up shots.

    China Airlines sounds like a sleeper in terms of how good they are in Asia. The news is filled with the bling of Singapore, Cathay, JAL, Asiana, etc. but every review I read of China Airlines seems like they are consistently good with a great hard product. I just wish it was more convenient for me to fly with China Airlines so I could try them out.

  12. I know these photos are considered really good quality and pretty, but they’re less utilitarian than what we usually expect on this site. We don’t need a blurred background when looking at seat controls or one specific piece of food.
    Probably the minority opinion, but on the technical aspects of the seat and the meal, I think the more traditional, less artsy, photos are more useful.

    Still, great review.

  13. The China Airlines Lounge is only open 3 hours 11:30-14:30. That’s rather like emirates who invested in a great lounge at LAX and it’s only open a few hours and not to other carriers
    KLM Passengers use the plaza premium as do other skyteam carriers. The times don’t coincide

  14. You should really try Lucky Air next time you’re in China. They’ve got some 330s with flatbeds despite being a LCC.

  15. I agree with Matt. Photos are nice, but they’re too artsy. They don’t show enough of the cabin, seat, etc.. Should invest in a wide-angle lens.

  16. These photos look awful. Their image quality is poor, and they are not focused properly. Looking at them makes me feel nauseous. The writing is also boring. Where are these comments coming from?

  17. Great review.

    By the way, what’s served with the satay is cucumber and, unlike what the Taiwanese (?) FA told you, “lontong”, a form of rice cake, that tastes like rice and is to be consumed together with the satay.

  18. Airline review photography is usually very sterile, so I appreciate that yours has some artistry. Very nicely done, and makes me very eager to sample CI’s A350 business offering.

  19. It is refreshing to see a post with beautifully composed photography. Do you mind telling me which camera you use? Do you use a full-frame? For reference, I use a Nikon D5 with customized lenses. Absolutely love your photographs!

    Nice review as well, but I am still averse to flying on PRC-based airlines.

  20. Impressive use of a camera’s f-stop and depth of field variations should not be flimsily criticised as ‘artsy’ to passively-aggressively demean it. I find people who use this term et al to generally be lacking any creative skill whatsoever themselves, and are truly resentful of those who do – jealously is a curse!

    Lucky – this guy’s writing style is utterly impeccable, and the photos incredible. More reviews from Yaroslav please!

  21. Great. China Airlines is one of the great airline turnarounds…from the grim years of military control and the appalling safety record to, in just a decade or so, one of the very best in the region. Perhaps Garuda is in the same category.
    I really like CI and this is a great report.

  22. Great review love your writing style almost as good as lucky although one critic as others have said the photos to artsy I am more worried about clear photos that show the product. Though that photo of the A350 at the gate is stunning. Also VA (Virgin Australia) have a similar hard product and their soft product is really good.

  23. Really liking the new style of the pictures and thanks for including the actual wifi speed – I know I complained about that before so I really appreciate it! 🙂

  24. First of all, thank you all for such high appraisal of my article. It means a lot, thanks so much! Also never thought my sneakers would get a good share of compliments :))

    Now, to answer your questions:
    @Robert Woodhouse, you’re right – a lot of photos are shot wide open, both to accommodate for the poor lighting situation, but also for subject isolation.

    @John, thank you for the suggestion – I have looked into Mr. Millstein’s photos and they are incredible and inspiring.

    @Matt, @SD, I can certainly understand your argument – an airline product review’s photography should be first and foremost an accurate representation of reality. That is the standard and what most if not all prominent aviation reviewer’s deliver. I’m not a professional reviewer – just someone who had been reading this blog for many years, interested in aviation and all the amazing products we have in the sky. I’m also a hobby photographer. When I had a chance to combine the two in my initial QSuites review I wanted to give the photography a twist, approach it – as I do with my travel/reportage projects in a more expressive, vibrant way. Would this become the new mainstream – no, of course not. But is there a place in the aviation review world for an alternative approach – I would think there is.

    @Jeffrey, thanks for the clarification about the “cucumber”

    @Jared – it’s a Leica SL with 24-90 and 90-280 lenses

    @JParker – haha, yes – you are right, it’s the SL again

    To everyone else – thanks again for the overwhelmingly positive response, I’m endlessly glad you had enjoyed the article!

  25. Yaroslav,

    Thanks for your reply. My preference is for your Q-Suites review, which had a nice mix of closeups and wider angle shots. This China Airlines review seemed to have an overemphasis on macro shots. Looking forward to your next one.

  26. @Lucky
    I took this flight last year when it was still operated by a 3-class 744 sold as 2-class. I was on paid J and ended up being the only pax in the former F cabin. However, I also found the crew to be unwelcoming and on the lazy side… two hours after take-off, lunch still had not been served and they couldn’t provide any reason for such delay.

  27. Great pictures and report – really enjoy reading it.

    I often fly China Airlines and EVA between Europe and Asia. China Airlines has better hardware especially with its new A350 and better IFE, however, as you described the crew lack pro-activity. In my experience even during long haul flights the bar on a350 wasn’t in full use. And there was no mattress or seat pad.

    EVA, on the other hand, uses 777ER for long haul flights. The planes are more dated and more noisy but the service is second to none. Better amenities, more comfortable duvet/pillow/mattress and much better food and beverage quality. Perhaps the most expensive champagne on business class and they just kept topping up! I don’t need to ask for anything as the crew are so attentive.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *