Review: China Eastern First Class 777-300ER Singapore To Shanghai

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China Eastern 544
Singapore (SIN) – Shanghai (PVG)
Monday, February 5
Depart: 12:25AM
Arrive: 5:40AM
Duration: 5hr15min
Aircraft: Boeing 777-300ER
Seat: 1L (First Class)

I boarded through the forward door, where I was greeted by two flight attendants and walked to my seat, 1L. China Eastern’s 777 first class cabin is intimate, and consists of just six seats. I can’t help but feel like it’s perhaps not the most efficient use of space given the massive aisle, but in a way I really like it.


China Eastern 777 first class cabin


China Eastern 777 first class cabin


China Eastern first class cabin 777

The big table at the front of the cabin served a couple of different purposes. In addition to the crew putting magazines and drinks there during the flight, underneath the table were individual bins for each passenger’s luggage. The first class cabin doesn’t have any overhead bins, so there are six storage compartments here.


China Eastern first class magazine selection


China Eastern first class cabin 777

Each of the first class suites features a door, which is a nice feature.


China Eastern first class suite

However, I found the cabin finishes to be really bland, and for that matter also found the cabin to already look pretty worn, despite how new most of China Eastern’s 777s are.


China Eastern first class seat


China Eastern first class seat

Along the interior aisle-side wall of my suite was a reading light, an air nozzle, a power outlet, a headphone jack, and an entertainment controller. Beneath that was a small storage pocket.


China Eastern first class entertainment controller, power outlet, and reading light

Next to the entertainment controller were the seat controls, which were intuitive.


China Eastern entertainment and seat controls

To the right of the seat were the windows. China Eastern has automated blinds in first class. On one hand I really love this, since it adds a classy feel, in my opinion. The downside is that it makes it much tougher to take pictures out of the window, both due to the glare, and also due to the distance that you’re from the actual window.


China Eastern first class window shades


China Eastern first class window shades

The seat had an ottoman, which was rather quirky. As you can see, during boarding my tray table was out. What I love about the tray table China Eastern has in first class is that it can slide along the entire length of the seat, so you can have it right in front of you, or a few feet from you.


China Eastern first class tray table

What’s interesting is where the tray table goes. Rather than going into a compartment to the side of the seat, it goes into the ottoman. The flight attendant slides it all the way over the ottoman, and then pushes it down. After the tray table is placed inside the ottoman, the top of it is closed, and you won’t even know the tray table is in there.


China Eastern first class seat ottoman

See?


China Eastern first class seat ottoman

While we’re talking about seats, I should mention that the four window seats are all identical. The only different seats are the two in the middle, and what makes them special is that they can be converted into a double bed.


China Eastern first class double seats


China Eastern first class double seats

The friendly flight attendant introduced herself the moment I settled in, and informed me of the flight time, told me I would be the only first class passenger, and asked how she could address me. She was perhaps a bit over-the-top attentive. I wanted to take a few pictures of the cabin during boarding, and she was totally fine with that, but rather than giving me space for a minute she hovered over me. I said “please give me just a few minutes,” she said “okay,” and then kept standing there. She was super nice, though.

Already waiting at my seat upon boarding was a glass of (nearly flat) champagne. Then I was offered either a glass of water or orange juice. I was then also offered a warm towel, as well as the menu and wine list for the flight.


China Eastern first class champagne, warm towel, and menu

Then I was offered a pair of slippers, eyeshades, and a toothbrush.


China Eastern slippers, eyeshades, and toothbrush

The shoe bag has an interesting-looking thing holding it together.


Hmmmm…

I was also given headphones and a bottle of water.


China Eastern headphones & bottled water

The bedding at my seat consisted of a simple pillow and blanket. At this point if became apparent to me that they had really only provisioned business class service for this flight. If you look at the schedule for Singapore to Shanghai, you’ll see that China Eastern almost never flies a three cabin plane on the route, so this was an exception. However, usually when airlines do that they just don’t sell first class, though China Eastern was selling first class, but only provided the business class soft product. That was fine, since I’d get the full first class experience on the next flight.


China Eastern first class pillow & blanket 

My meal order was taken within a few minutes of settling in. Interestingly they serve breakfast on this flight. I guess that’s not totally illogical, though it is odd to eat breakfast at midnight. After perusing the menu I decided to order the seafood and noodle dish. The flight attendant was extremely apologetic, but informed me that it wasn’t available. I’m not sure if they just forgot to cater it, or what.

I ordered an omelet instead. A few minutes later the flight attendant returned to my seat and said that they had loaded a seafood noodle dish as a crew meal, and that I was more than welcome to have that. I didn’t want to take away their food so I said that really wasn’t necessary, but she insisted. What a kind gesture.

At 12:10AM the main cabin door was closed, at which point the cabin manager announced our flight time of 4hr30min. At 12:25AM we began our taxi. We were near the runway within 10 minutes, but then there was a really long queue for takeoff. We were only airborne from runway 2L at 1:10AM, so we had about a 35 minute wait until it was our turn.

About five minutes after takeoff the flight attendant came to my seat to inform me that the flight had free wifi, and that I should let her know if I need help logging in. While China Eastern’s wifi is really slow, it’s still nice that they offer it at all, let alone for free. It’s limited to the first 100 people who log-on, though I’ve never even seen it get close to that limit. Alternatively you can register for wifi before your flight.


China Eastern wifi log-in page

Around the same time a pilot came and took seat 1A. The crew on this flight was working a direct turn (which is a really long day/night), so I’m guessing they had a relief pilot.

As we climbed out I browsed the entertainment selection, which wasn’t terrible. They had about 50 Hollywood movies, and a limited number of English sitcoms.


China Eastern entertainment selection


China Eastern entertainment selection


China Eastern entertainment selection


China Eastern entertainment selection

I eventually turned to the airshow, to take a look at our path for the night.


Airshow enroute to Shanghai


Airshow enroute to Shanghai

I also checked out one of the two lavatories at the front of the cabin, which was a decent size, though didn’t have any special amenities.


China Eastern first class bathroom

At this point I saw the crew setting up the forward table in the cabin with cans of soft drinks. Hah, I guess that’s a cute presentation, and I appreciate that they did it even though I was the only passenger.


China Eastern first class magazine & drink display

About 20 minutes after takeoff the meal service began. The menu read as follows:

The drink list read as follows:

My table was set, and I was offered some champagne and water. In retrospect it was probably weird drinking champagne with breakfast, though my body was confused, given that it was midnight.


China Eastern first class table setting

First up was the crew meal, which was exceptional. It had shrimp, scallops, halibut, and more, and was incredibly flavorful.


China Eastern first class breakfast


China Eastern first class breakfast

I was full at that point, but the crew still brought out the rest of breakfast. This included fruit yogurt, fresh fruit, and a choice of either a cinnamon roll or croissant to start.


China Eastern first class breakfast — fresh fruit and yogurt

Fruit included papaya, pineapple, kiwi, and strawberry, and the yogurt was strawberry flavored.


China Eastern first class breakfast — fresh fruit and yogurt

The cinnamon roll was on the dry side, and certainly not worth the calories.


China Eastern first class breakfast — pastry

Then there was the omelet, which was bland. While it doesn’t match the menu, I was told that it had salmon, though I couldn’t taste it. I’m happy I had the crew meal, because I just had a few bites of this.


China Eastern first class breakfast — omelet

My breakfast was done just over an hour after takeoff, with about 3hr20min remaining to Shanghai.


Airshow enroute to Shanghai


Airshow enroute to Shanghai


Airshow enroute to Shanghai

I closed the doors to my suite and reclined my seat to try to get some rest. Of course this is a really short flight, so there’s not really a chance to get proper sleep. I’ll have a picture of the bed in the Shanghai to Los Angeles trip report, since there wasn’t a mattress pad or anything on this flight.


China Eastern first class fully enclosed suite

I woke up as we were passing Hong Kong, with about 70 minutes remaining to Shanghai. I don’t know why I couldn’t sleep longer, but I guess I was just a bit restless.


Airshow enroute to Shanghai


Airshow enroute to Shanghai

The crew was quite observant, and within a few minutes of me waking up they asked if they could get me anything. I ordered a coffee.


China Eastern first class coffee

At 4:40AM in Shanghai, the flight attendant came by my seat and said “we are landing in 40 minutes, the outside temperature is minus three degrees. Thank you for flying with China Eastern.” 30 minutes before landing a PA was made to prepare the cabin for arrival.


Airshow approaching Shanghai

One thing I find annoying about many Chinese airlines is that they never turn off the seatbelt sign. They always have it on, and then when they think it’s actually necessary for people to be seated, they’ll just “chime” twice, and then the crew tells everyone to sit down.

During the descent both the flight attendant taking care of me and the cabin manager came by my seat to thank me again for flying China Eastern. The cabin manager also said “when we get to the gate maybe you have to wait a few minutes for police to come to plane.”

Ummm, what?!

At 5:20AM we touched down in Shanghai, and then we had a long taxi to our arrival gate, where we pulled in at 5:35AM. At that point the crew announced over the PA “the quarantine service will be boarding to assess the condition of the passengers. Please stay seated.”

It looked like the process would take a while, though they were going cabin by cabin, and closed the curtains between cabins. In my case they just looked at me and kept walking, at which point the crew signaled that I could leave.

China Eastern first class bottom line

This flight exceeded my expectations, especially given my previous bad experience on China Eastern.

While not the most polished in the world, the crew was friendly and attentive. The first class suite was a special treat on such a short intra-Asia flight, and I really enjoyed the crew meal they gave me.

I’d say the only real negative is that they sold first class but didn’t have the full first class soft product. Everything really seemed to be the business class service, but then again on a quick redeye I’m not sure there would be much of a difference anyway.

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Comments

  1. @Ben I am waiting for this MU F report. With or without cigarette odour! So the first leg is absolutely a let down. Even for a Biz flight it is pretty mediocre. Really they only have a bad omelette meal and the rest not loaded?? First class meal much !?!? So the FA saved the day and offered a crew meal which astonishingly was superb..hmm?? No matress, so how is the duvet? No wonder you have a restless flight, the overall experience is sad. Sorry, but that is not a first class product!! Waiting for the second leg.

  2. @eric – you’ve never seen security seals on a plane, especially in an lav before? Yes, the red is a bit obnoxious but it’s hard to say it takes away from the hard product.

  3. Almost all of the magazines are French ones: paris-match, le point, l’obs, GQ France.

    It is very funny to see that on a singapore-shanghai route.

    Thanks for the review.

  4. @louis..exactly! Ben’s coffee is probably instant coffee, while the illy coffee is gone..again!

  5. Looking at that wine selection, Mouton Cadet Red retails for 10-15 EUR and they serve that in international First class…

  6. @Lucky
    Since the menu you were given clearly reads Business Class, you should complain to China Eastern about this. Yes, they are not used to flying 3-class aircrafts on the SIN- PVG, but bottom line, they sold you a First Class ticket and should have catered accordingly.

    With regards to the cabin crew, I do think you were unfairly harsh to them. By your own admission, the main FA who looked after you was “super nice” yet you rewarded her by posting on this trip report that she wasn’t the most polished in the world and I highly doubt her managers would be pleased if they read that. If a cabin crew is kind, hard working, and well-intentioned, there is no need to debase them just because they may not have the more refined training that top airlines like CX and SQ provide to their cabin crews.

  7. @ Ben.. is this kind of a TAAG First experience only the FA is great, very nice and made an effort to sacrifice a crew meal ?! And yes, why did not you try the double bed? Actually MU shouldnphase d out First Class if they cannot deliver the product decently. Really waiting for that long haul MU F flight.

  8. Quarantine police? All Asian airports I’ve been to have an infrared camera for health purposes, can’t Shanghai airport afford a few?

  9. @ Bitzer — They definitely have that as well, so I’m not sure if there was a specific situation with one person on the plane, if this was a random test, or what.

  10. @ Myles — I asked to try the double bed on the longer flight (stay tuned). This flight didn’t have proper bedding, so I figured without decent bedding the double bed wouldn’t be very comfortable, not to mention the flight was quite short.

  11. @ SQFirst — Suggesting a flight attendant isn’t the most polished in the world isn’t intended to be an insult. The point is that some airlines (like Singapore, for example) *are* the most polished in the world, so I don’t think there’s anything wrong contrasting that with more random airlines. I think what I said about the flight attendants was overwhelmingly positive.

  12. From all of your reviews off Chinese airlines it just doesn’t seem like they try very hard. They have the latest and newest aircraft and hard product. And the soft product is rarely good. How hard would it have been to have all the sodas in that display forward facing? On one hand a ridiculous request. On the other a complete lack of attention to detail that is a recurring theme in your reviews of China Eastern. And China Southern.

  13. @Lucky

    That “interesting-looking thing” holding together the shoe bag is called a “button”. It will be found on traditional Chinese clothing. Given the amount of time you seem to have spent in China, Singapore and Hong Kong, I’m surprised you haven’t come across them before.

  14. @Ben…for me a 5h flight is long. I understand your point but MU should have delivered proper beddings as well, you are travelling F Class! It is just sad to see the thin poor quality of a blanket given to you, looks more an Economy one I suppose. How was the coffee? Am I right to say it was instant coffee and the horrible coffe mate?

  15. When MU schedules the 777 on Asian or domestic flights (eg PVG-SHA around twice daily) they don’t even usually sell First Class on their website, you need a travel agent or MU themselves to book it into U class (which Expertflyer incorrectly lists as coach).
    It only costs around $50 – $75 more than Biz and you get a private suite. Who cares about the lack of meal differentiation for that length of flight and price difference!

  16. @flyingfox..if you are assumption is right, then it is a better C product only with a suite. But even in C to have only one option for breakfast in a 5h flight, especially in Asia, rather bad I would say. The soft products on this flight are just poor!

  17. Ben – a simple question – anyone who follows your blog read this when you took the flight – February 4? – Have you run out of reviews ? It’s now April

  18. Maybe I’m a skeptic – but what may have happened here with meal service is that the flight attendants and pilots wanted the seafood noodles so she told you they were out. And then discovered there were extras. They also most likely wanted the omelette with salmon so gave you the economy omelette and plated it like business class. I just think it’s strange for the airline to cater specifically for crew and the crew would offer it to a first / business class customer

  19. I agree with what Kyle said, that maybe the crew wanted the seafood meal.

    However, with regards to the soft product, this is a intra-Asia *regional* route, not the same as long haul first class. So it’s somewhat understandable that they took some shortcuts.

    I’ve flown SQ Suites A380 on this exact same route, and the service was definitely not equivalent to the long haul Suites flight I had right afterward. For example, no amenity kit was given on that flight. (Can’t say what the bedding was like because the flight was too short to really sleep after the big meal service so I just reclined my seat instead.)

  20. @ Jim
    got your point! But in comparison to SQ which definetly has more food and better quality options (Book the Cook, just great). From my last SIN-PEK with SQ I had a nice thick blanket, was it a coincidence? I did not know exactly but it is definitely better than the poor blanket which we saw int he report. Amenity kits are a nice gesture but for a 5 hours I will be more happy if there some very good amenities in the lavs. MU has a lot to improve if it wants to compete with SQ, let alone in Asia.

  21. One thing I noticed and thought very interesting is that you asked for a few minutes and the attendant still standing near you. I was laughing when I read this. Being a Chinese who lived in the US for a bit more than 5 years, I totally get this. I am almost certain it’s a culture thing, as in Chinese culture, leaving people alone is not a nice gesture, especially in serving someone. But people sometimes do need their own space. That took me sometime to learn when I first came aboard. I also think the attendant totally did not get it when you say “Please give me a few minutes.” Haha…

    What’s more, I do enjoy the article very much. As China’s economy developed quickly, the level of service industry is not quite there yet. Especially for the airlines, some of the crews weren’t well trained. Some of them doesn’t speak English well enough. I am happy to see at least they are trying hard to improve.

  22. I just saw a champagne hack on the Facebook – apparently a raisin will rejuvenate a glass of flat champagne. You can look it up to read the science behind it. Take raisins wherever you go!!!!

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