Date: May 2016
Flight #: 125
Aircraft: Airbus A330-300
On Time: Y
Reward Flying Experience : 4.2 of 10 ✈
Passenger announcements are a necessity to keep travelers informed of important information. They are made by either the cockpit crew or flight attendants. Announcements during boarding, after departure, turbulence and seat belts along with landing preparation announcements happen on every flight. Some cockpit crews talk about more information than others. Flight attendants announce safety information. It’s expected.
This flight started out no different. Being a flight from China to Seoul the announcements were made in 3 languages; Chinese, English and Korean. The taxi out was particularly long on this flight and a rather interesting announcement was made. In the event anyone were to interfere with cabin crew personnel the offense is punishable with jail time. Interesting, welcome to China, not that I had any interest in interference with anyone.
Announcements were made during the full departure taxi sequence. I thought nothing of it. We departed and instantly when airborne more announcements began. On the climb out they continued. For each announcement the IFE monitor ceased and displayed Passenger Announcement. Being tired after an overnight flight all I really wanted to do was zone out and watch the airshow. Or fiddle with the entertainment system. What I got was, Passenger Announcement.
To amuse myself I began to start counting the number of times a Passenger Announcement was made. I started after numerous announcements had already been made. The flight was a little over an hour.
Fifteen additional announcements. In 3 languages.
Most of the announcements were to fasten your seat belt as “severe” turbulence was expected. The seat belt sign never went off.
It was one of the smoother flights I've been on. Nary a bump
Upon deplaning the SAS flight in Beijing there were two airport personnel standing at the end of the jetway with a sign stating to ask them about connections. I simply showed my Air China boarding pass and one lady said “follow me”. Of course we had parked at the farthest gate. She proceeded to walk through the terminal to where it said Transfer and told me to go there. It was a nice touch, she could have just as easily said to look for the sign but instead escorted me.
Reward Availability: 9 of 10 ✈
A bit of luck
Air China has great availability for regional flights using Star Alliance member's point programs. You can even get international reward tickets from China to Europe, Australia, etc. Just not US to China, in premium class.
When booking an original ticket using United’s website Air China flights are shown. So maybe you want LAX-ICN on OZ and ICN-PEK on Air China. That combination will show on the website and you can ticket it. However if you want to change a ticket, Air China reward flights are not shown. So let’s say the original ICN-PEK ticket was on Asiana. And you wanted to change to Air China, you would have to call United Reservations.
Stay at Gate
I had a short connection so I simply entered the lounge to take a quick look. The lounge attendant notated on my boarding pass the time to board was soon. The lounge has a nice view of the airfield as it’s on the 2nd level of Terminal 3. It was very crowded on a Friday afternoon. The Beijing airport is clean and easy to navigate as well.
I arrived at the gate at 12:55 as noted on the boarding pass. The waiting area was empty. Everyone was on the plane. There are 30 business class seats on this Airbus A330-300. Six were occupied.
What were they thinking?
The cabin on this Airbus A330-300 was what you might expect. Air China employs 2x2x2 seating on all their business class cabins. Everything is similar to Turkish Airlines in terms of layout, even the seats are from the same Zodiac family.
Just like home
Get me off this plane
The Zodiac seat is the Aura Lite model. If find these seats comfortable. The main difference is the ottoman instead of opening from the top, is an rectangular box without a side. It’s the stock Boeing 787 seat found on many Dreamliners. You get plenty of legroom with these seats.
Between the seat cushion and the armrest is where the power connections, IFE controller and a cup holder are located. Spelling bee anyone?
Fully reclinable with plenty of legroom you can stretch-out in this seat for long haul flights. Of course you don’t much privacy other than this weird armrest extension that comes to about shoulder height. Since this was a short day flight no bedding was provided and I never extended the bed as I was too enthralled with Passenger Announcements.
Cabin/Seat: 5 of 10 ✈
Of course no amenity kit was offered on an hour flight, but they did have slippers. And they are the nicest slippers I’ve ever gotten on an airplane. In addition newspapers and magazines were offered along with headphones to hear the passenger announcements.
Lunch was served on this short flight. There were no menus. The young man who was the main flight attendant in the cabin came around to get lunch selections. As said there were only 6 passengers in the cabin. At least 3 were English speaking. The FA spoke little English.
Lunch was chicken and rice or veg. He wasn’t able to articulate the 2nd offering which I assume was a vegetarian dish. All I can say is it had to be better than the chicken and rice.
Compliments to the Chef
Fine dining with a miss or two
No rave reviews
✔︎Get me a meal from economy
The one tray meal was plentiful, just not edible. Maybe the fruit was but the salad and thin slices of salmon looked old. I tasted the chicken and the texture was odd so I passed. What looks like spinach didn’t smell like spinach. Maybe grapefruit dressing is good, I’ll have to be in suspense for awhile longer.
Frankly I don’t remember if a dessert was offered. I don’t think so.
Needless to say I won’t be flying Air China for a dining experience.
Food: 2 of 10 ✈
IFE: 3 of 10 ✈
Can I stay and watch some more?
Watched a favorite and went to sleep
400 cable channels and nothing to watch
✔︎Glad I brought my tablet
My biggest complaint with this seat is the monitor is so far away. The system and certainly the controller felt antiquated. Air China’s safety video star is an animated Panda.
The airshow didn’t offer much information and was difficult to navigate. In fact I found the whole system difficult to navigate. While the IFE had the typical movie, tv, game, etc. categories, each were limited in content. Finally at the bottom of the screen you could select overhead, which I assume would be to show what’s on the cabin monitors. (A different airshow was being shown.) It didn’t work, at least when I repeatedly selected it nothing happened.
There was no Wi-Fi on the plane. In fact China doesn’t allow aircraft to offer Wi-Fi over Chinese territory. It's a control thing.
Crew: 4 of 10 ✈
Made the flight special
✔︎Did their job
Did they board?
The flight attendants were very young, I’d say in their 20’s. The front cabin had 3 attendants, 2 male and 1 female who was extremely shy. I didn’t see her speak to anyone. Other than the language barrier, the male attendants were friendly, accommodating and pleasant.
Aircraft: 7 of 10 ✈
Didn’t realize was on a plane
Time for a trade-in
My impression was that this was a typical older aircraft. While it wasn’t dirty it didn’t have a sparkling interior like the SAS A340 I’d just gotten off of. The seats, and maybe it’s their color, looked dated and the IFE for sure seemed ancient. I guessed I was flying on a 10 year old aircraft.
I was really surprised to find out the aircraft was 1.7 years old.
I wanted to try Air China. My curiosity is over. Maybe the differences between an international flight and regional are significant such as they are on Austrian. Yet this was an international aircraft. While there was nothing abhorrent about the flight (sans the food), it just wasn’t an experience I’d like to replicate on an overseas or long haul journey.
ANA and Singapore at Beijing Airport.
Do you have any Air China experiences you'd like to share? Feel free to leave a comment.