Air China offers a reasonable product for travel between China and Australia. Their crews are well intentioned, but not very polished. Seats are fine, but far from industry leading. I wouldn’t go out of my way to book them again, but if they have another affordable fare, I would fly them again.
The Good: Lie Flat seats, decent food, affordable price tag.
The Bad: Lack of Wifi, poor IFE selection, cannot use cell phones on board.
The Noteworthy: There was a male flight attendant who seemed to bully the female crew, would bark at them, but then take a seat in the cabin and do nothing.
For more reviews, see here.
As I had mentioned in my previous installment, we were trying to get from Tokyo to Sydney the most comfortable and cheap way possible. The only flight that would allow us to do that was an Air China flight from Tokyo to Sydney via Beijing. We booked the flights using Air China’s website, and credited them to United’s MileagePlus.
Arrival in Beijing
We arrived in Beijing after our flight from Tokyo, only to find the city covered by the thickest smog I have ever seen. You could hardly see aircraft parked at gates right in front of you. Once in the terminal, we passed immigration. It was our first time in China, and we were a bit intimidated by the coldness of all the customs workers. The language barrier did not help either. Once done with all formalities, we entered the terminal. From there, we proceeded to the Air China Lounge.
Airline: Air China
Cabin Class: Business Class
Route: Beijing to Sydney
On Time: Yes
Boarding was orderly and on time. We were scheduled to depart at 9:55pm, and boarding began around 9:10pm. There were two different queues, one for business class passengers and one for economy passengers. The gate agents, who were by far the most proficient in English we had encountered so far, informed us that we would use the forward entry door, and that the lead flight attendant would greet us at the door.
Seat and Cabin
As soon as we boarded, the cabin crew welcomed us aboard and took us to our seats. I was seated in 12A. The cabin is arranged in a 2x2x2 configuration. The cabin feels sterile, but the seat finishes breathe some life to the area. They are purple, with red hues. On the seat, there was a pillow.
In front of the seat was the ottoman, which had a wrapped blanket on it, as well as the IFE screen, slippers and “noise canceling headphones”.
I had doubts when I booked that flight on whether we would have actual lie flat seats, as Google flights called them “angled flat seats”. On board, I realized these seats were, in fact, lie flats.
While we were still settling in, the flight crew came by and offered us L’Occitane en Provence Amenity kits. They were really basic, and only had hand creme and lip balm, beyond the bare basics.
Afterwards, the crew came by with the Menus for the flight and pre departure beverages. They offered OJ, water and champagne. I had OJ, and my dad had champagne, which he said was fine, but not that great.
In front of the cabin were some newspapers, in Chinese and English. I find the Air China logo on the front of the cabin is a pretty cool accent.
When boarding was done, the front business class cabin was 16/18 seats full, the rear cabin was 8/12 seats full. We pushed back a bit early, and took the very long and slow taxi to the runway. Air China does not turn on their IFE until after take off, so we had nothing to do while we taxied. We took off in the densest fog I have ever seen that allowed for planes to depart. After that, we proceeded very quickly to cruise altitude.
When we were still on the ground, the flight attendant came by to take our menu orders for the entire flight. We had to choose what we wanted for breakfast without even taking off. This was very annoying, because I really didn’t want to think about breakfast yet. This was really unusual because the menu advertised dine on-demand, but the crew didn’t follow this policy at all. The FA’s also took every menu back. I was really upset about that, as I like to keep the menus, so I was able to sneak mine out of the plane.
The menu read as follows:
I ordered the Western options for both meals. Dinner started with a warm towel, cold nuts and drinks.
After, the entire meal was presented in one setting. The amuse bouche was good, as was the appetizer. The salad’s dressing was nowhere to be found, and when I asked the crew they didn’t fully understand what I was asking for. The beef tenderloin was well overcooked, and the portion was on the small size. The chinaware was cool, and that was the highlight of the meal. I skipped dessert, and before I went to sleep, the FAs brought out water bottles for every passenger.
Sleep and Service
The cabin was kept a bit warm, but it was bearable. Within an hour north and an hour south of the Equator, there was non stop turbulence. It wasn’t particularly rough, but the plane did not stop shaking, so I couldn’t stay asleep. When I woke up, a member of the crew came quickly to ask if I wanted anything. I asked for some noodles and chocolate. The cup noodles were insanely spicy, but good. I tried to watch a bit of TV, but after 3 episodes of the Big Bag Theory, I was done with the titles I was interested in.
The cabin crew came by every 10-15 minutes across the cabin to see if anyone needed anything. The male crew member was always barking at them in the galley about who knows what, and was rude to passengers. He was like the man on the previous flight, with the uniform of a first officer, but never once entered the cockpit. When I went to the bathroom holding my iPhone, he barked at me “No phone! No phone!” I showed him it was “off” by fake pressing the on button. He was the only crew member who didn’t seem to do anything but “supervise” and be rude to everyone.
About an hour and a half before landing, the cabin crew simulated morning on the plane by turning on mood lighting on the plane. I had never seen an A330 with mood lights, and found that pretty cool. Here is the breakfast menu. As mentioned before, I had the Western option.
Breakfast started with a warm towel. As with dinner, everything was set up at once. The fruit looked pale, and the cornflakes were stale, but the omelette was pretty good. I found the sausage to be paler than me when I get scared, but they were flavorful.
Approach and Landing
Our approach to Sydney was prolonged due to some traffic down at the airport. After staying in a holding pattern for about 20 minutes, we were cleared to land. We got some stunning views of Sydney on approach. We landed on time, around 11:30am local time. On the ground, we got to see some cool aircraft.
Once at the gate, we had to go through immigration. Air China business class passengers do not get fast track cards, so we had to wait a solid 30 minutes in the immigration queue.
Air China is fine. They did not exceed my expectations, but did not fall below them. For the price we paid, it was a solid flight, and got a decent meal and sleep. I would fly them again, but on shorter routes. They poor IFE selection was a major bummer for me, because I was bored for most of the flight. However, they did get us from Tokyo to Sydney, and there were no major issues.
Here is a list of all my flight reviews: The Millennial Traveler Flight Reviews
Here is a list of all my lounge reviews: The Millennial Traveler Lounge Reviews
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