I took the first airport shuttle at 6am, not wanting to digress, but I must say the hotel – The Sino Swiss is a great hotel!
The shuttle bus, a rather old Ford Transit, arrived about 10 minutes later outside the terminal building.
Despite the early hour the terminal was heaving with people. I located the Air China Business class check-in after having purchased my 50 Yuan departure tax, less than 2 minutes later I had my boarding pass and a Lounge access form.As a note, if flying a non-trunk route the tax is only 20 Yuan.
That task over, it was time to clear security, despite the large volumes of people,only one security check point was open.This changed perhaps 5-10 minutes later, but I was too close to the front to bother bolting for the newly opening one’s!
Having passed through, I checked out the reg of my plane at the gate before heading to the First Class/business lounge to relax prior to the flight. The lounge was pretty good, lots of relaxing chairs, several broadband Internet stations and a reasonable selection of hot and cold drinks. I grabbed a coffee and found a seat by a window to see if I cold make any new planes before leaving.
Deciding that it was time to head to the gate (not boarding announcements are made in the Lounge),I figured boarding would be almost half done by now, wrong!
The gate area was crammed with no apparent pre-boarding for First or Business – since this aircraft also operates international routes it also has First Class. I headed to the podium to enquire about priority boarding, the gate agent saw my Business Class boarding pass and literally grabbed my arm and pulled me into the mass of people (boarding had just started). The aircraft had 2 jetways attached, one for First/Business and the other for economy.
The First and Business cabins are both in a 2-2-2 layout, First having much more legroom. I settled into 4A and moments later one of the FA’s offered me a hot towel, after the towel being collected pre-departure drinks were offered, the choice being OJ or water.
We pushed back a few minutes later, todays flight had 1 passenger in First and 5 in Business, including me.
The aircraft left the ground at 07:45, shortly after the cabin service began, the choice being Chinese or Western, being hungry and not brave at this time I chose the Western option. This consisted of fresh fruit, hash browns with sausages and some ‘greens’ in addition warm coissants were served, all washed down with several cups of good (for an airline) coffee.
I dozed the rest of the flight.
We touched down some 3 minutes behind schedule.
Well, the first Air China flight was over and I was pretty impressed, I’ll just add that whilst visiting the loo I had a peek ‘down back’, it was packed!
The dedicated Air China desks were not open so I was directed to use the China Eastern Economy desks, even though my ticket had been inspected. After a 5 minute wait it was my turn, I think the check-in agent was a little disturbed that a Business class passenger had been waiting in line judging from his reaction. I was asked to wait as he disappeared somewhere, a few moments later he returned with my boarding pass and a lounge access pass.
Once again I had to spend another 50 Yuan on departure tax and headed to security, several lines were open so the wait was minimal.
I found the lounge on the same level as the boarding gates. The lounge is operated by China Eastern but Air China uses the facilities. I guess they don’t have their own lounge as they operate a very limited number of services from PVG. China Eastern could learn a lot from Air China, the lounge was ok but the seats were not as nice, the carpet had some large stains on it, the drinks selection was poor and there was only one internet station working.
Boarding was called at 19:45 some 30 minutes prior to departure, despite the aircraft having 2 airbridges attached, only one was in use.
This aircraft also has a First and Business class, again the Air China 777 fleet operated international routes though not long haul like the 744 and 343. First was a 2-2-2 layout whilst Business a 2-3-2 layout, not very good for a Business class product, and the legroom was much less than the 343 I flew in on the previous day. First had 1 passenger, Business had 25 of the 28 seats filled.
Hot towels and pre-departure drinks were again served, though the towels were, well let’s just say, to call them warm would be generous.
We pushed back a little late and headed off at quite a speed for the runway. The wheels left the ground at 20:31. I must note that the plane was equipped with a nose camera though the quality was a little poor.
Once we reached our cruising altitude the cabin service started.
Having experienced a rather good meal on the previous flight, this was a let down . We were ‘issued’ with linens and the meal tray, this comprised ofr metal, yes metal cutlery, a bowl of stuff which turned out to be mushroom soup and a small helping of smoked salmon on bread, on the same plate was a small slice of desert cake. Not impressive, in addition, the drink selection was pretty poor, the only non soft drink appeared to be red wine and you had to ask for that, refills was another story!
Once the meal trays had been cleared I read a little then slept until the wheels touched down.
The mighty 777 arrived at the gate about 5 minutes later.
End of report.
Observations and comments.
The 343 has much better legroom than the 777 in Air China’s layout.
The cabin materials and seat fabrics are different, the may be due to the 343 being a former China Southwest aircraft.
2-3-2 is not an acceptable Business class layout.
PEK catering appears better than PVG, though we did get real metal cutlery on the return flight.
Overall Air China was much better than I had expected, though on the evidence of the 2 flights, service is patchy. I would fly them again without question, though not on an international flight,well not unless there is a quite hefty price difference.
Since we don’t get many Air China trip report I hope this was of some interest and use.
The Finnair flight's from LHR to PEK via HEL will follow soon.
Ryanair!!! From Australia, joined Mar 2002, 4706 posts, RR: 26 Reply 3, posted (9 years 8 months 2 weeks 11 hours ago) and read 13697 times:
A rare report indeed! Thanks for an interesting insight!
2-3-2 is not an acceptable Business class layout
You realise that this configuration is pretty much the standard fare for majors operating the 777. SQ, EK, CX, MH... all have the same layout. TG even pushes the envelope further by having a 2x4x 2 in Business! Come to think of it, BA's Club is also configured 2x4x2, but the seats are facing all over the place so it looks spread out. But to me, it looks confusing.
At the risk of starting a A vs B war, this is why Airbus markets itself as a Business Class where there is no dreaded "middle" seat.
Welcome to my starry one world alliance, a team in the sky!
Carnoc From China, joined Oct 2001, 875 posts, RR: 0 Reply 5, posted (9 years 8 months 1 week 6 days 9 hours ago) and read 13494 times:
Terrific report, Ba319-131.
Just a few things to add: Air China is progressively upgrading its Business Class products on B747s and the airline did actually estimate to invest greater than 620 million yuan (RMB) to further improve both First and Business Class products on selected aircrafts in the next few years to come. On the other hand, close sources informed me that the carrier plans to purchase roughly 10 new aircrafts (per year) for the next 4 to 5 years at least.
9V-SVC From Singapore, joined Oct 2001, 1791 posts, RR: 11 Reply 6, posted (9 years 8 months 1 week 6 days 5 hours ago) and read 13473 times:
I flew on Air China from Shanghai pudong to Beijing last year on CA1502. I find their service pretty average and the 777 pretty crampy for a 2-5-2 configured 777. Enjoyed your report, hope to see more chinese airlines's trip reports in a.net pretty rare now adays.
A330Fan1 From United States of America, joined Jul 2003, 856 posts, RR: 11 Reply 7, posted (9 years 8 months 1 week 5 days 8 hours ago) and read 13402 times:
Great trip report man!
I would think PVG would have better catering, better-maintained lounges and overall a better experience since it's new and spiffy (at least when I was there in 2002, that's how it was). I took China Eastern and I didn't like the service too much - just generic. Seems like Air China can be good and bad, erratic basically. But sounds like you had a pretty good time anyways. Thanks for the report! i'll definitely read the Finnair one, I don't think I've ever seen a long haul Finnair report here recently!
Ba319-131 From United Kingdom, joined Jan 2001, 8353 posts, RR: 55 Reply 10, posted (9 years 8 months 1 week 5 days 5 hours ago) and read 13384 times:
Thanks for reading and your comments.
The Finnair report will be up hopefully later today or tomorrow,just need to finish it
PVG still is clean and tidy inside however I did note that quite a number of the spotlights on the outside arrivals level are out,when it gets dark it can be quite dark out there! - I suggest they hire a facilities manager,offer me enough and i'll do it
Lu From China, joined Aug 1999, 175 posts, RR: 0 Reply 11, posted (9 years 8 months 1 week 5 days 4 hours ago) and read 13363 times:
We are conserving the energy in shanghai because the oil price is so high, some of spotlights must be off . They allegedly will use allegedly candle in Pudong, and hiring a manager to lite them every evening. Would you like to come?
PresRDC From United States of America, joined Jul 1999, 650 posts, RR: 1 Reply 12, posted (9 years 8 months 1 week 1 day 18 hours ago) and read 13216 times:
Very interesting report. I am considering Air China for a PEK-PVG fligth I will need to make this November. I am leaning toward Air China because the First Class fare is $207 (one way, which is all I need). I will not be expecting much int he way of service, but hopefully being in F will make my journey through the airport easy.
Chinaeastern From China, joined Apr 2004, 348 posts, RR: 0 Reply 18, posted (9 years 7 months 4 weeks 17 hours ago) and read 12945 times:
well, very interesting report, although the only airline that i wouldn't like to fly with is air china. as my name suggested, i'm a more china eastern person and someone else said, the airline service in china is pretty generic, so i never expect anything good when flying with them. i have flied both carrier on their shanghai-sydney return route and the only impression about china eastern is nothing special, while the air china service was like i'd prefer they don't have FA's. they were not only unfriendly but also rude. My impression may not be appliacable to u guys as they do treat foreigners better. so, anyway,thx 4 ur report
Ba319-131 From United Kingdom, joined Jan 2001, 8353 posts, RR: 55 Reply 19, posted (9 years 7 months 4 weeks 13 hours ago) and read 12940 times:
Thanks for your input. I had wanted to fly MU on one of the sectors rather than a round trip with CA,just to be able to compare the 2,however,booking domestic flight in China is not all that easy,I went through 3 major travel companies before I managed to get a flight booked.Most difficult flight i'd ever booked!
Chinaeastern From China, joined Apr 2004, 348 posts, RR: 0 Reply 20, posted (9 years 7 months 4 weeks 1 hour ago) and read 12915 times:
yeh, it's extemely inconvenient to book a ticket to fly domestic in china. I've only flown on international flights PVG-SYD on CA, which i recon is a mistake, and the PVG-SYD on MU only to compare the 2 which seemed to be better. for wholly domestic flights, i would rank the service from high to low MU,CZ,FM,hainan airlines, shenzhen airlines, SZ (now, part of CA),better than CA,WH,(now MU), china north (now, part of CZ). My impression about the market is that there is still unequal competition there. i mean the 3 big airlines are supposed to compete with each other in a fair enviroment but what now really happens is that MU and CZ are placed in equal condition while CA has a higher hierachy than the other 2, being called air china is itself an advantage, i mean, really, it should be rebranded to china northern according to the nomeclature. and i don't think any other airport in the world apart from BJS would call itself "capital airport". i mean i don't really prefer MU to any foreign carriers and most of my trips to Australia and New Zealand were with SQ. But i just would like to mention this airline as i would be glad to see shanghai developed as an important hub in the future as more airlines are paying attention to this city instead of any other rival cities, as SQ now fly 28 times to PVG compare to 14 to BJS, being the only mainland china destination of exciting EK. By the way i hope any of BA,QF,or VS would do the kangaroo route via PVG one day maybe from MEL/BNE instesd of SYD. well, at the moment the only international connection in china is the SYD-CDG route on MU and hope it still well. to finish, just a bit more information on MU codeshare partners: JL,QF,AF,AA also, CZ better than CA
Carnoc From China, joined Oct 2001, 875 posts, RR: 0 Reply 21, posted (9 years 7 months 3 weeks 6 days 6 hours ago) and read 12899 times:
Currently, the inflight services provided by most Chinese carriers are pretty much similar, and services sometimes do largely vary from flight to flight even within one carrier itself, so it's not too fair to judge the overall standard of their inflight products & services by flew with the airlines only one or two times. However, I have to admit that first impression is very important.
In addition, I personally think either PEK or PVG would all become Asia-Pacific's major hubs in the years to come, and there is no way to say which one is better or worse, because both PEK and PVG have their own advantages on Chinese mainland, and no-one can deny their importance anyway.
By the way, just a correction to Chinaeastern's post, Singapore Airlines only flies to Shanghai 26 times a week, not 28 times (Only 3 daily flights on Mondays & Tuesdays).