I flew Air China back in May JFK
legs were the 744s and the internal flights to Chengu and back were 733 and A343). I'm still planning on writing a trip report at some point but haven't gotten around to it!
I picked Air China as it was basically the only affordable flight at the time I was going. With that in mind the flights were not bad at all. I had heard horror stories but honestly they were completely unfounded.
The biggest benefit was that the 744s had 34" pitch, which I didn't know until i got on the plane. Those extra two inches made an amazing difference for a 14 hour flight, plus I had a window seat the whole way with no one next to me! It's the longest flight I've ever taken and I felt very comfortable throughout. There weren't PTVs at all, only one barely working screen at the front of each row per cabin, making it quite hard to see the route map unfortunately. I don't quite remember what they showed on the screen, but I believe mostly bad Chinese movies. I don't know if their 777s have PTVs. Bring a nice big book or get some sleep.
They served two main meals each way and they were quite edible, though not great. Basically some beef or chicken and chinese vegetables in a basic brown goo sauce, with sticky rice. Think of the blandest chinese beef and broccoli you've ever had, that was it. But quite filling. They also served a strange sandwich-y looking thing as a snack, wrapped in plastic wrap. I couldn't for the life of me guess what was in it, but I thought it may be tuna fish (which I don't eat), so I opted out. The service was friendly and they speak enough English to help you get your meal and drinks.
One more thing, the 744s look pretty cruddy from the outside. That shocked me at first as I was waiting in JFK
terminal 1 next to all these gleaming Air Italia, ANA, Asiana, Korean beauties. Then this thing pulled up and it looked pretty sad. (And I'd swear the one I got on the way home had rusty fan blades inside the engines from what I could see...). But again, quite comfortable inside.
Everything was fine except for the checkin at JFK
. They don't have a proper counter, they borrowed some from Lufthansa to check us in and it was very strange, especially as I showed up 4 hours early and wandered terminal 1 looking for the counter for nearly half an hour, and the staff at the terminal seemed unable to explain this fact to me. They don't really give out seat assignments or anything before checkin either. It kinduve has the feeling of a fly by night operation.
But all in all, I wouldn't hesitate to fly them if you want a bargain. It wasn't a nightmare. I've got tons of pics from my trip, I need to find a place to host them and write a proper trip report. Feel free to contact me if you've got any further questions.