Well,a little long but we don't get too many Air China reports,enjoy.
CA1949 A343-313X B-2369 Seat 4A
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!
CA197 777-2J6 B-2065 Seat 4K
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.
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
will follow soon.
As always, questions and comments welcome.
Thanks for reading.