abrelosojos
Posts: 4050
Joined: Sun May 29, 2005 6:48 am

Air China CA 932: 10/AUG/09: FRA-PEK: Y Cabin

Thu Oct 15, 2009 11:35 am

Feedback always appreciated.

Trip Report: 082
Flight Category: Y-ILR (See Report End)
Date: 10 Aug-09 (See Report End)
SDT/SAT/Dur/Delay: 2015/1140+1/09:25 hrs
Flight: Air China CA 932, 4853 miles
Routing: FRA-PEK
Aircraft: 74E
Seat: Economy Class, 43A

I > Background:
I was in Frankfurt doing a network integration study and had a 5 day break from the client. Seeing Air China’s uber-low round trip fares to PEK, I decided to take a mini-break to China and see Beijing. Besides, I would get to fly the 74E which I had only done once before (KL: AMS-ORD).

There has been an absolute dearth of Air China reports on A.Net. This is especially surprising as they are now a Star Alliance member. In fact, I could not find another Air China intercontinental report; also, I believe this is the first on the FRA-PEK segment.

II > Pre-Flight:

a) Before Airport:
Air China is the flag carrier and operates 5,090 flights each week worldwide, making it the 18th largest airline in the world by fleet size. Air China's route network extends throughout Asia to the Middle East, Western Europe, and North America. The majority of the routes operate from its Beijing hub.

Air China’s website (www.airchina.com) is an absolute disgrace. Despite choosing English several times, the website would revert to Chinese and/or have no content on several sections. The booking engine is appalling and choked on me every time I tried to make a booking. After having spent 90 minutes trying to generate an e-ticket, I finally gave up and called their German offices. Here too, the agents were curt and barely understood German or English. Since I could only book a ticket and had to physically go to the airport to ticket, I finally gave up and decided to wait until the airport. The airport office was reasonably pleasant and I soon had my round trip FRA-PEK-FRA ticket. Overall, a disgrace of an experience in 2009 … and one especially from an airline based in the fastest growing large economy. One more thing, forget about the site having any features to pull up a PNR, change seats, etc.

b) At Airport:
I find Frankfurt’s Main Airport an absolute horror to transfer and usually try to use München whenever I can. This is despite having spent more time transiting at FRA than in my own flat in Caracas (I have probably done CCS-FRA near 50 times this year alone). Having said that, FRA is a relatively calm experience when being an O&D passenger and this time was no exception.

Air China departs from Terminal 1 and I soon found their desk. The check-in agent displayed typical German traits of efficiency and nothing more. However, this German agent clearly did not understand CA’s seat map. I requested an exit aisle and she said “no problem”. Of course, when I got on the aircraft this was not the case. Very disappointing.

After a quick immigration and security (why can’t more European countries learn from the Germans here?), I made myself to the extremely busy LH lounge. What is up with these poorly planned LH lounges around the world? It seems EVERY LH lounge I have been to (MUC, BOS, DXB, FRA, etc.) virtually have NO space to even sit down! It was a little too crowded for my liking and quick aperó later, I was off exploring the architectural nightmare of FRA. Amazing how a world-leading hub that provides consulting services to others (Fraport) could have such a dingy home terminal.

Boarding was called 45 minutes prior and was relatively fast and while there was some pushing and shoving, it was still a gentle version of “ILBST”. Prior to entering the aircraft, I got a glimpse of the beautiful 74E – seriously people, the 747 is still the queen of the skies. I don’t care what advancements the 380 has accomplished. The grace of the 747 is timeless! Entering the 74E, I was transported to the 1980s and the dingy Air China cabin. It was as if the aircraft was selected to match the dinginess of FRA! While the crew displayed no signs of welcome, I was grateful that they were pro-active in storing bags, etc. J load of 40%; Y load was 85%.

Airport - External:

(Frankfurt Airport – Terminal 1)


Check-in:

(Check-in)


Airport - Internal:

(Internal)


(FIDS – as always, the display impresses me at FRA)


(Post Security @ FRA)


Scenes of the tarmac:

(Taken from the lounge)


Lounge

NONE

Boarding:

(Gate area)


III> In-Flight:

a) Service Schedule + Impressions:
Air China service for this trans-continental flight includes drinks and dinner after take-off; breakfast 90 minutes prior to arrival.

The flight was relatively uneventful – except making me realize how loud the Chinese are (seriously, Mandarin is not an attractive language); and how annoying it can get to hear western expats (the French dude in the middle seat) bitch about their living conditions. I was very close to telling him to move back to dear old France if things were so bad. I refrained out of my new commitment to be nice to the French in general … I mean, I have decided that you can’t blame them individually for delusion  Smile.

b) Aircraft + Seats:
Air China’s 74E are stuck in the 1980’s. The interiors are dingy and need a complete overhaul. The lighting reminds me of a bus station in Siberia and the white walls depresses you as you countdown the hours to arrival. The bathrooms were equally “BLAH” and were nasty for most of the flight.

The 3-4-3 seating on Air China is cramped. With a constrained legroom and an overzealous Chinese man in the window seat, all I could think of is when the flight would end. The fabric of the seat was OK, but dirty. The one saving grace would have to be the above-average recline. Otherwise, an abysmal seating experience more reminiscent of a no-frills carrier.

Aircraft:

(Monstrous 747-400 Combi)


Views from Aircraft:

NONE

General Seat Views + Seat Legroom



(Controls – notice how its all held together)


(Legroom)


Seat Recline + Angle View:



Cabin:







(How the cabin ends)


(Bathroom Amenities)


(Should I be worried that there was duck-tape holding several parts of the floor?)



c) Meal + Beverage:

Drinks service consisted of alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages. It was interesting to see how much beer the Chinese ordered, and even more fascinating to see the flight attendants have absolutely no idea about cocktails and liquor. I stuck with Diet Coke throughout the flight (my new commitment to regaining my 6-pack, but I digress).

Dinner service had two options – a Chinese chicken dish and a Western pork dish. I chose the chicken dish which consisted of rice and chicken curry accompanied by salad, a bread roll, and a cake. The main chicken and rice was actually pretty nice; the salad disgusting; the bread roll was cold and like a stone; the cake just disgusting blob of sugar. Well, the main was nice … and I guess that is what mattered?

Between dinner and breakfast, I was surprised that there were no water runs. Not acceptable for a flight of this length. Given the cramped conditions, I failed to sleep and there were definitely no water runs.
Breakfast was served 90 minutes prior to arrival at PEK, and options included the Western omelette and the Chinese noodle. It was interesting that I was the only white person in the nearby vicinity to choose the later. The shrimp noodle was actually rather nasty and I could feel the MSG (?) in my tongue. Oh well. It was at least filling …

(Dinner)


(Café afterwords


(Breakfast)


d) Inflight Entertainment:
Aah. IFE consisted of an EXTREMELY dirty central screen which played cheesy China promotional videos (made in 1990s?) and had the moving map for the entire duration of the flight. I mean, I had never seen a screen so dirty in my life … it was far dirtier than my laptop screen and that is saying a LOT! And, what is up with no movies in a 9 hour 25 minute flight? Additionally, no English language in-flight magazine found throughout the flight. I know Air China has one … it was just missing entirely from this aircraft.

(Dirty screens – nothing played)


(“In-flight magazines”, Boarding Passes, etc.)


 Of course, there was no English language in-flight magazine

e) Crew:
The male crew member serving my section was nice and helpful. He smiled and was willing to be a service industry professional. The rest of the Air China crew left much to be desired. I don’t think I saw a single smile during the entire flight from the rest, and they were probably had received Communist army training as they were experts in barking orders. True, some of the passengers left much to be desired, but … I still maintain that firm kindness goes a much longer way than stern disciplinary behaviour. The lack of pro-active water runs, and significant delays in responding to call buttons added to them being overall sub-par.

IV> Post-Flight:
Landing at PEK was remarkably smooth. PEK is the story of the two China’s – the crappy airline followed by the brand new spanking airport. PEK’s T3 is a delight and an architectural gem. It took few minutes before cleaning immigration and taking the shuttle back to the main T2 terminal. One thing, the Chinese could do better with explaining the different forms needed for immigration. Worse, no one seemed to know! Only the Colombians with their Spanish only forms at many US gateways provide more confusion to guests in their country  Wink.

(Beautiful PEK airport T3)


V> Impressions + Scores:
Air China has a long way to go before it can truly be a global competitor. I thought that the Star Alliance moniker would have inspired the airline to become better. Alas, like Egypt Air, I was totally wrong. In short, Air China sucked. Poor hardware (cabin, IFE, etc.), and poor software (dining, crew, etc.) made for a rather shoddy experience.

Currently, Air China competes on price. I probably would never fly them unless the price differential was huge. Two thumps down.

(Lowest score in a medium/long haul international Y product)



VI> Other Trip Reports:

PREMIUM:
8.64: Turkish Airlines (59): JFK-IST: 11/2008
8.61: Air Canada (49): YYZ-SCL: 06/2008
8.54: Turkish Airlines (77): GRU-DKR-IST: 04/2009
8.30: Jet Airways (74): KWI-BOM: 04/2009
8.23: United Airlines (72): SFO-SYD: 03/2009
8.11: Aeroflot (33): MOW-DEL: 09/2007
8.05: Air India (80): CCU-JFK: 06/2009
8.04: Korean Air (40): NRT-ICN: 10/2007
8.02: Delta Airlines (24): JFK-CDG: 08/2007
7.46: LAN (55): YYZ-JFK: 09/2008
7.82: Singapore Airlines (06): EWR-SIN: 09/2006
7.23: Virgin Atlantic (81): BOS-LHR: 07/2009
7.14: Swiss (52): SCL-GRU: 06/2008
7.11: Austrian (79): VIE-JFK: 06/2009
7.02: Qatar (68): DOH-JFK: 01/2009
6.96: Etihad (61): JFK-AUH: 12/2008
6.93: Delta Airlines (18): SEA-JFK: 11/2006
6.84: ConViasa (65): CCS-DAM: 01/2009
6.81: Air Canada (17): ICN-YYZ: 10/2006
6.70: KLM (32): EBB-AMS: 08/2007
6.36: Privatair (60): MUC-BOS: 12/2008
6.25: Korean Air (45): NAN-ICN: 10/2007
6.11: TAP Portugal (53): GRU-OPO: 06/2008
6.00: Gulf Air (75): BOM-BAH: 04/2009
5.75: Singapore Airlines (16): CCU-SIN: 10/2006
5.64: NorthWest (46): ICN-NRT-SEA: 10/2007
5.39: LOT (54): WAW-JFK: 06/2008
5.21: Egypt Air (73): CAI-IST: 02/2009
5.07: TACA (66): JFK-SAP: 01/2009
4.42: Air France: CDG-JNB (25): 08/2007

ECONOMY: Long + Medium:
9.26: Air India (48): JFK-DEL: 02/2008
7.38: Avianca (01): BOG-LIM: 07/2006
7.07: Sri Lankan (62): KWI-CMB: 12/2008
6.41: American Airlines (58): LHR-BOS: 11/2008 6.41: Avianca (78): JFK-BOG: 05/2009
6.26: Jet Blue (21): CUN-JFK: 02/2007
6.06: Air Canada (04): YYZ-YVR: 09/2006
5.89: USA 3000 (19): PUJ-BDL: 01/2007
5.85: Spanair (69): MAD-LPA: 02/2009
5.79: Air New Zealand (42): RAR-NAN: 10/2007
5.46: TAP Air Portugal (23): OSL-LIS: 05/2007
5.19: Air Europa (70): LPA-MAD: 02/2009
5.16: Iberia (71): MAD-BOS: 02/2009
5.11: Air China (82): FRA-PEK: 08/2009

ECONOMY: Short
8.56: Paramount Airways (38): BLR-MAA: 09/2007
8.56: Kingfisher (64): HYD-CCU: 12/2008
8.24: Kingfisher (14): IXA-GAU: 10/2006
7.87: Indian (34): BOM-MAA: 09/2007
7.72: Alliance Air (13): CCU-IXA: 10/2006
7.57: Indian Airlines (10): DEL-CCU: 09/2006
7.23: West Jet (03): YYC-YVR: 09/2006
7.15: JetLite (37): BOM-GOI: 09/2007
6.70: Spice Jet (09): CCU-DEL: 09/2006
6.63: Air Fiji (44): NAN-SUV: 10/2007
6.63: Jazeera (67): DAM-KWI: 01/2009
6.58: Air Tran (02): EWR-MDW: 08/2006
6.48: Air India Express (63): CMB-MAA: 12/2008
6.44: CO Micronesia (39): ROR-YAP: 10/2007
6.41: Pacific Sun (43): NAN-SUV: 10/2007
6.37: Skybus (47): SWF-CMH: 02/2008
6.33: Kenya Airways (29): NBO-BJM: 08/2007
6.33: Sky Europe (56): LTN-BTS: 10/2008
6.31: Indigo (15): GAU-CCU: 10/2006
6.31: easyJet (57): BUD-LTN: 11/2008
6.22: Air Link Swazi (28): MTS-JNB: 08/2007
6.22: Air India (36): HYD-BOM: 09/2007
6.13: Adam Air (07): SIN-CGK: 09/2006
6.13: Air Rarotonga (41): RAR-AIT: 10/2007
6.00: Transairways (27): INH-MPM: 08/2007
5.95: Air Canada (05): ALB-YYZ: 09/2006
5.85: SAS Norge (22): OSL-AES: 05/2007
5.81: LAM Mozambique (26): JNB-MPM: 08/2007
5.69: Air Deccan (12): IXZ-CCU: 10/2006
5.67: Rwanda Air Exp (30): KGL-NBO: 08/2007
5.11: Aero Republica (76): BOG-CCS: 04/2009
5.07: Go Air (35): MAA-HYD: 09/2007
5.00: Sky Airline (51): IQQ-SCL: 06/2008
4.96: Valuair (08): CGK-SIN: 09/2006
4.78: Air Comet Chile (50): SCL-IQQ: 06/2008
4.74: Fly 540 (31): MYD-LAU: 08/2007
4.33: Viva Aerobus (20): ELP-MTY: 02/2007
4.11: Air Sahara (11): CCU-BOM: 09/2006

(Note on Codes: Y – Economy, J – Business, F – First :: I/D – International/Domestic :: SR/MR/LR – Short/Medium/Long Haul)
(Note on Date: Dates are modified to be +/- 3 days from actual flight date to not reveal actual flight pattern)

VII> Other Pictures:

NONE
Live, and let live.
 
gardermoen
Posts: 1325
Joined: Tue Jul 06, 1999 9:52 pm

RE: Air China CA 932: 10/AUG/09: FRA-PEK: Y Cabin

Thu Oct 15, 2009 12:02 pm

Hi, thanks for sharing this interesting report.
I've heard really bad things about the service on Air China, one of my friends flew them ZRH-MEL return recently and said it was a total nightmare. The lack of service seems really bizarre, especially for an airline that is part of the Star Alliance. Just goes to show, they want quantity not quality.
Your report has convinced me totally to avoid them.
 
abrelosojos
Posts: 4050
Joined: Sun May 29, 2005 6:48 am

RE: Air China CA 932: 10/AUG/09: FRA-PEK: Y Cabin

Thu Oct 15, 2009 12:10 pm



Quoting Gardermoen (Reply 1):
Hi, thanks for sharing this interesting report.
I've heard really bad things about the service on Air China, one of my friends flew them ZRH-MEL return recently and said it was a total nightmare. The lack of service seems really bizarre, especially for an airline that is part of the Star Alliance. Just goes to show, they want quantity not quality.
Your report has convinced me totally to avoid them.

= Keep in mind that Star Alliance is a marketing alliance of convenience. It has nothing to do with quality  Smile. Having said that, Air China is definitely the worst of the Star carriers ... though, Egypt Air comes VERY close.

Saludos,
A.
Live, and let live.
 
User avatar
airbuseric
Posts: 3560
Joined: Sat Jan 22, 2005 1:24 am

RE: Air China CA 932: 10/AUG/09: FRA-PEK: Y Cabin

Thu Oct 15, 2009 12:35 pm

Hi A.!

I very good report, though, not so good in terms to CA.

Quoting Abrelosojos (Reply 2):
Air China is definitely the worst of the Star carriers ... though, Egypt Air comes VERY close.

Agree with you, although I think you'll get some different comments on believers in MS. So far I hear positive but more negative comments on MS.

I think the food is not so bad for Y class on your flight, but the seating, the total mess in the fully loaded cabin etc., not my style to travel, even not in Y class. But I think you get this part of Chinese culture as 'service item' from the airline  Wink

So, you've flown again in a B74E now. Did you feel any difference with a normal version?  Silly I never feel differences..., so for me it doesn't make much sense between these two subtypes.

Regards,
Eric
"The whole world steps aside for the man who knows where he is going"
 
abrelosojos
Posts: 4050
Joined: Sun May 29, 2005 6:48 am

RE: Air China CA 932: 10/AUG/09: FRA-PEK: Y Cabin

Thu Oct 15, 2009 12:43 pm



Quoting Airbuseric (Reply 3):
Quoting Abrelosojos (Reply 2):
Air China is definitely the worst of the Star carriers ... though, Egypt Air comes VERY close.

Agree with you, although I think you'll get some different comments on believers in MS. So far I hear positive but more negative comments on MS.

= MS is slightly better in the air. On ground, Cairo airport is one of the worst customer service experiences with some of the most obnoxious airline workers I have ever seen. Worse, it goes all the way to the management level!

Quoting Airbuseric (Reply 3):
But I think you get this part of Chinese culture as 'service item' from the airline

= True. I have not been impressed by the service culture in China.

Quoting Airbuseric (Reply 3):
So, you've flown again in a B74E now. Did you feel any difference with a normal version? I never feel differences..., so for me it doesn't make much sense between these two subtypes.

= The difference is only when you come to the back of the plane. The two sub-types do not exist for the passenger experience; they exist for commercial considerations.

Saludos,
A.
Live, and let live.
 
Charles79
Posts: 1117
Joined: Sat Mar 03, 2007 12:35 pm

RE: Air China CA 932: 10/AUG/09: FRA-PEK: Y Cabin

Thu Oct 15, 2009 1:28 pm

Thanks for this TR, I've always been intrigued by Air China (though not enough to book them). When I was living in LA I always noticed very few non-Chinese passengers boarding Air China flights, gave me the impression that they mostly target the Chinese community more so than the general flying public.

Quoting Abrelosojos (Thread starter):
the salad disgusting; the bread roll was cold and like a stone; the cake just disgusting blob of sugar.

Geez, sounds they put all of their effort on the main dish and forgot about the peripherals!

Quoting Abrelosojos (Thread starter):
(Should I be worried that there was duck-tape holding several parts of the floor?)

I have actually seen this on more airlines that I care to mention. I guess it comes down to which are flying essential repairs and which are cosmetic repairs that can wait until the next D-check...

Quoting Abrelosojos (Thread starter):
Currently, Air China competes on price. I probably would never fly them unless the price differential was huge. Two thumps down.

No kidding, sounds like you were describing a US-based carrier...  duck  j/k!

But seriously, though, that is not how you win over passengers used to a "different" kind of service. I wonder how the experience is at the front and if they make up the numbers by offering a superior J/F class product.

Cheers!

Charles
 
djb77
Posts: 234
Joined: Fri Sep 07, 2001 4:00 pm

RE: Air China CA 932: 10/AUG/09: FRA-PEK: Y Cabin

Thu Oct 15, 2009 2:20 pm

Great trip report.

It brought my memories of a trip I made Frankfurt <> Shanghai last year with Air China, on their venerable A340s. In general, I think I was very lucky with both aircraft (half-empty, I had an exit four-seater row to myself) and crew (generally good, especially the German crew). The service was a bit sparse at times and patchy when it was there but for the price, I think I got a good deal.

What made me laugh though were special requests for seating: Coming back from Shanghai, the ground check-in staff had great difficulty understanding my request for a specific exit-row seat. When I got to the gate, I tried again and was told that the reason I couldn't have an exit seat was "You are not Chinese". This I couldn't understand but of course it was due to being able to understand the language of the crew in an emergency. I gave up but noticed on board that all exit row seats were free. I approached some of the German cabin crew, they laughed and told me that I could sit on the exit no problem.

What interested me though was the onboard shopping guide: the flights I was on had an onboard shopping guide for Air China AND one for China Eastern. Are they connected?

Certainly, all very memorable  Smile
 
akhmad
Posts: 2497
Joined: Sat Sep 03, 2005 2:20 pm

RE: Air China CA 932: 10/AUG/09: FRA-PEK: Y Cabin

Thu Oct 15, 2009 5:14 pm

Hi A.,

I think you are right about the rarity of CA trip report. But you have got it changed. Great insight report. I enjoyed it. Thanks for sharing.

Quoting Abrelosojos (Reply 4):
= MS is slightly better in the air. On ground, Cairo airport is one of the worst customer service experiences with some of the most obnoxious airline workers I have ever seen. Worse, it goes all the way to the management level!

I never flew MS internationally so I cannot judge them on that. But I did have great domestic flights with MS during our holiday in Egypt last month, and I enjoyed the CAI T3 very much. I have written trip reports about it as well.

Cheers,
Suryo
Friends forever
 
SurfandSnow
Posts: 1065
Joined: Sun Feb 01, 2009 7:09 am

RE: Air China CA 932: 10/AUG/09: FRA-PEK: Y Cabin

Thu Oct 15, 2009 6:06 pm

I'm honestly quite shocked that Air China was so bad. After all, they are competing against the likes of KE, OZ, SQ, CX, TG, and even EK in many cases, not to mention much newer Chinese airlines like Hainan Airlines in the domestic AND international realm. I don't see how they can keep this up for much longer - perhaps we will soon see a major overhaul of Air China a la Aeroflot?
Flying in the middle seat of coach is much better than not flying at all!
 
directorguy
Posts: 1045
Joined: Mon Jul 28, 2008 10:58 am

RE: Air China CA 932: 10/AUG/09: FRA-PEK: Y Cabin

Thu Oct 15, 2009 6:16 pm



Quoting Abrelosojos (Thread starter):
Date: 10 Aug-09 (See Report End)

Ah, my birthday :p

Quoting Abrelosojos (Thread starter):
Air China has a long way to go before it can truly be a global competitor. I thought that the Star Alliance moniker would have inspired the airline to become better. Alas, like Egypt Air, I was totally wrong. In short, Air China sucked. Poor hardware (cabin, IFE, etc.), and poor software (dining, crew, etc.) made for a rather shoddy experience.

Shame, and really surprising. I always assumed that Air China would improve everything, given the growing economy, *A etc. Throw in a 12-hour delay and this would have been something straight from the airline's 1970s heyday.

Shrewd and accurate analysis though. Somone I know did LAX-PEK recently and they were NOT impressed. Experience pretty similar to yours. And the 747's interior was absolutely appalling. For a much-revered Queen of the Skies, airlines have been doing an optimum job of making people hate that airplane.

Great TR, awesome pics as always.
Regards,
DG
 
ba319-131
Posts: 8133
Joined: Sat Jan 13, 2001 1:27 pm

RE: Air China CA 932: 10/AUG/09: FRA-PEK: Y Cabin

Thu Oct 15, 2009 8:45 pm

Hi Alex,

Real interesting report. I've flown CA in F/J & Y, when travelling F/J they are good, food etc but in Y, well a different story, pretty much the same you have seen yourself. I'd never travel longhaul Y in them but would in F/J.

Quoting Abrelosojos (Thread starter):
Air China’s website (www.airchina.com) is an absolute disgrace. Despite choosing English several times, the website would revert to Chinese and/or have no content on several sections. The booking engine is appalling and choked on me every time I tried to make a booking. After having spent 90 minutes trying to generate an e-ticket, I finally gave up and called their German offices.

- Had the same problems, used OPODO!

Quoting Abrelosojos (Thread starter):
Should I be worried that there was duck-tape holding several parts of the floor?)

- Looks classy!

Cheers

Mark
111,732,3,4,5,7,8,BBJ,741,742,743,744,752,762,763,764,772,77L,773,77W,L15,D10,30,40,AB3,AB6,A312.313,319,320,321,332,333
 
mdavies06
Posts: 318
Joined: Fri Aug 07, 2009 10:28 pm

RE: Air China CA 932: 10/AUG/09: FRA-PEK: Y Cabin

Thu Oct 15, 2009 8:51 pm

Hi A,

I can feel for you on this flight. However the food looks ok to me, at least the main dishes.

P.S. did you notice the advert of the 'China Citic Bank' at the back of the seat on the headrest? By advertising in this area, CA put themselves in the same place as the LCCs...

Quoting Charles79 (Reply 5):
Quoting Abrelosojos (Thread starter):
Currently, Air China competes on price. I probably would never fly them unless the price differential was huge. Two thumps down.

They have some of the cheapest fares from LHR to Asia and OZ. They can undercut some of the most aggressive carriers out there such as EY on these routes on price.

Quoting Djb77 (Reply 6):
What interested me though was the onboard shopping guide: the flights I was on had an onboard shopping guide for Air China AND one for China Eastern. Are they connected?

Yes. CA/MU as well as CZ are all part state owned firms, all under the umbrella government aviation arm called CAAC. If you look at the very top of the inflight magazine in the picture, its says 'CAAC inflight magazine'. My guess is that the MU and CZ flights would carry similarly labelled magazines but I am not sure about this particular one.

Quoting SurfandSnow (Reply 8):
I'm honestly quite shocked that Air China was so bad. After all, they are competing against the likes of KE, OZ, SQ, CX, TG, and even EK in many cases, not to mention much newer Chinese airlines like Hainan Airlines in the domestic AND international realm. I don't see how they can keep this up for much longer - perhaps we will soon see a major overhaul of Air China a la Aeroflot?

Not sure. domestically the incentive to upgrade products is slow in coming, with the China government policy of maintaining the top 3 in their status quo (split amongst PEK/Shanghai/CAN). Internationally yes their products are inferior to competitors overseas, so that's why China negotiate carefully on bilateral rights. They really will suffer if CO/AA/DL/UA/NW etc use all their allocated rights to China and ask for more.
 
MHTripple7
Posts: 591
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RE: Air China CA 932: 10/AUG/09: FRA-PEK: Y Cabin

Fri Oct 16, 2009 2:33 am

Wow CA looks completely awful and I will be avoiding them at all costs! It almost looks like they are doing anything to discourage customers from using them (Difficulty in booking, terrible service, and old aircraft). It's a shame Star Alliance membership wasn't rewarded to a better airline such as Hainan. Oh well...

Thanks for posting this Trip Report as I've always been interested to read what CA was like.
 
The777Man
Posts: 5918
Joined: Sun Jul 04, 1999 4:54 am

RE: Air China CA 932: 10/AUG/09: FRA-PEK: Y Cabin

Fri Oct 16, 2009 6:30 am

Hi Alex!

Nice report and I wasn't surprised of your experience; I have heard of similiar experiences on CA, especially long-haul.

I lfew them PEK-HKG in 2001 on their 777 and it was actually a nice experience, not as good as CX or so but still much better than what you experienced.

The777Man
Boeing 777s flown: UA, TG, KE, BA, CX, NH, JD, JL, CZ, SQ, EK, NG, CO, AF, SV, KU, DL, AA, MH, OZ, CA, MS, SU, LY, RG, PE, AZ, KL, VN, PK, EY, NZ, AM, BR, AC, DT, UU, OS, AI, 9W, KQ, QR, VA, JJ, ET, TK, PR, BG, T5, CI, MU and LX.. Further to fly.. LH 777
 
Airthanet
Posts: 70
Joined: Fri Jan 02, 2009 9:33 pm

RE: Air China CA 932: 10/AUG/09: FRA-PEK: Y Cabin

Fri Oct 16, 2009 9:34 am

Great report! Nice to see a CA trip again.

Quoting Abrelosojos (Thread starter):
Air China’s 74E are stuck in the 1980’s. The interiors are dingy and need a complete overhaul. The lighting reminds me of a bus station in Siberia and the white walls depresses you as you countdown the hours to arrival. The bathrooms were equally “BLAH” and were nasty for most of the flight.

It's a pity that Air China are still in the dark ages when it comes to long-haul. But I think the LHR - PEK - LHR flights are operated by the modern A330 now - thankfully.

Quoting Abrelosojos (Thread starter):
Between dinner and breakfast, I was surprised that there were no water runs. Not acceptable for a flight of this length. Given the cramped conditions, I failed to sleep and there were definitely no water runs.

Definitely unacceptable for a Star Alliance carrier!

Thanks for sharing
Recently Flown Airlines: Air Malta (KM), My Travel (MYT), First Choice (FCA), Swiss (LX), Virgin Atlantic (VS), Monarch
 
debonair
Posts: 2697
Joined: Sat Jan 03, 2004 10:50 pm

RE: Air China CA 932: 10/AUG/09: FRA-PEK: Y Cabin

Fri Oct 16, 2009 4:30 pm



Quoting Abrelosojos (Thread starter):
However, this German agent clearly did not understand CA's seat map. I requested an exit aisle and she said "no problem". Of course, when I got on the aircraft this was not the case.

Well, ONLY sometimes. I know many check-in agents having difficulty to understand a seat-map. BUT there are many other problems. I am working as a check-in agent and I know what I am talking about. First, many airlines (believe it or not!) are giving wrong seat-maps, one airline is showing only ONE exit-row on the A321, other THREE overwing-exits (or even more) on the B737-300, making it impossible for us to select the right seat! Another problem, many airlines having different configurations. The system is up-loaded with the planned a/c (which we received one day in advance), but an other a/c (config.) is showing up. Third problem, some airlines doesn't have a seat-map at all- so we design and create our own seat-map.

Quoting Abrelosojos (Thread starter):
d) Inflight Entertainment:
Aah. IFE consisted of an EXTREMELY dirty central screen which played cheesy China promotional videos (made in 1990s?) and had the moving map for the entire duration of the flight. I mean, I had never seen a screen so dirty in my life … it was far dirtier than my laptop screen and that is saying a LOT! And, what is up with no movies in a 9 hour 25 minute flight?

Well, next time make sure you will fly CA965/6. This flight from/to FRA is operated by an A330-200; offering great choice on the in-seat PTV with an massive 8.4-inch LCD display.
 
SQ772
Posts: 1647
Joined: Wed Nov 07, 2001 5:16 pm

RE: Air China CA 932: 10/AUG/09: FRA-PEK: Y Cabin

Fri Oct 16, 2009 4:59 pm

Having flown CA, MU, FM, 3U and several other Chinese carriers domestically (yes, only when I do not have a choice), I've found their service to border between nonchalant to downright rude. The Chinese carriers have gone through great lengths to mimick other global players, right down to the crew bowing in unison prior to departure a la JL, OZ, KE, NH, to the way they make their announcements, to the way they pour soda out of a pep bottle.... however, it their attempts to 'copy' others usually fall flat because their crew basically lack the soft skills, and are unable to shed their communist style attitude towards passengers, especially to the Chinese passengers.

I think alot is also attributed to the fact that all of these cabin crew are products of China's one-child policy, where they probably come from middle to upper class families, and have been pampered and served by others their whole lives. To serve their local comrades, and often times, passengers coming from the lower half of society is something quite beneath them.

The same can be said of the attitudes of the younger generation service staff in China's shopping malls, where their main pre-occupation is gossiping amongst themselves and giving you 'dirty looks' when you ask them for assistance.

China still has a very long way to go before they can achieve the service levels that you would see in Korea, Japan and Taiwan...
There's always a better way to fly...
 
LH4116
Posts: 1183
Joined: Tue Aug 28, 2007 4:39 am

RE: Air China CA 932: 10/AUG/09: FRA-PEK: Y Cabin

Sat Oct 17, 2009 10:34 am

Hello there Alex, nice report!

To be honest, when I read the title, I thought CA would be an airline with a high level of service, like most other Asian majors, though I was proved to be wrong.

First of all, the interior of the 744M looked bad and shabby, and the seats didn't seem much suited for a long haul flight. IIRC, aren't those the same seats found on their A320's and 737's?

Does CA still use their A332's to FRA, and if they did, why not chose it instead of the 744M. At least when the Y product is much better on those a/c.

The food looked pretty awful to me to, not much more to say about it...

Quoting Abrelosojos (Thread starter):
(Should I be worried that there was duck-tape holding several parts of the floor?)

Considering the fact that the floor does take up quite some heavy loads, I would be worried. Let's just hope that they don't use duct-tape on primary structural details  Wink

Thanks for sharing!

//Jonas
SAS Plus is Business Class made faux!
 
chepos
Posts: 5938
Joined: Sat Dec 02, 2000 9:40 am

RE: Air China CA 932: 10/AUG/09: FRA-PEK: Y Cabin

Sat Oct 17, 2009 5:16 pm

Thank you for sharing your trip on Air China.
I would like to fly on them just to experience their apparenlly subpar service. Air China is popular with the Chinese community (in the US) going back home to visit, for this market price does matter . Hence why they hold their own on the SFO,LAX,JFK-PEK market. It is beyond me why STAR accepted Air China into their alliance, I guess to have a market presence in China. I wonder whether China Eastern or China Southern are better than Air China on transcon flights ?

Regards,

Chepos
Fly the Flag!!!!
 
N537FX
Posts: 101
Joined: Sat Oct 17, 2009 6:32 pm

RE: Air China CA 932: 10/AUG/09: FRA-PEK: Y Cabin

Sat Oct 17, 2009 6:39 pm

Great report. I hope Air China improves their product, and given the types of routes they utilize their planes, such a change is really needed. One day, I hope to visit the terminal in PEK.
 
taichen
Posts: 210
Joined: Thu Jul 26, 2001 7:33 pm

RE: Air China CA 932: 10/AUG/09: FRA-PEK: Y Cabin

Sun Oct 18, 2009 1:13 pm

Your report was interesting and entertaining as always ! I am appaled at the low quality, or lack of, Air China Product. Actually, I had read elsewhere that they were a fine airline ... *A is a mess, with so many and so different airlines, it does not feel like an alliance anymore,... just a lot of airlines with very different backgrounds and customer service styles thrown together. Actually I prefer the old times where interlining was the norm and even through check in was more often than not available. These "advantages" existed long before airline alliances.

FRA is certainly an oldish, nightmarish airport. Still, it is one of my favourites, chiefly because of the many, bizarre airlines that fly there.

I've just checked Air China's Spain website and it seemed to work fine. Perhaps they are improving somewhat ?
 
abrelosojos
Posts: 4050
Joined: Sun May 29, 2005 6:48 am

RE: Air China CA 932: 10/AUG/09: FRA-PEK: Y Cabin

Sun Oct 18, 2009 4:19 pm

Wow. I guess my report sparked quite an interesting array of comments. Interesting to note that most of the people wrote back with similar experiences. So I guess not too surprising that they had the LOWEST ever score thus far in the "Y - Medium/Long Haul" segment.

Quoting Charles79 (Reply 5):
When I was living in LA I always noticed very few non-Chinese passengers boarding Air China flights, gave me the impression that they mostly target the Chinese community more so than the general flying public.

= I agree. However, other "ethnic" airlines have done well.

Quoting Charles79 (Reply 5):
Geez, sounds they put all of their effort on the main dish and forgot about the peripherals!

= I think so as well.

Quoting Charles79 (Reply 5):
I have actually seen this on more airlines that I care to mention. I guess it comes down to which are flying essential repairs and which are cosmetic repairs that can wait until the next D-check...

= Ya. But, all through the cabin? On windows? In the bathroom? A bit much no  Smile?

Quoting Charles79 (Reply 5):
I wonder how the experience is at the front and if they make up the numbers by offering a superior J/F class product.

= I flew them once on their 330 from GRU to MAD - and it was interesting. They kept on changing their flight and never really informing me. Thankfully, I am used to checking GDS randomly at work. Service was sub-standard. Food was OK. Seats were OK. Could not write TR as I was traveling for work.

Quoting SurfandSnow (Reply 8):
After all, they are competing against the likes of KE, OZ, SQ, CX, TG, and even EK in many cases, not to mention much newer Chinese airlines like Hainan Airlines in the domestic AND international realm. I don't see how they can keep this up for much longer - perhaps we will soon see a major overhaul of Air China a la Aeroflot?

= I don't think they compete with the players you mentioned. The only competition they are in is for price sensitive customers.

Quoting Directorguy (Reply 9):

Ah, my birthday :p

= I did it in honor of you  Wink.

Quoting Directorguy (Reply 9):
Throw in a 12-hour delay and this would have been something straight from the airline's 1970s heyday.

= Yup. Though, I did not fly in the 1970s ...

Quoting Mdavies06 (Reply 11):
P.S. did you notice the advert of the 'China Citic Bank' at the back of the seat on the headrest? By advertising in this area, CA put themselves in the same place as the LCCs...

= Yup. They were all over the cabin.

Quoting Debonair (Reply 15):

Well, next time make sure you will fly CA965/6. This flight from/to FRA is operated by an A330-200; offering great choice on the in-seat PTV with an massive 8.4-inch LCD display.

= Funny thing is I flew the 74E for a reason  Smile.

Quoting Debonair (Reply 15):
Well, ONLY sometimes. I know many check-in agents having difficulty to understand a seat-map. BUT there are many other problems. I am working as a check-in agent and I know what I am talking about. First, many airlines (believe it or not!) are giving wrong seat-maps, one airline is showing only ONE exit-row on the A321, other THREE overwing-exits (or even more) on the B737-300, making it impossible for us to select the right seat! Another problem, many airlines having different configurations. The system is up-loaded with the planned a/c (which we received one day in advance), but an other a/c (config.) is showing up. Third problem, some airlines doesn't have a seat-map at all- so we design and create our own seat-map.

= I recognize that. I know how the systems work ... but I also know what the Star airlines have loaded in the system at FRA ...

Quoting SQ772 (Reply 16):

China still has a very long way to go before they can achieve the service levels that you would see in Korea, Japan and Taiwan...

= Yup. In fact, customer service in China is behind every country I think in the larger Asian continent.

Saludos,
A.
Live, and let live.
 
Milesdependent
Posts: 581
Joined: Sat Sep 08, 2001 5:27 pm

RE: Air China CA 932: 10/AUG/09: FRA-PEK: Y Cabin

Mon Oct 19, 2009 2:06 am

Really interesting report. A definite 11/10 for your report, but it seems 5/10 is about right for the flight.

I would have expected CA longhaul Y to be nasty, but am surprised by just how nasty. I would have thought CA would have improved by now, but alas, it seems not.

I was "contemplating" booking a SYD-PVG on CA over Christmas as they have some nice cheap fares. But after reading this - I will not.

Thanks again for the report. You really are the airliners.net King of Trip Reports, and I actively look for your reports whenever I log on. Keep them coming.
 
ORDnHKG
Posts: 105
Joined: Fri Jul 03, 2009 5:29 am

RE: Air China CA 932: 10/AUG/09: FRA-PEK: Y Cabin

Mon Oct 19, 2009 5:22 am

Thanks for your report !

It makes me appreciate a lot more when flying UA 744 in Y !

Quoting The777Man (Reply 13):
I lfew them PEK-HKG in 2001 on their 777 and it was actually a nice experience, not as good as CX or so but still much better than what you experienced.

Unfortunately most of CA's longhaul are flown with 74M, it is always long haul show the truth about their service.
 
mdavies06
Posts: 318
Joined: Fri Aug 07, 2009 10:28 pm

RE: Air China CA 932: 10/AUG/09: FRA-PEK: Y Cabin

Mon Oct 19, 2009 7:32 pm



Quoting SQ772 (Reply 16):

I think alot is also attributed to the fact that all of these cabin crew are products of China's one-child policy, where they probably come from middle to upper class families, and have been pampered and served by others their whole lives. To serve their local comrades, and often times, passengers coming from the lower half of society is something quite beneath them.

The same can be said of the attitudes of the younger generation service staff in China's shopping malls, where their main pre-occupation is gossiping amongst themselves and giving you 'dirty looks' when you ask them for assistance.

I am not sure if this one child policy is one of the factors behind this. It is interesting you bring this up. But one thing for sure is that CA/MU/CZ crews do tend to spend a lot of time in the galley chatting away and not providing services to pax. in the main cabin.
 
HOOB747
Posts: 353
Joined: Wed Nov 15, 2006 7:30 pm

RE: Air China CA 932: 10/AUG/09: FRA-PEK: Y Cabin

Wed Oct 21, 2009 11:24 pm



Quoting Abrelosojos (Thread starter):
I got a glimpse of the beautiful 74E – seriously people, the 747 is still the queen of the skies. I don’t care what advancements the 380 has accomplished. The grace of the 747 is timeless!

I am with you 100% on this observation. No matter how ratty the interior of a 747 may be, the 747 is the most beautiful plane ever built.

Quoting ORDnHKG (Reply 23):
It makes me appreciate a lot more when flying UA 744 in Y !

Ha, yes these trip reports make me realize what a pleasure some airlines "Y" service can be!!
I love dem planes....
 
PlaneHunter
Posts: 6512
Joined: Tue Mar 14, 2006 3:17 am

RE: Air China CA 932: 10/AUG/09: FRA-PEK: Y Cabin

Thu Oct 22, 2009 12:35 pm

Hi A.,

very interesting report, quite shocking to see how bad the flight was.

Quoting Abrelosojos (Thread starter):

There has been an absolute dearth of Air China reports on A.Net. This is especially surprising as they are now a Star Alliance member. In fact, I could not find another Air China intercontinental report;

There almost would have been some PlaneHunter reports last year, but...

Quoting Abrelosojos (Thread starter):
Air China’s website (www.airchina.com) is an absolute disgrace. Despite choosing English several times, the website would revert to Chinese and/or have no content on several sections. The booking engine is appalling and choked on me every time I tried to make a booking. After having spent 90 minutes trying to generate an e-ticket, I finally gave up and called their German offices. Here too, the agents were curt and barely understood German or English. Since I could only book a ticket and had to physically go to the airport to ticket, I finally gave up and decided to wait until the airport. The airport office was reasonably pleasant and I soon had my round trip FRA-PEK-FRA ticket. Overall, a disgrace of an experience in 2009 … and one especially from an airline based in the fastest growing large economy. One more thing, forget about the site having any features to pull up a PNR, change seats, etc.

...the chaotic website together with suddenly non-existing flights and clueless agents resulted in a switch to Hainan Airlines.

Quoting Abrelosojos (Thread starter):
After a quick immigration and security (why can’t more European countries learn from the Germans here?), I made myself to the extremely busy LH lounge.

Entering Germany is too easy for foreigners IMO - and security guys are not necessarily efficient here. I have just been to the US again (IAH, PDX, SJC, LAX, ATL) recently and I was quite surprised how quick and efficient the security process has become.

Quoting Abrelosojos (Thread starter):
Air China’s 74E are stuck in the 1980’s. The interiors are dingy and need a complete overhaul. The lighting reminds me of a bus station in Siberia and the white walls depresses you as you countdown the hours to arrival. The bathrooms were equally “BLAH” and were nasty for most of the flight.

The 3-4-3 seating on Air China is cramped. With a constrained legroom and an overzealous Chinese man in the window seat, all I could think of is when the flight would end. The fabric of the seat was OK, but dirty. The one saving grace would have to be the above-average recline. Otherwise, an abysmal seating experience more reminiscent of a no-frills carrier.

Sounds very bad. But judging from your picture, legroom doesn't seem to be so bad.

Quoting Abrelosojos (Thread starter):
Dinner service had two options – a Chinese chicken dish and a Western pork dish. I chose the chicken dish which consisted of rice and chicken curry accompanied by salad, a bread roll, and a cake. The main chicken and rice was actually pretty nice; the salad disgusting; the bread roll was cold and like a stone; the cake just disgusting blob of sugar. Well, the main was nice … and I guess that is what mattered?

The main course looks quite good.

Quoting Abrelosojos (Thread starter):
It took few minutes before cleaning immigration and taking the shuttle back to the main T2 terminal. One thing, the Chinese could do better with explaining the different forms needed for immigration. Worse, no one seemed to know! Only the Colombians with their Spanish only forms at many US gateways provide more confusion to guests in their country

Interesting, cannot remember any special forms. Passing immigration was a matter of a few minutes at PEK last year.

Quoting Abrelosojos (Thread starter):
Poor hardware (cabin, IFE, etc.), and poor software (dining, crew, etc.) made for a rather shoddy experience.

The A330's cabin and IFE aren't bad, I guess the 747s will soon be replaced by 77Ws.


PH
Nothing's worse than flying the same reg twice!
 
abrelosojos
Posts: 4050
Joined: Sun May 29, 2005 6:48 am

RE: Air China CA 932: 10/AUG/09: FRA-PEK: Y Cabin

Wed Nov 04, 2009 3:36 pm



Quoting MilesDependent (Reply 22):
You really are the airliners.net King of Trip Reports, and I actively look for your reports whenever I log on. Keep them coming.

= Thanks a lot.

Quoting ORDnHKG (Reply 23):
It makes me appreciate a lot more when flying UA 744 in Y !

= LOL  Smile. I am yet to fly UAL 744 in Y ... but will now have a good benchmark to compare against.

Quoting Mdavies06 (Reply 24):
I am not sure if this one child policy is one of the factors behind this. It is interesting you bring this up. But one thing for sure is that CA/MU/CZ crews do tend to spend a lot of time in the galley chatting away and not providing services to pax. in the main cabin.

= Very astute observation. I think this holds true for some Latin carriers as well where customer service is beyond what the FA's are capable of doing.

Quoting PlaneHunter (Reply 26):
There almost would have been some PlaneHunter reports last year, but...

= LOL. I remember that report of yours. Hainan is indeed a much better airline.

Quoting PlaneHunter (Reply 26):
Entering Germany is too easy for foreigners IMO - and security guys are not necessarily efficient here. I have just been to the US again (IAH, PDX, SJC, LAX, ATL) recently and I was quite surprised how quick and efficient the security process has become.

= Actually, I think the Germans are efficient without compromising security. Also, they are relatively fare and pleasant. The same holds true for the Americans as well.

Thanks for reading all. Now off to catching up on other reports. My work trip has been insane this year ... and I wish I got more chance to do personal trips and then write about them!

Saludos,
A.
Live, and let live.

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