Hi, this is my first trip report on A.net. I hope you guys enjoy reading it…
Over the last couple of years, we have spent the first week of October exploring various cities around Europe. However this year, we figured, it was about time to leave the European continent behind us and embark on a voyage to a totally different place: Beijing. We spent weeks figuring out the cheapest flight to the Chinese capital. In the end, our options narrowed down to taking an Emirates flight (via DXB
), an Aeroflot flight (via SVO
) or an Air China non-stop connection. Since going via DXB
would have taken too much time given the fact that we stayed in Beijing for only five days and that taking SU
would have meant spending nearly six hours at SVO
on the way back, we eventually settled with CA
We arrived at FRA
exactly two hours before scheduled departure. CA
check-in counters were all deserted at this time, as most of the passengers had already checked in – luckily for us, as it didn’t even take two minutes for the check-in agent to take our luggage and handing us our boarding passes. After taking a drink at Starbuck’s we headed to the gate B46, which is located in the wing of Terminal 1 that currently undergoes renovation. Due to that, all the windows of the waiting area were blocked with construction equipment, effectively blocking views of the tarmac. Boarding commenced about half an hour before scheduled departure. The flight itself was about 40 percent loaded in J and 80 percent in Y.
's crowded T1
Although B-6073 was delivered to CA
only three years ago, the plane clearly showed its heavy usage. There was some dirt lying on the floor and upon settling down at our seats, my girlfriend discovered a disgusting brown stain on her pillow. CA
is definitely not SQ
. Fortunately; the dirty pillow got exchanged in no time. After boarding was finished, we taxied to runway 25R for take-off. The runway is located fairly closely to gate B 46, so by the time we commenced our take-off roll, security instructions were not yet even finished with. It was actually kind of funny that the FA
announced “We are about to take-off” when the aircraft already was accelerating down the runway, seconds away from rotating.
Our ride to Beijing, Vietnam Airlines B772 in the background.
About to push back from B46
Heading north-east after taking off from FRA
's rwy 25R
Seatpitch was alright
The flight itself passed rather uneventfully. After taking off from Frankfurt, our plane took a north-eastern direction, crossing the Baltic Sea, Estland and the all the loooong way across Russia. Passing St. Petersburg, it started getting dark outside and remained so until the decent into Beijing’s Capital Airport. Although our plane was equipped with an AVOD-system, the on-demand function did not work. Service was efficient and mostly friendly, comparable to LH
in Y. I ordered a vegetarian meal which did not really taste well, but it was still edible. FAs were doing water runs about every two hours between dinner and breakfast.
Dawn time arrival at PEK
Eventually, we reached Beijing capital airport at dawn. The size of Terminal 3 really struck me. This place is massive – but despite its size, T3
does not appear monolithic. Rather, it allows for a spacious, open and airy atmosphere which is so much better than FRA
’s T1 with its low ceilings and endless construction work going on. It’s probably because I’m used to FRA
’s cramped T1 that the size of PEK
amazed me that much. Clearing health check, passport control and customs was a breeze, as our flight seemed to be the only one arriving at this particular time.
A 330-200, B-6075
After spending five wonderful days in the Chinese capital, it was time to head home. We chose to take the very early morning flight, as it allowed us to stay in Beijing as long as possible. At 11.30 pm, the check-in area of PEK
was quite deserted. Again, check-in only took some minutes and after clearing immigration and customs, we embarked on a long walk to gate E36 where our flight was supposed to depart from. Due to the late (or very early) time of the day, nearly all shops and restaurants in T3
were closed, which sucked badly since I was starving and dinner aboard the plane was still some two hours away. About an hour before departure, the crew for our flight arrived. Overall, there were five (!!!) pilots on our flight. I guess it got kind of cosy on the flight deck. Two of the pilots were European; in fact the captain seemed to speak with a Spanish accent when he got on the PA. When we headed to Beijing, the captain was British (at least that’s what he sounded like). Anybody know, why there are so many foreigners flying for Air China?
Our plane sitting at E36, getting ready for the long, dark flight to FRA
(sorry for the bad picture quality)
Cabin shot, about an hour from landing at FRA
On the way, somewhere over Russia
Anyways, after taking off from PEK
, dinner was served pretty quickly. What I like about ordering vegetarian food aboard airplanes is that these special meals most of the time are being served before regular meals are passed out. The crew this time really was very polite and attentive. They happily provided passengers with extra blankets and pillows and when I asked for some red wine with my dinner, they had to decline since they did not have any on board (at least in Y). However, they immediately brought me some white wine without me asking for any. In the end it’s small gestures like this one, that make all the difference.
Business Class gets mood lighting for waking up - while in Economy "the lights were switched on"
Breakfast over Poland
Unlike the flight from FRA
, the AVOD system worked this time. After watching the new Transformers movie, I was able to catch a good six hours of sleep, waking up as we already approached the Russian - Belorussian border. Breakfast was served about an hour from touching down very smoothly at FRA
’s 25L runway.
Final verdict on CA
: They are at no means on par with other Asian carriers like SQ
. Leaving some minor issues aside; I would rank their Y product (at least on board the A332) equal to that of most American or European carriers. Efficient, standardised but rather impersonal service. Nothing special, but in the end you get what you pay for. I would fly CA
again anytime, given the fact that they offer some really affordable rates between Europe and Asia.