CHINA AIRLINES A350 PREMIUM ECONOMY SYDNEY to TAIPEI
After my recent report on Sri Lankan Airlines, I thought this might be a report to interest some of you, with China Airlines not being a carrier reviewed too often on here.
I had always wanted to try them, but now that they're using the A350 between Taiwan and Australia, even more so!
In hindsight, I should have purchased a mixed-class fare (Premium one-way and Business in return) to sample both but my budget wouldn't stretch quite that far, so Premium Economy both ways it would have to be.
I arrived at Sydney Airport about 2 hours before my flight. Check-in was very quiet and there were dedicated lanes for Biz, Premium and pax who had checked in online. I was checked in within about 5 minutes and they also tagged my bags "PREMIUM ECONOMY" and gave me an Express Pass for immigration which was nice.
Lounge access isn't included for Premium Economy passengers, but a contact had kindly granted me access, and CI use the Skyteam Lounge in Sydney. There's a nice picture of various Skyteam cabin crew as you descend into the lounge.
The lounge itself isn't that spectacular to be honest, and I thought that the food and beverage options weren't quite as good as the QF Lounge upstairs. Despite being busy, they seemed to be very slow to refill the dishes on the buffet, so it seemed to be quite a wait while they brought these out bit-by-bit.
Whilst waiting for the hot dogs to appear I had a Rum and Coke and looked out over the wet tarmac of SYD.
Yay - finally the hot dogs appeared on the buffet! Well, mini hot dogs to be precise. At least they were fresh! The Wi-Fi speed in the lounge was excellent. So good, in fact, that I could watch the Friday night AFL (Australian Football) without any buffering whatsoever. CI 52 SYDNEY TO TAIPEI
08 JUNE 2018
Flight Time: 8hr32 mins
No boarding call was made in the lounge, so I made my way upstairs about 40 minutes prior to departure. Boarding hadn't started yet, but they had things well organised with 3 lanes for J, Y+ and Y all being orderly and under control.
There wasn't any line on the aerobridge and I was greeted by the purser and a friendly cabin crew member who guided me to my seat in the first row of the Premium Economy section.
This would be home for the next 10 hours or so. The layout is 2-3-2.
With only one other person in the Y+ cabin at this time, it allowed me to take a couple of cabin shots, and the seat in full-recline mode. This is the Premium Economy seat in full recline mode
The are a "shell seat" arrangement, so they don't recline into the space behind you, but rather slide down and then out. These are similar, I believe to JL's Y+ seats. I found them very comfortable with excellent width and legroom. The leg-rest that pops-up is also a great addition.
Each seat also has an individual reading light with 2 settings of brightness which is handy.
Check out the faux-wood... apparently it is supposed to represent Birch Trees. Not sure if I'm a fan or not - it's certainly different and makes for an interesting look throughout the cabin. However, this photo below helps explain why I would not
take the centre bulkhead seats again. On the right of the seat (where you can see a metal strip running along) this is actually a cupboard/locker in this section where cabin crew store their personal gear. There is a second one on the left-hand side too. Inside is a bright fluorescent light that stays on. The cabin crew access the locker multiple times during the night to access their stuff (particularly when going on a break) and when the cabin lights are off it really shines right in your face when you're sitting in the bulkhead seats of the centre section. Maybe an eye-mask would help, but I thought it was worth mentioning.
The trade-off is that the legroom is better in the bulkhead. Note also that your PTV is on the wall, and not on a fold-out arm from beside your seat. This means you can access the in-flight entertainment system and route map much earlier than if it was on an arm which needs to be stowed for taxi, take-off and landing.
Noice cancelling headphones were handed-out which were ok, but a good standard for Premium Economy.
A bottle of water and amenity kit was then passed out to us. The amenity kit - wow! I've seen worse in some airlines Business Classes. (Hellooooo.... Singapore Airlines?!) This was a great kit with useful things. And the hard case with a zip makes for an excellent cable case for future travels. Great work on this kit, China Airlines! Well done! (Not to mention the very cute China Airlines sticker which now resides on the side of my suitcase)
Slippers were also passed out, but they weren't so great. Fine for one flight, but you wouldn't take them home. Perfectly acceptable for on-board needs, however.
We were probably about 2/3 full, and we pushed back 5 minutes prior to our scheduled time and made our way down to the start of 34L and were cleared for immediate take off.
Within about 10 minutes the seat belt sign was off and the cabin crew did a round of pre-poured drinks: Orange and Apple Juice alongside water. I chose the OJ.
A week prior to departure I received an email from CI offering me complimentary in-flight Wi-Fi on my sectors. I'm not sure why I was selected for this, but I obtained my voucher number from the emails, and managed to connect easily whilst on board. The service was fast and very impressive. I didn't use it much, but it seemed great in the period when I tested it on-board. What a nice touch, but as I said, I'm not sure why I received this email.
Being a less-than-year-old aircraft, the screen was razor sharp and clear. Of course, I switched on the moving map as my entertainment! And off to Taipei we go....
The food carts came out pretty quickly being a departure after 2200. One small but brilliant innovation I had never seen before was on the side of the food cart. It certainly helps the passengers, saves printing menus and also saves the flight attendants having to explain something which might be unfamiliar to them. Sometimes it's the most simple ideas that are the best. I thought this was a great example of that!
Not being a huge fan of ginger I went for the Beef Stew option. The tray was well-laden with food and well presented. Especially the salad, which was delicious. Meals are the same as Y class, but very substantial and you couldn't really ask for anything better. It was a great meal!
Wine was offered with the meal and I had a glass of white.
After the trays were collected, individual ice creams were handed out - with a real metal spoon - and this was a very nice way to finish a good meal.
One of the crew came around offering Green Tea or coffee and I thought that a Green Tea would help me relax prior to trying to get some sleep. She also gave me an extra Kit Kat without me asking for it - nice!
A quick trip to the bathroom to brush my teeth and there were some amenities in there, but not too many. It didn't really matter as everyone had their amenity kit.
One thing I found unusual is that China Airlines pipes in background music to their bathrooms on the A350. I've never heard an airline do this before. It's not necessarily a bad thing, it's just different.
I managed a few hours of sleep in the comfy Y+ chair, and woke up as the breakfast trays were being handed out 2 hours before landing in TPE. I wasn't really hungry, but in the name of research and trip reports I had the Frittata. It was ok enough - airline breakfasts are rarely anything to write home about unless in Biz - but you certainly didn't get off this flight feeling hungry! The food was all fresh and tasty.
The flight wasn't full at all, so, again in the name of research, I went up the back and found an economy row not being used and took some pics. It was certainly an impressive Y class seat with all the mod-cons and decent legroom. It's definitely "up there" in terms of Y product, and if I did have to fly down the back this would be a carrier I would choose.
Unfortunately, I didn't get any photos of the approach or landing as I was sitting in the middle section, however, I certainly would have made more use of the window than the two people sitting on the side of the cabin! I kid you not.... they got on in SYD, covered their heads and didn't move/surface or adjust their position until we pulled up to the gate in TPE. Not even for the bathroom. I seriously don't know how you do that! It was like they were put into hibernation for the duration of the flight then woken up upon arrival. Everyone's different I guess!
We did land over one hour early which is quite amazing. Only 8.5 hours to TPE - much have had some tailwinds along the way.
Taipei Airport is actually quite nice and easy to navigate - particularly when you land before 5.00am in the morning!
My flight from TPE-ICN was on a rather new 777-300, but that was a very short flight which I won't cover here, but it was perfectly fine. CHINA AIRLINES - THE VERDICT
I was so pleasantly surprised by China Airlines. I think it's the best Premium Economy I've flown (and yes, I have flown others including CX and SQ). The seat was more roomy than the other carriers and the food was better (although this can vary flight-to-flight). I found the crew on my CI sectors to have excellent English (compared to the mainland Chinese carriers) and they were helpful, polite and service-minded.
The food was plentiful and of good quality and the flights were all on-time and ran smoothly.
CI's Business Class product on their 777-300's and A350's looks absolutely amazing, and I can't wait to try it. The Premium is a "Gold Standard" of Premium Economy in my humble opinion and even their economy class seats looked modern and comfortable. Their fares are also often excellent and very good value for money, and they also do mixed-class fares too.
I certainly would have no hesitation in recommending China Airlines to anyone looking for a great product and excellent value for money. I can't wait to fly with them again. Thanks for reading.