SYD-CKG Tuesday September 01 2015
Aircraft: A330-200. Reg: B-6535
Departed and Arrived on Time
A while since I've done a trip report as I haven't been on any flights that haven't been covered numerous times.
This one is a bit different, and a carrier you don't hear much about - especially long-haul flying.
Sichuan Airlines (Code: 3U
) is a reasonably large, mainly domestic/regional airline based in Chengdu, China.
They do, however, fly from Chengdu - Melbourne and return three times per week,
and also Chongqing - Sydney and return twice a week.
They also, apparently, fly to Vancouver as well.
I had to make my way to Wuhan in China, and they were by far the cheapest option.
I bought a ticket outbound on 3U
and returning on China Eastern via Shanghai for a little over $800 AUD.
This seemed a bargain, and throw in the fact that I would get to travel on a new airline for me (and one that's not often reported on / experienced) made it a no-brainer.
Here was the routing for the whole itinerary: SYD
I won't bore you with too much text - the photos will do most of the talking and you'll be able to work out what's going on I"m sure. (I had to use my tablet to take photos on board - apologies for lack of quality in some cases).
The flight arrives in SYD
at 1220 and spends about 7 hours on the ground there.
Tonight's load was about 80% by the looks, and when I arrived at check-in, the line-up was reasonable,
but moved swiftly. Dnata handle the check-in for 3U
. I counted 4 other westerners on the flight,
so this is obviously utilised mainly by Chinese tourists and expats heading home to Western China it seems.
After check-in there was time for a glass of cider before heading through immigration towards the gate.
Sydney's Terminal 1 (International) is having it's duty free areas rennovated. It seems to be nearing completion.
Arrived at the gate, and the Captain and crew were waiting to board the aircraft.
(Note the tracksuit top addition to the uniform.. LOL)
The all-female cabin crew looked nice in their long red coats and were busy pinging away on Wechat before boarding.
This was on the back of the boarding pass:
Ready to board and ready to go
I managed to score row 6 - the first row in economy class, and the leg-room was, being the first row, very good. I also had a spare seat next to me in the 2-4-2- arrangement. After the doors closed I moved from the centre section to the window. By the end of the flight, my rear-end was hurting. The base of the seat seemed quite hard. I find this when I travel on EK
Y class too. Not a huge issue, however. A good plus is that there is a USB port in each seat
to charge phones etc. Nice one!
The safety video was shown in Mandarin and English.
Take off was right ontime heading south, and a series of right-hand turns saw us set-course for CKG
's aircraft on this sector features PTV's in the seat back, but, being in the bulkhead row mine came out from the armrest.
To be honest, it was pretty awful for Westerners. There was hardly any Western movies or TV
shows at all. I'd strongly recommend bringing your own iPad/tablet. (Don't forget - mobile phones are NOT allowed to be used on any Chinese airlines - even in flight mode - so you can't watch movies on your phone. You can however use a tablet or laptop. This is a pretty archaic rule that really needs to be looked at by the CAAC, but don't hold your breath!)
Even the Chinese section seemed to have about 18 episodes of the one series and that was about it.
Anyway, I had my tablet with me, so no issues for me. I kept it on the moving map.
The crew went into action and started with a drinks run. I asked for SPRITE. The crew seemed to have very little English from what I experienced. She looked at me strangely after I repeated the request, thought for a moment and went back to the galley and brought back a read paste in a paper cup. Obviously Sicuan chilli sauce!
My turn to look quizzically at her and she said proudly: "SPICY!" Oh - I get it now! I laughed and shook my head and pointed to the SPRITE bottle on top of the cart (which I should have done in the first place in hindsight) and then the penny dropped. She took the chilli sauce back to the galley and we both had a laugh about it. I eventually got my Sprite.
Along with the SPRITE came some peanuts and a wet towel.
After the drinks run they came around again with dinner. 3U
is a little different. They didn't use the common meal-tray at all. The "accessories" were given to you in a plastic box and the meal in foil given separately. A little unusual compared to other carriers, but I guess it makes it quicker for them cleaning up. I know the flight attendant offered me a choice of two meals, but I had not idea what she said, so I took a punt and said "beef". She nodded her head and handed me the pork with a smile.
To be honest, it was better than it might have looked. The salad was fresh and tasty, the cake was nice and the main meal was more than edible. No problems at all in my opinion! Another drinks run followed. (As with most Chinese carriers, they had red and white wine, been and no spirits). Plastic cutlery was provided - again this is normal on most Chinese airlines in Y class.
And with the foil off...
It seems row 6 is reserved for the relief flight crew. There were 2 of them sitting there. One of them eating the largest box of instant noodles I've ever seen!
After dinner, Chinese tea was offered. (No coffee or western/black tea seemed to be available). I didn't mind. I like Chinese tea. When in Rome.....
I then popped a sleeping pill. It was now about 3 hours into the flight and I wanted to get some shut-eye. I got a few hours which was nice and woke up when the lights came on. Breakfast was being served. I was automatically given the western meal, not the Chinese one.
The egg-pie concoction was actually quite delicious. Again, no tray, but a plastic box and the main meal.
The lights of Chongqing came into view as we descended.
As usual in Chinese airspace, you rarely fly in a straight line!
10 hours and 30 minutes after leaving SYD
We parked at a remote stand and bussed to the terminal. I guess the writing on the engine is advertising for
some sort of local fire-water. A strange place to put it! I think there was
additional advertising on the nose section.
Immigration was quick and painless at 5.00am in the morning. I had to wait for my bag and then transfer to the domestic terminal to check in for the flight to Wuhan.
For the price, I thought Sichuan Airlines were great. The entertainment system needs an overhaul, and whilst the crew's English was limited, every request was fulfilled eventually with a smile and a noticeable level of attentiveness and enthusiasm. They crew really did try hard and did their very best. I would fly them again without any issue.
In the next part of the report I'll cover the connection domestically to Wuhan and the return leg on a brand new China Eastern A330 to Sydney.
I hope you enjoyed reading about a carrier we don't hear about very often.
[Edited 2015-09-09 02:46:11]