My flight from San Francisco to Taipei was scheduled to take off at 0140. Having arrived at San Francisco International Airport’s International Terminal early at 2200, I made my way to the China Airlines check-in counter, where I was duly assigned my boarding pass.
I proceeded to the security checkpoint at 2210 and was cleared within five minutes. This was a pleasant surprise, as security-screening procedures typically take a long time in the US, but the late night departure of my flight meant that there weren’t a lot of travellers at the airport.
While China Airlines does offer a dedicated lounge facility at San Francisco International Airport, premium economy passengers are not afforded entry. It should also be noted that there are no pay-in lounges at the international terminal, and Priority Pass cardholders can no longer gain access to the United Club. This effectively meant that I had to wait by boarding gate A9 for over three hours.
Flight CI003 began boarding procedures at 0050, with priority given to business class passengers, Skyteam Elite/Elite Plus cardholders, as well as Gold, Emerald and Paragon members of China Airlines’ Dynasty Flyer Program. This was followed by those sat in premium economy and thereafter economy class passengers.
Despite it being a relatively full flight, there was only a single China Airlines’ employee clearing passengers for boarding. This meant a long wait for me in the queue, and I was finally cleared at 0110.
Travellers that frequent China Airlines’ San Francisco–Taipei route will know that the B747-400 used to operate this service. However, the introduction of the new B777-300ER has allowed the Skyteam member to replace its ageing jumbo jet, which it did in early July 2015.
China Airlines new premium economy seat
The B777-300ER features all new cabin products by renowned Taiwanese designer Ray Chen.
Premium economy represents a brand new class type by China Airlines, and the carrier has evidently worked hard in delivering a product that represents a significant step up from the already excellent economy offering on the B777-300ER.
Chen has incorporated Song-inspired design cues across the entire Boeing aircraft, and the premium economy cabin is no different. The walls are lined with persimmon wood grain décor, an unusual detail in the aviation industry. This unique feature extends to the seat as well, with the front of the armrest also sporting the wooden texture.
Encased in a fixed-back shell, each seat is able to recline without affecting passengers sat behind. In a reclined position, the seat slides forward and the leg-rest extends too. While I typically do not enjoy shell seats as it restricts legroom, China Airlines offers plenty of leg space.
Premium economy seats are arranged in a 2-4-2 layout across eight rows and offer a 19-inch seat width as well as a 39-inch pitch. Each comes with a 12.1-inch IFE touchscreen, metal tray table, water bottle holder at the side, reading light, USB charging port, and a dedicated drinks holder.
I was assigned seat 30F, the first row of the premium economy cabin. Unfortunately, all aisle seats were occupied and so I was allocated a middle seat. While this would have normally meant that a visit to the lavatory would require me stepping over my neighbour, I did not experience such troubles due to the generous leg space, and the fact that the person sat next to me was a seven-year-old boy.
In terms of the hard product, this was one of the best premium economy seats I’ve ever seen. The generous seat pitch is superior to those offered by Air New Zealand, Cathay Pacific and Qantas. The metallic tray table was light but sturdy, and was capable of supporting my 15-inch laptop comfortably.
12.1-inch IFE screen
The IFE system is another notable strength. I found the touchscreen to be very responsive, and the colours to be crisp and vibrant. Viewing angles were also excellent throughout.
Upon entering the aircraft, I was shown to my seat, which I was pleasantly surprised to see came with a complimentary amenity kit, slippers and an inflatable neck support.
Flight CI003 departed San Francisco at 0200 and inflight service began at 0210 with drinks being served. Meanwhile, I had a glance at the dining menu, which was located in the seat pocket alongside the duty-free and entertainment magazines.
Menu on premium economy
The 12 hours 5 minute flight featured two meal services – supper and breakfast. The former began roughly an hour after take-off, with a flight attendant asking for my order. The starter consisted of scallop prawn zucchini salad with balsamic dressing, and I chose to go for steamed cod with black mushroom and steamed rice for my main. To finish, there were fresh fruits, Haagen-Dazs ice cream, and a chocolate bar.
Overall, the dinner service was pleasant but not memorable. I found the balsamic vinaigrette to be overpowering, while the cod was slightly overcooked. However, the fruits were juicy, and the ice cream was from the Haagen-Dazs Artisan line, developed by some of the finest ice cream makers around the world.
The lights were dimmed shortly after dinner service, and I reclined my seat in order to catch a few hours to rest. The addition of a neck support and blanket ensured that I had a restful sleep.
Fixed-back shell premium economy seat
Two hours before arrival, breakfast service began and I chose the western option of a cheese omelette and chicken sausage with potatoes. This was accompanied by some fresh fruits and yogurt. The quality of this meal was excellent.
Inflight wifi speeds
While tucking into my breakfast, I took the opportunity to test out China Airlines’ inflight wifi capabilities, and was suitably impressed by the performance. Speedtest measured download bandwidth at 3.54Mbps while the upload speed was 1.01 Mbps – fast enough for light web browsing, checking up on emails, and using instant messaging apps such as WhatsApp.
Descent was announced at 0445, and we touched down in Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport at 0520, docking at the arrival gate of Terminal 2 five minutes later.
Overall, this is one of the finest premium economy products I’ve ever had the privilege of experiencing. China Airlines should be very proud of their outstanding new cabin class.
- CONFIGURATION 2-4-2
- SEAT PITCH 39in/99cm
- SEAT WIDTH 19in/48cm
- SEAT RECLINE 120 degrees
- PRICE The internet rate for a midweek, flexible return flight in mid-November started from US$1,424.1, inclusive of taxes and surcharges.
- CONTACT china-airlines.com