Air China A330-200 Business Class

Air China Business ClassBACKGROUND Air China offers 15 daily direct services from Beijing to Hongkong. Six of them are operated by the Chinese state-owned carrier and the remaining nine are codeshared with Cathay Pacific and Dragonair. Unlike its Oneworld Hongkong partners, Air China is part of the Star Alliance and has its own Phoenix Miles programme. Hongkong Express and China Southern also operate on this route.

CHECK IN I arrived at Beijing’s still sparklingly new Terminal 3 from a hotel transfer car, which dropped me exactly at the entrance nearest to the Air China desks. I was booked on a 5.30pm flight.

The Business Class queue was short and I was dealt with in a couple of minutes. I checked in my luggage, then requested for a window seat and was allocated 14A. I headed through immigration and customs, which were mercifully easy compared to previous experiences at the older terminals, and took the shuttle train to the main gates.

THE LOUNGE Signage is always a problem in Mainland China, even at the airport. But I did eventually spot the signs for the Business Class Lounge and took the escalator to the next level up. The lounge was very crowded but I found a seat. The lounge drinks and snacks offering appeared to be quite poor. Some of the better items turned out to be hidden around the back and I didn’t spot them until it was too late, but nonetheless, the seating was comfortable and staff regularly cleared tables.

BOARDING I left the lounge about 30 minutes before the scheduled departure time, thinking this would be plenty of time. However, the gate was a considerable distance and it took me around 15 minutes to get there.

THE SEAT The Airbus A330-200 is a two-class configuration of Economy and Business. Rows 11 to 16 are Business Class, offering a total of 36 seats on this 251-seater plane. Rows 31 to 58 are Economy seats.

My seat 14A is the last row in the first section of Business Class and so you have no one sitting behind you although you are next to the toilet and galley. The seat was a standard Business Class seat and not one of Air China’s newer products.

THE FLIGHT The IFE was rather limited in choice, so I used my iPod.

Dinner was a choice of chicken noodles or fish and rice. The poultry dish was rather bland and disappointing. There was a variety of cheese and crackers and a limited choice of flavours of Häagen-Dazs ice cream. Later, there was fresh fruit and the offer of cognac.

The flight attendants were attentive and helpful. However, English-language skills were poor, which is surprising given the international make-up of the passengers on this route.

ARRIVAL The flight lasted three hours and 20 minutes. Business Class passengers were disembarked first and, within less than 25 minutes, I was on the Airport Express train heading toward Hongkong Central.

VERDICT Air China has some way to go to compete with Dragonair on this route. While the hospitality was warm, the poor foreign-language skills of the flight attendants can make for some awkwardness.

FACT FILE

CONFIGURATION 2-2-2 in Business Class and mostly 2-4-2 in Economy Class

SEAT WIDTH 68.6cm/27in

SEAT PITCH 106.7cm/42in

SEAT RECLINE About 165-170°

PRICE Internet rates for a return Business Class flight from Hongkong to Beijing in December started from HK$9,615 (US$1,240).

CONTACT www.airchina.com

Kenny Coyle


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  • CA also use these aircraft on the PEK-LHR route, I have a gold card for CA and use them a lot for internal flights as i am based in Beijing.

    Recently the service has gone downhill dramatically, consistently late departures (despite doors being closed on time), cabin crew are much less attentive – especially for foreigners on board. I flew PEK – LHR in July using miles to upgrade to business, the flight was a disaster, poor food, the IFE in my seat did not work (flight was full so I had to endure 10 hours without it), staff onbaord where as good as could be and very empathetic but terrible flight, then when i collected my luggage it was damaged badly – which started a huge discussion about compensation..

    On returning to Beijing I contacted CA to complain and requested at least the miles for my sector be credited (no request for my Wifes miles as her IFE was ok), this was met with a polite no, i then asked several times for contact details of Ms Zhang Chunzhi who was in that Months CA magazine as Service development director talking all sorts of big talk about how great their service was.

    They ignored my mails until i kept following up, they refused to give me any contact details other than the generic FFP email, no chance whatsoever for a gold card member to be able to feedback to the management – it seems they have a strict no bad news policy.

    I have now started flying with CZ and for sure they are now well ahead of the level CA were at 4 years ago when I started flying with them, it will take time to get my CZ gold card but it will be worth it. Lets hope one day soon CA hit the bottom and start listening to their customers so they can have a realistic overview of how they are viewed by FFPVIP customers.

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Air China A330-200 business class

BACKGROUND Air China offers 15 daily direct services from Beijing to Hong Kong, six of which are operated directly by the Chinese state-owned carried and the remaining nine are codeshared with Cathay Pacific and Dragonair. Unlike its Oneworld Hong Kong partners, Air China is part of Star Alliance and has its own Phoenix Miles programme. Hong Kong Express and China Southern also operate on this route.

CHECK-IN I arrived at Beijing’s still sparklingly new Terminal 3 from a hotel transfer car, which dropped me exactly at the entrance nearest the Air China desks. The Business Class queue was short and I was dealt with in a couple of minutes. I checked in my luggage requested a window seat and was allocated 14A. I headed through immigration and customs, which were mercifully easy compared to previous experiences at the older terminals, and took the shuttle train to the main gates.

Signage is always a problem in mainland China but I did eventually spot the signs for the business class lounge and took the escalator to the next level up. The lounge was very crowded but I found a seat. The lounge drinks and snacks offering appeared to be quite poor. Some of the better items turned out to be hidden around the back and I didn’t spot them until it was too late but nonetheless the seating was comfortable and staff regularly cleared tables.

THE SEAT The plane was an A330-200, with a 2-2-2 configuration in business class. Seat 14A is the last row in the first section of business class and so you have no one sitting behind you although you are next to the toilet and galley. The seat was a standard business class seat and not one of Air China’s newer products. The IFE was rather limited in choice so I used my iPod. Rows 11 to 16 are business class, offering a total of 36 business class seats on this 251-seater plane.

FOOD AND DRINK The main meal course was a choice of chicken noodles or fish and rice. The poultry dish was rather bland and disappointing. There was a variety of cheese and pre-wrapped crackers and a limited choice of flavours of Haagen-Dazs ice creams. Later there was fresh fruit and the offer of cognac. Flight attendants were attentive and helpful.

ARRIVAL Business class passengers were disembarked first and, within less than 25 minutes, I was on the Airport Express train heading toward Hong Kong Central.

PRICE Air China’s online booking offers Business Class return flights for HK$9,611 (US$1,240)

VERDICT Air China has some way to go to compete with DragonAir on this route. While the hospitality was warm, the poor foreign-language skills of the flight attendants can make for some awkwardness.

CONTACT airchina.com

Kenny Coyle


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Air China A330-200 business class

BACKGROUND Air China offers 15 daily direct services from Hong Kong to Beijing, six of which are operated directly by the Chinese state-owned carrier and the remaining nine are codeshared with Cathay Pacific and Dragonair. Unlike its Oneworld Hong Kong partners, Air China is part of Star Alliance and has its own Phoenix Miles programme. Hong Kong Express and China Southern also operate on this route.

CHECK-IN I checked in early at Hong Kong Central Station. Although no one was staffing the Air China counter, a check-in clerk soon appeared. I checked in one piece of luggage and asked for a window seat. I was allocated 11A and I then headed for the Airport Express ride to Hong Kong International Airport. On arrival, I headed for the Air China lounge, which is opposite Gate 16. You can take the lift or an escalator to reach upstairs. The lounge was fairly quiet. Aside from a basic array of snacks and drinks, both soft and alcoholic, there are around a dozen workstations with free wifi. There are also four shower units. The 1020 flight was called at 0950 and I headed for Gate 31, which was a good 10 minutes walk away.

THE SEAT The plane was an A330-200, with a 2-2-2 configuration in business class. Seat 11A is the first row and has a little extra legroom as a result. The seat was a standard business class seat and not one of Air China’s newer products. The IFE was rather limited in choice so I stuck to a book. Rows 11 to 16 are business class, offering a total of 36 business class seats on this 251-seater plane. Flight attendants offer you slippers.

FOOD AND DRINK I was shown the printed menu by a flight attendant to choose from, The main meal course was a choice of Chinese-style barbecued ribs, sole or a vegetarian meal. I opted for ribs and they were tasty if unexceptional. There was a variety of cheese and pre-wrapped crackers and a limited choice of flavours of Haagen-Dazs ice creams. Later there was fruit and the offer of cognac. Service was very attentive and my orange juice was continually refilled without prompting. However, English-language skills were poor, which is surprising given the international make-up of the passengers on this route. Nonetheless the flight attendants were friendly and eager to help.

ARRIVAL The pilot’s landing announcement came half an hour before touchdown in Chinese and English. Business class passengers were disembarked first, within about five minutes of reaching the gate at Beijing’s Terminal 3. I then took the shuttle train to immigration and baggage.

PRICE Air China’s online booking offers Business Class return flights for HK$9,611 (US$1,240)

VERDICT This was a fairly unexceptional service on a competitive route that shows that China’s flag carrier still has some way to go to catch up with the service and product levels of its Hongkong compatriots.

CONTACT airchina.com

Kenny Coyle


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