China Airlines A340-300 Business Class

CHECK-IN Checking in was a breeze, the whole process took a matter of minutes.

THE LOUNGE The Dynasty Lounge has a separate area for business and first passengers. The business class area is sizeable, decorated in neutral wood tones with colourful accents and soft furnishings. Compared to the airline’s lounge in Taipei the food offerings were dire, consisting of four dim sum choices that had seen better days, cheap instant noodles, two bakery items and sliced orange. I found this doubly disappointing as I was hungry, but not hungry enough to eat anything on offer save the orange. The drink offerings were also a bit odd, for example there was red wine and vodka, but no white wine or beer. On the soft side there were the usual fizzy drinks and boxed juices. I occupied my time by reading from the selection of magazines and newspapers. The lounge has free wifi, local power sockets and wired connection points, plus internet stations and public phones.

BOARDING The flight was delayed 45 minutes but once on board things started to look up. The spacious surroundings impressed as did the staff’s attention to detail when delivering the welcoming drinks, snack, hot towel and international selection of newspapers that occupied my time while economy class passengers boarded.

THE SEAT I found my wide leather seat (3K) to be comfortable and even though it was not fully flat the incline did provide a relaxing position in which to have a snooze. The seat features many adjustable sections, including head, feet, back and also a varied-angle leg rest option, all accessed from the set of 12 arrows. Other features include a power outlet and satellite phone.

WHICH SEAT TO CHOOSE Any seat would be a viable option. If flying a long-haul flight, I would steer clear of row 1 near the bathroom, and row 5 near the galley.

THE FLIGHT The flying time is less than two hours so I didn’t have much opportunity to enjoy the on-demand entertainment system, with my time filled by reading and the meal service. I selected the beef option over the fish and thought the dish showed potential and was miles beyond economy class food. It had a sound flavour profile but the beef itself was a little chewy. The vegetables it was served with had retained their colour and texture, quite a feat on a plane. The fruits served all tasted great and the cheesecake with berry coulis was decent. A good selection of premium wines and champagne were also served on this flight.

The staff seemed genuinely friendly and appeared to be enjoying their work. I was impressed that despite the tight timing needed to get the meal service completed they took the time to interact with customers in a meaningful way – the gentleman next to me chatting at considerable length with one member of staff.

ARRIVAL Like the flight, touchdown was smooth and we landed punctually. I cleared immigration quickly and arrived at the baggage collection point to find my bags already delivered – a bonus of flying business.

Despite some ongoing refurbishment of the airport it was reasonably easy to find the free shuttle bus to the nearby Novotel where I was staying.

PLANE TYPE A340-300

SEAT CONFIGURATION  2-2-2

SEAT PITCH 60in/152cm

SEAT WIDTH 21in/53.3cm

SEAT RECLINE 146 degrees

PRICE Internet rate for a flight in December HK$5,010 (US$644) all inclusive

CONTACT www.china-airlines.com


VERDICT

As a first-time flyer on China Airlines, based on this experience (and also its recent membership of SkyTeam) I would certainly consider the airline for other flights. Hands-down much friendlier staff than many of its international competitors. 

Vicki Williams


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China Airlines A340-300 Business class

BACKGROUND In March China Airlines became the first carrier to fly direct from London Heathrow to Taiwan’s capital after traffic rights granted by Europe were relaxed (see Route of the Month). Two-class flight CI070 departs London three times a week – at 2115 on Tuesdays and Sundays, arriving at 1815 the next day, and 2205 on Thursdays, landing at 1905. Return flight CI069 leaves Taipei at 0925 on the same three days, landing at 1700 the same day.

CHECK-IN I arrived at Heathrow Terminal 4 at 1945 for the 2205 flight. At Zone E there was a dedicated desk for business class and I was seen to quickly. (Online check-in is available but passengers can’t print their boarding pass.) Fast-track security was also speedy.

THE LOUNGE China Airlines’ business passengers use the well-equipped Skyteam lounge, a three-minute walk from security opposite Gate 10 (for facilities see “50 top airport lounges”). The carrier is not yet an official member but is expected to be soon. The buffet was depleted when I arrived but there were some snacks left. A good number of staff were on hand but as it had been busy there were a lot of tables to clear. Wifi is free and flights are not announced.
BOARDING I left it until 2140 to head to Gate 7 for boarding, which closed at 2150, but it was only a two-minute walk. I was in my seat by 2155. Once settled I was offered a cup of green tea, a hot towel and a paper by a friendly member of crew.

THE SEAT I was in window seat 5K in the last row of business, which is arranged 2-2-2 (A-B, D-G, J-K) on this A340-300. The body of the newer China Airlines angled lie-flat seat is upholstered in purple leather and offers a good amount of legroom (60 inches). (For a review of the older product, visit businesstraveller.com/tried-and-tested.) An in-flight entertainment (IFE) screen comes out of the middle armrest and a good-sized table out of the other. I found the seat comfortable for eating and watching films but difficult to sleep on as it didn’t recline fully flat. Laptop power comes from a two-prong socket, and noise-cancelling headphones are provided.

To see the seat plan, click here.

WHICH SEAT TO CHOOSE? Middle seats D and G are good for a night flight as both offer direct aisle access without having your neighbour climb over you to use the washroom. There can be some disturbance from the galleys at the front and back of the cabin but the crew made a real effort to keep noise to a minimum, which was appreciated.

THE FLIGHT We pushed back at 2210 and took off shortly after. At 2300, slippers, menus, bottled water and travel kits containing moisturiser, toothpaste, a toothbrush, eye mask and mouthwash were given out. Earplugs and socks were not provided, and there was no pre-dinner drink or snack. Food orders were then taken – first and business passengers can pre-order online 14 days to 24 hours before the flight. I had requested a vegetarian meal. My starter was a tasty cold noodle and vegetable salad, plus a side salad and a choice of warm rolls, garlic bread or pretzels. The main course incorporated many of the same ingredients and wasn’t particularly inspiring. On offer on the main menu was scallops and smoked salmon with wasabi mayonnaise, followed by prawns with rice and vegetables, beef with mushroom sauce, spinach and truffled potato terrine, or Taiwanese-style beef noodle soup. There was the option of cheese and biscuits, fruit, apple pie or chocolate ice cream to follow. I ordered a glass of wine with my meal – the only one I was offered.

The touchscreen IFE system was audio-video on-demand and the selection of films included 12 new releases, as well as music and games. At about 0100 the cabin lights were dimmed. I managed to get about six hours’ sleep but woke intermittently with neck ache. I also found it a bit cold.
About four hours before landing I got up to ask for some water and was offered a snack. It was vegetable sushi, which was a little soggy. At breakfast time I was given coffee and juice but waited half an hour for my food – stir-fried noodles and vegetables, which I enjoyed, plus fruit salad, muesli and a roll or croissant. Otherwise there was scrambled eggs with sausage, ham, tomato, mushroom and potato cubes, or Chinese-style stir-fry and plain congee (rice porridge).

ARRIVAL We touched down at Taipei Taoyuan airport at 1910 and were disembarked after a short wait. There was a ten-minute walk to immigration, which was swift. It is about 30 minutes’ drive to the city centre depending on traffic.

VERDICT A much-needed direct flight between London and Taipei with good-value business class fares. The crew were welcoming and the food decent.

Jenny Southan

FACT FILE

  • CONFIGURATION 2-2-2
  • SEAT PITCH 60in/152cm
  • SEAT RECLINE 152 degrees
  • IFE SCREEN 10.5in
  • PRICE Internet rates for a return business class flight in October from London to Taipei started from £1,959.
  • CONTACT china-airlines.com

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