China Airlines became the first Taiwanese carrier to introduce the A350-900 XWB (extra wide body) when it launched on regional routes last year. This year it began serving long-haul routes including Amsterdam, Vienna and Rome.
I arrived at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport’s Terminal 1 at 1620 for my scheduled 1830 departure on flight CI923. The priority queues in Row 9 were empty, I was quickly checked in to a window seat, and security and immigration processing took just a few minutes.
China Airlines’ Dynasty Business Class Lounge, located one level up on the left past security, is stunning, with a whimsical design aesthetic “based on the lifestyle and tastes of a literary recluse”. I arrived during the “afternoon tea” food serving (3.30-5pm) and enjoyed a delicious bowl of Taiwanese beef noodles from the live cooking station. The lounge offers a full complement of facilities, including showers, sleeping rooms, fast wifi with no password required, etc (read the full lounge review on businesstraveller.com).
Gate B8 was a 5-10 minute walk from the lounge. Boarding started rather haphazardly for premium passengers at 1800 (there was no announcement, I just saw other passengers being admitted and followed suit). On board I was shown to my seat and asked if I would like a paper. My request was unavailable on ex-Taipei flights – fair enough, but no alternative was suggested, which would have been helpful. As it later turned out, the flight attendant had shown me to the wrong seat. We didn’t realise the mistake until meal selections were taken some 30 minutes later, by which point it was rather annoying having to move seat when already settled in and unpacked.
China Airlines has already won awards for its A350 business class product – and rightly so. The 32 business class seats are configured in a 1-2-1 herringbone arrangement, creating a great sense of privacy and direct aisle access for all.
The cabin design is beautiful, with striking wood panelling veneers and residential touches such as the charming personal table lamps. The B/E Aerospace Super Diamond seat features a comfortable, 78-inch lie-flat bed, with fully customisable positions. Plenty of storage space includes a generous split-level footwell, a shallow tray, and a deeper space under the side panel – where the noise-cancelling headphones, IFE remote and USB/charging ports are located. The underside of this panel also reveals a generously large mirror. The seat itself is comfy, with silk-polyester blend cushions and a soft blanket. The seatbelt set-up required an extra shoulder strap to be worn during taxiing and take-off.
Printed menus were brought round before take-off at 1825, with two options for the main, plus an extensive drinks menu with two white and two red wines. I chose the beef goulash with steamed rice when the stewardess came to take my order five minutes later.
The flight pushed back at 1840, and took off at 1850. Shortly after, the captain announced a shorter flight time of 80 minutes. Dinner was served roughly 20 minutes into the flight; it was good, but not exceptional – the presentation could have been improved, and the taste was also slightly underwhelming. The Italian Conti Serristori Chianti Classico wine was very nice, however.
With no time to waste, I dived into the IFE system (it was a shame we couldn’t access the IFE while waiting on the ground) and found a wide selection of the latest Hollywood blockbusters, plus TV shows, music and games. Onboard wifi was also available costing US$11.95 for one hour.
All too soon, the captain announced our descent and we touched down in Hong Kong at 2028, arriving at the gate five minutes later, and were off the aircraft by 2037 with just a short walk to immigration. Baggage arrived swiftly.
The business class seating and cabin are outstanding, the lounge was excellent and it was a smooth flight experience from start to finish. A little polish on the service side would make this product really gleam.
JOURNEY TIME 1 hour 50 minutes
SEAT WIDTH 28in/71cm
SEAT RECLINE 180 degrees
PRICE Internet rates for a return business class flight from Taipei to Hong Kong in mid-June start from NT$12,418 (US$407) including tax and surcharges