AIR CHINA FIRST CLASS A340-300 KIX-PVG-PEK

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  1. ohianjo
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    ohianjo Silver Member

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    Click the below link for a summarized video flight review on my youtube channel:


    I recently flew a 6 sector UA award from Osaka KIX to SYD in Australia during Golden Week in May(4 in F, 2 in SQ J), and thought I would try the Air China international First Class product on their A340-300 aircraft (sure beats the NH flight from NGO or KIX on the 738.

    Being based in NGO is not too great for international connections, and in order to maximize F flights, I went by the extremely efficient Shinkansen to Osaka the preceding night, and caught the 0900 flight to PVG.

    Having lived in Japan for a while now, I take perfectly punctual public transport for granted (not to mention clean), so here are some shots of the Nozomi Super Express Tokaido Shinkansen service from Nagoya to Shin Osaka (in Green Class)

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    Nozomi N700

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    12A

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    After a night in a nearby hotel (and being stuck in an elevator for 40 minutes with KE crew), I headed by shuttle bus to the familiar, if boring KIX terminal for check in. As it was the first day of Golden Week (Japan's longest holiday), the check in lobby was bustling, but the First line was completely empty.

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    Economy for PVG and PEK

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  2. ohianjo
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    ohianjo Silver Member

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    Seeing my Japanese resident card, the check in agent apologized for her lack of english (which is common in Japan), and continued procedures in Japanese, letting me know that I was the only passenger in F, and that she had reserved 1A for me on both flights. All seemed great, except that checked luggage would need to be collected in PVG, and re-checked to PEK. As I was meeting friends in Shanghai (7 hour layover), I didn't want to risk anything, so I pulled out the Japanese cosmetics that I had promised to buy for family and friends, and promptly gave them to the agent who seemed suddenly quite happy... A sacrifice now and then doesn't hurt too bad

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    Friendly China Airlines staff from Taiwan smiling across the straight at the rival Air China desks (Made me feel nostalgic for the time when I was based out of KHH and TPE)

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    Ended up chatting to TPE based CI staff while on the train to the gate... As usual the Taiwanese were lovely and wished me luck on my trip to the PRC... Don't even know how many times I have been on one of these birds

    Air China uses the dumpy JAL lounge at KIX (which is close to the gate, but oh so boring)... The only real food were Japanese rice balls... At least they had some good Oolong tea to wash them down. Lounge was filled with Chinese nouveau riche, decked out in all kinds of LV and Gucci, while chatting loudly... I was happy to escape and wander down to the gate for boarding...

    Cheap JAL Sakura Lounge
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    AIR CHINA FLIGHT CA164 0900
    OSAKA KANSAI 大阪関西国際空港 − SHANGHAI PUDONG 上海浦東國際機場
    FIRST CLASS 1A
    A340-300

    After arrival at the crowded gate, I quickly showed my passport and boarding pass to the gate agents who let me straight on (before general boarding call)... Thank goodness because the flight was nearly full and I have firsthand experience boarding CA and CZ flights... no mean feat.

    I was greeted by a young crew member who led my to my seat and offered a pre departure drink. As the flight was ex Japan, crew were more fluent in Japanese than English, but we found a happy medium in Mandarin, and I felt that the crew were immediately much nicer when they could work in their mother tongue

    The First cabin is spacious, leg room ample and in my case, quite empty. Knowing the age of the aircraft, overall condition of the aircraft was good, and the seats themselves comfortable.


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    First Class Cabin

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  3. ohianjo
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    ohianjo Silver Member

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    Seat 2A

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    AVOD and seat controls (design not as fine tuned as more recent onboard products)

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    Seat in full recline

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    Air China embossed Pillow
     
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  4. ohianjo
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    ohianjo Silver Member

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    Once we had reached cruising altitude, I was offered a special tea menu... Now I for one enjoy tea, and have become accustomed to Chinese tea in particular... while their alcoholic beverages were below par, the tea (and especially the provision of my favorite Qing Cha) was quite amazing. On the other hand, no menus were available for the meal service and two options were given verbally by the young FA; "Japanese style" or "Italian Style Pizza" (which you will see turned out to be the biggest surprise, and not in a good way).
    Seeing as it was a KIX catered flight, I didn't think too hard and went straight for the Japanese option, which was served with tea and a Japanese Sakura themed seasonal dessert (as the flowers were still in bloom at that time).
    The oddest thing about the meal (in true Japanese fashion), was that it was basically sushi served with potato salad on crustless bread... Quite odd and not the best tasting either.

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    "Suitable for the crowd to lose weight, and feel irritable.."

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    After seeing me nibble a bit, the crew brought more tea and offered me the 'pizza' dish... which you can see below, isn't really pizza.
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    Instead, it was Japanese Okonomiyaki (which I guess if you really stretch your imagination a bit, resembles pizza)... The taste wasn't great and it looked like it was completely zapped when it arrived at my table... not the best.
     
  5. ohianjo
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    ohianjo Silver Member

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    Crew were chatty and spoke lots about their home base (all from Chengdu), and gave me some weather information for our arrival at PVG. We then commenced descent, and taxied for what seemed like ages before the crowded rush for the exit...

    OVERALL IMPRESSIONS

    While I have flown Air China before, and am well aware of their standards, especially in comparison to NH or OZ, I tried it for kicks and out of boredom from the usual.

    PROS:
    Kind staff who were willing to joke and laugh (although probably different outcome if in english)
    Spacious, if dated F seat
    Clean and well maintained (surprise factor)

    CONS:
    No menu and very lackluster catering
    Somewhat violent disembarkation from rear Business class doors.

    I certainly wouldn't pay for F on Air China, but would be willing to fly them again in the future.

    Stay tuned for continuing F sector to PEK in following posts, and click to see a full video of the trip report on my youtube channel:
     
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  6. jmjgp12

    jmjgp12 Silver Member

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    Excellent report! Thank you for sharing here and on you other YouTube videos - they are extremely informative!
     
  7. Sedosi

    Sedosi Gold Member

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    Like the videos. May I ask what you're using to shoot those?
     
  8. ohianjo
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    ohianjo Silver Member

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    I just use my small Pentax Q (I hate lugging around a huge camera), but it has done a good job with HD footage for this video (first with the new camera)
     
  9. SOLTATIO

    SOLTATIO Silver Member

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    Great report! Interesting to see the "zapped pizza"/"potato salad bread" in first class. Had a rough experience with Air China a while ago, stuck in a middle seat in economy due to overbooking. The "snack meal" we were served consisted of some small squashed Saran wrapped sandwiches, one with peanut butter, one with tuna mayo and another with some indistinguishable salad. Needless to say myself and my seat mates exchanged glances, laughed, and proceeded to share some Pringles. I remember thinking that First class must have at least eaten decently. Guess I was wrong...;)
     
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  10. ohianjo
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    ohianjo Silver Member

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    For last minute cheap hops from Australia, I really don't mind Air China (plus they always talk to me in Chinese, which I like)... First was fun, especially crew, but I certainly wouldn't go out of my way to choose them :/
     
  11. LAXtraveler
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    LAXtraveler Gold Member

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    You been on their 77W F product? The pictures look nice, but not sure if its worth it either.
     
  12. ohianjo
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    ohianjo Silver Member

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    Air China 77W does look good (CO J seats, F Suites), but catering would be the same. I do think it looks much better than the plastic CZ A380 though.
     
  13. hotelsallover

    hotelsallover Silver Member

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    Sounds pretty rough for F.
     
  14. Price123

    Price123 Silver Member

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    I know it's irrational, but I couldn't bring myself to fly AirChina (from a safety point of view). It's interesting to see the pictures though - they have some way to catch up but for shorter regional hops the first class is pretty good.
     
  15. ohianjo
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    ohianjo Silver Member

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    While taxiing, spotted a few fellow *A partners (and some ex's) I had flown Shanghai Airlines way back in 2007 when they were still a member of star... interesting to say the least (CAN-SHA)
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    TK
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    After being granted a transit visa, I rushed to the maglev station at PVG to catch a quick ride downtown... I have been through PVG before, but had never taken the German made maglev (one of two permanently operated maglev lines... the other being the linimo service near my house in Nagoya)... Typically bright red and gold design at the station.
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  16. ohianjo
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    ohianjo Silver Member

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    普通票 Common Ticket :cool:
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    A stark difference to the Japanese run Shinkansen... I love the hospital theme ;)
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    After returning to PVG (with only 30 minutes to departure), I rushed through security and caught the complimentary 'golf cart express' to my gate, offered to all First and Business passengers... Even though a A340 was scheduled for this flight, we still had a remote gate boarding, so I caught the private minibus, as opposed to the completely packed normal bus (curiously, no information was given, so other F pax just guessed and boarded the separate bus) We had some good views including the always present UA744.
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  17. ohianjo
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    ohianjo Silver Member

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    Gate Agent (I tried waving)
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    CA tails
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    Lunch served aboard was better than the previous flight, but nothing special. Still no menus, but tea was always refilled without asking :rolleyes:
    I was getting tired after my rushed afternoon in Shanghai with friends, so I had a bit of a nap after sipping some lovely chrysanthemum tea.
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  18. ohianjo
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    ohianjo Silver Member

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    Load was about 80% on this flight, but the purser, who was a grouchy woman in her 50s started warming up to me, and by the end of the flight had organized some fun things for me to do during my 7 hour layover in PEK before my night flight to SIN... I really did appreciate her recommendations (even if it was just for dinner and a movie).
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    Overall, had a good experience on CA, food was a miss but service really was something special. I feel much the same towards the Taiwanese flag carrier, China Airlines; catering isn't always the best, but service is always heartwarming (Air China service was great too, but not as good).
    As I was not allowed to check in for my continuing SQ connection until about 2330, I left PEK and returned much later in the night for what was to be a horrible SQ flight ;)
     
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