Review: Air China Business Class Beijing to Paris.

To use the immortal words of Donny and Marie Osmond, this Air China Business class flight was a little bit janky, a little bit rock n’ roll…but it was mostly janky. In other words, it was pretty disappointing. And that was a bummer, because this was my second-ever lie-flat business class flight, so I had really been looking forward to it.

This was flight 933, from Beijing to Paris. We left at 1:35 pm and arrived in Paris at 6:40 pm, for a total flight time of about ten hours.

Here are all the details:

Seats

The plane features three pairs of seats per row. We were in 13A, 13C, 13D, and 13G. The seats themselves were very comfortable and spacious.

IMG_4713

On each seat, there was a very comfortable, thick blanket and a large fluffy pillow. Both were excellent.

air china business class seat

There was also a pair of slippers and an amenity kit with L’Occitane branded products.

Air China Amenity KitEntertainment

The movie selection was really heavy on the action films and didn’t feature even one romantic comedy. Boo! The best I could do was a subtitled German film titled Life’s No Piece of Cake, which ended up being really moody and slightly depressing.

My In-Flight Entertainment system had audio that often buzzed and hissed without warning, which was fun. 

My daughter Bird wanted to play games on her iPod touch, and the flight attendants kept asking her to “turn off her phone.” We explained to each of them that it wasn’t a phone, but they didn’t seem to understand. Bird eventually gave up, but she was bummed.

Food and Drinks

Meal service was haphazard and rushed. It felt like the flight attendants really just wanted to get it over with. Service also happened at a very different pace from one side of the plane to the other, and completely different accompaniments were offered (or not) on both sides. Josh was sitting next to me, and he got a hot towel before his meal, while I never got one. He also got a salt and pepper shaker on his tray, while I did not. For us, this was not a big deal – we just shared – but it was a big difference from our first lie-flat flight on EVA Air, where everything was very timely and well-coordinated.

Here’s a snapshot of the lunch/dinner menu:

IMG_4754

air china menu 2

While this looked delicious on paper, on the whole I would say that most of the food was terrible in reality. 

I started with a whiskey. They were serving Glenfiddich Special Reserve single malt 15 year old. I should have asked for a double, because this was the last drink I saw for quite some time.

drink air china

The amuse-bouche (smoked salmon, and scallops skewer) was actually pretty good.

amuse bouche air china

After that, they served the meal, which was lobster with asparagus and (wilted) frisee…

lobster air china

A green salad, which was very bland…

salad air china

and the main course. I selected the pan-fried cod, which was okay by itself (the veggies were not good at all).

pan fried cod air chinaJosh got the spare ribs, which were just all bad.

wuxi pork air chinaThe way they rolled on this flight was that if they didn’t have something when it was your turn to choose, you were just out of luck (they didn’t replenish any bread until the basket was empty, for example). So this was what Josh and I got for bread, although we didn’t really want either choice.

bread air chinaFor dessert, I ordered the cheese plate, which I regretted as soon as I saw it.

cheese plate air chinaJosh chose the opera cake, which was another unfortunate choice.

air china opera cake

I never did get a drink with my meal. I kept trying to politely flag down a flight attendant, but that didn’t work very well. I waited for awhile in the hopes that someone would either notice me, or offer, but when that didn’t happen, I just ate my meal sans drink.

While my kids were excited about the “movie snacks” advertised on the menu, they never materialized in the cabin.

movie snackSo that was disappointing. And as the flight wore on, my kids got hungrier and hungrier, which contributed to some real problems (I’ll write a post about it at some point). Even after my kids gathered up their nerve and walked up to the galley to ask about snacks, all they got was a random cereal bar that seemed like it was left over from a breakfast of long ago.

When the light meal was served, even though I was really hungry, I could only bring myself to eat a few bites – that’s how bad it was.

air china light snack

Here’s the menu:

air china light meal

I had ordered the Kang Shi Fu Beef Noodles. The beef was really tough.

The smoked duck breast tasted strange.

And the fruit was mushy.

So I just gave up. And I got scolded by a flight attendant, who shook her head and “tsk-ed” at me when she she collected my tray.

Experience

The service was surprisingly bad. In addition to all the mealtime woes I described above, the flight attendants were really good at whisking things away before we were done with them. They collected the headsets 50 minutes before the flight landed (and after that would not allow anyone to use an electronic device such as a Kindle or an iPod touch), then they collected the blankets 30 minutes prior to landing (they even whisked a blanket off of my son, who was asleep).

And that pretty much sums it up.

We arrived in Paris feeling a little disappointed about the flight, and super hungry…but we put the whole thing in perspective: we had just flown business class around the world, and now we were in Paris, ready to begin the next phase of our fantastic trip. Life is good, and we were grateful.

But we’re probably not going to fly Air China again.

Comments

  1. I have similar experience as yours when I flew back from Beijing to SFO in April in Air China business class. But I did set my expectation very low to begin with :-). The signs at Beijing Airport wasn’t very clear and it took me half an hour and three different counters later to realize I needed to go to counter A to check in, then walk all the way back to the middle of the terminal to catch the tram. The lounge was packed and barely any food so I left there early to board the plane, only to find they already started boarding all passengers all together and there is no seperate line for business class! The seat was comfy enough and the seats next to me was empty so that was good! I did get all drink I wanted because I am fluent in Chinese, but I couldn’t eat all the Chinese food as it was just aweful, I thought it would be a better choice than the western dish! They were really mean and serious about shutting down electronics. I couldn’t finish the last 5 minute of the movie on their TV because they yelled at me to shut it down! I definitely would avoid Air China in the future, stick with Cathay or Eva or ANA if I have to go to China!

    • Points Pixie says:

      Sharon – Yes! The same thing happened to us – we went to the gate early, only to find that they were in the process of boarding! And yes, they were mean and serious. Josh was scared of them! Good description.

  2. Had a very similar experience when I flew them last month on the KAX to PEK route. And I am Chinese and spoke mandarin! But my first experience on a short haul from PEK to ICN last year was very pleasant though.

  3. I’m not surprised at all. I flew Air China once in economy from JFK-PEK back in 2008 and after that experience, I literally told myself never to fly the airline again — even in premium class. Thank you for making me feel good about my decision. 😉
    Did your kids ask the flight attendants for the movie snacks? It stated on the menu the food was available at any time during the flight.

    • Points Pixie says:

      Joey – You’re welcome! Glad something good came of my flight! 🙂

      Yes, my kids asked for snacks and still didn’t get any! It was really bad.

  4. What kind of plane was it?

  5. K-
    I had my worst travel experience on Air China- Business Class. First, I was alone, and while at the gate about to board, an announcement was made in Chinese and everyone stood up and ran-RAN- away from the gate. I was terrified and followed the crowd. They had a gate change, but it was handled so strangely and w/ zero consideration for those of us that didn’t speak the language. Then they boarded us, and I was seat 1A, right next to the door. We sat there, at the gate, for almost 5 hours. While we sat there, my connection through Seoul came and went. And they wouldn’t open the door to let me rearrange my itinerary. I repeat, we were at the gate. I could see the terminal through my little 1A window. They served us dinner at the gate.
    At some point, I was in hysterics begging to speak to someone that spoke english, and the pilot came out and tried to reassure me. Eventually we left. And eventually I got to my final destination but never have a felt so fish out of water.
    Ugh.
    Miss you guys.

    • Points Pixie says:

      Anne – Oh no! That sounds terrible! At least we were semi-on time. I could not have stood another hour (let alone an additional five) on that flight.

      Miss you, too! Feels like we’ve been gone forever.

  6. I flew PEK. To SFO in July and had a rather pleasant experience. Service was good and I had no issues on the flight.

  7. Sorry to hear about your bad experience. I hate bashing on China and Chinese airlines, but this is exactly why they get the reputation they have. At least they get you to destinations safely usually. In most cases you don’t fly a Chinese airline because you want to, you do it because it’s your cheapest option.

  8. Bc Traveler says:

    AC and AC Rouge will no doubt be copying this service model in no time!

  9. Darth Chocolate says:

    Sound like they got their training from UA.

  10. I took the same Beijing-Paris flight in business in late April and my experience was similar. The seat was the best part of the flight (although very poorly cleaned in the crevices, as I found out when my phone fell in). The food was inedible. The captain left the seatbelt sign on the entire flight and would ostensibly chime it when bumps were expected. There was simply no comparison to Singapore, Turkish, Swiss, and Thai (the other carriers on the trip).

  11. Thank you for confirming my decision to NEVER fly Air China again (we did fly them once Shanghai to Beijing about 7 years ago). In general, I think Chinese airlines should be avoided, as the Chinese still have a lot to learn about service.

  12. their food is bad, service is mostly rushed, especially to non-chinese speaking pax, and think they can get away with not being able to speak any English at all during a flight for ever.

    I am from China, and speak chinese and still feel sorry about my fellow non chines speaking pax. If you speak a bit Chinese you may experience it a bit differently, but trust me the food remains the same, speaking chinese or not… lol

  13. oh my. Sounds quite horrid. I’ll heed your lesson and remember for the next time I fly to China! Last time I flew United and it was fantastic

    • Don’t worry too much, and it all depends on what kind of travelling class you are on. Premium classes pax would expect more, and economy class is pretty much the same everywhere else, each airline has it’s uniqueness. Some has better AVOD, some has better food, and cabin cleaness, and some has the shortest connection and being the cheapest. in fact, ca’s seat pitches are better than many many airlines, although asian passengers’ sizes tend to be smaller.

      Just an example, they are not that bad, we are here to criticise and provide experience for others.

  14. So. you can choose to Air France or KLM.BTW .Air China is cheaper.

  15. 《致旅客朋友–Ason 与家人》

    朋友,作为一名国航的“终身白金卡”旅客,看到您所描述的经历,我深表遗憾。

    坦诚的说,从2002年到现在,我乘坐国航实际承运的航班,多达176万公里。作为一名80'后的民航痴迷爱好者,在体验了多于26家航空客运商所提供的优质服务之后,我毅然决然的选择了我们中国的“中国国际航空公司”,并且我告诉自己,我会毫不犹豫的一直的飞国航,甚至我愿意把这样的信念,作为遗产,传承给我们张家的后代。

    是的,我喜欢直言不讳。其实,过去我飞行过的这十二年里,在我与国航的各种对客服务部门的接触过程中,我都曾有过失望,甚至是大失所望,恨不得有时我立誓终身不再乘坐国航,这样的心情,也正如您在飞行日志的最后部分所提及的一样。

    可惜,我没有做到,渐渐的,我还是会飞国航,后来就只飞国航,直到我发现,我已经隆登上了国航“终白”的“领奖台”。

    Ason,看到您的图文并茂、“聆听”您的娓娓道来,我发现,您是真心在体验国航的机上服务。这些服务,有很多是令人感动的,留下了美好的回忆;然而,也有一些是没有令您满意的,乃至有点小小的失望。例如,您提及了蔬菜是蔫的,乘务员不停地建议您的家人关闭貌似手机的iPod ,您的几次需要被关注的示意,没有得到相应的回响,小吃没有被特别呈现,耳机里时而传出噼啪,儿子身上的棉毯被主动收起,等等……

    与您一样,作为旅客的我,看到这些,我确实是倍感焦虑,还带有太多的疑问、不满,甚至有些无法忍受。与此同时,看到您描述这些经历,我总感觉,您是一位非常耐心与细心的人士,您非常喜欢也非常善于观察细节与每一个进程,并且,您很乐意把您所观察到的,毫无保留的来分享给我们大家。您,确实是在用心观察了,我深受感触。

    Ason,我可不可以说,我非常理解您的体会、也非常理解您的心情,此时此刻的我,与您,是同样的,总是想知道,为什么是这样,难道这就是所谓的公务舱的服务标准?

    确实,如果是这样,国航的服务应该是要遭受质疑的。

    可是,看了又看、看了又看,我不禁产生了很多想法,真的迫不及待的想与您一起分享。

    诚恳地说,机上的配餐,绝大部分是半成品。根据中国人的饮食习惯,热饮、热食,都是很不错的选择,进而,蔬菜在地面被加工为半成品之后,配送上飞机,起飞后、开餐前的二次加热,让蔬菜的视觉效果显得逊色。确实,从乘务员的内心出发,她们有许多的难为情。我想,如果有一天,蔬菜都是冷餐,热食只有荤,想必效果会有所改变,但是又怕,这样会引起大量中国旅客的啧啧不满,因为在中餐里面,不会有太多的凉菜。

    中国有句俗话,叫“众口难调”,细细品来,不无道理。可是,国航作为一家“国际级航空承运人”,这一“众口难调”,还确实是成了难题儿。

    Ason,我们都可以谅解他们,因为在3万英尺高空、有限的飞行时间、不太阔绰的客舱空间等这些前提面前,姑娘们也是尽其所能的照顾每一位旅客的所需。有时,难免不能一次性照顾到所有旅客的所需,但是这些姑娘们也都曾有过执着的尝试。您知道吗?在我看来,当姑娘们决定难为情的来到您的面前深表歉意的说“不”时,其实她们在此前真的已经做过了很多种努力与尝试。真的……

    无论怎样,我想,她们的笑容一定都是灿烂的,态度一定是真挚的,语气肯定是充满爱的。Ason,您是一位可以观察到细致入微的客人,想必我说的这一些,您应该觉察到了,是吧?

    今天的世界,是一个地球村。在这个村子里,有着数不胜数的差异,好奇的人们不远千里,从西方来到东方、从北半球飞到南半球,要找的,就是一种人文体验。

    一次,我从慕尼黑飞往希斯罗,起飞后,我对汉莎的一位笑脸相迎的绅士乘务长说:”我想要一杯温水,谢谢。“结果,当水来到时,我眼前所看到的是一只塑料杯,里面用热水冲泡了一杯热气腾腾的伯爵茶,然后又添加了三枚冰块。当时,我就愕然了……后来,我把这杯温水的故事讲给了在伦敦的我的干爹干娘,二位听到后捧腹大笑,随即他们俩异口同声的说:是的,德国人做事非常保守。

    Ason,这就好比中国人喜欢购买LV,法国人喜欢吃北京烤鸭,一样的。

    说这些,我真的是在想,在有了文化差异之后,如果来一次完美的沟通,那么一定会有一场共赢在期待。所以,我可不可以推荐我们的Ason,在下一次搭乘国航的航班时,您随时把您的需求告诉给客舱的乘务员,我保证热心的姑娘们一定会在第一时间,去尽力满足您的所需。不信,我赌一张“巴黎–北京”的公务舱往返机票,好吗?

    哈哈……

    Ason,谢谢您。很希望,我们可以相遇在国航的万米高空。

    您诚挚的—-张宗杨

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