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:


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.


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:


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.


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.


  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.
    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》





    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……
















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