If I were judging an airline by one trip, I’d say Air China is bipolar. The experience with customer service, on the ground and in the air varies greatly.
The call center, whether you’re in the US or China, is not very service oriented. If your first encounter with Air China is the call center, you, like me, may be completely turned off. The ground experience was a little bit bizarre. It went from very helpful agents at check-in to multiple sets of agents at the gate who spoke no English and didn’t seem interested in helping anyone (no matter what language they spoke.)
My first flight on Air China was from Bangkok to Beijing. The 4 hour and 30 minute flight left on time at 1am (this time I didn’t miss it!) and the crew was very friendly and helpful. Unfortunately, even in Business Class, the airplane didn’t have in-seat entertainment so if you wanted to watch a movie, you had to watch whatever was up on the big screens. I was exhausted, so I slept most of that flight and didn’t eat since we took off so late at night. Overall, a completely uneventful flight.
The second leg of my trip was from Beijing to New York JFK. I was seated in Business Class for the 14 hour flight. Even though we were on the same type of airplane as my previous flight, it had a different configuration with 8 first class seats and 41 business class seats. The business class seats were the same, but these had in-seat entertainment systems and more lighting. On my flight, only 20 of the seats were full. This plane flies from Beijing to New York JFK and will fly to Houston, Texas as well.
|Equipment||First Class||Business Class||Economy Class|
|Seat type||Mercury (lie-flat seat)||Diamond (lie-flat seat)||Spectrum|
|Entertainment system||AVOD/THALES I5000||AVOD/THALES I5000||AVOD/THALES I5000|
|Power Outlets||Yes, one per seat||Yes, one per seat||Yes, one for two seats|
|Number/Bathroom Dimensions||2 at 53″、56″||3 at 42″||7 at 38″、41.5″|
The ground staff in Beijing were baffling. After making my way through passport control and security, I checked in at the transfer counter. The agents here were helpful and provided good service. Unfortunately for me the lounge was no where near my gate and I didn’t really have enough time to visit it. Instead, I headed straight to the gate. The area where my gate was located had very few restaurant/dining options which was disappointing. The gate area was large and there was plenty of space for everyone.
I tried to ask the gate agent a few questions and had no luck getting them to understand what I was asking. The gentleman before me, also English speaking, had the same luck – none. Another person behind me, who spoke Thai and a little English, could not get his basic questions answered. I don’t think that all ground staff in foreign airports need to be fluent in English, but some basic ability to communicate would be helpful and even if only 1 member of the ground staff team speaks English, that would be plenty helpful.
On-board, the crew was pleasant and helpful and plenty of crew members spoke English and several other languages. The in-flight experience was very nice and I’d compare it to that of what you’d experience on most Asian airlines. The food was pretty good, not the best airplane food I’ve ever had, but not the worst by far. The menu include a huge tea menu, which I thought was great and when I ordered tea, it came with sugar cubes not just packets of sugar, which was a nice touch.
Overall, I would defiantly consider flying Air China again in the new business class seats. Business Class on Air China is much more affordable in my experience than any other Star Alliance carrier for trips from the US to most Asian locations. I would also use miles to fly them in First Class on the new planes, those seats looked awesome! The lesson I learned is that their customer service reps on the phone are terrible and I would do my best not to have to deal with them. In fact, I may consider booking through a third-party site when I book Air China flights.