Navigating Air China

When I tell people I fly Air China, the typical response I get is, “why?”  Well, if you haven’t had the opportunity to fly on Air China’s new Boeing 777-300 ER then you haven’t met the new Air China.  Air China’s new seat configuration makes them a great option for business class travel to Asia.

Navigating Air China’s US website can leave a person a bit frustrated, and if you have to deal with US customer service, well, good luck. But don’t fear, I’ve found some good workarounds. First, use the Air China Canadian website for on-line check-in.  For whatever reason, I always get stuck in a loop when I try to check-in on the US website. I also find that you can get promo codes more frequently for the Canadian site. Right now you can use code: BC91R0T0QRMP to get $30 CAD off your ticket when booking online. There are a limited number of discounts available so it’s while supplies last for travel booked by Dec 2013.   If you need to call customer service (the only way to change your ticket unless you’re a Phoenix Frequent Flyer member) call the center in Singapore. Call using SKYPE to keep the price of the call low.  They are extremely helpful.

There are direct flights on the 777-300 ER from New York to Beijing daily (2 flights, 7 days a week, 6,800 miles each way) , Houston to Beijing ( 1 flight, 4 days a week, 7189 miles each way),   LA (2 flights a day, 7 days a week, 6,244 miles each way).

With old seat configurations on the 747 , which I would not recommend, you can fly from San Fran (1 flight a day, 7 days a week, 5,906 miles each way), Vancouver to Beijing (2 flights a day, 7 days a week, 5282 miles each way).

The first class options that are the best are on the 747 Forbidden Pavillion First Class, which is on San Fran to Beijing route.  First class on the 777-300 ER is a nice product, but not the best, by far.  The seats are private and spacious, but the amenities and food are average.  The business class seats are comparable to the United Global First or US Air Envoy seats. You get lie-flat semi-pod type seats that offer a little more privacy than many business class products – especially in the center section (seats D & H in business.)

Air China First Class

Air China First Class 777-300 ER

Air China Business Class

Air China Business Class 777-300 ER

air china seats

Total Seats First Class Business Class Economy Class
311 8 42 261
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
Screen size 23″ 15.4″/12.1″ 9″
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″

If you’re flying on Air China departing from the US, Europe or Australia and your final destination is not in China, you can apply for 72-hour visa free transit.  If you’re connecting through Beijing or Shanghai, you can spend up to 72 hours in China without applying for a visa (not open to all countries.)  One thing to note is that your connection has to arrive and depart from the same city in China. For example you couldn’t do New York to Beijing, Shanghai to Bangkok.  But you could do New York to Beijing to Bangkok.  This makes China a good option for mileage runs.

There is usually plenty of award availability on Air China using Star Alliance partner miles.

The food on Air China’s business class is average and very hit or miss. I find that departing out of New York you’ll have much better options than departing out of Beijing for example.  I’ve always found the service in business class to be nice – certainly not Thai or Singapore type service, but better than anything you’d find on a US carrier and many European carriers.  One plus is the tea selection. If you’re a tea drinker, you’ll love the tea menu.

So next time you’re looking for business class to China or other areas in Asia, don’t rule out Air China so quickly!   If you need help with award bookings, check out our service.  We’ve helped many travelers book great awards.

5 Comments on "Navigating Air China"

  1. You wrote: “I’ve always found the service in business class to be nice – certainly not Thai or Singapore type service, but better than anything you’d find on a US carrier and many European carriers.” – Thai is hit or miss, mostly misses, even when they hit, there’s no way they should be compared in the same sentence as Singapore. 🙂

  2. So why is the 744 F much better than the 77W F? The CA 77W seats look like a variation of many modern F seats, the NH 77W comes to mind since there’s the shelf/table under the screen in front of you. From the images I prefer the 77W cabin with the extra privacy and newer cabin, although it seems you can’t dine facing each other like in the 744.

  3. Air china is open for award bookings on united. Nobody wants them

  4. @Andre,the 744 F is the newest and it’s in better shape than the older Fs

  5. You mentioned flying trans-Pacific on A320 planes. Are you sure???

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