This week I flew Air China Business Class PEK to SYD with a short stop in Shanghai. I arrived at the Beijing Capital Airport and headed for the business class checkin at Terminal 3. The business class/first class checkin area is to the far right hand side of the terminal as you’re looking at the counters. I was promptly greeted and checked in. I then proceeded to security. Once arriving at the security area I looked for a business class line as the other lines were very long. I finally found one on the far left hand side of the security area. It was not easy to see with the crowds. There was only 1 person ahead of me in the line.
I proceeded quickly though security and headed to my gate. I personally find the restaurant choices somewhat disappointing in the Beijing airport and the food at the Air China lounges isn’t typically very good either. There is a Starbucks, but it was on the opposite side of the terminal from my gate.
From the gate we took a bus out to our plane. There are only 18 business class seats and 9 passengers, again, a pretty empty flight. I used miles to upgrade from coach to business class. The flight from Beijing to Shanghai is only about 1 hour and 15 minutes. The flight was unbelievably bumpy. Interestingly, the captain was Australian and very funny…though I’m not sure most of the plane got his jokes.
When we landed in Shanghai I was very surprised to learn that we had to deplane and clear customs before rebounding the same plane. We deplaned and were guided by an airline rep to customs. The lines were not very long at customs, but the security lines were pretty long. I was unable to see any business class or priority lanes. I was unsure of the boarding time for my flight, but new I only had an hour. I headed back to the gate immediately and found that we had about 15 minutes before boarding. I went back to the Air China lounge which was close by. The lounge was a nice area, but the food choices were very limited and unappealing. I was very happy that they had sparkling water and it was great to just sit for a moment.
I heard the boarding announcement and went back to the gate. For this portion of the flight there were only 5 people in business class out of 18 available seats. I was a little surprised that the flight attendant brought two unattended minors (twin boys who looked about 8-10 years old) to sit in business class. The service onboard the flight was very good, though I found it more difficult to communicate with flight attendants then I have on previous Air China flights to the US.
The seats are not as new as Air China’s flights to and from its US destinations, but they are fully lie-flat and there was plenty of storage. The power outlets did not work. I was using my iPhone in airplane mode after take off to listen to music. I was quickly told by a flight attendant that I could not use my phone at all during the flight, even in airplane mode. I’m not familiar with China’s aviation laws, so I didn’t argue and put it away. The selection of in-flight movies and TV shows was extremely limited. There were a few movies in English and several TV shows in English.
The unattended boys were very loud and had to be scolded by the flight attendants several times. A few times I was awaken by them. I was able to sleep for about 4 hours on the 12 hour flight. The flight attendants provided a blanket and two pillows plus an amenity kit. Air China[s amenity kits are among my least favorite. They come in a small white zipped bag and contained hand cream, lip balm, a comb, toothbrush, eye mask and cleansing wipe. I always use the wipe to clean the tray table, arm rests and TV controller. It’s shocking how much dirt you find.
Overall I like Air China. I wouldn’t rate experience on the PEK to SYD flight as high as I rate the JFK to PEK experiences I’ve had, but it was still a good experience. I will likely fly Air China again because they will continue their relationship with US Airways even when US Airways leaves the Star Alliance.