Trip Report: Air China business class Beijing to Los Angeles

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01. Introduction: San Diego to Seoul on United, Air China, and Asiana
02. United Airlines economy class San Diego to San Francisco
03. United Global First Lounge San Francisco
04. United Airlines Global First San Francisco to Beijing
05. Air China First Class Lounge Beijing
06. Asiana Airlines business class Beijing to Seoul
07. Hyatt Regency Incheon
08. Three days in Seoul
09. The Plaza Hotel Seoul
10. Air China business class Seoul to Beijing
11. Air China business class Beijing to Los Angeles
12. United Express (Skywest) economy class Los Angeles to San Diego

Getting through the transfer procedure at Beijing was super-fast compared to several days before when I was enroute to Seoul. There weren’t any lines to speak of this time, and I was through the checkpoints within 15 minutes. That left me with about an hour to kill before boarding would begin for my connecting flight to LAX, so I wandered the terminal for a while taking pics. It wasn’t so easy to do because of the severe reflections on the terminal windows, but I did manage to grab a few nice shots. The pic at the top of this post is one such example – which just so happens to be the exact plane I took to LAX.

terminal E beijing airport

Wandering around the Beijing airport was great – it’s big and bright with huge windows

terminal E seating area PEK airport

Waiting for the flight to board

flight information board at PEK

Departure information board showing my flight to LAX

CA983
Beijing (PEK) – Los Angeles (LAX)
Sunday, April 20 2014
Aircraft: Boeing 777-300
Seat: 13C (business)

B-2085

Air China 777-300/ER B-2085

Boarding was called about 15 minutes late, with one single announcement stating that boarding had started. A single long line formed quickly, and by the time I queued up, it was obvious I would be in the last 25% to board. I thought it was odd that there wasn’t an elite or first/business class line, but thought nothing much of it and just waited my turn. It was only until I had nearly reached the gate entrance that I noticed a line for premium passengers on the other side of the desk. Dang. Oh well.

gate E29

Gate E29 at PEK just moments before boarding commenced

Having just got off a mediocre Air China business class flight, I was curious what to expect on this one. Would there be a big difference between their regional and long-haul international business class products? I would soon find out…

I eventually made it to my seat, and once again I was approached by an FA with a hot towel and choice of orange juice or water before even sitting down. While I did appreciate the gesture, I would have preferred to sit down and get relaxed first before being approached. But she was very friendly and welcoming so it wasn’t a big deal.

air china business class seat

Air China 777-300 lie-flat business class seats

Air China business class seat controls

Air China 777-300 business class seat controls

personal video screens

Personal video screens in Air China business class

small foot rest air china business class

The cubby space beneath the video screen was quite small, which could be a problem for those with big feet

inconvenient place for magazines and in flight safety cards

The only awkward thing about this seat was the magazine and safety card pouch that protruded into the seat. I fought with this for the entire flight!

Entertainment system remote control

Entertainment system remote control

Menus and amenity kits were distributed within minutes, and I perused those while waiting for the boarding door to close. To my surprise, business class appeared to be only about 60% full by the time boarding was complete. The seat next to me was empty, as well as the entire rear section of the cabin. Economy class looked stuffed to the rafters though. Glad I wasn’t back there!

Air China 777-300 business class cabin

Air China 777-300 business class cabin

amenity kit

Air China business class amenity kit

amenity kit inside

Inside of the Air China business class amenity kit

l'occitane amenity kit in business class

Contents of the Air China business class amenity kit, which features L’occitane products

Air China chinese business class menu

Air China spring 2014 Chinese lunch / dinner business class menu

western lunch / dinner business class menu

Air China spring 2014 western lunch / dinner business class menu

Air China movie snack menu

Air China spring 2014 movie snack menu

Chinese and western breakfast menu

Air China spring 2014 business class Chinese and western breakfast menu

I took my time getting comfortable as we departed Beijing, and the red, blue, and green mood lighting was cool. This seems to be a new trend in the airline industry, and I quite like it. As a matter of fact, this was the first flight that I’ve ever been on that had it. Nice!

red mood lighting

Red mood lighting in Air China business class

Blue mood lighting

Blue mood lighting

Drink orders and cold nuts were served, and so far, the flight attendants seemed a lot nicer and much more professional than the previous flight. Service was good, attentive, and very friendly.

almond dish and water

Nuts and drinks were served shortly after departure

Dinner was served approximately 30 minutes after departure, and I was bit confused when the FA presented me with a tray with what looked like a big empty spot for the missing entre. I wasn’t sure if I should start eating or wait until she came back with the entre, but I decided to dig in after they came around with the bread basket. It’s a good thing I didn’t wait, because they didn’t bring the entre until I finished everything on the tray. But all in all, everything was quite tasty. I’m always hesitant to order fish on an airplane (it’s usually too dry), but this was good. Very mild flavor, and not spicy at all.

Chinese meal starter course in air china business class

Chinese meal starter course featuring a teriyaki chicken skewer, smoked pomfret, and sautéed black fungus with spring onions

Chinese dinner main entree

Chinese dinner main entree: sautéed dory in rice wine sauce

Fresh fruit for dessert

Fresh fruit for dessert

I was feeling pretty tired right after dinner, so I reclined the seat into the flat bed position and fell asleep very quickly. It was probably some of the best sleep I’ve ever had on an airplane, as the thick futon they provide in business class is very warm and comfortable.

After about three hours of solid deep sleep, I was awaken by the guy across the aisle who was snoring like a buzz saw. I had to use the lavatory anyway, so I got up and went. The FA followed me back to my seat with a large tray of fruit and crackers, and asked me if I wanted any. I was still half asleep at that point and my brain processed that as the breakfast service. Had I slept the ENTIRE flight? Yikes. I then asked her how much longer we had to fly, and she said “7 hours”. Relived, I declined and said thanks but no thanks. By this point it was certain – the service on this flight was pretty darn good.

Air China 777-300 economy class cabin

I walked to the back of the plane once during the flight – this is the economy class cabin

business class lavatory sink

Air China business class lavatory sink

business class lavatory toilet

Air China business class lavatory toilet

economy class toilet

For the sake of comparison, here is one of the economy class toilets at the very back of the plane. Not so much different!

Air China 777-300 business class cabin

Air China 777-300 business class cabin mid-flight

self-serve snack bar

Business class self-serve snack bar

mural with Chinese scenery

Nice looking mural with Chinese scenery on the wall opposite the self-serve snack bar

I napped on and off until we were about 2 and a half hours out of LAX, just as the flight attendants were starting the breakfast service. That’s probably the earliest I’ve ever seen a cabin crew begin the second meal service, so it took me a little off guard – especially since I wasn’t so hungry yet.

Another thing that surprised me a bit was the fact that the same flight attendants worked the entire 12 hour flight. I thought it was illegal to work beyond 8 hours, but I could be mistaken – still, I was surprised to see those familiar faces serving breakfast as well.

chinese breakfast air china business class

Chinese breakfast with rice congee, dumplings, and assorted pickles. Quite tasty.

Breakfast was good, though a bit dry. Since being served so early, I took my time with it and worked on this trip report for a bit on my iPad as I was eating. After the meal, I moved over to the window seat to prepare for some possible good photo opportunities as we approached LAX. I wasn’t disappointed!

California central valley

Flying over the central California valley

southern california mountains

Approaching southern California

It was a beautiful clear evening in southern California as we made our approach, and I was able to get some really good pictures of downtown LA as we were on the downwind leg for the 24R arrival.

flying over downtown los angeles

Passing over downtown Los Angeles on the downwind leg of our 24R arrival

downtown los angeles from the air

I love LA!

lax 24R approach over the 405

Passing over the 405 on approach to 24R

LAX 24R approach

Moments before touchdown at LAX

overwing condensation funnel

Check out the cool condensation funnel flowing over the engine and wing!

Crossing over 24L at LAX

Crossing over 24L moments after arrival

The only other thing worth noting about this flight was that we docked in terminal 2 – which I didn’t even know had immigration and customs facilities. I have never seen international flights unload and board from here, though I admit that it’s not too often that I’m on that side of LAX – it’s been a while since the last time. Still, it had me thinking if it was just a temporary thing with the Tom Bradley International Terminal still being under construction.

LAX theme building

View of the LAX theme building as we docked at terminal 2

It was good to be back home (almost – I still had a connecting flight to SAN), but at the same time it was sad to realize how run down LAX has become over the years. I’ll be blunt – terminal 2 is a dump. It’s dirty, small, and smells musty. I really hope they start renovating the other terminals once they finish with the TBIT because LAX is my favorite airport in the world and it’s depressing to see it so run down.

Anyway, I was very satisfied with this Air China flight. It was leaps and bounds better than the previous ICN-PEK segment I experienced, and they totally redeemed themselves in my mind. Based on what I experienced on this flight to LAX, I’d consider Air China to have of the best business class products I’ve tried yet. Better service than British Airways Club World and United Global First, and a seat just as comfortable as anything else I’ve tried. I was apprehensive about choosing Air China for this segment, but I’m glad I did. It was a very eye-opening experience (in a good way).

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