Everything I learned about China Eastern business class while flying LAX-PVG

I know that it’s still early in the year and that I’ve still got a lot of flying to do, but I’ve got a hunch that China Eastern business class will be my biggest surprise of 2020.

The amount of negativity I’ve heard about this airline over the years is borderline comical. From rude crew members to horrible food – I was fully expecting this 14.5 hour flight to Shanghai to be the worst experience ever.

But you know what? I survived. Quite comfortably and well-fed thank you very much. Nope – it wasn’t perfect, but never once did I have to threaten anyone with a tearful and overly-dramatic “I’m never gonna fly this airline again!” because things didn’t go my way.

If that’s not a ringing endorsement for a quality business class product, I don’t know what is.

MU586
Los Angeles, CA (LAX) – Shanghai, China (PVG)
Tuesday, January 21, 2020
Aircraft: 777-39P/ER
Registration: B-7343
Duration: 14 hours 24 minutes
Seat: 16A (business)

China Eastern 777-300/ER side view

China Eastern 777-300/ER side view illustration by Norebbo.com. By the way, I hope they got a really good deal on that livery design.

China Eastern 777-300/ER seat map

Seat map of this China Eastern 777-300/ER (courtesy of seatguru.com) showing my seat (16A) for this flight to PVG.

MU586 flight track

Our route from LAX to PVG today as MU586

My video review for this China Eastern business class flight over to Shanghai

Most of you probably aren’t even going to notice, but this video was a fairly significant one for me. This is because it was the first ever video that I shot in 4K, and it makes me feel really good to take another giant leap forward in the overall quality of my videos.

That’s not to say that I didn’t have any problems along the way however. It turns out that my brain wasn’t fully onboard with my dedication to 4K during the filming process, and there were several clips that I mistakenly shot in 2.7K (just like always). Therefore, I was unable to edit and render the video in the ultra-high resolution that I was hoping for. Oh well – next time.

Do I even have to mention that I sourced the music for this video through Epidemic Sound? Probably not, but I’m going to anyway. Regular readers of my blog already know of my love affair with them, and stuffing my videos full of music from their catalog is something that I’m always very proud to do.

Please note: some of the links in this article may be affiliate links. This means that I will get paid a commission if you buy something or take an action after clicking one of them.

How much did I pay for this flight to PVG?

In a word: not very much. Well, that’s three words (I know), but the amount that I paid was so little that I consider it to be just one. I’ve been sitting on a very large stockpile of American Express Membership Reward points for over a year now, and I decided that it was finally time to go big and start cashing some of them in. This China Eastern business class ticket was obtained using Delta SkyMiles, which I converted at a 1:1 ratio from Membership Rewards.

The total expenditure was 85,000 SkyMiles plus $135.30 in taxes and fees. An “ok” price to pay in my opinion, though I’m never a big fan of paying fees on award tickets. Still, I got a very good 15 hour business class experience out of it, so I can’t really complain all that much.

If you’re curious how I’ve been able to amass such a large stockpile of Membership Rewards points, well – just take a look at all the airline reviews that I’ve posted over the past two years or so. Each and every one of those flights was purchased using my American Express Platinum Card, which always earns me 5X points on all airfare spend.

It should be noted that the $135 in taxes and fees that I paid for this business class reward redemption did not count as airfare spend. Therefore, I used my American Express Blue Business Card which earns me 2X points on all purchases. So I still managed to eek out 270 points out of this purchase – which is better than nothing I guess.

Pros and cons of China Eastern business class

You know, before taking this flight I was thinking that the “cons” section of this review was going to be massively huge. I was actually so worried about it that it had me wondering how I was going to format it all on the blog. I hate lopsided content!

Thankfully this was a really good flight and I didn’t have to stress out too much about trying to make this cons section fit into the format of this article without pulling my teeth out.

Pros

  • The business class cabin on the 777–200 ER was spotless and clean. Like, almost “brand new airplane” clean.
  • Speaking of the seats, the textures and materials were of very high-quality and it felt like a very premium product.
  • The cabin crew was more welcoming and engaging compared to the cabin crews I’ve experienced on other Chinese airlines (I’m talking about you Xiamen Air and Hainan).
  • China Eastern business class fares are generally lower than other airlines, so it may behoove you to scour the deals over on Google Flights before pulling the trigger  on an outrageous fare on Cathay Pacific or something.

Cons

  • While I considered the meal service to be good overall, the main course of the lunch service was quite bad. I opted for the chicken breast, which was incredibly dry and rubbery.
  • The timing of the pre-landing meal service was nothing short of odd. It was served four hours prior to landing, which made it seem more like a mid flight snack than anything else. I was hungry again by the time we landed!
  • I’ve already mentioned that I’ve heard mixed reviews about this airline – which tells me that they aren’t always as good as they were on this particular flight.

Full transcript of my video for this flight to Shanghai (with pics!)

LAX arrivals level

Hold on just a second. I completely underestimated how long it was gonna take to walk from terminal 2 to the Tom Bradley International Terminal here at LAX, and the China Eastern portion of this video will begin in a moment. Please stand by…

sanspotter LAX china eastern

There we go! Anyway, my name is Scott, I’m the founder and author of sanspotter.com, and I just arrived at LAX on a flight up from San Diego to catch China Eastern flight number 586 to Shanghai.

sanspotter china eastern review

Yes, I know. It was completely foolish of me to do this just as the Coronavirus was starting to spread, but – since when have I ever been sensible?

China eastern business class check in LAX

You know, I’ve heard some really bad things about China Eastern over the years, but seeing fresh flowers, chairs, and complimentary bottled water here in the business class queue was…confusing.

China eastern LAX

I mean, I came here expecting the worst, but things seem to be starting off quite well thank you very much.

But first, a brief stop at the KAL Lounge

LAX international terminal interior

Unmistakably LAX. I love this place! And no, I’m not just saying that because I am on my way up to what is arguably the best lounge in the entire airport.

KAL Lounge LAX food

Complimentary food in the KAL Lounge. Um…have they identified any foods that help to protect against being infected with the Coronavirus yet?

Korean Air Lounge LAX food

To be honest, I wasn’t aware of the severity of the situation in China yet so I went with a generous helping of wieners. And stuff.

KAL lounge LAX interior

By the way, I highly recommend the Korean Air Lounge here at LAX. If you want in, the easiest way to do it is to sign up for Priority Pass. Get 10% off by using this link!

The pre-boarding experience

China Eastern 777-300ER LAX

There she is. The airplane the internet told me to avoid at all costs.

China Eastern 777-39P/ER B-7343

I’m not picky though, and I was very much looking forward to experiencing China Eastern business class for my myself.

LAX automated boarding gate

I was not, however, looking forward to the automated boarding system here at the gate. These machines hate me, and for that – I hate *them*.

China Eastern LAX-PVG information

So, just to clarify, I’ve actually heard mixed reactions about China Eastern over the years. Some reviews have been positive, while others have painted them as the worst airline on the face of the earth.

SANspotter selfie china eastern 777

I’m staying positive though. It’s been a fun morning filled with bottled water, swanky lounges, and weiners….so: so far so good.

LAX Tom Bradley International Terminal interior pic

Yeah, I know. Instead of filming all the b-roll for the video, it  probably would’ve behooved me to set off in search of a face mask or two to prepare myself for what was happening in China at the moment.

The boarding process for China Eastern flight number 586 to Shanghai

LAX automated flight boarding

I swear to god these machines hate me. If I can’t get through, well – thanks for watching, and I’ll catch you in the next one…

china eastern flight attendant

I made it through! And nope. I don’t care at all about all the negative reviews I’ve read about China Eastern over the years. I chose to write airline reviews for a living because I like experiencing both the good and the bad, and even if this is bad…it’s gonna be good. Wait…

sanspotter monthly income reports

China Eastern 777-300/ER business class cabin

The China Eastern 777-300/ER business class cabin. Color me impressed! Does this look like a dumpy business class product to you? More importantly: Rory? I wanna know what you think about this!

China Eastern 777-300 business class seat

My seat for the 14 hour flight to Shanghai. I’m telling you what: my morning is just getting better and better!

China Eastern business class leg room

And now: the SANspotter “butt” test. It’s kind of like a taste test, but with my bu…ooh…this is…quite good!

sanspotter china eastern review

Is there anything more satisfying as digging through an amenity kit while economy class passengers walk by?

China Eastern business class amenity kit

I’m NOT hating on economy passengers by the way. Y’all know I fly economy a lot, so I was definitely appreciating both the awkwardness and rarity of this special moment.

China Eastern business class menu

When the in flight menu is stuffed with inserts, you just know it’s gonna be good. A brief look at the choices for today’s flight to Shanghai elevated my satisfaction level up a few notches.

China Eastern business class hot towel and pre departure drink

And, just so you know, It’s not like I needed that boost or anything since I’ve essentially been satisfied since the wiener situation back in the lounge.

China Eastern business class wine list

I should also mention that there was an extensive wine list as well, which…well…ahh, screw it. I’m not fancy enough to fully appreciate a wine list anyway.

china eastern business class electrical outlets

Power ports! The USB hole didn’t work, but the electrical outlet did. 50/50 ain’t bad I guess.

china eastern business class seat details

Miscellaneous seat details (because I know a lot of you are into that sort of thing).

China Eastern 777-300 Business Class cabin

Ok, so the tally so far this morning is: flowers, bottled water, swanky lounges, tasty wieners, comfy seats, and an impressive in flight menu.

sanspotter full china eastern review

When does the bad stuff start happening?

China Eastern Business Class full Review

Alright. Another question: What are your thoughts on crying babies in long haul business class? I’m not anti baby or anything but there’s a very angry newborn a few rows back and it’s gonna be a very long 14 hours to Shanghai I think.

In the air now and officially on the way to China

China Eastern Business Class slippers

Well, we didn’t ditch in the ocean on takeoff. That’s a good sign I guess. I might as well start accepting the fact that China Eastern isn’t as bad as everyone says they are.

China Eastern 777-300 first class lavatory

Now THIS is my kind of airplane bathroom.

China Eastern lavatory wilted flowers

Yeah, this is technically the first class lavatory, and as a lowly business class passenger I’m *technically” not supposed to be in here, but wilted flowers or not, this is dope.

China Eastern Business Class video entertainment

This is the video entertainment system. It was ok. There’s not a huge selection of movies and TV shows, but…

china eastern business class headphones

…at least it was more satisfying than these cheap headphones (which were not noise canceling by the way).

What was the meal service like?

China Eastern Business Class meal appetizer

The meal service started exactly 47 minutes after departure, consisting of a bowl of sweet corn chowder soup accompanied by crab legs and bacon rolls. Garlic bread on the side of course, and…did I mention the bacon?

China Eastern Business Class Meal

Remember when I asked when the bad stuff was going to start happening? Well, here we go. This entrée looked ok, but I’m willing to bet anything that the tires on the main landing gear of this 777 were more tender and ply able than this slab of dried out chicken breast. It wasn’t good.

sanspotter selfie china eastern meal

“What’s another word for rubbery?”

china eastern after dinner fruit and cheese

The fruit and cheese plate arrangement. OCD satisfaction level: 10.

china eastern dessert business class

Speaking of high levels of satisfaction, this chocolate mousse cake erased any and all thoughts of rubbery chicken breast swirling around in my head at the moment.

after dinner chocolate china eastern airlines

And just when I thought I couldn’t *possibly* inject any more sugar into my veins…this little guy appeared on my tray table out of nowhere.

A few hours of rest and relaxation

China eastern 777-300 economy cabin

It’s kind of hard to see in this dark pic of the economy cabin, but this flight was 100% full today despite the developments of the Coronavirus in China. As you can see, it didn’t really stop people from traveling when all this started.

LAX-PVG route map

Looking back on this footage now makes me realize how foolish of me it was to go to China trip at this time.

Flying over Siberia

Granted, the coronavirus situation hadn’t really blown up at this point, but it still should have given me real cause for concern.

SANspotter selfie china eastern business class

Anyway, look at me go! As you can see, I learned a thing or two about business class bedding products after thoroughly embarrassing myself on Cathay Pacific back in November, and I’ve totally got this situation under control today.

The second meal service (don’t call it a pre-landing meal)

china eastern business class experience

Now this was odd. We’ve still got 4 hours to go, and they just turned on the cabin lights. The hell? Turns out it was because they were serving a mid flight snack – which was interesting because I’ve never seen it so formalized before.

china eastern pre landing meal

It was a huge meal by the way, and…you know me. Put food in front of me at any hour in any situation and I’ll eat it. I swear to god I’m part dog or something.

china eastern business class pre landing meal

The main course. I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to save room for the pre-landing meal or not…

The arrival into Shanghai

Fast forward about three hours, and I guess that mid flight snack was actually the pre-landing meal. Yeah, we’re on the descent into Shanghai now, and I don’t think we’re gonna see any more food on this flight. The dog in me was highly disappointed.

moments in the sky

Ahh, I really do cherish these precious moments in the sky. Wait…isn’t that the name of a really good YouTube channel or something? Why yes it is! How about that for a butter-smooth shoutout to my buddy Neil’s YouTube channel? lol

sanspotter patreon shoutout

arrival in shanghai

So what’s the verdict on China Eastern business class? Quite frankly, despite the rubbery chicken and the odd timing of the pre landing meal, it was actually a really good experience. Not quite Japanese or Korean airline good, but good enough for me to recommend it highly to anyone looking for a comfortable ride to China and back. After the Coronavirus goes away of course.

Welcome to Shanghai! And you know what? How about a warm welcome to all of my ridiculously awesome Patrons as well? I’m always happy to see both Shanghai AND my patrons, though Shanghai isn’t give me much in terms of a warm welcome today’s it seems.

I can’t say the same about my Patrons though. Eric Shoell, Riley Wingo, and everyone else – they’re always rad, any day, any time.

China eastern business class full experience

Thanks for coming along with me on China Airlines flight number 586 today, and I hope you’ll stay tuned for my next post, which features a very tight economy class product on another Chinese airline I’ve never flown before.

China eastern 777-300ER PVG

Until then, thanks for reading, and I’ll catch you in the next one.

FAQs about flying China Eastern business class

True story: writing an FAQ about China Eastern business class is something that I’ve been wanting to do for a very long time. Not only because it would give me a legitimate excuse to answer questions from curious travelers about this airline, but because I’ve always wanted to see for myself what it was really like.

The following is a list of the most frequently asked questions I’ve received from readers about China Eastern over the years:

Can China Eastern cabin crews speak English very well?

I will say this: the entire cabin crew on this particular flight from Los Angeles to Shanghai spoke English at near native levels. This is in stark contrast to my Xiamen Air flight from LA to Xiamen last year, where the crew and I could barely understand each other.

As a matter of fact, of all the flights on Chinese carriers that I’ve ever taken in my life, this was the best in terms of English proficiency of the crew.

Just how good are the cabin crews? Do they offer world class levels of service?

Yes, I realize this is actually two questions rolled up into one, but I decided to lump them together since they were so similar. Anyway, the best way to describe the levels of service in China Eastern business class is to say that it’s better than what you get on the American carriers, but not quite as good as what you would expect on a Korean airline like Asiana (or a Japanese airline like JAL).

I was quite satisfied with the cabin crew on this long 14.5 hour flight, and they were proactive and attentive all the way through. My biggest criticism would be the fact that they seemed so robotic and impersonal most of the time. However, in my experience, this is typical for Chinese airlines.

On a scale of 1 to 5, how would I rate the food?

As you saw in the transcript and pictures above, the food on this particular flight wasn’t all that remarkable. The appetizer and dessert were perfectly fine, but the main course (chicken) was extremely dry and rubbery – almost to the point of being inedible.

Based on this one experience, I would say that the overall dining experience was 3 stars out of 5. Note that I would have only given it 2 stars if the cabin crew wasn’t so attentive and efficient.

What about the seats? What rating would I give those on a scale of 1 to 5?

I’m going with a solid score of 4 on this one. The seats in China Eastern business class (especially on the 777 that I flew) were far better than my expectations, with premium materials and a comfortable configuration.

Note that these are the same seats found in other business class cabins on other airlines (such as Cathay Pacific and American Airlines), so it’s not like you’re getting a completely unique seating experience on China Eastern.

What’s a reasonable price to pay for China Eastern business class between the United States and China?

This is a highly subjective question, I know, but I’m going to answer it anyway. While some people like to argue that business class isn’t worth it at any price, I tend to hang out with the camp of people who consider it to be worthy of a somewhat hefty premium.

If you were forcing me to put a price tag on what I think business class between LA and Shanghai is worth on this airline, I would say $3750. That’s a round-trip price BTW, and I’d have to think long and hard about paying any more than that for this product out of my own pocket.

I should also note that even though I think that this product is worth almost $4000, I am nowhere near being able to afford something like that. I’m just saying that if I had the money and I was comparing it to other airlines, that’s what I would expect to pay.

Is the in-flight entertainment any good?

Again, this is a very subjective question, but I’m just going to answer it by saying “meh”. It’s not very often that I can’t find anything to watch on a in-flight video entertainment system, but I was really struggling to find something interesting on this flight over to China.

It got so bad at one point that I just turned the screen off and pulled out my laptop instead to get some work done. FYI, if you’re looking to be thoroughly entertained on flights between the US and China, look no further than Cathay Pacific and their Studio CX video entertainment system.

How does China Eastern compare to business class products from other Chinese airlines?

So far in my SANspotter flying career, I’ve had the opportunity to try business class on four different Chinese airlines: Air China, China Airlines, Xiamen Air, and now, China Eastern. The easy answer is that it’s really hard for me to rate each of these airlines against one another, since they all seemed to be pretty much the same to me – in the same way that US airlines are mostly copycats of one another.

If I was forced to make a decision though, I would rate my china Eastern experience above all the others. Not because the service was that much better (it wasn’t), but because the English proficiency of the cabin crew was the best I’ve experienced so far. Business class is a lot more fun when you don’t have to use hand gestures and facial expressions to communicate IMHO.

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