China Airlines 777-300/ER business class Taipei to Seoul

China Airlines 777-300/ER business class Taipei to Seoul

Sometimes I wish there was a rule in place stating that every flight in the world must depart at 10:30am. No earlier. No later. I don’t want to even think about the logistics of that and how it wouldn’t work at all, but man…waking up at 4am to catch a flight is something that gets tougher for me as each year passes and quite frankly I’m getting tired of it. 10:30am is my sweet spot – it’s not too early, but early enough to get a good start on the day and still have a lot of time left over to get stuff done.

So that’s where this trip report begins. My iPhone alarm jolting me awake at 4am, an hour much too early for me to instantly comprehend what was happening. “What the hell is that noise?!” was the only thing that my still half-asleep brain could muster to think. Making the realization that it was actually my alarm clock and that it was time to wake up just made things worse, and the only thing that fuled me with enough energy to drag myself out of bed was the fact that I would get to try two new-to-me airlines that day. I guess that’s worth getting up for, right?

I pulled myself together as best I could and made my way down to the hotel lobby and into a taxi. I should point out that these early morning taxi rides are always kind of interesting to me, as seeing a large city asleep makes my imagination wander. On this particular morning I started imagining myself as the lone survivor of Taipei after a deadly virus outbreak had exterminated…well….maybe I’m revealing too much about what really goes on in my mind sometimes. On with the trip report. 😃

Taipei, Taiwan (TPE) – Seoul, South Korea (ICN)
Tuesday, January 31, 2017
Aircraft: 777-309/ER
Registration: B-18005
Duration: 2 hours 16 minutes
Seat: 11A (business class)

china airlines 777-300 side view
China Airlines 777-300/ER (B-18005) side view illustration by
TPE to ICN route map
Our route from TPE to ICN this morning.

My mind was still in “chill / relaxed / early morning” mode as the taxi driver pulled up to terminal 1 at Taoyuan International Airport, so it was quite a shock for me to step inside and experience the utter chaos that hit me like a bolt of lightning. The hotel, taxi ride, and exterior of the terminal were all calm and quiet, but wow – things were hoppin’ here inside the departures hall of TPE this morning, forcing me to wake up a lot faster than I really wanted to.

curbside terminal 1 TPE
Curbside at TPE terminal 1. Time to go home!
TPE airport departures hall
Oh my god. I was definitely not expecting the airport to be this busy so early in the morning.

It took me a moment to find the China Airlines check in counters through the sea of people, but once I found it I then immediately started looking for the business class queue. The economy lines were packed 20 deep as they snaked through the terminal, and there was no way I wanted any part of that. The problem was that I looked and looked but I couldn’t find the business class check in desk. I’m sure it was there, but I just didn’t see it.

I aborted that plan as soon as I saw a row of check-in kiosks hidden behind a mob of of people trying to wedge their way into the economy class line. I forced my way in there through the crowds, and tried to get to the one available kiosk I saw. I wasn’t three feet away from it when a middle-aged Chinese guy swooped in from my right and took it. Ok then – I guess I’ll wait. Looking around, I started noticing a lot of other people hovering around the kiosks and being overly aggressive about being next. It’s not my style at all, but I hovered over that Chinese guy like a vulture and blocked anyone else from getting in there once he was finished. The competition was brutal that morning!

TPE check in kiosk
Thankfully I was able to use a kiosk to check in and bypass the lines completely.

The feeling of relief was overpowering as the kiosk spit out my boarding pass, and I wasted no time getting out of that departures hall and into the queue for the security checkpoint.

Once on the other side of security, I found myself trapped in the Duty Free shop which wasn’t avoidable. All passengers have to pass through here before continuing into the main terminal, but luckily the business class lounge was nearby so I ducked in there to decompress a bit and grab some breakfast.

After doing my thing in the lounge, I left a bit early so that I would have enough time to look around the terminal before the flight. Two words describe my experience of walking around terminal 1 at TPE that morning: big and bland. This is a huge airport, and frankly, there isn’t much to see. It’s just a series of very long white hallways with doors to gate areas that aren’t any more interesting to look at. It totally reminds me of terminal 3 at LHR, but on a much larger scale.

TPE airport interior
Things are a bit bland inside the terminal here at TPE – this is one of the nicer looking sections.
gate A8 TPE airport
The entrance to gate A8 – our departure point for the flight to ICN.
gate A8 TPE airport
Once though the entrance, you arrive in the gate area. Seems as if I’m a bit early this morning…

I was the second passenger to arrive in the gate area for this flight up to ICN this morning, so I just hung out for a while since there was really nowhere else to go. Let that be a big tip for anyone traveling through TPE – there’s no need to come out of the lounge until it’s time to start boarding!

SANspotter airport selfie
Just hanging out and killing time…
China Airlines 777-300
Not a great pic, but that’s our China Airlines 777-300 getting loaded up for the quick flight up to ICN.
US passport Taipei airport
Passport and boarding pass ready. Let’s go!

Thankfully the boarding process started right on time and I was more than anxious to get onboard my first China Airlines flight. I’ve flown on Air China from PEK to LAX in business class several years ago, so I was really curious to see how the China Airlines business class product compared.

Taipei airport gate A8
Queuing up to board.
jet bridge TPE airport
And so it begins! Walking down the jet bridge…
China Airlines 777-300 TPE
Sorry for the poor-quality pic, but the windows on this jet bridge were really smudgy. This was the best I could do.
China Airlines 777-300 boarding door
It’s almost as if I can imagine her saying “oh great…another AvGeek taking pictures of everything!”

Once onboard, I was pretty much blown away. I guess my expectations were set too low, because what I found was a very upscale business class cabin with highly-configurable seats and very nice textures and materials on every surface. The most interesting thing was the woodgrain finish everywhere. I’ve never seen woodgrain on a commercial aircraft before, but I will admit that it looked very warm and classy.

China Airlines 777-300 business class cabin
China Airlines 777-300 business class cabin.
China Airlines 777-300 business class cabin.
China Airlines 777-300 business class cabin.
China Airlines 777-300 business class cabin
China Airlines 777-300 business class cabin.
China Airlines 777-300 business class seat
China Airlines 777-300 business class seat.
China Airlines 777-300 business class seats
China Airlines 777-300 business class seats (center section).
China Airlines 777-300 business class
China Airlines 777-300 business class seat looking forward.
china airlines 777-300 business class leg room
Leg room was decent, with a typically narrow footwell for these kinds of seats.
china airlines 777-300 business class woodgrain
Check out that woodgrain on the shelf! I don’t care if it’s just laminate – I thought it looked pretty good.
china airlines business class seat
There’s a little table lamp in the back corner of every seat, which gives it a nice “homey” feel.
china airlines 777-300 business class
The view looking forward from my seat. There’s even woodgrain on the bulkhead walls!
china airlines 777-300 business class privacy
Overall, this cabin is really private with the high dark walls separating each seat.
china airlines 777-300 business class seat controls
The tech geek in me couldn’t stop playing with all the seat controls…

I was immediately greeted by the lead flight attendant upon sitting down, and was offered the usual assortment of pre-poured beverages on a tray. I declined, but I did appreciate the quick followup with a hot towel and breakfast menu. Speaking of breakfast, the choices looked quite good and I still wasn’t sure what I was going to choose when she came back around taking orders. More on that in a bit…

China Airlines business class menu
China Airlines business class menu front cover.
China Airlines business class breakfast menu
China Airlines business class breakfast menu.
china airlines business class lunch menu
The lunch menu for the return trip to TPE was also included. Looks good!
china airlines business class hot towel
Hot towel. On an unrelated note, I found it odd that the tray table never went away fully. It was always extended like this with no way to move it out of the way.
china airlines noise cancelling headphones
Noise cancelling headphones were also distributed while on the ground.
China Airlines 777-300 safety card
China Airlines 777-300 safety card (front).
China Airlines 777-300 safety card
China Airlines 777-300 safety card (rear).

The skies over Taipei were gloomy and gray as we pushed off the gate, and we rolled around giving me the opportunity to see a lot of the airport on our way out to 05L. TPE is definitely one of the most diverse airports I’ve ever been to when it comes to the types of airlines and aircraft that serve it, and I’d love to spend a sunny day here taking pics of everything that flies in and out of here.

china airlines 777-300 TPE pushback
Pushing off the gate. Here we go!
china airlines TPE
This is definitely China Airlines country.
taxiing at TPE
I love sightseeing at Asian airports. Nearly every airplane is a widebody, which is the exact opposite of what things are like back in the US.
taxiing at TPE
Once we left the terminals, there really wasn’t that much to see. Sure looks gloomy out there.
china airlines 777-300 takeoff
Too bad there’s no sound with this pic. The sound of the 77W on takeoff is magical!

It was a very bumpy departure as we cut our way though the clouds, and unfortunately, those bumps never really went away once we were above them.

Departing TPE
Departing TPE. I don’t get vertigo very often, but I nearly fell out of my chair while uploading this pic. That angle is gnarly!
china airlines 777-300 takeoff
Cutting through the clouds.
china airlines 777-300 takeoff
There we go. Always nice to see blue skies after departing from a gloomy airport.
china airlines moving map display
Playing with the in flight entertainment system during the departure.

The bumps were noticeably difficult for the flight attendants, who were always grabbing the walls or overhead bins as they were working the cabin.

And that’s a perfect segway into the next portion of this trip report: breakfast! I was actually a bit surprised at how soon the breakfast service started – it felt like we were still climbing to cruising altitude when the flight attendants started coming by with tablecloths and drinks. I wasn’t all that hungry yet due to the big meal I had in the lounge, but the breakfast orders did look interesting enough to give it a go. And hey – what international business class trip report would be complete without a description of the meal service?

I went with the Chinese meal option this morning considering I had eggs and sausage in the lounge a few hours ago, and I did my best to eat as much as I could before putting the fork down and pushing it aside. It was quite tasty, typical of what I’ve experienced on other Chinese airlines. It was good – but not anything I’d label as phenomenal.

China Airlines business class breakfast
China Airlines business class breakfast. This is the Traditional Chinese option, which consisted of shrimp with pumpkin and shredded pork over rice noodles. Pretty good!
SANspotter selfie
Doing my best to eat what I could even though I wasn’t all that hungry.
China Airlines business class breakfast
Slightly wider angle view of the complete dining experience.
flying to south korea
Breakfast isn’t even over yet and we are closing in fast on South Korea.

The breakfast service seemed to take a while, leaving not much time left in the flight once the tray tables were cleared. I spent that time with a quick nap, and then a lot of picture-taking out the window.

SANspotter selfie
Catching up on some much-needed sleep before the descent into ICN.
china airlines 777-300 in flight
Not much to see down there quite yet!
China Airlines 777-300 business class lavatory
China Airlines 777-300 business class lavatory. Nothin’ special.
flying to south korea
Just about to make landfall over South Korea.
Southern South Korea
There it is: the arid terrain of Southern South Korea. Not what I was expecting to be quite honest!

There really wasn’t all that much to take pictures of en route, but the descent into ICN was beautiful with all the snow and ice on the ground. The only other time I’ve been to Korea was in the Spring, so seeing all the snow and ice was interesting.

flying over south korea
The terrain got more winter-like the farther we pushed north.
china airlines moving map display
Zoomed all the way in on the map showing Incheon not too far off in the distance.
ICN approach 777-300
Wow, it looks cold down there…
landing at ICN
Getting closer…
landing at ICN
Just a little bit longer…
landing at ICN
Welcome to Seoul!

Despite how wintery it looked out there on approach, the weather at ICN was downright beautiful upon landing. Bright sunshine and warm-looking temps, even though it wasn’t anywhere close to being warm. You could have fooled me though – I didn’t have to go outside so the cold was of no matter to me. It looked warm out there, so that’s all that mattered.

ICN airport
The car guy (and little boy) in me can’t help but to look at wide open spaces like this and wish I could race around it all with a fast car…
ICN arrival china airlines
Pulling up to the gate.
ICN airport terminal
Sure does look like a beautiful day out there!
ICN airport jet bridge
Jet bridges are really amazing structures – the ones here at ICN especially.
Thanks for the ride B-18005!

So what are my final thoughts about China Airlines 777-300 business class? Good question. I found the hard product (seats / cabin) to be very nice. Much nicer than the business class hard product that Air China offers. The soft product (service) on the other hand, was typical of what you’d find on a US airline. Friendly and efficient, but the crew didn’t really seem to go out of their way to make sure I had everything I needed for a comfortable flight. The main thought I was left with after this flight was how much I wanted to try this business class product on a longer route. Two and a half hours wasn’t enough, and I’d imagine that this would be excellent on longer segments. The seat was really that good!

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