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.
Los Angeles, CA (LAX) – Shanghai, China (PVG)
Tuesday, January 21, 2020
Duration: 14 hours 24 minutes
Seat: 16A (business)
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.
Full transcript of my video for this flight to Shanghai (with pics!)
But first, a brief stop at the KAL Lounge
The pre-boarding experience
The boarding process for China Eastern flight number 586 to Shanghai
In the air now and officially on the way to China
What was the meal service like?
A few hours of rest and relaxation
The second meal service (don’t call it a pre-landing meal)
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.
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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.