China Southern Airlines review: A321 economy Shanghai to Guangzhou

China Southern Airlines review: A321 economy Shanghai to Guangzhou

Although I’m no rookie to air travel, China Southern Airlines reviews have been notably absent from my blog for longer than I care to admit. I travel to China at least once a year, and being one of the country’s largest air carriers, even I am surprised that I have managed to avoid them for as long as I have.

Spoiler alert: the “f-g-l-t-o-w-m” keys on my keyboard were still completely functional after I finished writing this review. Yup – I actually didn’t have to use as many lol’s, wtf’s and omg’s as I thought I would!

Shanghai, China (PVG) – Guangzhou, China (CAN)
Wednesday, January 22, 2020
Aircraft: A321
Registration: B-8966
Duration: 2 hours 4 minutes
Seat: 56A (economy)

China Southern A321 side view
China Southern A321 side view illustration by
CZ3585 flight track
Our route from PVG to CAN this evening as CZ3585

My video review for China Southern Airlines flight number 3585 to Guangzhou

Even though I said in the intro that this experience wasn’t as shocking and unexpected as I thought it was going to be, I still had some difficulty scraping up enough content to put together a video review of this flight. I am not one to make excuses or anything, but it was really dark, really late, and I was really tired (especially since I had just got off a 14 hour flight from Los Angeles). I did what I could.

Despite my difficulty in putting together this review, finding the exact music I wanted for it was effortless. Thanks to the vast music catalog over at Epidemic Sound, I was easily able to find a few tracks by J.F. Gloss that fit perfectly with the dark and lazy vibe of my footage.

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

Hey everyone, my name is Scott, I’m the founder and author of, and I’ve got the post-international business class / pre-coronavirus blues.

Shanghai airport domestic terminal
Yup, I just arrived here in Shanghai after a long flight from LAX and I’ve got quite a lot on my mind at the moment.
Shanghai airport departures hall
First and foremost, I’m here to catch China Southern Airlines flight number 3585 to Guangzhou.
PVG airport ticket counters
I’m also trying really hard to enjoy this, but I just can’t because my phone keeps blowing up with really scary coronavirus news. Today is January 22nd by the way – just one day before they started quarantining off entire cities here in China.

The new satellite terminal at Shanghai Pudong airport is kind of nice

SANspotter selfie PVG airport
You know that kick in the gut feeling you get when you realize that you messed up really bad and there’s no turning back? I got that.
china southern airlines boarding pass
Anyway, I’m here so I might as well press on. Besides, as morbid as it may sound, I’m a firm believer that there’s no such thing as bad content. If I end up dead from doing China Southern Airlines reviews, well, at least I can say I died doing what I love.
shanghai airport departures
And who knows? If I die, you might end up getting a detailed hospital review out of it (if I can hang on long enough).
Shanghai airport satellite terminal
Anyway, the second thing on my mind this evening was figuring out how to get myself back into economy class mode.
china southern airlines a321
My ride this evening. It was an awesome business class experience on the flight over from LA, but back to reality I go for my flight down to Guangzhou…(holy crap that rhymes!)
PVG satellite terminal
I didn’t realize it at the time, but this is the brand new satellite terminal here at PVG. Not very crowded in here tonight it seems.
Gate H190 PVG airport
Gate H190 is our departure point to Guangzhou tonight. Is it just me, or…does “H190” sound like a really good name for a deadly virus?

The boarding process for China Southern flight number 3585 to Guangzhou

boarding china southern airlines flight
I’ve done some stupid things in my life, but how stupid of me was it to get on this plane without a face mask?
PVG airport jet bridge
So yeah. This is my first ever China Southern review. It’s a two hour flight down to Guangzhou tonight, and scary threats of the coronavirus or not, I’m ready!
china southern airlines a321 close up
It’s true. China Southern Airlines reviews are far more exciting when there’s real danger of ending up dead from a pesky virus.
china southern airlines a321 boarding door
No way I’m going in if I hear anyone sneeze.

China Southern Airlines A321 economy class: first impressions

China southern airlines a321 first class
Let’s see here: there’s some blue premium “first class” seats….the leg room looks decent, and yeah….I’m pretty much the only person on this plane not wearing a face mask. What could possibly go wrong?
china southern airlines flight attendant
The China Southern Airlines economy cabin. On a side note, what do you suppose she’s thinking about the nerdy white guy coming at her with a GoPro in hand?
China Southern Airlines A321 economy seats
China Southern Airlines A321 economy seats. I’m still seeing oceans of blue fabric, but what happened to all the leg room I just saw up in first class? Can we get some of that back here please?
China Southern Airlines A321 seat pitch
If I hadn’t just stepped off a long 14 hour flight from the US, and I was still feeling snappy and fresh, I’d be able to come up with a really clever way of describing just how tight this seat pitch is. With my current state of mind, all I can think of is: “thhhppppt!”
China Southern a321 interior
I’ve been awake for 36 hours now, I’m in a country where I cannot speak the language, and I’m sitting deep in the bowels of an airplane which will take me closer to the epicenter of the Coronavirus. This is fun, I promise!
China southern economy class power outlets
Oh – I keep forgetting this is supposed to be a China Southern economy class review. Therefore, Here’s some mandatory footage of the power outlets found at the base of every seat.

A few pics of the departure sequence

China southern a321 wing
All you fellow world travelers out there know the feeling of sitting cold, tired, and somewhat helpless in the back of a dark airplane in a strange country late at night.
SANspotter china southern airlines review
I wasn’t even sure I was on the right plane, but all I could hope for was ending up in a warm bed tonight (preferably the one I had originally reserved).
China southern airlines a321 wing PVG airport
Our departure out of Shanghai this evening was delayed by about 10 minutes or so, but really. Who cares? The biggest issue I’m facing right now is staying awake long enough to finish what is the first of (hopefully) many other China Southern reviews to come…
China southern airlines a321 takeoff PVG airport
Blasting out of Shanghai for the 2 and a half hour flight down to Guangzhou.

What is China Southern Airlines economy service like?

China southern airlines in flight advertisements
Wanna know what’s really trippy? Waking up from a dead sleep and having to immediately digest a luxury car advertisement. Talk about being transported to a third dimension against my will or something!
China southern airlines economy meal
The tripiness continued when the flight attendant instantly switched from lighting fast Mandarin Chinese to near-native English when offering me the in flight meal. “It’s beef” she said proudly confidently – more clearly and precise than even I could say it.
China southern airlines food review
I will say that this in flight meal brought me back to consciousness better than I imagined it would. No, it wasn’t all that good, but I’ve got got enough energy now to push on to Guangzhou. I think. Maybe?
SANspotter china southern airlines reviews
I spent the remaining 30 minutes of this flight contemplating my plan of attack for my arrival into Guangzhou. More specifically: when I turn on my phone, do I dare check the latest Coronavirus news? Or do I do take the “ignorance is bliss” approach and enjoy the latest aviation pics from dose.of.aviation instead?

The arrival into Guangzhou

China southern airlines a321 arrival Guangzhou
Huge props to the guy sitting next to me who cleared my tray table for me (and then latched it back into place) when the flight attendants made the announcement to do so. He apparently assumed that I didn’t understand what was happening, which led me to believe that I must look more like a tourist here in China than I thought I did.
Guangzhou airport
Welcome to Guangzhou! It’s just past midnight now, I’m barely clinging to consciousness, and you’re probably wondering: am I still feeling the blues? Actually…no. I’m not. However, it’s too late to go back and change the music (note anyone reading this: the soundtrack of this video had a very heavy “blues” vibe to it).
Guangzhou airport terminal
China Southern A321 economy class isn’t much to talk about (especially considering how cramped these seats are) but, in all fairness, it wasn’t any worse than what I’ve experienced in United A320 economy for example.
China Southern economy class review
Apparently the protocol for getting out of an economy seat here in China is to be as aggressive as possible, because ain’t nobody was gonna stop to let me out!
Guangzhou airport terminal interior
Anyway, thanks for watching reading! If you’ve ever wanted to see me frolic around in Singapore Airlines Business class, you’re in luck because that trip report is next.
Guangzhou airport terminal interior
Until then, thanks for watching reading, and I’ll catch you in the next one.

How much did I pay for this China Southern flight to Guangzhou?

To be honest, I’m not really sure! Well, technically, I paid 85,000 Delta SkyMiles for this flight – but that sounds really bad (and embarrassing) when saying it like that. I’m not lying though. I did have to shell out nearly 100K frequent flyer points to get a seat on this cramped A321 down to Guangzhou.

You see, this was the second leg of my one-way 85,000 mile business class award from Los Angeles to Guangzhou that I was able to snatch up on the Delta website. The first leg (LAX-PVG) was in China Eastern 777-300/ER business class, but my only option for the second segment (PVG-CAN) was in China Southern Airlines A321 economy. Not the most ideal situation, but it was a short flight anyway so I didn’t mind so much.

As I mentioned in the post about that China Eastern flight, I paid exactly $135.30 in taxes and fees for this ticket. I earn most of my airline points via the American Express Platinum and Blue Business cards. I get 5X points on all airfare spend with the Platinum, and 2X points on everything else with the Blue. It’s a rather potent combination for a frequent flyer such as myself. The points add up fast!

How I pay for all my travel expenses
The American Express Platinum Card
  • 100,000 welcome points (woo-hoo!)
  • Earn 5x points on flights and prepaid hotels
  • $200 hotel credit + $200 airline fee credit + $155 Walmart credit + $240 digital entertainment credit (and much more)
  • Transfer points to a wide variety of global airline and hotel partners
Sign me up!
Note: I may earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.
What I use for everyday spend
The American Express Blue Business Card
  • 2X Membership Rewards points on every purchase
  • Points can be transferred to a wide variety of global airline and hotel partners
  • No annual fee
Sign me up!
Note: I may earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.

Pros and cons of China Southern Airlines A321 economy class

I usually jot down a lot of notes as I travel, helping to ensure that I remember the little details about each of my flight experiences. The funny thing about this particular china southern experience was the fact that I returned home with a long list of cons and exactly zero pros. Maybe it was because of the fact that I had been awake for 36 hours as I stepped onto this airplane?

However, to be completely fair and impartial, I was able to think of a few more good things about this flight that are worth noting. In hindsight, it wasn’t completely miserable.


  • They actually served a hot meal. Yes, it was small, but it was hot and substantial enough to fend off my grumbling stomach (for a little while).
  • As best as I could tell, nearly the entire cabin crew spoke very fluent English. As matter fact, all announcements were made in Chinese and English and I didn’t feel out of the loop on anything.
  • The plane looked to be extremely clean (in and out) and very well-maintained.
  • They got me to my destination safely and (mostly) on time. Can’t fault that.


  • The seat pitch was absolutely miserable. It should be noted that I’m not excessively tall or anything (5’-10”), but I was most certainly feeling cramped for the entire flight.
  • You know that hot meal I just mentioned in the “pros” list? It wasn’t very good.
  • This isn’t a dig against China Southern Airlines or anything, but more about flying economy class in China in general: Basically, there’s no sense of organization and politeness when trying to get out of the seat at the end of the flight. It’s a total free-for-all, and you gotta be aggressive if you don’t want to be the last off the plane!

The most important thing for you to know is that China Southern Airlines economy isn’t all that bad. But they aren’t all that great either. As long as you go into it knowing that it’s not much better than basic transportation, you’re likely to have a decent experience.

FAQs about flying China Southern Airlines economy

You know me. Because I want to make one of the most thorough and helpful China Southern Airlines reviews possible, I’m going to end this one with a detailed list of frequently asked questions (FAQ’s).

Not only are these questions that I’ve been asked directly from my subscribers on YouTube, but they are also questions that I was asking myself before getting on that plane. I really wish I would’ve known some of the stuff before hand. It wouldn’t have made the flight any better, but at least it would’ve helped me to set my expectations straight and there would have been no surprises.

How uncomfortable is China Southern economy class for anyone over 6 feet tall?

With a seat pitch of only 32”, it’s not going to be comfortable at all. The best way to describe it is to make a comparison to other airlines that you may already be familiar with: For those in the US, it’s very similar to what it’s like on Spirit. If you’re from Europe, imagine it being just like EasyJet.

Do they serve free meals in economy class on China Southern Airlines?

Yes. Note that it’s nothing very substantial, but it is free. For this flight from Shanghai to Guangzhou, we were served a hot bun / dumpling filled with “beef”. This is obviously more hearty than the usual peanuts and pretzels you get on US/European airlines, but I do have some doubts about the quality of the meat they stuffed inside of that thing. Speaking of which:

How was the quality of the meal?

While most other China Southern Airlines reviews will simply tell you that “the food was terrible”, I’m going to the one step beyond and quantify it with a number. It’s the SANspotter way!

(Drumroll please)…it gets 4 out of 10 stars from me.

What is the baggage allowance in China Southern economy?

China Southern allows 2 pieces of checked baggage for economy class passengers, which must not exceed 50lbs (23kg) each. The fee for going over that weight is CNY230 (approximately $33US). Click here to see the latest baggage allowance information.

What’s it like flying domestic economy class in China? I’ve heard horror stories about rude and annoying people.

This is something that I’ve never seen discussed in other China Southern airlines reviews, so I’m just gonna use this opportunity to voice my opinion on the matter. No, it’s not anything specific to this airline, but it certainly applies (quite well actually).

My opinion is this: of all the economy class flights I’ve taken on Chinese airlines over the years (Sichuan Airlines and Hainan Airlines for example), I’ve never found the overall vibe of my fellow passengers to be rude and arrogant. As a matter of fact, I generally find people on domestic flights in the US to be the most rude and arrogant.

Anyway, the only time that I’ve ever noticed rude/arrogant passengers on Chinese flights is during the de-boarding process. People in China generally aren’t as courteous and polite when it comes to letting people go ahead of them, so stepping your foot out of your row and into the aisle to get off the plane requires both confidence and aggression.

Comments (10)

  1. Anthony Rodriguez Moya

    February 19, 2020
    • SANspotter

      February 19, 2020
      • Allen Ku

        May 1, 2020
        • SANspotter

          May 1, 2020
  2. Albert

    March 17, 2020
    • SANspotter

      March 17, 2020
    • Allen Ku

      May 1, 2020
  3. Oscar

    June 9, 2020
  4. Lucas

    January 12, 2023
    • Scott (SANspotter)

      January 13, 2023

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