I’m not going to lie when I tell you that I was getting really excited about flying Air China business class for the first time! Thankfully, getting through the transfer procedure at Beijing was super-fast compared to several days before when I was en route 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.
Beijing (PEK) – Los Angeles (LAX)
Sunday, April 20 2014
Aircraft: Boeing 777-300
Seat: 13C (business)
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.
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.
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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).
Is there any difference of its business class seat between aircrafts 777-300 (Air China) and
777-300ER (China Southern Airlines)? Will both seats recline 180 degrees?
Back in 97 I flew PEK -SIN in Air China First Class – commented at the time that it was the equivalent of Ansett Australia’s “domestic” business class.
Obviously they’ve improved.
I would have loved to try Air China back in the 90s! They’ve come a long way since then, but it would have been fun to give them a try before they really found their groove.