Departure date and time of flight: 17th November 2009 17:40pm
Flight Number: CA938
Flight duration: 10 hours 20 minutes
Class: Economy Class
Aircraft type: Airbus A330-200
Punctuality of the flight:
The flight departed and landed on time.
Any baggage issues:
No issues- the bags arrived on time and in one piece.
Comments on the check- in staff and any issues:
The check in staff were polite, and very professional. There was no problem what so ever.
Comments regarding the pre-meal service:
Choice of drinks (tea, coffee, orange juice, apple juice, lemonade or coca-cola). As with most of the airlines in China, the drinks (coca-cola, orange etc.) were all branded under the Air China logo. Alcohol was also served on this flight (including Tsingtao beer!)
Comments regarding the first meal:
Dinner was served around an hour after take-off. The main dish consisted of sweet & sour pork served with boiled white rice and a few sticks of pea pods. The pork looked as if someone had stamped on it. Mind you, this food was not freshly packed at Heathrow, but in fact was the stored food on the flight that had come in from Beijing that same afternoon. So actually the “dinner” which I was about to put down my throat was around about 24 hours old- hope that puts things into perspective! It didn't taste as bad as it looked- let’s just keep it at that for now. The pork blended in nicely with the sauce and the rice. The accompanying dishes were made up of a salad bowl (nothing special by Air China except that there was a splosh of mayonnaise cream along with the single slice of cucumber and a single tomato slice (yep, apparently that’s meant to fill in for your healthy options!!).
Oh, you wouldn't want to know what was in for a dessert- would you? Well, it was meant to be an apple crumble, but one that had gone horribly wrong. Because the in-flight meal had been stored in the aircraft’s fridge, so when the crew served the meals, they somehow forgot to “thaw” the apple crumble that had been in the fridge. So what you had was passengers’ being served a very cold (and slightly hard to bite) apple crumble that had been not only in the fridge but also had been exposed to sub-zero temperatures while it had been in the hold (because the flight route in from Beijing took the plane over Siberia and Russia etc). Can it get any worse? Can you imagine if the passengers had any health problems in international airspace, and if the pilot had to do a diversion, and the amount of millions it would have cost the airline?
Comments regarding the drinks service:
A second round of drinks was offered after the meal.
Comments regarding the in-flight snacks (if any):
Comments regarding the second meal (if any):
Breakfast was served around about two hours before landing (too early I think). Looking at the quality of the omelette, the chicken nuggets and the sausage- this meal was again packed and stored onto the aircraft in Beijing and not in London. There was nothing “fresh” about this meal. The omelette tasted as if it had been in the fridge for some time. Serving chicken nuggets in an in-flight meal is not the best thing because fried food tastes bland and very chewy at 37,0000 feet!! Another bad innovation by Air China’s in-flight catering department.
A delicious pot containing strawberry yogurt was served with the meal. This could easily have been a substitute for the highlight of the whole in-flight food service on this flight! The lovely bowl of fresh fruit was also very good. Presentation could easily have been better for Air China’s international service- I mean; come on this is a national flag carrier of one of the biggest countries on this planet! The slightly soggy tasting croissant was not too bad either.
Comments on the in-flight system (if any):
The A330 aircraft had a back seat IFE system- however to my surprise not many of the channels worked. In fact, the only English Channel that worked was the BBC Radio Worldwide service; and the rest were Chinese songs and movies. There were no games to be played. Having looked at the in-flight magazine, I could see that not everything advertised was available on the IFE.
Comments of professionalism of the cabin crew:
For the international flight, all the staff could speak adequate levels of English, and were very professional. The highlight of the flight was when the majority of the Economy Class staff gathered around me whilst I was taking photos of the lovely mountains over the Gobi Desert and over the outskirts of Beijing.
Improvements that could be made:
Whilst the toilets were clean, however the cabins were filthy and need to be cleaner. The seat IFE needs to be maintained properly. The in-flight food is a disgrace; however I fear that this would not improve as it’s the same for most Chinese airline companies. Rather scary but upon our arrival in Beijing (whilst on the ground and taxiing to the terminal) our aircraft electricity failed for around 5 minutes- thank god this did not happen whilst in flight!
Comments on the interior of the aircraft (including seat comfort):
The aircraft was not clean at all. As with most aircraft that are operated by Chinese airlines, the cabin had a strong stench of urine and an air of discomfort. It was the kind of smell you may have got on an old Russian Aeroflot Il-62 or Il-86 aircraft! The seats were comfortable but for some reason there was a smell of urine everywhere, and I wonder why.
Overall rating 1-10 (worst-best): 5