Air China review (BEIJING CAPITAL AIRPORT to SHANGHAI HONGQIAO, FIRST CLASS on the BOEING 767-300ER)
Air China (中國國際航空公司) is the national flag carrier of the People’s Republic of China (PRC), and operates full international and domestic scheduled air services for the carriage of passengers, freight, and mail and the provision of ancillary services. Air China operates to 185 destinations around the world (including domestically in China), with a fleet of 268 aircraft (with another 271 aircraft on order, including 15 new Boeing 787-7 aircraft).
Beijing Capital Airport is the hub for Air China, and Air China Cargo. The third largest building in the world, Beijing Airport is second only to Atlanta in terms of passenger movements in the world. In 2009 it was voted by Conde Nast magazine as the most popular airport in the world. Second biggest terminal to Dubai and you can fit all of Heathrow’s five terminals inside it – and still manage to have 17% to spare! Air China occupies part of the main terminal with their separate domestic and international terminals. Chengdu Shuangliu International Airport, and Shanghai Pudong International Airport are the other two hub airports for Air China.
I had the pleasure of flying with Air China from Beijing Capital Airport (China) to Shanghai Hongqiao Airport, on one of their last remaining Boeing 767-300ER aircraft (and it will be phased out). I flew First Class, but since this aircraft only has a two class configuration, (Business and Economy), so the service provided was equivalent to that provided to First Class passengers.
Route: BEIJING (PEK) - SHANGHAI HONGQIAO (SHA)
Departure date and time of flight: October 2011, 13:30pm local time (Beijing)
Flight number: CA1517 (ICAO callsign: “Air China 1517”)
Flight duration: 2 Hours 10 minutes
Class: FIRST CLASS
Aircraft type: BOEING 767-332ER (One aircraft in service)
Aircraft registration: B-2499 (First flight 30th May 2000)
Aircraft Serial Number: 30957 - line 797
Frequent flyer programme: Phoenix Miles
Seat configuration for this aircraft:
First/Business Class: 30 seats in a 2-2-2 configuration on the main deck
Economy Class: 200 seats in a 3-4-3 configuration
Comments on the check- in staff and any issues:
The check-in process was a smooth one with no hassle or long queues.I was met at the taxi rank by the Air China representative, who took me straight to the special VIP First Class counter. It was a hassle free and rapid process.
The security gates are also well organised and manned by the local staff. First Class passengers can pass through the fast track security lane (and yes, it is indeed fast here at Beijing). The staff were very polite, and efficient in processing the security procedures of all the passengers smoothly and in a punctual manner without any problems. Perhaps western overcrowded airport security companies (particularly at airports such as Heathrow, Paris, and Frankfurt) can learn a few lessons from the Chinese. Even though China does not have any serious terrorist threat, the security here is taken very seriously and everything is done very efficiently.
Any baggage issues:
No issues regarding the baggage. Passengers travelling First Class with Air China are allowed a generous 40kg free of charge, and 30 kg (66 lbs) for Business Class. For domestic flights, each piece of checked baggage must not exceed 50 kg (110 lbs).
LOUNGE EXPERIENCE at Beijing Capital Airport:
Air China has a number of lounges at all the three terminals at Beijing Airport (Terminal 1, 2 and 3). These lounges are known as the Air China VIP lounges. Phoenix miles members (Gold, and Platinum) can use the lounges upon showing their cards. There are separate lounges for Business and First Class passengers. While both the Business and First Class lounges have buffet food (Chinese only), comfortable relaxing chairs, and a small cinema (25 seats maximum), the main difference between the Business and First Class lounges is that the First Class lounge also has beds. First Class passengers can hire the bedrooms (each room comes along with a single bed) for up to as many hours as they want. There are also shower facilities available in all the lounges.
There are many options for hot and cold Chinese food, though western food is not available in the lounges at Beijing Airport at the time of writing.
Punctuality of the flight:
Departed on time, and landed on time (rare in China!). First Class passengers are collected from the lounge, and taken to the VIP shuttle bus (or the gate). In this case we were taken to the waiting VIP shuttle bus that took us straight to the plane. We were lucky to have excellent weather conditions, and not a long queue. A straight in taxi to runway 36R, and a take-off without any delays. Landing at Shanghai Hongqiao was also a delightfully quick experience – no hustle and bustle (and no waiting around or circling over Shanghai!).
Comments regarding the pre-flight service:
First Class passengers are offered a selection of drinks including champagne, apple juice, orange juice and a variety of teas (Chinese and Western). Passengers are also handed out hot towels prior to departure to refresh up. The cabin crew took the orders for the lunch service from all the passengers in the First Class cabin prior to departure.
Comments regarding the pre-meal service:
The meal service commended with air hostesses handing out hot towels. A selection of fine nuts was offered along with a choice of drink (orange juice, apple juice, and a selection of teats).
Comments regarding the main meal:
There were two options for the main meal:
- Hainan chicken with rice, and vegetables
- Cod fish with rice, and vegetables.
I opted for the codfish with rice, and vegetables. Lovely soft chunky battered codfish covered in breadcrumbs served with hot and fresh boiled white rice. The accompanying vegetables went well with the dish. There was also a bowl of boiled tofu sticks (delicious!), and a bowl of roasted honey chicken salad (with generous portions of crunchy leaves, and tomatoes as well).
Delicious soft and hard bread rolls were offered from the basket. All meals were served on fine bone china, and came with Air China chopsticks, and Air China stainless steel cutlery.
Comments regarding the after meal drinks and in-flight snacks:
Hot and cold drinks were served after the main meal. These included Chinese and Western tea options, as well as soft drinks. Alcohol is not served on domestic flights in China.
Comments on the in-flight entertainment system:
The Boeing 767-300ER aircraft has no individual TV screens (not even in Business/First Class), only the bigger screens at the front of each compartment. However, the new interactive entertainment system offers hundreds of movies and music selections, plus a whole range of online games. Most of the high tech gadgets are only available on the latest Boeing 777 aircraft, and perhaps also the Boeing 737-800NG aircraft. For most of the flight we were shown the route map.
Comments of professionalism of the cabin crew:
The cabin crew were very professional and friendly. Air China is very particular on how their cabin crew staff should be like. They have to be of a certain weight, and height, and must be acquainted to beauty with a smile (this is what I was informed!). The cabin crew at Air China represent all the 56 minorities of China, and most of the cabin crew do speak good English (especially those in Business/First Class).
Comments on the interior of the aircraft (including seat comfort):
The Business/First Class seats have 42-inch pitch and 19 inch width. The Economy Class seats have a 34-inch pitch, and an 18 inch width. Business Class seats feature a reclining angle of 170 degrees. For such a short domestic flight, passengers were offered a pair of luxury cotton slippers, and a thick cotton blanket. The cabin had a pleasant smell, and was very clean. All the seats in the Business/First Class section are covered with a luxury grey cloth that comes embedded with the phoenix bird logo. It creates a sense of comfort, elegance, and belonging to the Chinese culture. It also gives a very warm, fresh, spacious, modern, and touching feeling when you enter the cabin.
Air China logo and livery:
The red phoenix bird is the brand symbol of Air China, and is proudly displayed on the tailfin of every aircraft. The symbol has been present ever since the airline first commenced operations in 1988. The phoenix logo is also the artistic transfiguration of the word “VIP”.
Air China is one of the few world airlines that still has a cheat line going through right the way across the whole fuselage. Two dark blue cheat lines run from the nose of the plane to the back of the tailfin, essentially wrapping the aircraft. The top cheat line is slightly thinner than the bottom cheatline.
The national flag is proudly displayed near the first door, and following the national flag are the words in capitals, and black colour ‘Air China’ in English, and then in Mandarin Chinese. The belly of the aircraft is painted in a light grey.
Overall rating 1-10 (worst-best): 10
About Airline PR
This is a special section on Airline Branding, and Airline Public Relations written by me on all the flights I have been fortunate enough to have been on. These are not records taken from somewhere else, but are actual flights I have been on. Most of the flight trips are officially sponsored by the airline companies in order to promote their certain routes, and aircraft. Airline promotion and PR related work in the aviation industry is one of my expertise.
Watch exclusive videos below taken in the cockpit of a Boeing 777-300ER in-flight over Chinese Airspace.
Special thanks goes to
B777-300ER Cockpit Video 1
B777-300ER Cockpit Video 2
Proud media partner of QATAR AIRWAYS