Trip report: China Southern (CZ) Business Class BOS-JFK-CAN-ADL

Old Apr 7, 18, 3:05 pm
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Trip report: China Southern (CZ) Business Class BOS-JFK-CAN-ADL

To summarize:

CZ is fine unless you miss a connection in CAN--then you are doomed. Other than the mob scene for boarding, air-side has their .... together, just don't try to take them off-script unless you speak the language. Point and grunt comm's work fine, they expect it. Food is palatable and plentiful, drink is the same, service is attentive. Seating is good. Entertainment is good although you have to look around a lot of Chinese subtitles. Don't fly the A380 unless you like it. Club access and facilities are good. If you are an infrequent J class passenger, as I am, you will enjoy it. If you are a premium J class type it will all be a step down. Set your expectations accordingly.

Missed connections in CAN: initially you will have zero say in the matter and re-booking will take forever. Plan to hit the front ticket counter land-side ASAP and plead your case. Doing the CZ supplied visa/hotel thing if you are stuck overnight is an adventure unless you speak Chinese. Plan to jump queues Chinese style if required.

A quick report on the outbound trip (and see return trip report below):

Booked through cheapoair. First time booking with them. The only disconcerting thing is that there is no access or control over the CZ legs except through them. All attempts to look at the itinerary on the CZ web site fail.

First leg BOS-JFK. Check in and bag check with the outbound domestic leg partner, Delta, was unremarkable with the exception that they were able to give me my boarding pass for the JFK-CAN connection, which was an unexpected and welcome convenience. Also, given this was a normal domestic leg, I was able to enjoy TSA pre-check privileges. The bus. class itinerary gained me entry to the Delta lounge at BOS which was also welcome as I had a couple of hours to kill. The BOS lounge is basic and competent and I had a small breakfast there, but no hot food available. First class cabin on a CRJ, nothing special to report.

I had a three hour layover in JFK. Again was able to enjoy the much more substantial Delta lounge there. The available breakfast foods were hot, creative and delicious. Very nice lounge with all the amenities. I proceeded to the gate one hour ahead of departure time to find the entire economy class looking like they had been queued up for hours. 90% Asian folks, going home or visiting I suppose. I figured this was cultural but figured wrong. It turns out CZ has no boarding groups or order, it's every man, woman and child for themselves! This includes the priority folks and we queued up, too, although it was much less of an issue for us, of course. I was also able to get the last leg boarding pass from the gate agents before boarding, so that was handy.

16A on a 777-300, which in the configuration flown was a true window seat with the side table on the aisle, which was nice. I knew it was going to be a crap shoot on the side table arrangement and lucked out. It would have been no problem anyway as bus. class was empty, only like 10 pax. and I could have moved almost anywhere. Surprisingly little room under the foot rest, otherwise standard bus. class pod, very comfortable. The supplied comforter was nice, but the cabin was kept so warm (too warm) that I found it unnecessary. Service and experience was as accurately described in all of the other CZ business class threads, that is to say "fast and furious!" They have a process and don't mess with it! NO early or late trips to the lav., they are "closed" on climb-out and descent. Thanks to the other threads I knew to hook up my shoulder belt. Food came very soon after departure and courses proceeded rapidly on the main meal. Eat fast or wind up with a lot of plates on your tray! Put finished dishes on the armrest and they are cleared promptly, don't and they will stay there. All a cultural thing, I think. Language barriers were there, but not insurmountable, just some grunting and pointing required Food was extremely plentiful and for the most part quite palatable. They offered more food than I could consume! Liquids of all types were plentiful and cheerfully delivered on demand. Lav. was HUGE and CLEAN throughout the entire flight. Hot towel services were lukewarm, at best.

I changed into my (self-provided) PJ's after main meal, finished my movie (not a huge selection IMHO) and fourth glass of champagne, and tried to sleep but did not do a good job of it, only getting about 4 hours. As luck would have it, I woke up for the second meal which they served at the halfway point and not at all near the end of the flight. I did not care for the timing of the second meal. At any rate I managed to fall asleep after that and got another 4 hours so no second movie, etc.

It seems that CZ is using a different, non-international, terminal at CAN for loading/unloading international flights, as we had to descend stairs to waiting buses to go over to the international terminal. First and bus. class had their own private "VIP" marked bus. Then more stairs into the terminal. Then, oddly, a security checkpoint with x-ray and T-wave scanner. No need to empty pockets or bags, liquids were OK, and everyone got a wand and a pat-down, too. Weird. But all efficiently done.

I was jealous of the appearance of the other, very fancy, club at the terminal, but alas I have no cred's for it and used the CZ/Sky Pearl club for my 7 hour layover. While a bit worn on the inside, it was nevertheless very serviceable and comfortable. Had a quick snack from the hot food buffet, then used one of their spacious and clean shower rooms. Slippers, robe and towels all supplied. Very nice! Sat and computed for a while on the quiet second floor area, then went back downstairs two hours before flight time for a full dinner, which was quite good. I wanted to dine there because the CAN-ADL leg was a 9 hour red-eye and I knew I wanted to try to sleep the entire way.

Same epic mob-scene queue for this departure. As priority cabin people came up the priority lane they had a special VIP handler agent who herded us off to the side. We were all put on a separate VIP bus. The thundering herd of economy were put on other buses, sent off and sat down before us. So while that got everyone out of our way, when the 1st and bus. cabins boarded last it was a bit rushed as they wanted to go.

3C on an A330, which put me on the aisle side of someone else, but again the cabin was less then half full so I asked to move to the window of an empty row and was allowed. Only three other bus. class pax. had to sit next to someone else. Standard lay-flat bus. class seats. Nobody in the four 1st class pods. Clearly some pro travelers on this leg, as literally everyone got ready for bed immediately after climb-out. I changed into PJs and asked for some champagne. Wine and spirits selection was superior on this leg, with a separate wine list provided. Champagne was Taittinger. That wound up being three glasses and a bowl of nuts so got to sleep about an hour after the entire rest of the cabin. Set an alarm on my phone and hit the hay. Phone woke me perfectly 30 min's before breakfast, so I was able to dress and freshen up before the meal, which came right on time 3 hours before landing. Did I say these CZ folks have a rigid process? Most people woke and ate in their PJs, then freshened up, but I like to do it the other way to avoid competition over the lav, so I guess I have a process, too

Staff were unfailingly pleasant and concerned for your comfort, but you can throw them by trying deviate from their scripted service. Just don't mess with the script, i.e. don't try to change a main meal, just ask for extra stuff which, falling outside of the script, is rapidly and cheerfully handled. I have little experience with Asian cultures but found it all very Germanic in its desire for precision and consistency. This helps with any language difficulties as well. Service was definitely more attentive on the CAN-ADL leg. They sent their most adept English speaker to administer a verbal customer satisfaction survey to me near the end of that leg, which was interesting. Finally, flights were on time, and the CZ pilots have a different style of flying, with a lot of throttle movement, which, as a pilot myself, I took notice of.

More to follow next week when I hit the skies for the return trip, ADL-CAN-LAX-BOS.

Last edited by aa777888; Apr 19, 18 at 8:59 pm Reason: To add return trip details
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Old Apr 7, 18, 4:06 pm
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Thanks for the report!

Air China's meal service is the same - multiple dishes come out in rapid succession. But remember this is how meals are eaten in China... as soon as they are prepared they come out to the table and there's communal dishes that everyone tucks in to. You pick a bit of this, bit of that, then go back in. So in that respect not entirely different to how most of their passengers would expect to eat on the ground
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Old Apr 14, 18, 6:08 am
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Thank you for the report. Do you have a feel of what the best window J seat on the JFK-CAN leg for a solo traveler? I am holding onto 16K for now JFK-CAN and 16A on the return. Do they follow FEBO on taking meal orders?

Last edited by yoyo; Apr 14, 18 at 6:35 am
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Old Apr 14, 18, 8:00 am
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On my flight I had 16A and it was a true window with the side table towards the aisle, which I thought was the most preferable. Row 16 is also an agreeable distance from galley and lav. If your aircraft is configured the same you should be happy. However, the config. I flew on did not match the SeatGuru data so side table location might be a crapshoot.

I honestly did not pay attention about febo.
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Old Apr 14, 18, 11:54 am
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If you really care about the food order, they work the same way most Asian airlines do, They kind of filter around, generally front to back, and take the orders before takeoff.

If you really care, you could proactively ask for a menu early, and order right then.

But to be honest, there is really nothing special in their food selections. Whatever is the last dish left could be as good (or bad) as your ideal choice.

Seat only matters inner/outer. You are fine on that,
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Old Apr 14, 18, 4:16 pm
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Originally Posted by aa777888 View Post
On my flight I had 16A and it was a true window with the side table towards the aisle, which I thought was the most preferable. Row 16 is also an agreeable distance from galley and lav. If your aircraft is configured the same you should be happy. However, the config. I flew on did not match the SeatGuru data so side table location might be a crapshoot.

I honestly did not pay attention about febo.
Thanks. I believe CZ300 and CZ600 (JFK->CAN) as well as the those CAN->JFK are all configured the same way (777-300ER).
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Old Apr 14, 18, 4:17 pm
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Originally Posted by exwannabe View Post
If you really care about the food order, they work the same way most Asian airlines do, They kind of filter around, generally front to back, and take the orders before takeoff.

If you really care, you could proactively ask for a menu early, and order right then.

But to be honest, there is really nothing special in their food selections. Whatever is the last dish left could be as good (or bad) as your ideal choice.

Seat only matters inner/outer. You are fine on that,
Thanks.
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Old Apr 15, 18, 3:03 am
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A and K seats are genuine windows and they do offer privacy..,if you’re old and large (like me) it is “snug”!! As per an earlier poster, all the 777-300ER have the same layout in business...and you’re right, seatguru isn’t quite accurate on this. The C and J seats, while adjacent to the aisle, probably give you a bit more spread out space and area to put things (although there’s tons of space overhead).
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Old Apr 19, 18, 8:54 pm
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Return trip: ADL-CAN-LAX-BOS

The return trip was not as nice as the outbound trip.

It did start on a very positive note and the ADL ground staff really has there ducks well in a row. The English-fluent ticket agent checked me and my bag in at the Sky Priority counter and was super. He made certain to direct me to the Qantas lounge at ADL, explaining at length how they share it with Qantas. There was no priority lane at main security, but ADL security moved quick and was a breeze, with only magnetometers in use and no prohibition on liquids--surprising! However, as is my habit, I sought out the gate location prior to heading to the lounge and found that I would have to pass through a very small, two lane, secondary international screening point with addition X-ray and backscatter scanners. And, at the time, it was extremely backed up with the entire economy section of some departing flight. This had me greatly concerned.

With some anxiety I headed to the Qantas lounge, which is outside the international departure area. Super lounge with super staff. I inquired of them regarding how much time they though I should allow for passing through the international screening point and they laughed, saying as how they would call the flight for me and send me on my way 5 minutes before boarding time. This still left me a bit nervous. What they did not explain is that the entire process is rigged such that economy will have passed through well in advance and they send the business and first class pax through at the last second. This system worked wonderfully. Again security was breezy compared to the US. I essentially walked right onto the aircraft, and without the queuing nonsense that seems to plague the normal China Southern boarding process.

The first leg was again on an A330. This time bus. class was full, mostly with Chinese, perhaps all going home. I booked an aisle since I tend to use the lav. a lot, and that worked out well. The window pax was a young Chinese man and he slept the entire flight and never had to bother me to use the lav. Other than the full condition the experience was essentially the same as the outbound CAN-ADL leg as described above. There was a lap child in the row in front of me who looked more like three than two, but, thank goodness, he was a trooper. He never went to sleep but was quiet and happy the entire way. I ate and drank too much and got about 3 hours sleep. Everybody pretty much slept. Then everything went to hell.

We were informed of very bad weather in CAN. We shot one approach, missed it, and packed it in, shuffled off an hour away to some random airport to sit on a taxiway for an hour with engines turning. Then we taxied in for fuel, which took another hour, then flew an hour back to CAN where we made it in four hours late. Of course that meant a missed connection on my 9:30PM A380 departure to LAX. And the poor lap kid finally exploded on the taxi in, but who could blame the poor guy? And just to add insult to injury, my connection was departing late, still on the jet-bridge, but "the doors and flight were closed". I really hate that.

Now the real fun started. No weird Chinese arrival security for those coming from ADL. I ran to the Sky Priority onward international connections lane to be first for rebooking. It didn't buy me anything. They take your passport, your boarding passes, and tell you to sit down. You have no say on how you are going to be re-booked. An hour and a quarter later they come out and give me my passport and new tickets back, which have me leaving on the same itinerary but 24 hours later. Son of a...there was a 0130 JFK departure that would have been perfect. No, sorry sir, no can do. So then they send you to a kiosk where you can get your 24 hour temporary visa so they can put you up in a hotel with breakfast. Same drill: hand them everything and sit for another hour and a quarter. Then they send you quite a distance to a landside desk near the airport exit to arrange for the hotel room and the shuttle to the hotel. There was a Sky Priority lane there, but it was being jumped by random economy folks. Going into "when in Rome" mode, I simply over-jumped them in the Chinese fashion, and damn if that didn't work, no fuss, no muss, no fighting, it's just expected. Watch out for yourself or take the consequences. An hour later I was checking into a property about 15 minutes away from the airport. That by itself is worthy of a separate post.

Putting my head down at 0400 I was tired, cranky, and not thinking clearly. This cost me. I should have got up early instead of late, ran back the airport, and negotiated my way onto the 1130 LAX departure. Instead I slept in, grabbed a late breakfast and a later shuttle back, stranding me all day in the CZ lounge until starting all over again at 2130. Dumb! I did take a last minute shower at the club before departing, having been hanging around there all day.

So, starting over again, no buses for loading the mighty A380, thank goodness. With the entire upper deck being J class, I queued an hour early, having nothing better to do, and was the first J class person aboard in fine CZ, mob scene, aircraft loading style. Here I got lucky again. With no control over seating during the rebooking process, I got 15K, which, IMHO, is one of the best seats in the house. Being in the forward part of the upper deck the curtains across the forward galley make it much cozier and you don't feel like you are in a sea of J class cattle. And that row is on the opposite side from, and as far away from the forward lav. as you can get, but agreeably close to it at the same time. The center lav's are sooo far away. And, with the curtains, the center section folks don't think to come up and use it.

I had never flown business class on an A380 before. It was, by far, the most comfortable seating I've ever had. And the window storage bins are brilliant! CZ supplies mattress pads on the 380 (but not the 777 or 320), which made a huge difference in comfort. On this flight I endeavored to eat and drink less and sleep more. I still only managed four hours.

As it turns out, I've decided I do not like the A380, at least not on CZ. The business class deck is just too big. The FA's are spread too thin and can't coddle you as much. It doesn't feel exclusive enough, particularly if you are sitting in the center or aft cabin areas. There are not enough lav's. And waiting for baggage is horrible, there's just so much of it and CZ does not prioritize unloading of first/business luggage. I waited 40 minutes for it at LAX, which pretty much makes Global Entry a waste. Also, the A380 showed a lot more wear and tear compared to the 777 and the A330. If you have a choice, fly their 777 routes.

The last leg was some sort of weird booking on an American flight, not even a codeshare. I had three hours so no sweat. Did the Global Entry thing, waited on the bag, dropped the bag, and had to go outside because it was too late and the TBIT to T4 checkpoint was closed. Since I was outside, I went to the AA ticket counter to change the CZ supplied boarding pass for an AA boarding pass so I could use the Pre line and not get hassled at the club, and cleared through Pre. Then, since it was a first class seat, I went to the Admiral's Club and got a shower. First class on the A321 was full, and just midnight and morning small meals. After so many lay flat seats, the regular first class seats were a shock to the system, especially given the red-eye. Oh, how I beat myself up again on not pursuing the earlier LAX re-route!

To summarize: CZ is fine unless you miss a connection in CAN--then you are doomed. Other than the mob scene for boarding, air-side has their .... together, just don't try to take them off-script unless you speak the language. Point and grunt comm's work fine, they expect it. Food is palatable and plentiful, drink is the same, service is attentive. Seating is good. Entertainment is good although you have to look around a lot of Chinese subtitles. Don't fly the A380 unless you like it. Club access and facilities are good. If you are an infrequent J class passenger, as I am, you will enjoy it. If you are a premium J class type it will all be a step down. Set your expectations accordingly.

Missed connections in CAN: initially you will have zero say in the matter and re-booking will take forever. Plan to hit the front ticket counter land-side ASAP and plead your case. Doing the CZ supplied visa/hotel thing if you are stuck overnight is an adventure unless you speak Chinese. Plan to jump queues Chinese style if required.

Last edited by aa777888; Apr 19, 18 at 9:12 pm Reason: spelling
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Old Apr 20, 18, 12:01 am
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Thanks for the very full trip report. You have discovered the one downside of travelling with CZ...travel irregularities. Of course they can’t be blamed for the weather. I understand your common sense request to be put on the JFK flight, but that is so far out of the Chinese comfort zone that you might as well have asked to be re-routed via Mars. If you’d pushed instead for the next LAX flight, they would have put you on if there was space. Glad you got a hotel...the whole queuing for a non-visa thing is tiresome...and 90 minutes falls inside “normal”. Why didn’t you go into Guangzhou for the day after your sleep?! The metro is really easy to negotiate (same concept and similar number of lines to the T...just thousands more people) and there’s plenty to see and do in close proximity to stations (if you’re concerned about getting lost). Chinese queuing is an acquired skill...sounds like you’ve made good progress!! Bang for your buck, CZ Business is a great deal. Having so many on the A380 Bus deck is weird after the intimate A330, but it’s relatively normal for airlines. If your plans call for a similar itinerary, I would continue to recommend CZ. Oh...routing through JFK will add a couple of hundred dollars to your total, but it’s always the 777-300, and the forward business cabin feels very exclusive. The arrival time into JFK is very inconvenient unless you live there or have an early morning connector.
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