Go Back  FlyerTalk Forums > Community > Trip Reports
Reload this Page >

Air China (CA) New 773 F, Swiss (LX) A343 F, Zurich and Beijing

Air China (CA) New 773 F, Swiss (LX) A343 F, Zurich and Beijing

Old May 1, 12, 4:31 pm
Original Poster
Join Date: Feb 2011
Programs: AA LT GLD 1MM
Posts: 810
Air China (CA) New 773 F, Swiss (LX) A343 F, Zurich and Beijing

I've been wanting to do a "there and back again" for awhile since aeroplan charges the same for lax-pek-lax, as for lax-pek-zrh-pek-lax, (175k miles - or duing the sale last year 125k) and swiss seems to have great availabilty on the pek-zrh route. The main value of aeroplan is their favorable routing rules which basically allow a total of 3 stops. After hearing the raves from my parents when I scored them 2 F seats on lax-zrh a few weeks ago, I had to try it myself (and lax-zrh is insanely difficult to find). Also I wanted to try the new CA 773 to see if it was a good tpac option as all the other good ones have fuel surcharges now.

Check in at lax (t2, not tbit) was fine. The agent was nice but could not print my boarding pass for pek-zrh on lx. I was worried this might be a problem due to the 1:05 barely legal connection in PEK. One problem with t2 the last two times I've been there is that the check in agents don't take your bags, you have to walk them over to a scanner and wait in a usually incredibly slow line. Earlier this year in NZ business, we had to wait about 20-30 minutes, which seems really unacceptable for customers in business. Anyway, today the CA agent took my bag to the front of the line.

Their are only 2 *A lounges in T2 (Air Canada and ANZ) and neither has a F section (like the *A lounge in TBIT). ANZ is without a doubt superior, but it was closed and CA contracted with the AC lounge. IMO CA should have splurged on the ANZ lounge, especially on a flagship route with their newest F/J products. They had a few fruits/cheeses/cookies/soups as well as drinks but the food options looked very un-appatizing and the seats quickly filled up. I was also able to print the boarding pass for pek-zrh using the advanced check in option on swiss.com.

First impression of the cabin was WOW. Photos really don't do it justice. CA got it right with these seats and with the mood lighting, the cabin was very impressive. Today's load was 4/8 and all 4 middle seats were empty which made the cabin feel very private. The seat is easily in the running for the best F seat out there. I might even have to give it the edge over CX. Even though CX is 1-1-1 vs 1-2-1 on CA, it is still plenty spacious. The TV is much larger (although immovable, but there is no need to move it), the table slides forward from under the tv instead of having to pop out which provides tons of surface space to set things when it's stowed. I did notice that the paint on the buttons for the recline options was wearing off (after only 8 months in service) but I'm really nitpicking. 0 complaints.

The service was suprisingly good with 1 caveat. The FA's were very attentave and it definitly had the Asian carrier feel. During the middle of the flight I pushed the call button and a FA was there in literally 5 seconds. They also circulated through the cabin every few minutes during meal time and less often through the rest of the flight. The Caveat was that the FA's didn't speak english very well (although I could have just gotten a new FA).

The food could use a bit of work. The first meal was a light lunch (at 1:40 am departure) and the second meal was dinner (at 5:30 arrival). Not sure about the logic of that, but my issue was more with the quality. The dishes definitly had a business class feel and presentation. They weren't terrible, but this is the main area CA needs to up their game if they want to compete with the other Asian carriers.

Somewhere over Siberia

Overall, I would have no problem choosing them again (although would prefer CX/NH/JL/OZ).

To come in a couple days LX F, Zurich, Beijing and a few additional photos from the return LX/CA flights.
AZbba is offline  
Old May 2, 12, 9:25 am
Join Date: Nov 2011
Location: GVA
Programs: Miles&More
Posts: 17
Hi, thanks for sharing your report. Those meals sure look like C standard even Y+ if you compare to some airlines.
concordino is offline  
Old May 2, 12, 9:38 am
Join Date: Aug 2010
Programs: AA EXP
Posts: 1,559
Nice report; those seats remind me a bit of the F seats on JetAirways (now used by Thai or Turkish)
FAA1996 is offline  
Old May 2, 12, 10:32 am
Join Date: Jan 2007
Location: ZRH
Programs: LX M&M
Posts: 290
cool to see finally an international Air China F Trip Report.. however it looks very disappointing in terms of food.. i sure wouldnt book an F flight with them!!! but keep it coming, very nice pics from you and thanks for sharing.

lx343 is offline  
Old May 2, 12, 4:20 pm
Join Date: Dec 2007
Posts: 146
Great CA984 experience also

Just got back from DEN/LAX/PEK/XIY/PVG/SFO/DEN. First flight and the last two on UA, the other 3 on Air China.

UA 311 to LAX, nothing to report. I would have 2 hours at LAX in the lounge, or so I thought!

Arriving LAX, signage was a little unclear but I was able to figure out that CA was at t2 and found the shuttle from t7. Total of 8 folks on the shuttle but one was a woman yelling loudly at the driver "Beijing, Beijing" and other Mandarin no one could figure. The driver was trying to take her to TBIT, and she was insisting on t1, so I showed her my boarding pass for CA984 and convinced her to follow me to t2. She had a large wheeled case and was offering me $ to help her with it. I waived off her $ and as we got off at t2 it was clear she had not one but 3 large wheeled cases and another 5 max carry on sized bags, duffles, and large purses! Somehow she had gotten all this stuff from Denver on Frontier and could not check in through to BJ.

We loaded all this crap onto 2 luggage carts and hit the Air China check in desk. I thought my good deed was done, but not quite. A lot of conversation in Mandarin was going on and I was just going to help her put her bags on the security belt, but then the agent wants my boarding pass and passport. Seems she thought since I was traveling light (by her standards), she would use my baggage allowance! I had already checked 2 boxed of books to a friend in BJ through from DEN so that wasn't happening anyway. Refusing to pay extra, she hauls this stuff through security, with no one even questioning the quantity or sizes, and after security I helped her as far as the stairs to the lounge where I said goodbye and refused her money again to help further!

Completely underwhelmed by the Maple Leaf lounge, they soon announced they were closing anyway. I squeezed through the Chinese economy scrum, flashed my F ticket and was on the plane.

Great seat and F Cabin: 5/8 full)! I was in 2A, and absolutely love the new seat. I prefer the straight ahead position to the UA or AA angles. Sliding table really is more convenient than any folding one, and the footwell bench is actually WIDER than the seat. Another great feature is the armrest, counter, shelves on both sides of the seat are open underneath, so plenty of room up top for books or drinks, and when it's time to sleep the bed feels even wider than it is because arms and elbows can protrude into this open space!

Yes, AVOD is mostly Chinese, so I watched a subtitled comedy. But I really enjoyed the interactive map which had dozens of features and views and controls and a low resolution 3d view of the entire earth I believe. I was zooming all around China and didn't get much further.

Food and service put UA and AA to shame. They obviously have training even though English was at a bare minimum. Food service was respectable restaurant level, always prompt, with water, wine refills, resetting and clearing. Courses were timed properly, never rushed or lagging. Butter was room temp, rolls were always warm and fresh, and all the food I was served was top notch and delicious. The menu offered a daily special and I enjoyed the 3 cup chicken for dinner (first) and beef noodle soup (second) before landing. Still the RULE: Always order the Asian meal on an Asian airline!

When I could not get my iPhone charger to work, the Purser spent 10 minutes on the project with various adapters, finally charging the phone in the galley when all else failed.

FA's were petite and trained to walk softly in the cabin, duck discreetly through the curtain to the galley, and not socialize within earshot. If I so much as stood up a FA was there to either lift or lower my overhead bag, replenish beverages, or even open the lavatory door. I almost felt like moving my seat controls sent an indication to the galley that I was active and might need something.

Maybe 10 or 15 westerners total on the plane. Got a good nights sleep and was well rested and hiking the wall at Jinshanling in the morning!
Denver Enzo is offline  
Old May 3, 12, 9:45 am
Join Date: Jan 2010
Location: CGK/LAX
Programs: KF,JMB, OZ, SPG,AA,UA,AS
Posts: 1,160
Great report! I'm doing PEK-LAX in about a month in F, so i'm really happy to see that you enjoyed the flight!
gpeso8 is offline  
Old May 4, 12, 2:30 am
Four Seasons Contributor Badge
Join Date: Jan 2003
Location: Fairfield County, CT USA
Programs: AA PLT+2MM / DL DM+1MM / A3 *G / Fairmont LT Plat / Ritz Gold / SPG Gold
Posts: 4,077
Nice to see the CA product. Thanks for sharing.
NYBanker is offline  
Old May 4, 12, 7:13 am
Join Date: Feb 2011
Location: LAX
Programs: HHonor Dia, Marriott Plat, Hyatt Explorist
Posts: 542
Good to finally reviews of CA products. Looks like the service is not as bad as i imagined.
Thanks for sharing.
tomy77 is offline  
Old May 4, 12, 12:55 pm
Original Poster
Join Date: Feb 2011
Programs: AA LT GLD 1MM
Posts: 810
Swiss A343

The CA flight landed a bit late, and what was a 1:20ish connection at booking was down to about 20 minutes. I ran off the plane and to the transfer desk and showed my BP to the agent there. He made a call and said he will take me to the gate but we must run. We ran to transit immigration, which only took about 60 seconds (no one in line) and then to transit security with also took about 60 seconds (no one in line). Then ran almost to far end of T3 (ugh) and just made it. I was a bit out of breath, guess I need to work out more. Anyway they pulled back the jetbridge and we proceeded to sit at the gate for about 20 minutes waiting for the flightplan.

Today's load was 7/8 and the service was wonderful. I believe there were 2 FA's + the purser and everyone was very professional and nice. I noticed on this flight (but not on the return) each FA + the purser went around and thanked every passenger and had a small chat before landing.

A bad picture of the seat:

This is really the only area swiss could improve their F experience. It was lie flat and very comfortable, but it wasn't nearly as private or quite as spacious as the CA seats. I've heard the A330 seats were replaced with better ones but the a340's will not be. Will have to try the a330 sometime.

Here's the menu:

I believe orders were taken from LH/LX status pax first, which makes sense. They only had 4 of the beef dish loaded so I choose the pasta, but I honestly didn't mind as I was deciding between the two anyway and was quite full from nearly 24 hours of F food.

First meal was brekfast (at 6:25 am departure)

This stuff is crazy good. Wish I could buy it in the US.

I'm not sure what type of cheese this is. It was amazing.

On to dinner

Balik x2 CX also offers this, but with some caviar.

Pasta... very good, perfect size if you are already rather full.

Cheese plate.

I might have missed a few dishes on the dinner like soup/salad.

Also they have a bar in the front of the cabin where they set out the wine/champagne and box of chocolates after the dinner service.

Everything else went fine. Although when going through immigration, make sure they stamp your passport. They didn't and this caused a brief issue when exiting.

I went to the arrivals lounge to shower before heading to the hotel. It closes at 13:00 I believe so I only had about 30 minutes but it was quite a nice lounge and nearly empty at that time.

Bag did not make the connection in PEK and so they gave me a kit with some essentials and had the bag sent on the flight the next day and delivered to hotel.

Next up: Zurich and Park Hyatt Zurich
AZbba is offline  
Old May 4, 12, 1:02 pm
Original Poster
Join Date: Feb 2011
Programs: AA LT GLD 1MM
Posts: 810
Originally Posted by tomy77 View Post
Good to finally reviews of CA products. Looks like the service is not as bad as i imagined.
Thanks for sharing.
Yea, from the second flight the english of the FA's was a bit better. The service isn't quite up to the standards of the other well-regarded asian carriers like CX, but it's better than a US carrier. The food was still a bit lacking, although it was a very interesting flight.
AZbba is offline  
Old May 4, 12, 1:39 pm
Original Poster
Join Date: Feb 2011
Programs: AA LT GLD 1MM
Posts: 810

I didn't really want to shell out a ton of cash for a hotel so I began looking at the various hotel partners of the chase ultimate rewards points. I only had about 300k, and wanted to save up more to use them with the marriott hotel+air program which would give me some alaska airlines miles to use for F on CX to south africa (140k AS miles vs 275k AA miles, rt).

Anyway I found the Hyatt redemption options were much better, so I booked the Park Hyatt in Zurich for 22k points/night and Beijing 18k points/night. The prices online were around $750-800 for zurich and $350 for Beijing.

The hotel website suggested a taxi from the airport, but public transport looked doable. I bought the zurich pass for 40CHF (just over 40 USD) which allowed 72 hours unlimited transportation around the city. They had a 24 hour option for 20CHF.

Anyway, it was realtively easy to take the train to the HB (main station) and then switch to a tram to get to a stop next to the hotel, although the signs at the HB briefly confused me as I thought the directions to the track numbers were directions to the trams (you must leave the HB and catch the trams on the streets outside).

Picture of the HB

The hotel was quite nice. I'm not the type of person who would spend $750 on a hotel, but if I was, I wouldn't have been disappointed. The breakfast buffet was insanely expensive, as expected, but it was easy enough to take the tram a couple stops to the main area where there were some cafe's. The bar was good as well. A small (although actually quite large) draft beer was 8CHF.

Pics of the room

The location was decent. Not in the heart of the tourist area, but it was a quick tram ride (2-3 stops - <5 minutes). Also there were 2 restaurants, 2 nightclubs and 1 bar next to the hotel and it was about a 5 minute walk to lake zurich and a nice park on the water.

The lake was a bit choppy

Calmer later

And the park

Nice view of the alps

Anyway, the trip mostly consisted of eating, drinking, and walking. Sadly my full day there was a sunday, and most everything including the musuem I wanted to visit is closed on sunday. It was still fun to walk around and see the city and eat though.

A few pics of the city

And the food

I wish I knew what this was called, but it was more of a point to something random on the menu and hope it's good (which it was!)

next up
AZbba is offline  
Old May 4, 12, 4:54 pm
Join Date: Mar 2009
Location: WAS
Programs: No Longer Anything
Posts: 478
Nice job on the TR. Thanks for posting.

I too am curious about CA, so good info. I loved LX F on same plane, I believe. And hope to definitely take them again.
JenGal is offline  
Old May 4, 12, 7:39 pm
Join Date: Jan 2008
Location: ATL/LAX
Programs: DL PM, UA PS, Hyatt Globalist, Marriott Titanium
Posts: 4,900
Not a lot of TRs with CA, thanks for that. I really loved LX F on the A343 a couple weeks ago ... older product but very comfortable and great service. Great for a 12-hour flight.
amolkold is offline  
Old May 5, 12, 12:16 am
Join Date: Mar 2012
Posts: 280
Very nice photos. Thanks OP for putting together this detailed report! Am a bit disappointed to hear (and see!) the lackluster food options on CA F. You'd think Asian airlines would offer even better food, no?
accrue450 is offline  
Old May 5, 12, 7:16 am
Join Date: Jun 2005
Location: London, UK
Programs: AA 2MM - PLT, BA GGL, SPG Plat, Hilton Diamond
Posts: 6,221
Nice report AZbba.

With such a top of the line state of the art seat in F on CA the food looks decidedly business class. What a shame.
Moomba is offline  

Thread Tools
Search this Thread