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HKG-PVG-LAX on China Eastern in J: Getting from A to B in an awesome seat

HKG-PVG-LAX on China Eastern in J: Getting from A to B in an awesome seat

Old Jul 15, 16, 2:38 am
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Join Date: Oct 2014
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HKG-PVG-LAX on China Eastern in J: Getting from A to B in an awesome seat

There’s several options to cross the Pacific ex-HKG. Aside from the expensive CX nonstop (and a fifth freedom flight on SQ to SFO), there are eastbound transit options through Taiwan, South Korea, Japan and China.

So far, I had done three of those countries on 2x OW (CX, JL) and 2x *A (BR, OZ). As any good FT’er would, I got excited when when a MU fare HKG-PVG-LAX / JFK-PVG-HKG popped up for 2.300 USD all in. We’re not blessed with TPAC specials ex-HKG, so it was a decent deal.

This was going to be 3 first’s for me: transit in China, MU in J, and Skyteam long haul.

The verdict on MU appears to unanimous: Excellent seat, awful service. I was well aware of the constant delays in and out of PVG and was determined not to hold these against them. Check-in was smooth enough, but I made the first mistake of the day: I let myself being talked into switching to an earlier flight, onto a plane that was already delayed coming in. This has never worked for me, ever. But since my original plane was also going to be delayed, and an hour behind the new one in mid-air over China, I figured I’d take a chance.

Thanks to Flightradar, I was able to watch it all go down in real time: here’s my original plane (MU701) overtaking my new plane (MU501) in mid-air.

While my original flight made it back to PVG almost on schedule, we sat on the tarmac for 1.5 hours. I had allocated myself a 5 hour delay buffer, so I wasn’t worried. Lovely FA walked around every 30 minutes, telling us she didn’t have any info as to when we would actually be departing. Very nice touch, and not her fault if she knows nothing. We made it into PVG with a delay of about 2.5 hours. Not too bad.

Food was edible for a regional flight, but nothing to write home about.

Shrimp poop: pet peeve of mine.

After a 20 minute taxi, we reached our parking position way in the back of the tarmac. There was not a single passenger plane in sight, and it felt more like a cargo aircraft cemetery. I was expecting the Captain to come on any minute to announce that a bomb squad was going to join us on board.

After a lengthy bus ride, multiple passport and BP checkpoints (some of which are conducted within 5 meters and in plain sight of each other), I arrived at transit security. The 7 attendants jumped up to diligently fulfill their purpose in the grand scheme of aviation safety: To confiscate my lighter (to those of you who have not traveled in China – they are very particular about detaining lighters and matches. Still haven’t figured out why, maybe someone can enlighten me? (pun intended)

Transit security.

Some of the world’s worst lounges are allegedly found in PVG. Since nobody told me where one could find one of those, and I forgot to ask, I consulted the Skyteam app for directions. Luckily, wifi was working. Ah, that clears things up….

With no plan and no MU desk in sight, I decided to just walk around and try my luck. The “No. 37” Lounge showed DELTA and KOREAN, so I figured: This must be the Skyteam Lounge!

But alas, I was told the MU lounge was “by gate 21 or 22”. So off I went.
Entrance via (non-working) escalators down to the lounge.

Was rejected at “Lounge No. 21” as well (although this one did say China Eastern). They have a weird system, where apparently you are assigned a certain lounge (and there are MANY). Might make sense if that lounge was the closest to your gate, which it was not. Oh well.

It was all worth it when I finally made it to the correct “Lounge: No. 22”.

I had read some comments about PVG lounges prior to my flight, many of which were not exactly favorable. I have one thing to say to all those haters out there: You are absolutely right!
This place was poorly attended, the seats were filthy, and food presentation was repugnant. I have been to lounges in provincial Chinese airports, and have generally come to expect nothing much at all. But we’re talking Shanghai Pudong here, International business class......
There’s a single stall bathroom and no showers. The main attraction is the Lounge Dragons walking around, barking flight and gate numbers. It was almost comical at times, especially when there is only a handful of PAX sitting in the lounge.

I am not so sure about that…

Boarding was a similar experience, with a MU agent running up and down the queue, shouting at the world and everyone in line through a megaphone. The strangest thing was a guy standing outside the air bridge with a shopping cart, screaming “No water! No Liquids!” and literally grabbing bottles from everyone that didn’t hide theirs quickly enough. Huh?

Onboard, a quick peek of the F seats. Nice!

J007 in the mini cabin on the 777.

This was the most comfortable J seat I have ever sat in. Including but not limited to the 4 other carriers mentioned earlier. While some of those seats almost seem to move and recline in just the wrong place – this one did it all. I know they’re all made by the same few suppliers, and not re-engineered for each airline. But for some weird reason, this one was extraordinary. The table is in the right place and can be moved so you can actually get out of the seat (OZ…), you don’t constantly hit the control panel with your elbow by accident (OZ…), and the shoe storage compartment is large enough to fit something other than Ballerinas (CX…). On top of that, cabin temperature was in the perfect 21-23C region (looking at you, JL!). Headphone plugs were easily accessible, too (CX….). While I believe the seat is 100% identical to BR, the (faux?) leather did not get hot, which is always an issue for me. A duvet and pillow were provided and of decent quality.

The only downside was the tiny foot compartment (I am a EU size 43), On the right, the same view from last month’s CX flight (admittedly, this is bulkhead, but even the normal ones are still significantly larger than MU).

The mini cabin

Screen was good enough, albeit small. You couldn’t scroll through the air show or do anything other than watch movies. Which I didn’t do, so can’t comment on the IFE content.

There was an “order system” shown on the left, much like on JL, but it didn’t work, claiming a “satellite problem”.

Amenity Kit. My request for socks (Yes, I actually use those!) was joyfully acknowledged. Twice, by two different FA’s. Needless to say I never actually got them and just let it go. The headphones are about as bad as they get – no noise cancelling is one thing. But you can win better ones at a duck fishing booth at the state fair. I had brought my own sleeping mask but assume it might have been available - much like those socks I was still hoping would appear at some point.

G&T & Amuse Bouche.

For my PDB, I had a borderline undrinkable sweet sparkling wine. Then, Showtime! (hat tip to SFO777 – his photo of an empty bag of nuts on a 30 minute UA feeder is better than anything I can come up with )

Starter – Shrimps and soggy garlic bread. No poop this time. Shrimp and salsa tasted very fresh. A real letdown is the cheap plastic tray and paper cover.

And now for something completely unexpected: Probably the best steak I have ever had on an airplane. Or in many restaurants, for that matter. Granted, the sauce, vegetables and potato gratin were nothing special. But that steak was out of this world tender. Delicious.

Fruit was good, cheese was meh. Fair enough, we’re not on AF here.

Happy Landing!

So would I choose MU over BR, OZ, CX or JL again?

I like my lounge showers (and lounges in general), and have to admit I do prefer a more polished service. PVG delays throw me off, and so does PVG in general. It's just a complete mess, in so many ways. On my return, I was stuck in a non-airconditioned hallway because the terminal did not open for another 35 minutes. In the end, the line was about 150 people waiting for their BP transit stamps.

Then again, i had a great seat on a squeaky clean plane, and they did get me from A to B for 35% less than anyone else would have.

Had this been my first experience, I probably would have been happy. But if you are used to the likes of JL, OZ, and BR....man, it's hard to accept anything else, especially if it's so objectively worse.
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Old Jul 15, 16, 6:34 am
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Nicely reported. The product looks OK and regarding the seat indeed similar to CX.
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Old Jul 15, 16, 7:21 am
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Between the ATC delays, lounges, and disorganization, PVG doesn't seem like the place to transit

Also, that looks almost exactly like the AA F product on the A321T, including the much tighter footwell vs the CX Long haul J seat

Last edited by Cityflyer10; Jul 16, 16 at 10:25 am
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Old Jul 15, 16, 8:05 pm
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Matches my recent experiences with MU except we got a long bus ride on arrival and departure, for both transits through PVG.
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Old Jul 16, 16, 9:38 am
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Transit in PVG is terrible though I was able to have a shower in the lounge around gate 19 or 21, can't remember which. I was directed to the Gate 22 lounge too but when I asked for a shower, they sent me to the one of the other lounges which was empty but there was a functioning shower. Other than that all the lounges are fairly terrible in PVG though I believe a revamp of PVG T1 would change things a bit and a SkyTeam lounge should also be in the works if the revamp is complete.
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