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

The Long Way to Auckland, on China Airlines' A350

The Long Way to Auckland, on China Airlines' A350

Reply

Old Sep 30, 18, 6:37 am
  #1  
Original Poster
2019 FlyerTalk Awards
 
Join Date: Mar 2006
Location: YYZ
Programs: AC, AMEX, BA, WS
Posts: 147
The Long Way to Auckland, on China Airlines' A350



Summer 2018 vacation plans for my girlfriend and I hit a bit of a snag; by the time we were ready to book a pair of return tickets to Auckland on Air New Zealand their Premium Economy cabin was already full. Undeterred, I found what I thought was an acceptable value in Business Class on a China Airlines A350.

Obviously CI has a PE product of their own but honestly, riding up front didn't seem like that much more. I justified it like this: CI's Super-Saver Business fares were a hair over $5,000 CAD each, which worked out to less than $114 per hour for the 44-plus hours that we'd spend in the air going there and back—and on a fairly-new A350, no less!

Was it worth it? Read on to find out...

Itinerary

Outbound:
CI31 / YVR-TPE / 11:47 / B-18901
(Layover in TPE / 18:30)
CI53 / TPE-BNE / 08:11 / B-18906
(Fuel stop in BNE / 02:18)
CI53 / BNE-AKL / 02:37 / B-18906

Inbound:
CI54 / AKL-BNE / 02:53 / B-18905
(Fuel stop in BNE / 01:30)
CI54 / BNE-TPE / 08:15 / B-18905
(Layover in TPE / 17:50)
CI32 / TPE-YVR / 10:52 / B-18902

Those Taipei layovers, though...!



Booking

Am I the only Canadian that gets all uppity when "United States" and "Canada" lead to the same page?

Booking online with China Airlines had some issues as well. Our Business Super-Saver fares were booked almost 7 months out, yet I was surprised that at the time of payment I couldn't yet choose our seats. This was easily rectified 180 days before departure; using their smartphone app I was able to choose seats and pre-order our meals as well.

Then, less than 30 days before departure, another surprise: the airline informed me that they had cancelled our return flight from Auckland and put us on the same flight the next day. And here's the kicker—they neglected to change our connecting flight to Vancouver! In addition to the hassle of changing Auckland and Vancouver hotel dates I also had to call reservations and ask an agent to address our -6 hour layover in Taipei.



Cabin & Seat

All was forgiven when we boarded our first-ever A350 and settled in amidst the warm muted colours of CI's Business Class cabin. We had arrived in YVR on an Air Canada 777 (also in Business), and after only a few hours on that aircraft my nose was already dry. Not so on the A350; the increased humidity was immediately noticed, and appreciated.

Our seats were as pleasant to sleep in as the air was to breathe. It seemed that their recline was actually more than 180 degrees; for optimum comfort we both raised our seats ever so slightly from their lie-flat positions. For takeoffs and landings I found the shoulder belt to be much less of a nuisance than the excessively-padded single belts of other airlines.



Food

Unpopular opinion time: I generally don't like business class food. The portions are so large and the food so rich that I end up just picking at my meals. China Airlines' food was no different. Also, because of our generally late departure times I ended up passing on most of my meals. When I did partake it seemed like the crew was in a bit of a hurry to get the service over and done with. Food was delivered promptly, at least.

My big exception, of course, is breakfast, and CI did a fine job with Western fare. Their coffee was fairly weak—then again, I can't recall ever having a decent brew in the air.

In between meals there was a snack station set up in the aft galley. I only passed through it en route to the lavatory and back, and didn't really feel like lingering as the area was usually pretty crowded with flight attendants and other passengers.



Lounges

The lifesaver of our two 18-hour layovers in TPE turned out to be a lounge not run by China Airlines, but instead the Plaza Premium group, who in Terminal 2 have private rooms with beds and full bathrooms. You do have to pay extra for them, but as we were fighting both jet lag and the brutal one-two punch of Taipei's heat and humidity we deemed the indulgence worth it—in fact, we didn't even bother leaving the airport on our way back through to Vancouver. That we've got a separate Taiwan tour planned for January helped with that decision.

If you fly China Airlines into TPE and want to go into the city there are free shower rooms before immigration; their location is directly across the hall from the transfer gate in the Arrivals area of Terminal 1. They open at 6am, and you can expect a waiting list shortly thereafter. I'm honestly not sure if CI runs this operation or not. It seemed like it was a free service available to anyone.

China Airlines has two of their own departure lounges in each of the terminals, plus a third currently closed for renovations in Terminal 2. We preferred the quieter T2 lounge around the corner from our Plaza Premium suite, but if you want those famous Taiwanese beef noodles you'll need to visit the cavernous and perpetually-crowded lounge in Terminal 1.

In Auckland we had access to the Strata Lounge; in Brisbane, Plaza Premium. Both were fine. I'd also recommend Plaza Premium in Vancouver, as the new-ish SkyTeam lounge there was a big disappointment for us.

Verdict

So would we do this itinerary again? The girlfriend is already shaking her head no... The long Taipei layovers plus the extra stop in Brisbane ate up valuable time that could have been spent at our destination. Obviously, the most direct route to Auckland from Canada is on Air New Zealand direct from Vancouver. From Toronto you could also fly Cathay Pacific to Hong Kong, where you could then catch an A350 for the rest of the way.

If you're visiting Taipei, though, China Airlines is a great option. Their Premium Economy looks pretty spiffy, too!
Fliar likes this.
acurrie is offline  
Reply With Quote
Old Sep 30, 18, 1:29 pm
  #2  
 
Join Date: Apr 2014
Location: Aberdeen, Scotland
Programs: BA Bronze, Emirates Silver, Virgin Silver, Marriott Titanium
Posts: 781
That seems a long route for a shortcut! I assume the cost of the detour meant it was better than going direct with Air NZ?
nequine is offline  
Reply With Quote
Old Oct 1, 18, 5:55 am
  #3  
Original Poster
2019 FlyerTalk Awards
 
Join Date: Mar 2006
Location: YYZ
Programs: AC, AMEX, BA, WS
Posts: 147
Actually, we wanted to fly in PE on NZ but there was no availability for our travel dates. Tickets in their J cabin would have definitely been more expensive than CI, and with worse seats.
acurrie is offline  
Reply With Quote
Old Oct 2, 18, 9:05 am
  #4  
 
Join Date: Mar 2001
Location: SYD
Programs: OZ*G, VA gold, NZ*G, QF bronze, Former 'bottom-feeder' AC*G
Posts: 4,902
CI's business class cabin looks fantastic. I've only flown their old product, on the A333 sloping sleepers, between AKL and SYD and the whole product was very mediocre. I get the sense they have kicked things up a notch since then.

I did fly their new PE on the A350 SYD-TPE more recently and was very impressed by the comfort and ambience of the plane (quieter than a Dreamliner I thought) and the overall service level. Seats pretty comfy for sleeping too though I don't love the fact that they slide forward in order to recline - as a 6'2" I had to take all the bulky inflight magazines etc out of the seat pocket and that made the kneeroom *just* OK. Having done that I got a great sleep, though, and overall comfort level was higher than SQ's PE product.
mad_atta is offline  
Reply With Quote
Old Oct 5, 18, 5:43 am
  #5  
Original Poster
2019 FlyerTalk Awards
 
Join Date: Mar 2006
Location: YYZ
Programs: AC, AMEX, BA, WS
Posts: 147
Better than SQ? High praise indeed...!

I was wondering about those PE hard shell seats; I was going to ask if I could try one out for a few minutes but forgot.Thanks for your report!
acurrie is offline  
Reply With Quote
Old Oct 5, 18, 8:56 am
  #6  
 
Join Date: Mar 2001
Location: SYD
Programs: OZ*G, VA gold, NZ*G, QF bronze, Former 'bottom-feeder' AC*G
Posts: 4,902
Originally Posted by acurrie View Post
Better than SQ? High praise indeed...!

I was wondering about those PE hard shell seats; I was going to ask if I could try one out for a few minutes but forgot.Thanks for your report!
Not that high praise - seat comfort is one of the weaker points of SQ's PE offering. NZ's seats are simpler but much more comfortable (and with much more pitch). QF's are better too.
mad_atta is offline  
Reply With Quote
Old Oct 6, 18, 5:31 am
  #7  
 
Join Date: Jul 2008
Location: Sydney, Australia
Programs: QF, VA, CX, CI
Posts: 94
Originally Posted by acurrie View Post
Better than SQ? High praise indeed...!

I was wondering about those PE hard shell seats; I was going to ask if I could try one out for a few minutes but forgot.Thanks for your report!
I've flown in them a few times and the recline and seat width are both quite generous! Unlike earlier generations of this seat (think earlier versions of JL and AF PE and CX's horrible attempt at hard shell Y) the headrest moves with the seat so your head is supported when reclined. However I'd avoid the bulkhead if possible as once the leg rest is raised you'll find yourself with little leg room to stretch out
someone0000 is offline  
Reply With Quote
Old Oct 6, 18, 6:14 am
  #8  
Original Poster
2019 FlyerTalk Awards
 
Join Date: Mar 2006
Location: YYZ
Programs: AC, AMEX, BA, WS
Posts: 147
Originally Posted by mad_atta View Post
NZ's seats are simpler but much more comfortable (and with much more pitch).
Also good to know, as we hope to take NZ PE from YVR back to AKL next summer
acurrie is offline  
Reply With Quote
Old Oct 6, 18, 8:40 pm
  #9  
 
Join Date: Jun 2005
Location: HKG
Posts: 1,056
I didn't feel a humidity improvement on the A350 vs. the Dreamliner. Really more comfortable in there?
hkskyline is offline  
Reply With Quote
Old Oct 7, 18, 8:20 am
  #10  
Original Poster
2019 FlyerTalk Awards
 
Join Date: Mar 2006
Location: YYZ
Programs: AC, AMEX, BA, WS
Posts: 147
Sorry if I wasn't clear, I was actually comparing the A350 to an Air Canada 777.

Based on my limited experience with the Dreamliner, I'd say it has equivalent cabin humidity to the A350. Makes a big difference on those longhaul flights!
acurrie is offline  
Reply With Quote
Old Oct 9, 18, 6:11 am
  #11  
 
Join Date: Mar 2001
Location: SYD
Programs: OZ*G, VA gold, NZ*G, QF bronze, Former 'bottom-feeder' AC*G
Posts: 4,902
Originally Posted by acurrie View Post
Sorry if I wasn't clear, I was actually comparing the A350 to an Air Canada 777.

Based on my limited experience with the Dreamliner, I'd say it has equivalent cabin humidity to the A350. Makes a big difference on those longhaul flights!
I agree the Dreamliner and A350 seem very similar in terms of cabin humidity. A350 definitely wins on noise levels though.
mad_atta is offline  
Reply With Quote
Old Oct 10, 18, 11:31 pm
  #12  
2019 FlyerTalk Awards
 
Join Date: Jan 2018
Posts: 70
BNE fuel stop questions

Great trip report. I will be flying TPE-BNE-AKL roundtrip on CI in J in March 2019. I'm stoked. I have a few questions about the BNE-AKL leg.
1) On the TPE-BNE-AKL direction there is a 2h 10m stop in BNE. But on the return there is only 30m. Any reason why the longer stop inbound?
2) On the long BNE stop, did they make everyone get off, or did connecting pax stay on?
3) On the return AKL-BNE-TPE, did they serve a full dinner service from AKL-BNE and then again after taking off BNE? (I am assuming so) Was the AKL-BNE any shorter/simpler or just the same meal twice?

Last edited by Utskicat; Oct 10, 18 at 11:36 pm Reason: did not finish original post
Utskicat is offline  
Reply With Quote
Old Oct 11, 18, 5:48 am
  #13  
Original Poster
2019 FlyerTalk Awards
 
Join Date: Mar 2006
Location: YYZ
Programs: AC, AMEX, BA, WS
Posts: 147
Originally Posted by Utskicat View Post
1) On the TPE-BNE-AKL direction there is a 2h 10m stop in BNE. But on the return there is only 30m. Any reason why the longer stop inbound?
Our return stop in BNE was actually 90 minutes, not 30.

2) On the long BNE stop, did they make everyone get off, or did connecting pax stay on?
Everyone gets off the aircraft in both directions, to facilitate cabin cleaning. There's a quick security check at the transfer desk, then you're sent up an escalator that dumps you right into the departure lounge.

3) On the return AKL-BNE-TPE, did they serve a full dinner service from AKL-BNE and then again after taking off BNE? (I am assuming so) Was the AKL-BNE any shorter/simpler or just the same meal twice?
For BNE-AKL and back you'll get a lighter meal (still a choice of hot entrées) in both directions. So you'll still get the full dinner service from BNE to TPE. They certainly won't starve you.

Hope that helps... Enjoy your trip!
acurrie is offline  
Reply With Quote
Old Oct 11, 18, 6:42 am
  #14  
2019 FlyerTalk Awards
 
Join Date: Jan 2018
Posts: 70
Thanks so much for the fast reply! That’s super helpful information.

I was surprised about what you said with the 90 minute connection. I just looked up their current flight schedule and you are correct, the inbound flight from TPE sits for a little over two hours and the return for 90 minutes. Sometime in the winter the schedule changes and the return flight only stops for 30 minutes. I can’t imagine they’re going to empty the whole plane and reboard it in 30 mins. Maybe it’s a scheduling error!
Utskicat is offline  
Reply With Quote
Old Oct 11, 18, 10:18 pm
  #15  
 
Join Date: Feb 2007
Programs: NZ Koru
Posts: 5,525
Originally Posted by Utskicat View Post
Thanks so much for the fast reply! That’s super helpful information.

I was surprised about what you said with the 90 minute connection. I just looked up their current flight schedule and you are correct, the inbound flight from TPE sits for a little over two hours and the return for 90 minutes. Sometime in the winter the schedule changes and the return flight only stops for 30 minutes. I can’t imagine they’re going to empty the whole plane and reboard it in 30 mins. Maybe it’s a scheduling error!
Most likely an mistake - often happens when Australia/New Zealand are between Daylight Savings and non Daylight Savings
cavemanzk is online now  
Reply With Quote

Thread Tools
Search this Thread