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Air China Business Class - 777-300ER, A330-300, 747-800

Air China Business Class - 777-300ER, A330-300, 747-800

Old Apr 23, 19, 8:26 am
  #1  
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Air China Business Class - 777-300ER, A330-300, 747-800

Welcome to my second trip report on Flyertalk, covering four Air China sectors in business class on (fingers crossed) three different aircraft types. So far I've flown the outbound journey, with the inbound still to come in about two weeks. Hope you enjoy the write up!
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Old Apr 23, 19, 8:34 am
  #2  
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PROLOGUE

Both fortunately and unfortunately, much of my 2019 travel has been decided by unknown Flyertalkers posting into the “Premium Fare Deals” forum. Fortunately, because I’ve managed to relax up the pointy end more than I’ve sat cramped down the back. Unfortunately, because I’ve spent 80% of my annual travel budget in the first third of the year. On flights. Typical.

This particular deal popped up in late November: 1500EUR from Frankfurt to Sydney, return. A no-brainer, given I have to make the long journey down to Australia from Sweden at least once a year to see family.

Booking the ticket was painful, and required no fewer than ten attempts over the course of 15 hours. Nonetheless, I was still quite excited when I finally managed to ticket it: 40 hours in business class awaited me, and 20 of these hours would be on the upper deck of a 747-8 – a plane I’ve been dying to fly. In the end, my itinerary looked like this:




ARN-FRA: Scandinavian Airlines, A320, Economy (9:00hr layover in FRA)

FRA-PEK: Air China, 747-800, Business (13:45hr layover in PEK)

PEK-SYD: Air China, A330-300, Business

SYD-PEK: Air China, A330-300, Business (8:30hr layover in PEK)

PEK-FRA: Air China, 747-800, Business (1:35hr layover)

FRA-ARN: Scandinavian Airlines, A320, Economy

Whilst the transits in Beijing were long, I managed to get Air China to book me free hotels for both inbound and outbound daytime layovers which made things considerably more pleasant.

Given the short, nondescript nature of most intraeuropean flights, I'll only be covering the long hauls on CA as well as the airport lounges. Plus maybe some of the fun during layovers. Next up: the Air Canada lounge in FRA!
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Old Apr 23, 19, 9:29 am
  #3  
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AIR CANADA MAPLE LEAF LOUNGE, FRANKFURT INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT

With a good 9 hours to spare in Frankfurt, I decided the best course of action would be to find a lounge to work from. Having done my research on Star Alliance lounges in the airport, on arrival from Stockholm at 11am I headed straight to Air Canada’s Maple Leaf Lounge, my office for the day.





This lounge was perfect, and had everything I could’ve possibly needed. The food was tasty and plentiful, the views over the tarmac rocked, and the overall lounge design was very tasteful.

To energize myself for the upcoming workday, I indulged in a plate of chicken biryani with a side of pretzels, gummy bears, chocolate and some Fanta. Fantastic. I was absolutely stuffed after this, although it did power me through many hours of work.



Dining area, which made for a good workspace for five or so hours

I spent the better part of the day sitting on my laptop in the dining area facing a wall. Whilst I was quite productive, I felt a bit silly not taking advantage of the runway views, so I headed over to a lounge chair by the window a few hours before my flight.



View from the AC Lounge - looking over two Lufthansa A340s


Around 5:30pm, I decided it was time to get off the laptop and relax before the flight. No good holiday begins with excessive amounts of work right up until boarding the flight. Right?

To get the holiday cheer going, I grabbed a pint of beer and a pretzel. After all, I was in Germany. This was a perfect complement to the views over the runway, where for the next hour or so I gazed at seemingly countless 747s take off, along with a few other heavies.


Lufthansa 747-8 taking off behind a Condor 757


I must say, the awesome space mixed with good food and great views probably makes this lounge my favorite one I’ve visited so far. And that includes The Pier First at HKG. I can’t wait to return and spend a few more hours drinking beer, eating pretzels and admiring 747s take off.
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Old Apr 23, 19, 8:59 pm
  #4  
757
 
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Looking forward to this report!
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Old Apr 24, 19, 2:15 am
  #5  
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Think I will visit Air Canada Lounge in FRA soon. Thanks for the preview.
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Old Apr 24, 19, 4:13 am
  #6  
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Please remember that with long-haul J you can use CA F-class lounge in PEK. Don't get overexcited - the lounge is mediocre but at least very empty. Nice report so far...
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Old Apr 24, 19, 6:10 am
  #7  
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Really excite for this TR as I have always wondered of CA was worth the UA award redemption. Also, big for capturing my favorite aircraft (the Star livery) in this shot!!!

Originally Posted by AJ747M View Post

View from the AC Lounge - looking over two Lufthansa A340s
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Old Apr 29, 19, 7:56 am
  #8  
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AIR CHINA 777-300ER BUSINESS CLASS, FRA-PEK

I’m not usually one to join queues before the beginning of boarding, but given how dull non-lounge spaces in FRA are, I thought getting on the plane as soon as possible mightn’t be a bad idea. The business class line had a decent crowd queuing up, which was thankfully reduced by gate agents booting out the economy fliers.

After a good fifteen minutes, boarding began and I made my way down the jet bridge, turning right to Seat 15A on the plane. A sad equipment a few weeks prior meant my eager-awaited ride on the upper deck of a 747-8 was replaced with a 77W. Not a bad plane, but definitely not a 747.



Air China 777-300ER


Air China’s business class seats are upholstered with a respectably ugly dark purple fabric. I’m not sure who chose the color, or why – but thankfully they didn’t choose the padding as the seat was quite comfortable. Legroom was aplenty and the seat could be reclined to a multitude of comfortable positions.



2-2-2 seating (taken after landing)




View from seat 15A


Service started with a flight attendant offering a selection of drinks on a tray. I took an orange juice, whilst my seatmate – a jolly old German-but-South-African-sounding fellow – enjoyed a champagne. I can’t remember exactly what champagne CA serves in business, but the brand name wasn’t recognizable.

Twenty minutes after boarding we pushed back and taxied towards the runway. Once in the air, I enjoyed views of Frankfurt in the distance as well as the last few minutes of sunset.



Taxiing in FRA



Sunset over Frankfurt


In-air service began with the sole German flight attendant coming around to take my dinner and breakfast order. Additionally, she proactively asked whether I would like to be woken up for breakfast if asleep, which was nice. As per usual, I can’t remember what I ordered and ate since I didn’t snap a picture of it. I do remember it was edible – which matched my expectations.

Post-dinner I switched into my Qatar pajamas (CA doesn’t provide any) and got comfortable in my seat. The duvet Air China provides is nice and thick, which I was impressed by. I spent the next hour enjoying an episode of White Collar on my laptop before reclining into bed mode and dozing off.

I managed a good six hours of shut eye and woke up just as we started our descent into Beijing. This business class bed was perfectly comfortable, despite a narrow foot well. There was ample shoulder and head room, good padding and no annoying lumps. Cathay’s J seat in bed mode is a little bit better, but I wouldn’t say by a significant amount.


Mood lighting in the evening

Given my late awakening, I had barely any time to swap out of my PJs before the seat belt sign illuminated. So no breakfast for me, just engine and wing views until we touched down.



Clear day in Beijing!


In summary, my first leg on Air China business class was better than expected. The seat and bed were good, the food edible, and the service fine. I had low expectations going in, and therefore was pleasantly surprised with the experience. Next up, a different seat on the A330!
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Old Apr 29, 19, 8:06 am
  #9  
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Originally Posted by 757 View Post
Looking forward to this report!
Thanks!

Originally Posted by offerendum View Post
Think I will visit Air Canada Lounge in FRA soon. Thanks for the preview.
Yep, it's a great lounge! I dropped by one of the Lufthansa lounges for 5min before boarding just to check it out - was very glad I chose to spend time at the AC one instead, miles better.

Originally Posted by TPJ View Post
Please remember that with long-haul J you can use CA F-class lounge in PEK. Don't get overexcited - the lounge is mediocre but at least very empty. Nice report so far...
Did not know that - thanks for the tip! The J lounge was woeful...will check the F lounge on the return journey.

Originally Posted by Madone59 View Post
Really excite for this TR as I have always wondered of CA was worth the UA award redemption. Also, big for capturing my favorite aircraft (the Star livery) in this shot!!!
I'm a fan of the *A livery as well, looks great on the A340.
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Old Apr 29, 19, 8:11 am
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Have been considering booking one of these sale fares so will be interested to see your overall thoughts.
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Old May 1, 19, 1:29 pm
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nice report so far
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Old May 2, 19, 11:26 pm
  #12  
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AIR CHINA A330-300 BUSINESS CLASS, PEK-SYD

13 hours and 45 minutes sounds like plenty of time to get out and explore Beijing. But between getting to and from the transit hotel, finding somewhere to exchange currency, and navigating traffic to and from the city, I only ended up having two hours to walk around before I had to make my way back towards the airport to check out of my room. A shuttle bus picked me up from the hotel at 9:30pm, leaving me a good three hours to relax in the lounge before the 1:10am departure.


Beijing Airport - generally much nicer than the lounge!


It was unfortunate that I had to check out of the hotel and leave so early, because the Air China business class lounge in Beijing well and truly sucks. The seating was nice enough, and the lounge wasn’t overly busy. However, there wasn’t any hot food at all – only drinks, snacks and some grim looking sandwiches in a fridge. I guess the lack of proper food was a function of the late departure time, although having Beijing as Air China’s home airport, I expected a bit more.

Since I planned to sleep soon after take-off - and because I’m not very confident on CAs catering - I thought it best to stuff myself at the airport. The lounge may not have had any proper food, but directly downstairs there was a glorious Pizza Hut. I bought a large pizza, awkwardly brought it back to the lounge, and enjoyed some greasy goodness along with free drinks.

When boarding time came around, I walked (an unexpectedly long) distance to the gate, which turned out to be a bus gate. As expected, both economy and business passengers were shoved onto the same bus – although there was a business class line that allowed me to skip the queue. A quick ride later, we were dropped off beside the sleek looking A330-300.



Air China A330-300



Air China A330-300


Once on the plane, I was happy to see a half-empty business cabin. I settled down into my seat: 14A, which was in the second last row of business. First impressions of the seat were good; it was well-padded and legroom was virtually unlimited. I quite enjoy forward facing seats as well, as it generally means more windows. Today I was lucky enough to have three.



View from seat 14A - points for anyone who can guess which airline the amenity kit is from


Boarding to an empty seat next to you is always nerve-wracking. I can never not get my hopes up that the neighboring seat will remain free. Since I boarded relatively late, my anxious wait wasn’t as long as usual, and I was very happy when they pulled back the stairs with no intruder in 14B to be seen.



14A/B - both mine for the flight!



Mood lighting before takeoff


On the ground, two flight attendants came by to say hi, and I was offered separate food and drinks menus. The dinner selections didn’t look particularly appetizing, so I was happy with my decision to stuff myself with pizza. I let one of the FAs know that I’ll be skipping dinner, and that I’d also prefer to sleep rather than be woken up for breakfast.

Take-off was quick, and soon I was comfortably reclined and watching the final two episodes of White Collar on my laptop. Although I was using my laptop, I’ll say I was actually surprised by the amount of English movies Air China had available. I was expecting less than a dozen, but in total there seemed to be more than 30. That being said, I’d seen half of the movies and the ones I hadn’t didn’t look particularly interesting.

Once I saw other passengers digging into dinner, I decided I was still somewhat hungry. A flight attendant responded to the call button quite quickly, and I asked if I could just grab some breads as well as a drink. They were more than happy to accommodate this, and ten minutes later I was brought a bunch of garlic bread. Win! Something quite good I found about the service was the flight attendant’s efficiency in getting rid of plates and trays once finished eating. I never had to wait more than three minutes after finishing eating before they’d clear the table.

Post-dinner it was back to relaxing and TV. The seat recline on Air China’s A330 J class is relatively configurable, and I was easily able to find comfortable positions. The extra pillow stolen from the neighboring seat helped as well.

Air China doesn’t provide mattress pads in business, but their duvets are thick enough to make great pads themselves. Using the spare one from the seat next to me, I set up my own bed. This was super comfortable.



Bed mode with makeshift mattress pad


I managed a good 8.5 hours of sleep on this 11hr 35min flight, which was fantastic. The bed was simply great. My only minor “complaint” was that my feet did touch the seat in front when fully reclined (I’m just over 6ft), and that the cabin temperature was a little warm. Neither of these affected me much, though.

When I woke up two hours before landing, the rest of the cabin seemed to be finishing up with their “lunch”. I quickly changed out of my PJs, and asked if I could grab some too. This was no problem, and 15min later I was tucking into an average-tasting steak, and some more garlic bread.



Lunch set up


After the quick bite, I enjoyed some great views over the barren Aussie land followed by a further snooze.



View from the wing






Pre-landing napping situation - note curtains closing off 15A/B behind me, which was used by two pilots



Approaching Sydney


Soon enough we started descent, passing through some cool looking clouds before flying directly west of the CBD.





Blue skies over Sydney


CBD in the distance on final approach



Touchdown

After a quick taxi to the gate, I managed to attain the elusive award of first person off the plane - then swiftly speed walked through customs and immigrations...only to have to wait 30min for my suitcase. You can't win everything.

In conclusion, this was another great flight with Air China. In business class, my main concern is a good seat/bed and good entertainment. The seat and bed were excellent, and even though the entertainment options were average, I knew this coming in and was prepared with my own entertainment. Service was good and the food was ok.

Comparing the 77W to the A330, I’d say the A330 seats are superior. There is no restricting foot cubby, each seat has more windows and I quite like the open layout – it’s nice to be able to see windows on the other side of the aircraft as well. As expected, the free seat next to me enhanced the experience as well.

On the return journey – which I begin tomorrow - I’ll just post a few pictures on the SYD-PEK leg since it’s another overnight flight on the same aircraft type. I’ll do a full write up on the PEK-FRA segment which, barring any last-minute equipment swaps (fingers crossed!!!) will be my first time on a 747-8! Upper deck, no less.
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Old May 2, 19, 11:32 pm
  #13  
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Originally Posted by Hawes7701 View Post
Have been considering booking one of these sale fares so will be interested to see your overall thoughts.
So far, so good (for the price I paid) - although I came in with low expectations. From EU to Australia, the price is pretty much unbeatable, and great mileage earnings since CA is in Star Alliance. The alternative would've been Etihad, which I'd probably go for next time since the pricing from ARN-SYD occasionally falls to 1900EUR ish.

Originally Posted by zboub345 View Post
nice report so far
Thanks!
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Old May 4, 19, 4:58 am
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lovely report so far,... love the reading and the pics
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Old May 7, 19, 6:06 pm
  #15  
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I totally agree with the A330 biz class seats. Even with a neighbor the full-forward placement means it's not too bad in terms of privacy (better than the ones where they are angled sideways). The length is fantastic and they are really comfortable.
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