My trip to Shangai included a domestic roundtrip between Beijing’s Capital and Shanghai’s Hongqiao airports. Flying Air China on the outbound leg and China Eastern on the return leg allowed me to experience Chinese domestic air service on two carriers and to compare the service offered by China’s second (China Eastern) and third (Air China) largest airlines (by passengers carried).
AIR CHINA BEIJING-SHANGHAI
Aviation Geek Details:
- Airline and flight number: Air China 1549
- Route: Beijing Capital-Shanghai Hongqiao
- Aircraft: Boeing 787-9
- Airplane registration and year built: B-1468 built in 2017
- Miles flown: 670 miles
- Flight duration: 1 hour: 39 minutes
- Class of service and seat: Y-Economy
- My 691st flight
- First flight on Air China
- 2nd flight on a Boeing 787-9, 10th flight on a 787 series aircraft.
We pushed off of the gate on-time and had a slow taxi to the threshold of the active runway. You can check out the full flight video including taxi and takeoff above. There will be another link to this flight video and the return flight video at the end of this trip report.
You can check out the full flight including the descent and landing in the flight video above. This video and the return flight videos will also be at the end of this trip report.
While Air China provided great amenities for a sub-two hour domestic flight (hot meals, large seatback entertainment screens, pillows), the seat itself was horribly uncomfortable for even a short flight. I wondered if this may have been a higher density domestic aircraft until I got to my hotel and checked Flight Aware and found my aircraft primarily flew long-haul, international flights.
- Experience/Total stars: The overall experience was 3.45 of 5 stars, so pretty average.
- Check-in: N/A
- Lounge: 2 of 5 stars. The Air China Beijing lounge was pretty utilitarian.
- Boarding: 4 of 5 stars. Long lines due to the minimal gate area seating but otherwise nice and organized.
- Seat: 2 of 5 stars. Two feels generous but the seatback TV was huge.
- In-Flight Entertainment: 3 of 5 stars. Big screen, offerings could be better.
- Meals: 4 of 5 stars. Impressive for such a short flight, quality could have been a bit better.
- Cabin Crew: 4 of 5 stars
- Cabin ambiance: 4 of 5 stars. Nothing beats a 787. The ambiance probably took a hit because the cabin overall felt cramped.
- Cabin cleanliness: 5 of 5 stars
- Price paid and value for money: 3 of 5 stars
- Thumbs down: The seat, the seat, and the seat. Very hard with horrible legroom.
- Thumbs up: New aircraft, polite crew, hot meals.
CHINA EASTERN SHANGHAI-BEIJING
Aviation Geek Details:
- Airline and flight number: China Eastern Airlines 5137
- Route: Shanghai Hongqiao- Beijing
- Aircraft: Airbus A321
- Airplane registration and year built: B-6643 built in 2010
- Miles flown: 670 miles
- Flight duration: 1 hour and 56 minutes
- Class of service and seat: Economy, seat 31L (bulkhead)
- My 692nd flight.
- First flight on China Eastern.
- #19th flight on an A321 aircraft, 104th flight on an A320 series aircraft.
Check out the full flight video including the take off right here. You can also find the flight video at the end of this trip report.
Check out the full flight video including the landing here.
- Overall experience was 4.03/5 stars, so an all around good experience.
- Check-in: 3. Check-in itself was quick and efficient but things went south when I enquired about a paid upgrade. I was sent from desk to desk to desk and after 20 minutes of people who didn’t seem to know how to process the upgrade, I just gave up.
- Lounge: N/A
- Boarding: 5. Boarding was quick, efficient and organized.
- Seat: 4. Seats were comfortable and light years ahead of modern slimline benches. Built-in in-flight entertainment would have made the seats a solid economy 5 of 5.
- In-Flight Entertainment: 2. No individual entertainment screens and drop-down screens that didn’t show anything during the flight were a major let down. The only plus was an in-flight magazine with an English section.
- Meals: 3. The meal was abysmal but airplane meals are hit or miss. The fact that they even offered a hot meal on a 2-hour domestic flight and the fact that they offered two beverage runs were pluses.
- Cabin Crew: 5. The crew was polite, professional and well put together.
- Cabin ambiance: 4. The cabin was bright and airy and looked well cared for.
- Cabin cleanliness: 5. It was the first flight of the day but the cabin was clean from front to back.
- Price paid and value for money: 5. I purchased my ticket a day in advance for $90 US so no complaints there.
- Thumbs up: They offered a full, hot meal, the plane was clean and modern, the flight operated on-time and the crew was professional and kind.
- Thumbs down: The meal sucked and there was minimal entertainment on the plane.
Despite the Air China flight being operated by a Boeing 787-9, the China Eastern flight was definitely my favorite of the two. The Air China aircraft was cramped and uncomfortable, even for a 2-hour flight, which totally marred the experience for me. By contrast, the China Eastern A321 provided much better personal space (granted I had a bulkhead seat with nobody seated directly next to me) though Air China’s meal was definitely better. Both flights were light years ahead of what you would get on a comparable domestic flight here in the US.
You can checkout my time in Shanghai here:
You can checkout my flight from Chicago to San-Francisco here:
You can checkout my United Polaris flight from San Francisco to Beijing here:
You can checkout my Air China flight from Beijing to Shanghai here:
You can checkout my China Eastern flight from Shanghai to Beijing here:
My United Polaris flight from Beijing to Chicago is coming next week, stay tuned!
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