Flight Review: Air China 777 Domestic Business Class

by on January 14, 2012 · 22 comments

in Air China, China, Trip Reports

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The plane awaits...

This is an installment in my series on my January 2012 trip to China. Posts include: Help Me Plan My Trip To ChinaFlight Review: American Airlines 777 International Business Class to BeijingHotel Review: St. Regis BeijingBeijing Overview: Tiananmen Square, Forbidden City and Peking DeckA Great Day at the Great Wall of China,  Flight Review: Air China 777 Domestic Business ClassHotel Review: Andaz ShanghaiTrip Report: Terra Cotta Warriors and a Wild Goose Pagoda in XianHotel Review: Sheraton Xian, and My China Trip Wrap Up: China Eastern, Hainan Airlines and the Westin Beijing.

After two whirlwind days in Beijing and a day out at the Great Wall of China, it was time to catch my flight from Beijing to Shanghai. I used to book a flight to Hongqiao, Shanghai’s domestic airport (and also the one closer to the city), in business class aboard an Air China 777. I didn’t really know what to expect since I haven’t read or heard much about Air China’s service, but I ended up having a really great experience with the airline.

A view over the wing.

Switching Planes

Because my day at the Great Wall didn’t take as long as Jenny thought it would, she got me to the airport in Beijing quite a bit early. No problem: Air China let me switch to an earlier flight so I wouldn’t end up sitting around the airport, and so I’d have more time in Shanghai. The airline is a member of Star Alliance, and of course I wanted to get my miles, so I entered my US Airways frequent flyer number, and I was all set.

The open-air Air China lounge in Beijing.


Security was a breeze, and I made my way to the Air China lounge, which, was pretty much open-air, so guests hear all the announcements and whatever else is going on in the main terminal. It wasn’t the best lounge—and only had some armchairs and tables scattered around in the main area, and a limited selection of snacks and beverages (the coffee machine was good), but it was spacious and comfortable enough, and I got some work done before my flight, which left right on time.

Air China's Business Class cabin.


As I mentioned, I was aboard an Air China domestic 777-200 for the two-hour flight, and I pretty much loved it for a domestic business class experience. The aircraft is a three-class plane, though the First Class seats pretty much looked the same as business class.

As you can see from the picture, the 49 business class seats are recliners rather than lie-flats, in a 2 x 2 x 2 configuration. They’re not huge, with just 60 inches of pitch and 20.5 inches wide, but they were comfortable enough to stretch out and relax on a short flight.

My meal...nothing special, but it was a good snack.

I also liked the other amenities. Well, the food was just okay (as you can see from the picture, it wasn’t terribly inspired Chinese cuisine, but it made for a decent snack), and I loved when they handed out slippers, even though mine didn’t really fit! No video on demand screens at each seat, either, though, just overhead monitors. I don’t usually watch movies in-flight anyway, so I didn’t mind, but it’s good to know.

Hmmm, I don't think they make slippers in my size.

Overall, the experience was great. The staff was efficient and friendly, spoke English well, and got me everything I needed. When we arrived in Shanghai, my checked bag arrived on the belt immediately and I was on my way to the city. It was all a very smooth, seamless experience that turned out to be quite enjoyable—as was my next flight on the airline, between Shanghai and Xi’an.

That just goes to show me I shouldn’t have preconceptions when it comes to foreign travel—especially since, the more I experience foreign airlines, the more I realize that US air travel is lightyears behind in many aspects.

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  • PJ

    wonder if it is worthwile to use CO miles out of UR to book Airchina domestic flights?
    any chance Avios can come in to fly cheap with BA’s Oneworld partners? if i am not mistaken, avios go a long way in Brazil on short hauls

  • Skeptical Dave

    I’m confused, you say: the lounge was “comfortable enough,” the seats were “comfortable enough,” the food was “just okay,” there were no personal screens / VOD, but yet, the experience was “great”? I guess the slippers were pretty special.

    Did you actually pay out of pocket for that ticket? For 2 hours, of what you described I hope you didn’t pay a premium! Next time, I would HIGHLY suggest the G train.

    Also, thanks for including pictures of the seat / lounge – they speak for themselves.

  • Anonymous

    Compared to US domestic service, I thought it was great considering US lounges are overcrowded and short hail flying is far from glamorous. Even with an okay meal, I still had a meal whereas in the US you are lucky to get a snack basket.

    It’s all relative, but I was pleasantly surprised. Plus, riding a 777 for a 90 minute flight is pretty cool.

    I didn’t pay a huge premium.. I think around $175- it’s outlined in the post that is linked

  • Splp007

    Dave you can not imagine how GREAT it is now to fly in china –I first went to China 35 years ago and made 4 trips a year for 25 years — “back then “–no such thing as even making a reservation in advance , and if you wanted to go to multi cities you had to arrive at your destination to make onward booking , LOUNGE– forget it!! -China was “primative” and still has a long way to go , when I was invited to china after Nixon’s trip I was shocked to see how backward China was — hotels did not have any air-cond , any phone calls had to be booked in advance , in the streets of Peking( capital of billion people ) Ox carts ! — at the Great Wall COULD NOT BUY A THING !!— if you neede to use the w.c. –it was an open pit–so just maybe TPG knew or heard of some of these things

  • tivoboy

    I can fly almost anything in China as long as its not CHINA EASTERN, easily the worst airline and seating in th world.

  • Anonymous

    I love the curve balls you throw… Racking up Miles with US Air instead of United. Is there shomething your not telling us? My turn at an Asian Airline next month with Singapore Airlines.

  • Jeff

    1. Yes, you can even do it on CO’s website. 2. OW does not have a huge presence in China, the only one you can find is CX(KA) which has flights from Hongkong to a handful of mainland cities.

  • PJ

    OW is ?

  • Dan-lauz

    Hello. Last time i visited china for business i had an interprete. Did you visited china at your own without any help (other than google translate .)

  • PJ

    one of my classmates is still making about 12 round trips to china from dallas on american per year for the last more than 25 years He has endless fun old day stories to tell .. these days I bet he is always pampered as a baby in AA first class upgrade all the time last i checked he had 5MM ++AA points plus as manyAA miles from his lovely wife’s floral shop when she pays wholesellers with Citi AA cards

  • PJ

    let me know if you ever finese those china domestic flights with miles or your favorite booking engine such as ctrip

  • SgFm

    OW= OneWorld

  • Joe

    I quickly realized how bad domestic airlines were when I flew Lao Airlines a few years ago and it was better then anything in the US.

  • CloveLeaf

    I don’t think this is the reason why TPG made that comment. He was comparing domestic airline service in China with the one in US. Have you been to China in the past decade? And you got to be kidding for that ox carts in the 1980′s.

  • tlott

    I echo your experience on Air China. I flew them on an award KIX-PVG because there was no ANA availability on the flight I needed. I was extremely impressed with the service on our flight (an A320 with 12 J seats I believe). Great wine selection, had a perfectly cooked steak, slippers, clean aircraft and extremely good FAs. Great service on this ~2 hour flight. They were on par or better than most other short haul Asian carriers I have flown. I expected Air China to be a notch or two down in comparison.

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  • Sheila Grangeiro

    I’m going to China for the first time in December and wanted to get your suggestion on what would be the best and most economical way to upgrade to business/first class on Air China?

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