Chinese Airlines

2016-01-24 09.04.05Chinese airlines
Having had the opportunity to use several different Chinese airlines recently, it’s time to wrap up some findings about the experiences when flying inside China and internationally with Chinese airlines. This review is limited to Shenzhen airlines, Air China, Hainan airlines and China Southern airlines, yet there are plenty more options available in China.

Shenzhen Airlines

Shenzhen airlines is part of Start Alliance and provides OK  quality of services. The staff provides you all the needed comfort items such as pillows and blankets if you ask for those. The inflight magazine provides stories in both Chinese and English, so there is entertainment also for international travellers. Also “Just for laughs” TV series entertains the travellers with pranks on the overhead entertainment system. Let’s face it, aeroplane food is usually not the best meal of the day. Unfortunately Shenzhen airline does not make an exception in this. Compared to some competitors, Shenzhen airlines at least provides warm food (but why are the snacks provided in separate cardboard boxes? Environmental questions anyone?). Extra chili sauce is served, so you can hide the flavour of the food with it fortunately. The drink selection has plenty of different juices, soft drinks, water and tea. In case you are fed up with the usual soft drink options, go for the pineapple juice. All in all, Shenzhen airline flights have been decent experiences.

Shenzhen Airlines only operate narrowbody aircraft (Airbus A320 and Boeing 737 variations) so don’t expect to fly with any big birds when buying your ticket.

Air China

Air China seems to be the king of Chinese airlines in terms of service and quality as the Flag carrier of China. Similar to Shenzhen Airlines, Air China also belongs to Star Alliance. There are magazines available when boarding the plane, including the English China Daily. Nice quality blankets and pillows are provided when asked. Like Shenzhen airlines, also Air China provides warm food during domestic Chinese flights. People who travel often might have the bad habit of not paying attention to the safety videos before taking off. Air China has found a solution to this problem. In order to make the safety video more interesting, Air China has chosen an animation panda (unfortunately not Kungfu Panda) to be the main character in the show. Suddenly there is something more special in the safety video.

Hainan airlines

A recent domestic flight in China with Hainan airlines (that belongs to Sky Team alliance) did not impress too much, however a past experience when flying internationally with Hainan airlines did not create any big complaints. At least this domestic flight with Hainan airlines kept the travellers hungry, as no warm food was served during the 3 hours flight. Only some cold, not so tasty, snacks were provided during the flight. The snacks were packed inside a cardboard box that cannot be environmentally friendly in any standards. Seems like many Chinese airlines are eager to use these boxes these days. The inflight magazine did not provide any entertainment for those who do not read Chinese, so better bring your own entertainment in you are not a Chinese speaker. If you want to try a Hainan specialty, ask for the coconut juice. The sweet and tasty coconut juice is not something you get on aeroplanes too often.

We get the feeling that the focus of Hainan airlines is not so much on domestic Chinese flights, so maybe better to try Hainan airlines for international travelling. Hainan airlines belongs to Fortune Wings Club alliance that has strong focus on Asian flights, for example having Hong Kong Airlines, Capital airlines and Tianjin airlines in the alliance.

China Southern Airlines

China Southern as the name implies is focused mainly on flights to and from Southern China and Guangdong province, the two main hubs for the airline being Guangzhou Baiyun Airport and Shenzhen Baoan airport.

This sky team alliance member provides decent quality on their domestic Chinese flights. The inflight magazine has plenty to read also in English. Seems like with their drink selection this company is trying to please everyone.  For example milk, beer, juices, soft drinks and tea are available. If you want to try something a bit more unusual, ask for mulberry juice. We have not seen that option elsewhere before.

We have had the opportunity to fly with China Southern form Shenzhen also internationally and the experience has been quite OK. Nothing special but not bad either. All the preflight procedures worked extremely swiftly which was a surprise to us since our experience has not always been such in China.

Immediately after take off the flight staff took to the task of filling us up with food and drink. The drinks cart was very well stocked with local and international drinks. Food was served with two different chooses of main course, however the food was bland at best. if you are hungry, there was a second main course available to those who wanted it. Any seconds anyone? The biggest disappointment of the food was that the menu does not renew a lot so you get served the same menu over and over again.

China southern have been renewing and upgrading their fleet heavily, introducing the Boeing 787 Dreamliner and also the Airbus A380 to their long haul fleet which will likely make the journey better overall since the ageing midrange fleet we have experienced is not the most inspiring.

TOP 3 of Chinese airlines:

  1. Food and Drink is plentiful and you do not need to ask for it – the drinks cart is up and down the aisle most of the flight
  2. Want to upgrade your class? When searching for you flight, take a look at the premium options of business and first also. you might be surprised how cheap it can be occasionally. So why not spend a bit extra and enjoy the premium service
  3. The fact that you are boarding a Chinese plane means that most likely you are in, on your way or have just been in China. That is great at its own

WORST 3 of Chinese airlines:

  1. Food. Even though plentiful, the food is nothing to cheer for. At least most airlines offer you options and seconds but where is all the fantastic food that you find on every street of China?
  2. General comfort. If you are used to International standards of comfort while travelling you might get disappointed with this one. Expect slight chaos especially when the plane has landed and people are to exit the plane.
  3. The fact that you are boarding a Chinese plane means that you are most likely not flying with your preferred airline at least if it is on an International flight. Unfortunately the experience is not overall as great as top international carriers

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