I arrived in Guangzhou around 5:30pm and by the time I cleared immigration and head to the ticketing counter it was around 6pm. That was when I realized my flights were cancelled and I had to wait while the agent at the counter to find my check-in luggage and pass me my new boarding pass. By the time I head to the lounge it was close to 10pm, and I was really tired after a transpacific crossing.
China Southern business class lounge in Guangzhou
The lounge is fortunately located just right after security and there are 2 lounges side by side with one catering to other Sky Priority Elite guests and another for First and Business class passengers.
Departure terminal of Guangzhou Baiyun airport
Entering the lounge, there is a very oriental ambience with a reception desk greeting guests. I took this time to check my flight departure time as it was not showing any fixed departure time. All I received was they are still awaiting notice. The entrance of the lounge has foyer and wall partition that separates the main seating area. This wall partition also functions as a magazine shelf and there are a lot of thick magazines though all of which were in Chinese.
Magazine shelf in the lounge
Thus the main seating has one facing the TV screen and another that is supposedly for relaxing beside the dining section. There are lots of empty seats in the lounge and in between some of these seats, there are some small side tables with a power plug. This does not apply to all the seats but most of them have this amenity.
Seating area in the lounge with TV
As I was hungry, my first priority was to get some food. There are some pork buns, a little bit of leftover fried rice, but as it was late, there was not much else in terms of hot food. In the end I went for the most convenient options - cup noodles. Nearly most Asian airport lounges also stock cup noodles readily. There was a hot water dispenser which is common in airport lounges in China due to the Chinese preference for warm water. But this preference even goes to the canned drinks which were not chilled at all, though they did have the 'Wong Lo Kat' herbal tea drink that I liked inside the lounge.
Dining area in the lounge
After a quick dinner, I walked around the small lounge a little bit and discovered a small VIP area at the back of the lounge. There are some more seats located inside a room, and a private dining room that could be arranged for business meetings. In China, it is not unusual for business meetings to be conducted with a meal. There are also some shower rooms which I did not ask for as I was waiting for the boarding call regarding my connecting flight to Shanghai.
Private dining and meeting room in the lounge
In the end I head to the partitioned room that has 2 massage chairs and one lounger armchair. The massage chairs were occupied by 2 passengers in their late 50s so I took the empty lounge arm chair and read some magazines while waiting for the boarding call which as you all know never came as I was later provided a hotel room in Guangzhou. During this time some other passenger came into the lounge to ask questions regarding changing to a China Eastern flight but the lounge agents does not even have access to China Eastern's flight schedule. Both airlines even operate at different ends of the terminal for domestic flights with China Southern on the B concourse and China Eastern on the A concourse.
Relaxing ambience inside China Southern lounge in Guangzhou
For a domestic airport lounge, the food served in the lounge are somewhat better than the US based lounges which just have dried food like chips, crackers and bar snacks most of the time. The only downside was the lack of cold drinks. Quality of the lounge is slightly above average and I liked the overal Chinese design theme incorporated into the lounge. The service by the staff inside the lounge was cordial making it a decent lounge in Guangzhou for China Southern Airline especially for transit passengers.
When I reached the airport, I quickly dashed to the Business Class check-in counter as I wanted to check if I could be placed on the earliest possible flight. As luck would have it I was the next to be served and there was 2 foreign passengers that was really distraught after being stuck as well due to all the weather related delays. As I checked in, it was the same lady who helped me to find my luggage yesterday and she again found my luggage and helped to place me in the next flight to Shanghai. There was another lucky passenger who got on the same flight with me and he was supposed to travel with his friend. Though I think his friend will ultimately travel on a later flight. Since I knew we were on the same flight, I decided to wait for him.
Side fuselage of the 787
As the flight has just ended the time for boarding, we had to bring our luggage to the oversized luggage area to get it checked since the check-in counter could no longer accept luggage for this flight. After that we still had to pass through security once again. Somehow, I actually still manage to have some time to head into the lounge to get some water. This time round, I noticed there were more food in the buffet table, but I was still full and did not get any. I just spent the rest of the time in the lounge until boarding was called which is probably around 5 minutes later.
The boarding gate was actually a bus gate and we would be taken to the plane. While waiting at the gate, I noticed I had a 1G seat number and an 'A' code on the boarding pass, indicating 'First Class' (though there was a scratch that converts it to 'J' for miles earning purposes. Since the aircraft was parked somewhere else, I had no idea if it was going to be a real first class experience or just a domestic first class cabin, as my original flight was supposed to be on a regionally configured Airbus A330 with slanted seats for the business class, so I thought I would probably be getting a domestic First Class seat, which is still an upgrade in my opinion.
During boarding, passengers are also given a boarding pass confirmation card to indicate he/she has boarded and this card is to be handed to the staff before getting onto the plane.
Boarding the Dreamliner
Anyway boarding started and I got on one of the normal bus since there was no premium bus to be had, and imagine my delight and inner glee when the bus brought us to a 787. This time round, I took more photos as we boarded the plane by the stairs and got to capture more good shots of the 787.
Single row of First Class onboard China Southern 787
Once onboard, the friendly crew helped me with luggage as I entered the First Class cabin which was stil empty. Though the Business Class cabin was already full. The stewardess welcomed me, then opened the packet containing slippers for my use. On the ottoman, there was 2 bags, one is filled with a down mattress pad for the seat and another was filled with a blanket.
Compartment under the ottoman
Next, she offered me as juices and water offered, then newspaper delivered in a bag, placing them in the oversize drawer underneath the ottoman which could fit in my messenger bag as well. For the welcome drink I had what is a berry juice though I cannot be sure what type it was since I never saw the packaging.
Welcome drink and cold towel
As the plane was left on the tarmac, the cabin was very warm and I finished up my juice quickly. I also appreciated the cold towel that was brought to me with the juice. The other passengers in first class boarded the plane thereafter and it would be full upfront after all. One thing I noticed was that passengers could start using the inflight entertainment system onboard and I got around to watching a Chinese movie while we were on the ground. There is also a controller for the larger TV screen in First Class since the screen was further away and would be un-reachable if it was a touch screen.
Inflight entertainment main menu
While waiting, the only flight attendant serving 4 of us took the meal orders. The menu for the meal was actually quite impressive for a domestic flight of less than 2 hours in the air. There is a 4 course meal with several appetizers, soups, a main course and dessert. With the orders taken, the plane seems to have completed the boarding and it was time to start up the plane.
The menu for the flight is as follow:
First Class inflight menu
However, we never got moving as there was a delay due to air traffic control. Fortunately, the weather has turned cloudy and thus the cabin was no longer warm. During the delay, the cabin crew came around to all passengers to offer serving the meal while on the ground. In this case my seat mate obliged and had his meal on the ground, though the meal was incomplete as before dessert could be served, the plane started its taxi to the runway.
Looking at 1K from seat 1G
The take-off on a 787 this time round was better, but the rattling within the cabin was still there and passengers can indeed feel the rush during take-off more than that in an A380 cabin. I was able to continue watching the movie which was started while we were waiting to be cleared for take-off.
Mixed nuts in a ramekin
After reaching cruising altitude the cabin crew got off to work immediately. She started passing ramekin of nuts before coming back out later with tablecloths. The tray table is stowed on the compartment beside the armrest. As expected, it is a much larger tray table than in Business class.
Fold-out tray table
For the meal service which started with the 'A' side of the plane, it begins with the soup and 2 appetizers. The soup was great and I always enjoy Chinese soups as I grew up with them and it reminds me of home. The appetizers was fantastic as well, with the salt baked chicken and abalone being very tender and juicy. China Southern's catering out of Guangzhou is indeed top notch and they do Chinese food better than Cathay Pacific for sure.
Lean meat soup with cordyceps flower
Salt-baked chicken with baby abalone and stir-fried silver fish with marinated chilli ring and marinated black fungus
Compared to the starters and the soup which I liked, the main course was a tad ordinary as it is just a fried fish dish with sweet-sour sauce, braised tofu with shitake mushrooms, Shanghai bok choy and served alongside a bowl of rice.
Fried fish with sweet-sour sauce, braised tofu with shitake mushrooms, Shanghai bok choy and rice
The dessert was another highlight of the meal as it was another traditional Chinese dessert served with sweet mango inside. A fruit plate was also served with dessert and I noticed fruits are quite important in a Chinese meal, which suits me just fine as I have a habit of eating fruits at the end of my dinner. Everything was just perfect for the summer, and our crew also served my seat mate dessert during our meal service, not forgetting the little details. Overall I was pleased with this meal, and would rate it as one of the best airplane meals I had. This is even made more special considering it is just a 2 hour flight!
Mango and purple rice sweet soup with fruits
The short flight really showed a very efficient service by the single crew serving the entire First Class cabin. After the meal, I decided to try out the seat in a lie-flat mode and the seat controls are quite simple with the diagrams explaining everything. The soft leather texture on the seats also lend a more luxurious ambience to the cabin. These are basically the little touches to differentiate First and Business.
Seat controls on the armrest
Because the cabin was still quite warm, I did not really bother with the blanket and quilt. After all I wasn't planning to sleep. There is certainly more space here as a bed and it is on par with all the First Class seats I have been on. The all-aisle access also adds value to the cabin. I checked out the front lavatory as well as there was not much difference compared to the Business class lavatories so no photos here.
Seat on full lie-flat bed mode
Fortunately or maybe unfortunately for me, this short flight was coming to an end. I did not even have time to complete my movie during the flight and I just decided to leave it for my return flight. Considering we did fly a somewhat of a detour route, it was still too short of a journey and I would not have minded a longer journey inside this cabin!
Inflight map showing our route
The landing was quick and we were also docked on an aerobridge. With the door in between the Business class cabin that was opened, this meant that First class passengers are not always the first one out of the flight. Since I was not in a hurry as I had checked luggages, and there was no immigration to clear on a domestic flight, I lingered in the cabin to take a couple more shots.
While I am satisfied with the lie-flat seats in Business class which also has a fine spread of food, I wouldn't mind an upgrade. Though this cabin tends to fly empty most of the time as it is really not a financially attractive proposition to pay a lot more for a product that is marginally better than Business class. There is more of a leap between Economy and Business. Or as they say, privacy and exclusivity is indeed expensive, and China Southern does this probably really for the expectations of high level officials and businessmen travelling on First Class. I was also impressed with the standard of service on this flight and it was all very professional with the crew being very attentive to the passenger's needs. Kudos to the cabin crew on this flight!
First Class cabin on arrival
While I had plans to arrive in Pudong since I will be staying in Pudong area for my stay in Shanghai, I was really impressed with the transfer capability through Shanghai's Hongqiao Airport. There are long distance buses, high speed railway, and subway for arriving passengers. This means it is easy for passengers to reach other nearby cities like Nanjing, Suzhou and Hangzhou when arriving in Shanghai Hongqiao.
Baggage claim at Shanghai Hongqiao
Arriving in Hongqiao, I was also impressed with the speed of luggage delivery as my luggage was quite fast to arrive with the priority tag and I was out in no time. Then the taxi queue was also another noteworthy point as they followed the best practice of Changi Airport in managing an orderly taxi queue!
Orderly taxi queue at Hongqiao
For this short flight, I was really glad to be upgraded as it allowed me to experience the First Class service onboard China Southern. That was why I said there was a good ending even with the delay, and I might have spent a lot of time and lost time in travelling, I think it is part and parcel of air travel today as weather disruptions are really beyond the airline's control. Sometimes a bit of patience goes a long way and it paid off quite well for me. So the next time a delay happens to you, always think on the bright side and be patient!
Arrival information board at Shanghai Hongqiao
PS: On a side note, I was really lucky as well in making the decision to come to the airport earlier to standby for an earlier flight as opposed to just taking what was assigned to me. This not only allowed me to arrive Shanghai in the day but also allowed me to meet up with my relatives for dinner in the city. Had I just wait for the assigned flight, I noticed that flight was delayed and eventually arrived in Shanghai at past 11pm. Another lesson learnt here is do not always take the solution given to you as the best option, it is always up to every individual to spend the time and effort to look for better alternatives.
China Southern Business Class Lounge
Guangzhou - CAN
Shanghai - SHA
While the irregular operations did test the extend of my patience, China Southern did its best to accommodate passengers and provided stranded passengers with food and lodging. The upgrade to First Class helped alleviate the pain of this extended layover and I did arrive in Shanghai safe and sound. Experiencing the First Class on the 787 was also a marvellous way to see the difference in service between the 2 classes. I was also amazed at how China Southern even goes for the full First Class experience for a short domestic route!
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