2014 EOY Trip Flight #3 I am back for a series of report on the 10 flights we took back in December 2014 for our end-of-year trip. It was a great trip with 4 new airlines, 5 new airports and 2 new cities. The routing was SIN-SGN-TPE-PVG-ICN, GMP-PUS-GMP, ICN-PVG-TPE-HAN-SIN. To visualize the route we took, please refer to the map at the start of the report.
While our plan was only to visit my relatives in Taipei, and spend 10 days in Korea, the routing of our flights became more complicated as we decided to give up the direct flights available, so as to go for cheaper tickets that will also allow us to fly more!
This is a list of all the other reports in this series.
2014 End-of-Year Trip to Taiwan & South Korea Click Here 09/12/14, SIN-SGN, Vietnam Airlines VN650, A321 Click Here 09/12/14, SGN-TPE, Vietnam Airlines VN570, A321 This Report 16/12/14, TPE-PVG, China Eastern Airlines MU5008, A330-300 Coming Soon 17/12/14, PVG-ICN, Shanghai Airlines FM827, B737-800 Coming Soon 20/12/14, GMP-PUS, Air Busan BX8811, B737-400 Coming Soon 23/12/14, PUS-GMP, Air Busan BX8816, A320 Coming Soon 26/12/14, ICN-PVG, China Eastern Airlines MU5034, A321 Coming Soon 27/12/14, PVG-TPE, China Eastern Airlines MU5005, A330-200 Coming Soon 30/12/14, TPE-HAN, Vietnam Airlines VN579, A321 Coming Soon 30/12/14, HAN-SIN, Vietnam Airlines VN661, A321
China Eastern Airlines MU5008 Aircraft Registration: B-6126 Origin: Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport (TPE) Destination: Shanghai Pudong International Airport (PVG) Date: Tuesday, 16 December 2014 STD/STA: 1505h (UTC+08:00) to 1645h (UTC+08:00) ATD/ATA: 1525h (UTC+08:00) to 1719h (UTC+08:00) Estimated Duration: 01 hour 40 minutes Actual Duration: 01 hour 54 minutes Flight Distance: About 425 miles / 685 km
This China Eastern flight was probably the one I looked forward to the most in this entire series. I am not sure why, but prior to this trip, I have always been rather curious about the services of airlines from China. While my curiosity encouraged me to book a series of flight with MU, I was reluctant to try any of the airline’s medium or long haul flights, as I really did not quite know what to expect. So, there we were, booked on four MU flights from Taipei to Seoul, via Shanghai. Perfect way to sample a new airline for me!
I decided to earn some Skyteam miles from this itinerary, even though the number of miles accrued is kind of insignificant. It didn’t really matter actually, since my main objective was to experience a few flights operated by a Chinese airline.
As I explored the options on Skyscanner, the following itinerary caught my eye and soon, we were booked on a return trip between Taipei and Seoul! I was glad that I got to try two new airlines – China Eastern and Shanghai Airlines in one itinerary.
On the day of our flight to Shanghai, we left home early with the intention of grabbing a quick lunch at Taoyuan Airport before our departure.
It was a little pricey to take a taxi all the way. So we dropped off at a bus stop near home and transferred on to an airport bus.
I couldn’t resist taking a photo of this “instructins” of how to operate the emergency exit on the bus. Three simple steps to do so:
1. Hard to push up. 2. In accordance with the arrows rotating red button up the pressure and to push up the board. 3. Open roof and attention to safety.
We got to still give the airport bus some credits it deserve: it was a really efficient, cheap and comfortable way to get to Taoyuan Airport – one that isn’t connected to the city with a railway line, yet. (The opening of the airport train line had been delayed again and again…)
Fortunately, there are many airport bus lines connecting various parts of metropolitan Taipei to Taoyuan Airport; making TPE a relatively accessible airport.
We arrived at the airport at around 11.50am; forty more minutes before check-in was scheduled to begin.
Took some of these with us and went off for our lunch first.
There are quite a lot of F&B choices in TPE, especially so after its recent renovation over the past few years. While the food choices you see at the airport may not be representative of all the amazing foods you can find all around Taiwan, they are all reasonably priced and thus there shouldn’t be any problem finding something to eat.
Returned to the check in hall at about 1pm.
Thankfully, the economy class queue wasn’t too long.
The red colour screens depict counters dedicated for passengers travelling in Premium cabins, those with Skyteam priority membership, or others who have completed online check-in.
I was expecting the queue to be much longer than this; after all, TPE-PVG is considered an extremely popular route in the region.
China Eastern provides every passenger with a 20kg checked baggage limit. We used about half of our baggage allowance on the way to Korea; definitely very well prepared to shop for another 20kg of Korean products before we fly back.
On the other hand, the airline states that carry-on luggage can only weigh no more than 5kg per passenger. But that’s probably really just for reference.
At Taoyuan Airport, the check in agent will always require passengers to ensure that their bags have passed through the security screening before proceeding to immigration – not a procedure that I have seen in other airports that I have been to within Asia Pacific.
Is it the same in American airports?
While we were technically just transiting in Shanghai, our transit time was too long for the airline to be able to tag our bags all the way to Seoul (according to the check in agent). Thus, we have to collect our bags in Shanghai, drag them to our transit hotel far away from the airport, and then check them in again the next day for our onward flight to Seoul.
My first China Eastern boarding pass! It’s quite nicely designed in my opinion.
We spent some more time in the check in hall, as I settled some calls before heading airside. At about 1.45pm (45 minutes to boarding), the MU check-in counters were already quite empty. Time to head airside quickly!
Oh, it was the Christmas season! Yes, we are spending Christmas in Seoul!
It’s been quite a while since I last departed from TPE’s Terminal 2. It has always been Terminal 1; where all the budget airlines depart from.
We passed through security and immigration clearance in about ten minutes – great efficiency here!
Immediately, we headed to our gate since we didn’t have the intention to shop.
The original departure time for MU5008 was 3.05pm. It was amended to 3.15pm after we checked in.
Saw two A330-300s from my gate, both belonging to Star Alliance airlines.
First, we have Singapore Airlines’ SQ877 bound for Singapore.
And then we have Air China’s flight, which should be flying to Beijing.
Gate D7 was decorated with exhibits about Taiwan’s traditional opera – ??? (glove puppetry).
10 minutes after the inbound flight’s scheduled arrival time, our aircraft was still nowhere to be seen.
China Airlines A330-300; a common sighting at TPE.
I guess everyone who was familiar with MU’s operations knew that there was not point going to the gate early because flights to and fro China get delayed every other day.
Before we finally get to see the aircraft for the day, allow me to just narrate my excitement prior to this flight. A day before I was scheduled to fly on MU5008, I turned on FlightRadar24 just to track 16 Dec’s MU5008. It was operated by B-6126, an aircraft that bears the People’s Daily Online special livery. However, what’s really interesting is the other fact about this aircraft which relates to an incident on 10 July 2012; two years back, when B-6126 departed TPE as MU5008 bound for Shanghai Pudong, its left engine unfortunately suffered a bird strike during the aircraft’s initial climb out of TPE. Subsequently, the aircraft was grounded for quite a long period of time in TPE till its engine got replaced/repaired.
B-6126 operated as MU5007/5008 the day before, so I did not think that it would come back to Taoyuan again that day. But I was wrong. As I waited for my aircraft’s arrival, I saw on FR24 that the exact aircraft was again flying into TPE as MU5007. Hurray! This means I can get to photograph this aircraft personally and even fly on it. Nice!
Looks like it was gonna be a good start for my first flight on China Eastern!
At 2.33pm, the aircraft finally taxied into Gate D7.
Immediately, the ground staff sprung into action, preparing of a quick turnaround for this aircraft.
Meanwhile, the SQ A333 that we saw just now has pushed back.
Everyone’s waiting to board. It was just 2.36pm so the flight shouldn’t be delayed for too long.
Many passengers took photographs of the aircraft with special livery as well! It was a pity that the weather was a little gloomy.
The boarding lounge started to get crowded – I was right that TPE-PVG is a popular route among the Taiwanese and Chinese.
The announcement for commencement of boarding came at 3pm sharp. The efficiency of TPE’s ground staff is definitely amazing.
2.33pm: MU5007 arrived late 2.36pm: Announced that boarding will be delayed due to late arrival 2.59pm: Boarding commenced!
We went ahead to join the boarding queue as well. Hello MU, nice to meet you!
We waited a short while on the jet bridge before reaching the aircraft doors. While several different Chinese newspapers were available, there were no Taiwanese newspapers provided.
Because the flight was really full, it took us another few minutes before we managed to get to our seats.
The entire boarding process took about 20 minutes; thereafter, our aircraft was ready for its journey back to Shanghai.
Before we move on with the flight, let’s take a quick look at this version of MU’s A333.
Legroom was at about 32-33” so it really was quite comfortable and more than adequate for such a short flight across to Shanghai.
When a friendly FA saw that I placed some of my belongings in the seat pocket, she casually came over and reminded me to remember them at the end of the flight; and added on that they had already found numerous lost mobile phones that month. It was a nice touch to the service!
As for the headrest, it was an adjustable one. But I can’t quite remember how comfortable it was given that this flight was really a very short one.
On the overall, the seat cushion was good and not too hard; no complaints for a short regional flight like this!
The cabin was slowly filling up as boarding progressed, and eventually, almost no seat was left empty.
On a side note, don’t you think that the red seats in the centre of the cabin are a little too bright for the otherwise simple cabin atmosphere?
The overhead panel was very simple too. No air vents on this aircraft.
Substituting the personal IFE screens were commercial advertisements such as this. Made this MU aircraft look a little like a LCC…
Nonetheless, I still give the airline some credits for installing an additional cup holder on the seatback. It’s really a very convenient feature and I personally think more airlines should have it!
Not many people were observed using the IFE on this flight. I mean, for me, it was basically impossible to watch the programmes screened on the overhead screens from my seat. And the reason for this is that, screens are only installed in the centre of the aircraft – which I find to be a little weird and illogical. (You can see a photo later on depicting what I mean here.)
Anyway for a start, headsets weren’t provided for this sector so there’s basically close to zero entertainment on this flight.
Looking out of the window, we have a Japan Airlines B738 preparing for its flight back home. (Really looking forward to my first flight with JL in May 2016!)
Alright, time to depart for China!
Soon after we were airborne (when the seatbelt signs were still switched on), some passenger eagerly got up from their seat to collect their belongings from the overhead compartments.
Oh well, the thing is – on all my flights with China Eastern / Shanghai Airlines throughout this trip, the seatbelt signs were never switched off during the flight.
Meal service began really soon after – just about 5 minutes from take off.
Once we cleared the cloud cover, the weather became much clearer; it was beautiful with the wingtip bearing MU’s logo.
Getting our meal soon. We told ourselves not to expect too much from a Chinese carrier in terms of its catering, since we have seen so many photos of unappetising meals served by a Chinese carrier prior to this flight.
Hmm… Are you curious about what’s the main “dish” served?
Before that, let’s see what else we had – fruits, a cake for dessert, a bottle of water, a small cup of orange juice and a pineapple cake (tart).
The fruits were fresh and sweet. The cake was alright but it didn’t leave much impression. And the pineapple tart was nice!
And then for the main, it was just “fried rice with a fishcake and a piece of pickle”. It definitely does not look too appetising, yet surprisingly, the fried rice much, much better than we’d expected!
This small pack of chilli sauce comes in handy if you want to make your fried rice tastier; for us, the rice perfectly okay as it was!
Anyway, most of the meal (apart from the bottle of water) was prepared in Taiwan; so I guess that helped quite a bit in making our first meal on MU surprisingly tasty – here’s the evidence.
Service was really efficient on this flight; a minute after I was done with my meal, the FA came down the aisle collecting the trays.
The flight was passing by quickly and I wasted no time after the meal in laying out the seat pocket contents.
This was the duty free catalogue named “Eastern Mall” – how creative.
The in-flight magazine named “connections”.
And then there was this magazine on golf; unfortunately I wasn’t particularly interested in browsing it.
The design of the safety information card was nothing out of the box as well.
The network map for both China Eastern and Shanghai Airlines was just a typical world map. It’s interesting that Taichung and Tainan (two relatively small international airports in Taiwan) were not included in the map. Along with Taipei-Songshan, Taoyuan and Kaohsiung airport, MU serves a total of 5 airports in Taiwan.
Just before the cabin preparation for landing began, I took a break from my seat so as to get some more shots of the cabin and its lavatory.
In this photo, you can now see what I meant just now – overhead screens are only available in the centre of the aircraft. Safety videos were also just screened on those monitors; so strictly speaking, those of us seated by the windows weren’t briefed about the aircraft’s safety feature thoroughly, since we almost couldn’t see what was playing on the screens.
Towards the end of the flight, the lavatory was still kept really clean. Kudos to the FAs!
Back to my seat soon after, and took one more shot of our pair of seats on our very first flight with a Chinese carrier – so far so good! But what will be my comment about the airline’s service standards by the end of this flight? We shall see.
Since our flight wasn’t severely delayed that day, we quickly began our descent into Shanghai Pudong Airport. It seemed to pass even faster since I was snapping photos all the way.
Just before the FAs began preparing the cabin for landing, the cabin service manager made an announcement to thank everyone and to get us prepared for the arrival. At the same time, all the FAs stood at each aisle and bowed together at the end of the announcement. I happened to be filming a short video of the “cabin view”, but I guessed an FA thought I was taking a photo of her and therefore came to me and told me to delete the photo.
While it was a misunderstanding, I adhered to her instructions and deleted that short video immediately. She was satisfied and before she left, she told me “it’s okay to take photos of the cabin but please don’t take photos of us”. All these were however said in a relatively professional and respectful tone, so I do appreciate how the matter was dealt with.
So… Since this was my last interaction with the flight crew on this flight, what did I eventually think of the standard of the service provided by the FAs? Frankly speaking, and I have to say I felt quite apologetic to have had this little “stereotype”, I boarded this MU flight with an impression that the service wouldn’t be too good since I have read terrible reviews about the airline before, but to our surprise (my girlfriend, who’s not an avgeek, agrees with me) the service standards on our first MU flight was really professional. They were not exceptionally friendly or chatty, but good enough to make this short flight a pleasant one. Even the way I got “confronted” about the photography issue was professional too!
The approach route of MU5008; while I have heard about the extremely unpredictable ATC in Shanghai, and also about how busy this airport can get at times, we were lucky to be granted a very direct approach route. Half an hour after our scheduled arrival time, we touched down in Shanghai Pudong Airport.
The situation of our delay was further improved when our taxi to the gate took just 4 minutes; and another 3 minutes later at 5.21pm, we were already disembarking from the aircraft. Efficiency at its best, since the beginning of this flight back at TPE.
Here’s a quick look at MU’s business class. Not a product that I will go out of my way to try in future, but it still looks decent I guess.
Into the terminal and then a bit of a walk to the immigration counters.
We got over the arrival formalities really quickly too, and before we knew it, our bags were already seen on the carousel.
Anyway, since China Airlines and China Eastern Airlines are alliance partners, they codeshare a lot on each other’s flights; CI codeshares with MU on this flight as CI8001.
It was also nice to see trolleys being deployed nicely by the carousel – definitely a nice touch on the part of the airport management!
With our luggage back with us, we cleared customs in no time and quickly made our way to the hotel. Want to make a guess what was our choice?
Metro, Maglev, Airport Bus or Taxi?
This is the linkway connecting Terminals 1 and 2. It also connects both terminals to the Metro and Maglev Train stations.
Okay, here’s the answer! We decided to try the Maglev Train service even before we arrived in Shanghai. I mean, it just sounds really interesting to be able to speed into Shanghai within 8 minutes, isn’t it?
While the Maglev Train works on really sophisticated technology that I find really amazing, I don’t think I was as amazed with regards to the train’s interior design… Well, it was just an 8-minutes ride, anyway!
The round trip tickets cost RMB80. Not exactly cheap in China, and that’s a possible explanation for the Maglev Train’s seemingly low utilisation rate.
We were not allocated seats on the tickets even though every seat had a number allocated to it.
In the evening, the train travels at a maximum speed of 300km/h. However, it can get faster depending on the time of the day.
We then needed to transfer to Metro Line 2 at Longyang Road Station, the only other station on the Maglev Line.
At the exit of the Maglev Train station, there will be a lot of taxi drivers trying to persuade tourists to take a ride. We ignored them and headed straight into the Metro station.
It was peak hour! We totally forgot about that fact and therefore had to squeeze onto the train with the crowd, carrying two huge luggage… Fortunately, our destination was just three stops away.
Ah finally in the hotel!
We felt really pissed off when the hotel’s check-in staff took forever to process the short queue of guests waiting to check in. To make matters worse, she looked like she just didn’t wanted to be working at all and thus her service was really bad.
Oh well, the bed was comfortable and we were looking forward to a good rest.
But just as we began to feel relaxed, our stomach began growling for food. Oh man, Shanghai was so cold in December but we had no choice but to go out on to the streets again to satisfy our hunger… ):
Anyone wants to guess what we had for dinner eventually?
China Eastern Airlines performed better than my expectations and I was really happy about that. It's always nice to report the positive of an airline rather than the negative. The downside probably was that the A333 lacked personal IFE screens. It was bearable on such a short flight but probably not on one that's 2-3 hours or longer. I shouldn't have rated 4 for entertainment since newspapers were at the very least provided during boarding; but... The selection of newspapers just weren't that interesting I guess? (Just my personal opinion here.) Meal wise, I was satisfied! The fried rice didn't look that nice but it was surprisingly tasty! The cabin comfort was decent and the crew was professional; these are important factors determining the kind of customer experience an airline provides to its customers, I am glad to say that MU has passed with flying colours on this flight.
I have reviewed Taoyuan Airport quite a bit here. It's a pleasant airport and I really do like it a lot (but you can argue that I am biased). xD Everything was good and smooth that day so there's really nothing much to fault here.
Shanghai Pudong Airport was relatively crowded that day, but I guess it was considered a really good experience already. (Just take a look at the next MU report in this series and you'd know why.) The Maglev service provides a decent and really efficient way to and fro the airport, so I'd argue that the airport's accessibility is good - there's also the Metro Line 2.
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