This trip journal is taken during the winter when I had to settle some business in Shanghai and then I will fly to Japan to meet up with my friends for skiing in deep powder snow that Hokkaido is renowned for. It will consist of the following flights: 1) MU544 SIN-PVG ->Read it here 2) FM815 SHA-HND -> Current Report 3) MU540 HND-PVG -> Coming soon 4) MU543 PVG-SIN -> Coming soon
Departure hall in Shanghai Hongqiao Airport Terminal 1
I wrote before about how I liked Shanghai's Hongqiao Airport , which is the lesser known of the city's airport as it handles mostly domestic flights. The presence of a transportation hub comprising of city buses, long distance buses, the high speed rail station next to it and a modern airport terminal makes it appealing to travellers who crave the convenience of transferring. However my flight today departs from the smaller and older Terminal 1 which handles the international flights in Shanghai Hongqiao. International destinations are mainly to South Korea, Japan and Hong Kong.
Check-in counters for China Eastern and Shanghai Airlines
Terminal 1, being older has a smaller check-in hall that does not feel as brightly lit. The check-in counters for Shanghai Airlines was quite crowded in the morning, as these are shared with parent company China Eastern. Fortunately, my flight was in Business Class, and there was only a few people in line for the Sky Priority lane.
Queue for check-in
I checked my bags in as I had my ski boots and other gear inside and obtained my boarding pass. Though there was no lounge invite with entry to the lounge based on the boarding pass. Needless to say there was a moderate queue at security and there was no fast track or premium line bypass, with only one entrance for departing passengers. It took about 15 minutes to clear security which by all accounts is not exactly a long time. The lounge entrance is just opposite the security check area, and considering the terminal is not really large, there was not much trouble navigating around to find your gates either.
Entrance to the lounge
Like many domestic airline lounges in China, this one is not much different in terms of the decor. Which is to say, do not expect a lot at all. Inside the lounge it is also very busy so chances are you will be seated with strangers across and beside you. And it was noisy with the clattering of cutleries and people talking on the phone, businessmen holding conversations and the list goes on. As far as I remember, this lounge is not specifically for China Eastern or Shanghai Airlines customers but also for other airlines and holders of certain credit cards so it does get busy.
Inside the lounge, there are 2 sections, one to the right and another to the left of the reception desk. Both are unfortunately as busy and the one of the right side seems brighter though both have views of the tarmac.
For a small lounge, they do serve a variety of food. Since it was early in the morning, there was a couple of breakfast items on the buffet counter just right by the reception desk. They consists of dumplings, some hot buns and dim sum items.
Breakfast dumplings on the buffet counter
The majority of the items inside the lounge though are packaged snacks, cup noodles and crackers. These are the most commonly found items in airline lounges within China. There are also bottled drinks but they were not chilled. Even those inside the fridge were more or less room temperature. Granted it might be in winter and people do not generally want cold drinks but in summer, these drink coolers are stocked with room temperature drinks too. Lounges in China seem to treat drink coolers as ornamental accessories!
Packaged snacks and cup noodles
Aside from the food, there was wifi in the lounge which is alright for checking of emails, browsing news and some social media sites but do not expect it to be for watching online videos. There was also some magazines and newspapers but they are all in Chinese language.
The lounge was definitely not the best in terms of comfort especially considering this is the hub for China Eastern/Shanghai Airlines. So it was a disappointment for sure and the airport lounges would be one area to start with if China Eastern is really keen on upgrading its premium product!
Fortunately I did not have a long time before boarding as I did not really intend to stay long in the lounge either. So I actually just grabbed some packaged snacks and head to the boarding gate earlier. See, those packaged snacks does have some usefulness after all.
Shanghai Airlines A330 in Hongqiao Airport
It was time once again to board the Airbus A330 operated by Shanghai Airlines. While I did technically board one of their A330's, the flight was tagged with China Eastern as the operating carrier. So I really wanted to know if there will be any difference with Shanghai Airlines as the operating carrier even though it is a subsidiary of China Eastern.
FM815 Shanghai Hongqiao SHA - Tokyo Haneda HND STD-STA: 0905-1230 Actual: 0922-1224 Airbus A330-200 B-6096 Gate B10 Seat 8A
Boarding started with premium passengers and elite Sky Team members and the process was not chaotic at all, so that was a good start. Once in the cabin, I was actually quite surprised to see so much of the airplane being allocated for Business class. Seats are in a 2-2-2 configuration though they are all angled-flat seats.
Seat 8A onboard Shanghai Airlines A330
View from Row 8
As I got seated on my window seat, the flight attendant serving the lightly occupied cabin came over to offer drinks. There was a choice of juices or water and I got an orange juice. I was also provided with a towel placed on a ceramic plate.
Welcome drinks and towel
On the seat itself there was a pillow and a blanket. While the seatback pockets are filled with newspapers in Chinese and Japanese along with the same slippers in the re-usable shoe bag.
Newspapers on the seatback
The seatback pockets also contain the CAAC inflight magazine that should be found in all the major state-owned Chinese carriers along with the safety manual. The safety manual is coincidentally the only logo of Shanghai Airlines in the aircraft as the rest of the amenities seems to be branded with China Eastern. There really is an identity crisis here.
While waiting for boarding the flight attendant passed me the menu for today's flight. The menu had China Eastern logo in the cover and is presented in the same style, with 4 sets based on whether it is an odd or even month and whether the flight is between the first half of the month or the latter half. As usual, I would only post the menu for this current flight but readers interested on the rest of the menu can view them on the photos at my <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/quirrow/albums/72157664324478960">Flickr album for this flight</a>. The menu reads like this:
Orders for the meal were taken individually with the crew even bowing down to take the orders. I think this is a common service feature with the Asian airlines.
Taking orders for meal in Business Class
Another crew member came by the cabin to distribute customs and immigration form for entry into Japan while waiting for boarding to complete which again took some time.
Customs form for Japan
During this time, I changed into the slippers provided and made myself comfortable as I munched on the snacks I brought from the lounge since I did not have breakfast, except for a cup of coffee early in the morning.
Slippers for passengers
Snacks from the lounge
Boarding was completed shortly afterwards and I have to say I chose a great time to be in Shanghai for work as the weather was clear and nice while I was there and turned smoggy with bad visibility on the day I departed for Tokyo. While there was a short taxi to the runway the bad visibility meant not much good photos would turn out. I did capture this shot of Shanghai Airlines 737 though before the plane took off. Due to the smog and dirty plane window, there was not much of a view either of the airport or the city.
Shanghai's Boeing 737
Once we reached cruising altitude, the crew came over to serve packet nuts and the beverage of our choice. Shortly afterwards, another flight attendant came to set the table for the meal service and asked if I would like any other beverage. I got a cup of Chinese tea as well.
Tea, apple juice and nuts packet
Since I had not finished the inflight movie on my previous flight, I continued the movie on this flight. Since the last flight I was on was operated by a Shanghai Airlines' plane, the entertainment selection and interface was similar. The movie was 'Back In Time' or '匆匆那年' in Chinese.
With the tray table set, the breakfast was served by the crew. I had picked the Japanese breakfast set and it consists of 2 main plates. The larger plate contains rice and an assortment of vegetables. The smaller plate meanwhile contains 2 slices of fish, some kind of egg roll which was indicated as a bacon cheesecake on the menu and a portion of small fish on a small aluminium foil bowl. It was accompanied with a bowl of miso soup and a packet of soy sauce. The meal did not look presentable but it was alright, and the portion adequate as well. However the dishes were mainly served cold except the soup which is warm.
Japanese breakfast set
For a 2 hour flight, I did not really expect much more than that though some desserts or fruits would have been nice to end the meal. With the short meal service, I reclined my seat to watch some TV shows and relax for the rest of the journey.
The angled flat seat was perfect for these kind of short haul flights and it was very comfortable even for a short nap. On a reclined mode, I found the seat to be much better than the Recaro seats on Malaysia Airlines A330 Business Class. It is probably more similar to Thai Airways Business Class on the 777.
Angled flat seats
The rest of the flight continued on without any incident and the cabin was really quiet considering how light the load was in Business Class with probably only one-third of the seats being occupied. I do believe the Economy Class cabin is quite full since it is the New Year's Holiday when I travelled and there were quite a few families travelling together in this flight.
Cruising on the A330
It was a very nice weather in Japan when we made the descent into Tokyo Haneda. And the treat being in the front cabin is perhaps more for the views as we passed by the town of Yokosuka.
Yokosuka and Kaneda Bay on descent into Tokyo
Town of Yokosuka
We even passed by Yokohama and was able to spot the bay bridge before landing into Tokyo Haneda since Tokyo's Haneda Airport is actually in between both Tokyo and Yokohama and a bus ride from the airport to Shinjuku takes the same time to reach Yokohama's city centre.
Yokohama city view
Arriving into Tokyo Haneda is always a joy, since the immigration was shorter than I have experienced from Narita. Furthermore I like the new airport terminal and my luggage was also handled properly being the first few to come off the conveyor belt thanks to the Priority sticker. That allowed me to purchase my bus tickets quickly and even have time to spare to shop for some snacks at the airport departure hall.
Business Class on the A330
While this flight might seem ordinary, there was nothing wrong with it. I got a nice breakfast even though it was not the best in terms of quality, and there was a nice view during the descent. The quiet cabin made it comfortable to get some rest and allowed me to finish the movie and watch a TV show. Most importantly it got me to where I wanted to be safely and at a convenient time. For that I would say, it got the job done and more.
Shanghai Airlines Airbus A330 at Tokyo Haneda
China Eastern V5 Lounge
Shanghai - SHA
Tokyo - HND
The cabin in Shanghai Airlines looks pretty good and is suitable for this regional flight. Catering onboard leaves little to be desired though and could have been improved, and I find China's airport lounges rely too much on packaged snacks with really old furnishings. More could be improved with regards to hard product on the ground. However, I have no qualms about flying Shanghai Airlines again as they seem to be an alright carrier for regional flights.
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