Review of Air China flight Hangzhou Chengdu in Economy

Airline Air China
Flight CA1741
Class Economy
Seat 30A
Aircraft Airbus A319
Flight time 03:00
Take-off 10 Jun 15, 07:40
Arrival at 10 Jun 15, 10:40
CA   #84 out of 130 Airlines A minimum of 20 Flight-Reports is required in order to appear in the rankings. 163 reviews
marathon
By GOLD 1289
Published on 11th April 2016
This flight was part of several flown in Mainland China for business. I usually fly Economy on domestic flights, per company rules, but I was traveling with a colleague with Star Alliance Gold status, and he invited me in the lounge, and you'll get a full report on it here.

This FR begins just after at the toll gate of the expressway exit to the airport. These men with signs were not hitch-hiking, but proposing informal parking spaces, presumably cheaper than the airport’s parking lots.

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Arrival at the airport’s terminal ; I do not remember if the one in the background was in operation.

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Ours was this one, anyway

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As a sign of their respective weights there, CA, on one hand, and CZ with MF (both in Skyteam) on the other hand, monopolize a checking counter zone each.

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It had been raining continuously in Hangzhou, in the city and in the airport, and even in the terminal : these are pails to collect the water from the roof’s leaks. The problem was limited and correctly managed, and this did not count as a cleanliness issue in my rating of the airport.

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Quite a lot of people waiting at the CA flights check in

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Some counters in Zone D were dedicated to specific destinations

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The flights to PEK were there, but this was not our destination

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If you miss my Taiwanese Flight Reports, note that Hello Kitty is popular on the Mainland too.

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A quarter of an hour to obtain this BP: it could have been faster, but this was still acceptable

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No problem at the security check ; a peek at a CA A319 on a wet tarmac

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An overall view of the terminal’s airside area where I did not stay long

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I could not refuse an opportunity to see the CA lounge at the invitation of my *A Gold colleague !

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Smiling welcome by the staff at the desk

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There was a daily newspaper and weekly magazine stand just after the welcome desk. There was a decent selection in English and Chinese (I remember struggling on a nevertheless fascinating article from the 周刊生活 that one of my Chinese teachers had made me study). The magazines had “for reading in the lounge” stickers.

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On the other hand, the China Daily is a quick reading matter because it is so hopelessly politically correct.

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The day before, the China Daily had published in full the annual Chinese Government White Book on Human Rights in the country, which took six full large format pages. It was worth reading, because these were six pages of referenced figures measuring the standard of living in Mainland China. This yearly publication is a manipulation for domestic use: the Chinese population is lead to believe that “human rights” is a synonym of “material comfort”, and cannot understand the foreign criticism of China on human rights, because they do not even know that the issues at stake are not what the word has been warped to mean in China.

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This was the only part on freedom of speech in six pages. Another accumulation of date on the number of internet users and newspapers, where the only significant sentence was the last one: “A cleaner cyber space is becoming an ever important place for the public to get information and make their voices heard”. In Chinese politically correct jargon, “clean” or “healthy” means “censored” or “closed to foreign influence or companies”. This seemingly innocuous sentence means that it is important to reinforce the internet censorship, a.k.a. the Great FireWall, and I am indeed impressed by the number of websites, services and foreign media which are now blocked if you don’t have a VPN.

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Let’s revert to the discovery of the lounge which is symmetrical on both sides of the welcome desk :it was small, and the windows did not provide a view on the tarmac (the weather was so bad that day that it did not make a difference).

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The lounge seen from the other side

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A FIDS in the background. All flights being checked in were listed, without any delay information, including our own in the center of the screen (CA1741, to 成都)

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A wall separated the welcome desk from the catering area, seen here on the right

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The catering area, seen from a closer position

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It was still early in the morning and this was therefore the breakfast offering. There was a decent variety, despite the small size of the lounge.

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It was of course a 100% Chinese breakfast, that may not be to the taste of foreigners, who were unlikely to be many. The only concession to their habits was the presence of plasticware, to the right of lacquered wood chopsticks and Chinese spoons in porcelain.

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The hot meals

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Resupply came quickly : the empty slot next to the Chinese noodles

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… was soon replenished with steamed vegetable wrapped in leaves tied with.

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Another concession to Western tastes : sandwich bread and a toaster, as well as coffee.

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Yogurt did not count as a Western meal : the Chinese have adopted it and eat vast quantities of it.

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My selection : rice porridge (“congee") with some vegetables to give it taste, noodles and a steamed bun.

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These armchairs were « temporarily closed »

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Or rather out of order

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There was no similar sign for the power ports

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… but with or without a cover, some had obviously a problem

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It did not matter since I found one which could provide power to my laptop. Like nearly everywhere in Mainland China, it was multi-standard, compatible with Type A, B, C, E, F and I plugs (the appliances sold in Mainland China have Type I plugs, or Type A for low power ones).

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The toilets were all the cleaner that a cleaning lady had just been there

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This was no cleaning lady, but a lounge staff announcing the boarding of a flight (not ours), all the way to the toilets’ entrance.

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On the other hand, the internet access was inconvenient

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In the same manner as in the general airside area in Chinese airports, a code sent by SMS to a Chinese cell phone was needed, and I had not bought a local SIM card for that trip. (It created repeated minor inconveniences during that trip, and I would buy one next time)

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I used the cell phone of my Chinese colleague and it failed. It did not matter: we did not have much time until boarding and at that time, Europe was getting to sleep and the Far-East was waking up, which meant that I was unlikely to have new e-mails since my departure from my hotel room.

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The roof had water leak problems not only landside

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But airside too. Travelers had dutifully not used this pail as a dustbin.

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The unavoidable hot and cold water fountain, to the left of the access to the toilets

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The weather was not improving outside

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This was the best I captured of a Loong Air A320 after pushback

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And as very often in Mainland China when there is a heavy rain

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… the penalty comes : flight delayed 25 minutes. It could have been worse

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Boarding was orderly : we boarded nearly on time, but that did not mean that we would take off on time.

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Going through an airbridge with windows

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The bad weather precluded any picture opportunity

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A second BP check at the door of the aircraft (the Chinese BPs have two detachable stubs)

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Chinese media next to the plane

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The J cabin : two rows in 2=2 layout

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And the Y cabin

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My seat in the last row

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The plane was gradually filling

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There was a pile of spare blankets on the aisle seat that a FA removed (there was one on my seat too).

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A decent seat pitch, as is customary on Chinese domestic flights

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The carpeting was clean

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The safety card, both sides

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Boarding was completed, but nothing was happening

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There was no third party advertising on the anti-macassars

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The local newspapers stand on the rear bulkhead

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I was not fascinated by the " Hangzhou News"

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The armrest with the audio channels selection

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This was where the headphones (quite good for Economy) were plugged in

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I listen to a Western pop music channel ; all others were Chinese only

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The armrest also had a functional ashtray

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This armrest has been the focus of an amusing scene : my neighbors were a rather old couple. The man wanted to listen to music with the headphones which had been provided, but insisted in turning the seat reclining button to turn on the volume.

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It did not help to show him the up/down volume keys…

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… there was no way to make him accept the notion that it did not work this way. The passenger on the aisle seat on the other side had to intervene and raise the volume the correct way.

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The weather was not improving outside

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Safety demonstration on the IFE screens, but there was no rush

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There was so little rush that we finally had a FA announcement : "Since the wait before takeoff will be even longer than expected, we are going to serve you lunch immediately”. This was a good initiative because all the passengers had of course got up very early.

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It was not this time "Chicken rice or Beef noodles ?", but "Western or Chinese ?”. I chose the Chinese option for this breakfast, which gave me a rare opportunity to have aviation noodles, because I usually choose the rice option.

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The same, after unwrapping

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My neighbor chose the Western option which I found visually unappealing.

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That was incredible, but I managed to open this yogurt. The Chinese are used to drinking yogurt with a straw, and it is often strictly impossible to open a yogurt this way.

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An Air China, therefore mediocre, coffee (aviation coffee is worst in Taiwan,).

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The full set of plasticware, including the straw for the yogurt

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Note the cute double heart on the coffee stirrer

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The fork and spoons are equally cute : 博爱 means "universal love", or "fraternity" in a non undergraduate university context.

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The weather made no sign of improving outside

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Push back at long last : the FAs check the seat belts

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HGH under the rain

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Better not mention plane spotting in these conditions

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The IFE screens displayed the airshow for a while

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But is did not last, and I had only the time of my pictures to help me localize my pictures.

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Air to air picture of a plane which was flying much too low compared to us (in the center of the picture)

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An interchange in construction

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The meanders of a river 20’ away from CTU

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I wondered what this infrastructure spotted 19’ from CTU could be : a logistics center ?

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On the other hand, this was obviously an air base, 6’ from CTU

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Flying above the urban area of Chengdu

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An amusement park about 4’ away from CTU

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Another interchange – note the walkways for pedestrians on both sides of the main bridge.

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A wide expense of land has been razed, probably for building housing buildings like in the background.

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No interchange here

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Touchdown at 12:22

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A CZ A330 seen during taxiing
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An an HO A320 HO (Juneyao Airlines, on which I flew my unforgettable LCX – SHA flight out of a semi-secret airport)

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A shart taxi and arrival at the terminal at 12 :25 next to this MU 332. That meant the flight was 1h45’ late and that we would not be reach our meeting on time.

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The empty Y cabin at deplaning

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And going through the two rows of J before leaving the plane.

This is the end of the flight report, and the beginning of a rather heterogeneous bonus, because I had not been there for tourism purposes. I had made the Shanghai –Hangzhou trip in this conventional train:

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There was not a single high train in Mainland China twenty years ago, but today they are on par with those of other countries, with a total length which shames their rivals. The comfort of Chinese conventional trains also made considerable progress in the same period, but there are remains of Chinese railway travel of yore, with these staff checking tickets at each train door.

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And these peddlers who keep passing in the train during the two hour trip, here with sweets

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There, a passenger was eating the noodles in hot soup that he had just bought (the smell is missing in this bonus)

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There, these were household detergents (I was mystified that you could buy that in a train ; I had seen it before)

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This one had fruit, and this young traveler (who had a Hello Kitty bag) seemed interested.

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Two hours later, I was in the oversized central station of Hangzhou

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This train only went to Chongqing, which was not far by Chinese train standards.

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The weather had been awful in Hangzhou, and not only on the day of my flight to Chengdu. This was no day for renting a bicycle. I see such bicycle rentals in a growing number of major Chinese cities, but only residents can use them.

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A walk alongside the river, then ? It was not all that much fun under an umbrella

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The Qiantang river which flows through Hangzhou has funnel shaped estuary, hence a local phenomenon which is reminded by this sign

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High amplitude tides result in the generation of a the most powerful tidal bores in the world, which can be deadly if you venture on the banks at the wrong time on the wrong days. This was not the day for the Silver Dragon (the name the the Chinese gave it), though.

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Better return after this lunch break to the building where my meeting were held. Since I was no resident of Hangzhou, I had no bicycle …

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… and I would not have a chance to disrespect this picturesque parking lot entrance sign

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This was not the best day for tourism in Hangzhou, but I only needed a one yuan bill to show you the place which Hangzhou is famous for in China (but not much outside China). No, there is no link with Mao who is on all Chinese bills from one yuan up,

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Hangzhou’s West Lake, which is now listed in Unesco’s World Heritage List, appears on the other side of the bill. How many of my readers (including those who went to Mainland China) knew it?

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Thanks for reading me all the way to here !
See more

Verdict

Air China

8.1/10
Cabin8.0
Cabin crew10.0
Entertainment/wifi5.5
Meal/catering9.0

Air China Lounge

9.0/10
Comfort10.0
Meal/catering10.0
Entertainment/wifi6.0
Services10.0

Hangzhou - HGH

7.9/10
Efficiency7.5
Access8.0
Services8.0
Cleanliness8.0

Chengdu - CTU

9.5/10
Efficiency10.0
Access9.0
Services9.0
Cleanliness10.0

Conclusion

The waiting time at the check-in in HGH was reasonable, and going through the security check was quick.

CA’s lounge in HGH was small, but the catering was copious, on the condition to like Chinese food. The internet access did not work, but there were newspapers and magazines in Chinese and in English.

The punctuality of the flight was a total failure. The FAs took a good initiative in serving the meal on the ground, which had the double advantage of feeding passengers who were hungry and keep them busy during that waiting time. The comfort on board was within Chinese domestic standards, i.e. correct.

Nothing special in CTU, where the luggage delivery and the access to the taxi stand were quick.

The main weak point of CA’s lounge in HGH was the failure of the internet access (I found that Internet access degraded in Mainland China), and the lack of tarmac view. On the other hand, the catering and seat comfort were very good.

Related

6 Comments

  • Comment 161849 by
    eminere™ 271 Comments

    I'm impressed the crew made the decision to serve the inflight meal while parked on the ground. I imagine they had an idea of the extent of the delay and thus deemed it sufficiently lengthy to conduct the meal service? Otherwise that would add to the rolling delay as the meal trays still have to be cleared and trays checked to be stowed.

    • Comment 338214 by
      marathon GOLD AUTHOR 9332 Comments

      Yes indeed, they must have received the information from the control tower that the flight would be delayed at least an extra hour, due to the bad weather at the airport.
      Thanks for stopping by and for your comment !

  • Comment 161887 by
    Rl 777 810 Comments

    Thank you for sharing this FR with us!

    Nice details on the plasticware.

    The cabin looks pretty clean.

    Great aerial shots throughout the flight!

    Nice spotting shots (At HGH despite the weather and at CTU).

    Thank you for the interesting bonus!

    Have a good one, see you!

    • Comment 338277 by
      marathon GOLD AUTHOR 9332 Comments

      I had been lucky with regards to the weather : pouring rain during in Chengdu for business meetings, but a glorious weather on Saturday, which gave me the bonus of Flight CA1232 (XIY-PEK).
      Thanks for your comment !

    • Comment 345846 by
      marathon GOLD AUTHOR 9332 Comments

      I do not remember reading a Flight Report where such a pre-take off meal was served on board.

      It was indeed a good lounge; the one in CTU (see the CTU-XIY) was even better.

      I have terrible memories of a long trip in a Chinese train 15 years ago. Staff was regularly mopping the garbage and spilled drinks on a floor where nobody would want to place a suitcase, but all overhead luggage racks were full. The seats were dreadfully uncomfortable, too.

      Thanks for your comment !

  • Comment 162082 by
    jetsetpanda 2296 Comments

    Thank you Marathon for sharing another mainland adventure.

    The lounge looks decent enough (except for the internet access problem) and adequately catered (provided you have an inclination for Chinese food). The quality of the chopsticks and spoons compared to the plastic eating utensils is a subtle clue as to the priorities of this club. The concession to Western tastes seems like just an afterthought.

    In all my travels I have never encountered a flight in which the meals were served on the ground and indeed this is a rare occurrence. I don't think that we will ever see that happening in the U.S.

    The coffee stirrer reminds me of CX. Perhaps some cross utilization of supplies? ;)

    Nice aerials and bonus as usual. Train travel within China doesn't look that bad.

    See you.

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