Review of China Eastern flight Shanghai Taipei in Economy

Airline China Eastern
Flight MU5007
Class Economy
Seat 75L
Aircraft Airbus A330-300
Flight time 01:30
Take-off 26 Feb 13, 12:30
Arrival at 26 Feb 13, 14:00
MU   #76 out of 123 Airlines A minimum of 10 flight-reports within the past two years is required to appear in the rankings. 164 reviews
marathon
By GOLD 1560
Published on 25th April 2016
This was the last segment of a round trip between Taipei and Paris via China:

TPE – PEK (Air China, 333)
PEK – CDG (Air France, 77W)
CDG – PVG (China Eastern, 332)
PVG – TPE (China Eastern, 333) YOU ARE HERE

I was checking my watch, and after spending an hour with a friend in his office overlooking People’s Square (the name of the central square in many Chinese cities), it was already time to head back to PVG, that I had left on the visa exemption rule (the conditions have been extended since that flight, but you still need to fly to and from two different countries, which precludes a round trip to Shanghai). The network of galleries under Shanghai’s People Square is as complex as its subway network, but the signage is excellent. Once past the turnstiles, there are many directions on the ground like these.

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I won’t describe the trip on the Transrapid magnetic levitation train : it was like on the way in and the time slots when it travels at it maximum speed during the trip are so narrow that it was again an ordinary 301 km/h maximum trip. This would not be the time when I would increase my ground transport speed record.

Skyteam’s airlines are at Terminal 1, as well as a few others, but MU of course has the lion’s share, since Shanghai is its main hub.

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The walk from the Transrapid station was all the longer that I eventually reached the domestic end of Terminal 1, which was somewhat jammed. Good thing that I already had my BP obtained in CDG, because I did not have a lot of spare time.

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In politically correct Chinese parlance, flights to Taiwan are not international, but they are not domestic either.

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There was a quite long wait at the immigration, and at the security check too, all the more that six passengers claiming that their flight was about to leave passed in front of me with the agreement of the staff. I was actually in a similar situation, because I took this picture at 11:59 once airside, and boarding was scheduled at 11:40. And since I did not have any checked luggage, nothing would stop the plane from leaving without me.

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It was indeed the last call for Flight MU5007 to Taipei at Gate 19. Flight CI502 to Taipei, moved from Gate 19 to Gate 17, had not left yet.

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In other words, it was not the right time to start a lengthy plane spotting session. Anyway, the weather had not improved since my landing 4 ½ hours earlier, as you will see.

I would not try to challenge the accuracy of the German on line agency which had sold me my ticket and announced that this last segment would be on a 346.

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Once in Taipei, flightaware.com, an a website of unchallengeable accuracy confirmed that I had flow on a 346.

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But when I looked again at the picture taken on the fly from the air bridge, I had a slight doubt : I could not dare challenge the accuracy of the Chinese pilots, and this plane had not been stopped on the A340-600 mark (sorry for the reflections, I had not time to improve the shot).

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It was nevertheless a 346, according to my aircraft identification skills (I would not dare qualify its accuracy, but it is often challenged on this website ^^).

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I tried checking the safety card, but I had a real problem with the reflections that day: they masked the type of the aircraft.

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The seat diagram in J on seatguru gave me on other choice but reference this flight as having been flown in a 333. I had a slight doubt on the accuracy of seatguru, where I failed to locate my seat 75L.

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I had been among the last to board. It was a wrong MU travel world : I would not have minded having a full aircraft on the short PVG-TPE leg, but I wished I had had a lie-flat bed for the CDG-PVG night.

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Especially since I would not have been disturbed by an infant in a bassinet. I counted 41 passengers in this second Y cabin, hardly more than a third of the capacity, and that made visually even fewer, because most of them were towards the front of the aircraft.

I had missed an opportunity to fly in a 346, but it made a lot of economic sense for MU to change the aircraft to a smaller 333, if it was big enough for the return flight.

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Safety demonstration on the IFE screens

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Then came the announcement of a delay due to air traffic control : no doubt it was a Chinese flight. The plane was had not moved an inch and I observed the ground staff finishing the loading of the holds through rain stained windows. The FAs did not prohibit moving around in the plane, which gave me the opportunity to take a shot of this cabin which was really empty, shortly before they introduced them selves and bowed in front of the passengers.

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The ad on the antimacassar is for maotai, a very strong and expensive spirit, which is highly prized in Chinese banquets. This one is produced in Guizhou province, the poorest of all provinces in China, known mostly for its domestic workers working in the major coastal cities, like the one I had in Beijing.

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The waiting was endless, but I kept typing my report of the previous flight, since using an electronic device was unlikely to endanger the aircraft. The FAs passed around to distribute cups of water, like in Paris when my previous MU flight was delayed too.

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Since I could move around in the plane, I took a picture of the KLM 744 parked at the next gate (the air bridge was really spotter unfriendly)

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Pushback at long last at 13 :21, which was ETD+51’

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Then came a tour of PVG, but the smog was awful.

Hong Kong Airlines A330

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Air China A321

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JAL 738

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Aeroflot A330

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Korean Air 744 freighter

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Shanghai Airlines 763

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Eva Air 744, operating the short TPE-PVG line

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China Southern A320

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The alignment of FM and MU aircraft parked in the distance, vanishing in the haze

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We only see three out of four Juneyao Airlines A320s parked next to each other; passengers were deplaning out of the first one.

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Take off at last at about 13:45, i.e. 1h15’ late, after another long wait (the air traffic control, again) before the runway. The captain announced a 1h30’ flight time.

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Seat 75L was on the right, with adverse lighting conditions, but since I was not going to be a nuisance to other passengers, I moved to have a view of the left wing.

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And the winglet

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This is the fuel dumping outlet.

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Since the cabin was so empty, I went even further towards the front of the second Y cabin, when the emergency exit seat was empty.

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Another winglet-shot

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And a zoom on the reactor for Rolls lovers

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I could not expect much from the view through the window, since the route is mostly over the ocean. It was time for lunch anyway, and I was getting quite hungry, because my previous meal had been at 5 am on the incoming flight.

It was a standard Chinese short haul meal, without a choice of hot meal, with a vegetable salad (in Taiwan, tofu is considered as a vegetable in common vocabulary), a very decent chicken-rice, bread and a genoise with chestnut filling which was quite caloric and therefore welcome.

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All that was not high level gastronomy, but it was good, and in the top of what you can expect in the world in Economy on a flight lasting 1h30’ according to the schedule, but 1h15’ in reality. I liked it better than on the one hour longer TPE-PEK outbound flight.

It was served very quickly since the flight was so empty, and a FR came to spontaneously offer me a second cup of coffee.

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I was on the wrong side to see Taiwan at the arrival, and I was too tired to change seat again, but the weather was such that I could not expect exceptional vistas.

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Final descent on TPE Runway 23R, which was a rather unusual orientation.

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I was sorry the air was so hazy, because I wish I could have a taken a better shot of this FAT (Far Eastern Air Transport) 757 in a red advertising livery. FAT had not operated this type of aircraft for years, but still displayed a 757 on the home page of its webpage. They had more important matters to handle at the time they were struggling out of a three year grounding for bankruptcy.

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Arrival at Terminal 2 at 15:06, i.e . 66’ late.

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Not much walking involved ; this is the fork between arrivals and connections.

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Overlooking the seldom used Customs counters before going down one level.

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The immigration officer was no beauty queen, but she compensated her looks by the smile of a Taiwanese immigration office, as wide and natural as they always are, when she gave me back my passport and resident’s card. I thanked her :

- 謝謝 !
- 不會 !

This was precisely the moment when I felt back in Taiwan. This idiomatic answer is typically Taiwanese (the Mainland Chinese use a different expression). This politeness of the immigration officer was part of the tiny pleasures of life in Taiwan, and administratively speaking, I had only been in Taiwan for a few seconds only before receiving it.

I had no checked luggage and went directly to the customs.

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And towards this welcome sign which displayed a “comfortable" 25°C temperature, while it was freezing in Paris, with a giant picture of the basalt organs of Huching Island, in the Penghu archipelago.

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Of course, you should go there at sunset to have such a good lighting, but the tour boats leave very early in the morning from Magong (MKG).

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Nobody was waiting for me landside ; far right, this was the corridor to the bus station of the city center (and many other destinations).

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The Penghu archipelago was again mentioned in this other tourist advertising. This fish weir which is submerged at high tide has been built in the last century by two brothers, Yen Chong and Yen Yuji.

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It is located on the tiny Qimei island. For amateurs of an exotic day trip, note that Daily Air operates the KHH-CMJ-MKG route and back with a Dornier 228.

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I was not there, but at the stop for Bus 1819, which all my readers know to be the semi-direct bus towards Taipei’s central station, for a small 125 TWD fare.

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Flight Report was blocked by the internet censorship in Mainland China at that time (in 2015, it was still the case in Changsha, but not in the other cities that I visited), but I was back in Taiwan and my 3G adapter provided me a last minute chance to take a corporate screen shot…

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… before reaching the East gate of Taipei’s main station, 25 hours (including one of sleep) after leaving my Paris home.

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Fortunately, the 28th of February, an official holiday in Taiwan, was only two days later, which would ease my return. That this day (“228” in Taiwanese parlance) has been made a official commemorative day shows that Taiwan has accepted to look back at the dark pages of its history.

I did not attend again the commemorations, which I described in the bonus of this FR.

In the 228 Park, next to the stone marker of the entrance of the 228 Memorial Museum stands one the 100,000 peace poles planted around the world at the initiative of Masahisa Goi (1916-1980) of Japan. They all bear the prayer “May peace prevail on earth” in several languages on its sides. Note that the translation is not the same in simplified Chinese in the center and traditional Chinese on the right, even though it is the same language.

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I have never seen one in Mainland China, probably because it started in Japan, and yet this prayer makes a lot of sense in this China – Japan – Taiwan triangle.

Look at these three stamps in my passport: there were two flights in this triangle, with KIX-TPE on November 2nd, 2012 and PVG-TPE on February 26th, 2013. The red Mainland Chinese stamp was similar to the one received in PEK, but I did not get a bulky stamp indicating a maximum departure date, because it was a same day departure.

In between the two flights, Taipei’s entry stamp had changed : the sober acronym « ROC”
(Republic Of China) had been replaced by “ ROC (Taiwan)” . The name of Taiwan in clear with the word “Republic” must set tempers in Mainland China, and this was most probably neither by chance or by mistake.

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This was an obvious answer to the issuance in November 2012 of a new passport model by Mainland China, which displays a map including all its territorial claims, including Taiwan. The neighboring countries protested, and Indonesia (I believe) used a correction stamp on these passports.

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© Reuters/Wall Street Journal

And to drive matters further with regards to Taiwan, another page of this new Chinese passport shows as a backdrop image the small Lalu island in Sun Moon Lake, an iconic Taiwanese tourist spot (I was not impressed when I visited it).

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Lalu Island, in Sun Moon Lake

The Japanese sentence on the peace poles means literally “May the peoples in the world be in peace”.

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I share this prayer with all the travelers who contribute to building this peace when talking with people around the world.
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Verdict

China Eastern

8.3/10
Cabin9.5
Cabin crew8.5
Entertainment/wifi6.0
Meal/catering9.0

Shanghai - PVG

8.2/10
Efficiency6.0
Access9.0
Services8.0
Cleanliness10.0

Taipei - TPE

9.6/10
Efficiency10.0
Access8.5
Services10.0
Cleanliness10.0

Conclusion

The inconvenience of a delay is a more significant factor than its actual absolute or relative value, and as a result, I rate being 66’ late in TPE (i.e. 73% of the scheduled flight duration) as being less bad than being 35’ late (5% of the flight duration) arriving in PVG. The delay of the first flight wasted precious time with a friend in Shanghai, whereas I did not really mind staying one hour less in the office in Taipei.

I had private widebody jet comfort on that flight, with as many seats and rows to choose from as I wanted, and deplaning was of course extremely fast. The time spent in PVG to go through the immigration and security check is the reason for the lower grade of PVG.

The staff on board and on the ground in both airports were excellent, and I did not have much to say about the food served on such a short flight.

Information on the route Shanghai (PVG) Taipei (TPE)

The contributors of Flight-Report published 5 reviews of 2 airlines on the route Shanghai (PVG) → Taipei (TPE).


Useful

The airline with the best average rating is Air China with 7.1/10.

The average flight time is 1 hours and 41 minutes.

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2 Comments

  • Comment 348248 by
    jetsetpanda 2294 Comments

    Thank you Marathon for sharing this last segment of your series with such a positive and encouraging message in your bonus.

    Taiwan seems like an interesting place and from what I've read and told, it is one of those places that looks deceivingly like a certain way but it behaves like another. Some compare it to China with Japanese manners. Another comparison is through a joke and it goes like this:

    - A Taiwanese and Mainland Chinese will both buy the same expensive watch at the same price. While the Taiwanese will boast o his friends about how little he paid for it, his mainland counterpart will do the opposite and let everyone know how much he spent.

    See you later.

  • Comment 348249 by
    jetsetpanda 2294 Comments

    Sometimes I type too fast and I left out the comments about your trip. My apologies.

    Out of all the mainland airlines, I think Juneyao has one of the nicest liveries.

    Glad that you finally found evidence to support your doubt about the type of aircraft that you were on Being on an empty flight is a rare luxury these days. Onboard service looked very good with FA's taking the initiative to serve at least water during the delay. Your meal has a good proportion of protein and rice, unlike some other dishes where most of it is rice.

    Thanks again for sharing this insightful FR.

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