Review of China Eastern flight Shanghai Singapore in Business

Airline China Eastern
Flight MU543
Class Business
Seat 8H
Aircraft Airbus A330-200
Flight time 05:26
Take-off 11 Jan 16, 00:02
Arrival at 11 Jan 16, 05:28
MU   #59 out of 107 Airlines A minimum of 10 flight-reports within the past two years is required to appear in the rankings. 164 reviews
Quirrow
By 2595
Published on 29th April 2016
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 -> Read it here
3) MU540 HND-PVG -> Read it here
4) MU543 PVG-SIN -> Current Report

As always, readers could get the full report from my blog here: http://quirrow.wordpress.com

photo 25671206170_b0bf319315_b
China Eastern Business class lounge at Gate 19

Arriving into Shanghai's Pudong Airport in Terminal 1, I made my way quickly through the transit counter and was able to pass through security quickly as I was one of the first transit passengers in line. Back on the departure hallway, I found it to be dark and really a depressing sort of space compared to Terminal 2. What confused me was the numerous China Eastern operated lounges in this Terminal 1. I thought of going into the first Sky Team lounge but that was not possible as my flight departs near the gates in the 20s, I had to use the lounge closest to my gate. Apparently China Eastern operates several small lounges just by the gates so they might have some sort of capacity control.

photo 25850965632_787290cede_b
Departure hallway of Shanghai Pudong Airport Terminal 1

photo 25540324635_efa183c2bf_b
Signs to the lounges

Having obtained the lounge invite from one of the lounges I visited first, I made my way to the Gate 22 lounge which was scrawled on the lounge invite. Even though it looks kind of new with a nice reception area, the lounge did not have showers when I asked for them. Instead the lounge agents directed me to walk back to the Gate 19 lounge which has showers. Returning to the Gate 19 lounge, I discovered an empty lounge with only one staff operating the counter and a cleaning lady somewhere in the back. With no other guest, I got one of the 2 shower rooms which was clean and spacious enough.

photo 25971764005_a0ea3733dc_b
Shower room at Gate 19 Business class lounge

There is a shower cubicle, toilet and vanity counter inside and it was brightly lit. Two wall mounted dispensers contains shampoo and a shower gel but they were not really labelled properly. There was also a basket containing some useful toiletries like a comb and a toothbrush with a paper cup. Towels were also packed inside a plastic bag for guests to use.

photo 25244695740_b757480834_b
Shower room amenities

One interesting amenity was a rubber slipper that was provided in the shower room. Granted it might be to prevent contact with the slippery floor, but since it is a shared public slipper used by countless guests, I wonder how hygienic it still is.

photo 25421777862_c2af7d3900_b
Slippers in the shower room

After my shower in the Gate 19 lounge, I thought of getting some food and drinks in this lounge as it was quiet and empty. However the lounge agent insisted I should return back to the Gate 22 lounge. The logic of how the China Eastern Business class lounges work in Shanghai Pudong is sure puzzling, considering most of the amenities are the same. I find staff members in Asia generally follows the rules far too closely. I sure wished they could be more flexible in certain circumstances.

photo 25971763425_3a4ccd5a93_b
Buffet counter and dining space

While I did not linger in the Gate 19 lounge, it was perhaps average in terms of seating and food selection. There is a magazine rack at the end near the shower area filled with Chinese magazines and newspapers covering all sorts of interests.

photo 25540322955_0a300f7352_b
Magazine rack filled with Chinese magazines

The lounge even has a massage chair that seems to be absent in some of the other lounges. So that was probably a nice reason to get assigned to this lounge instead.

photo 24909790304_3b6ab706e1_b
Massage chair in the Gate 19 lounge

photo 25514192356_5c7c67a791_b
Pastries and sweets

Returning to the Gate 22 Business class lounge, I went to find a seat to drop my bags. With an open layout and a being a relatively small size, the lounge is visible from the buffet counter located behind the reception area.

photo 24909777364_c2192e2997_b
Reception desk at Gate 22 Business class lounge

There is a bar counter and a magazine shelf that was filled once again with the Chinese publications.

photo 24913590663_c1ffbdd86c_b
Bar counter and magazine rack

And beside the bar counter lies the beverage fridge that stocks soft drinks, juices, beers, sandwiches and cut fruit platters. It was also nice that there was ice provided from the refrigerator beside the beverage fridge.

photo 25244681170_4901df4810_b
Beverage fridge

The rest of the buffet section has a variety of hot food and snacks. There are 4 choices of stir-fry dishes, with 3 being vegetable based, and one being a chicken and mushroom stir-fry. Having had dinner on the incoming flight, I was not appealed by the food offered in the lounge.

photo 25244683720_43ea4d4abb_b
Assorted stir-fry vegetable

photo 24913593823_d2ddc8fff1_b
Chicken and vegetarian stir-fry

There are also a choice of fried rice and noodles which is probably the safer choice if one is really hungry.

photo 25244687270_751e2dd68f_b
Fried rice and noodle

At the other corner of the buffet table, there is a pot of lettuce fish ball soup along with a variety of snacks and candies. I just grabbed some snacks and tried a bit of the soup for the supper.

photo 25421768322_d61f383fc8_b
Lettuce fish ball soup

photo 24913597593_800428ce3a_b
Snacks on the counter

Located beside the buffet table are some bar tables and stools catering to guests who wants to eat since the lounge seating only has side tables. Even then the space was not large by any means and the whole layout felt like a small North American airlines lounge.

photo 25244690660_7988a5fd6e_b
Dining area in Gate 22 lounge

With a somewhat long layover, I was quite disappointed with what was offered in the lounge especially considering Shanghai Pudong is the main hub for China Eastern international flights. The disappointment went on with the wifi signal which is spotty and does not really allow for video streaming as I was hoping to spend the time by watching some videos.

photo 25514177266_93acbfcc19_b
Seating in the Gate 22 lounge

Many of the seating in the lounge also looked kind of dirty with stains all over and just did not make guests comfortable. If there was any investment China Eastern needs to make, it probably should start with consolidating and renovating these pathetic lounges. I find it reflects badly on an airline if they cannot even manage to put on a good show for passengers in their main hub and maybe that is why China Eastern gets a lot of bad reviews even thought their airline offering is not that bad. To be sure, unless China Eastern does something to their facilities in Pudong Airport Terminal 1, I would avoid long layovers with them, and choose one of the other Chinese carriers like Air China or China Southern which has better lounges in Beijing and Guangzhou respectively.

photo 25172767529_f3d2339789_b
Shanghai Airlines A330 to operate MU543 to Singapore

I was glad when the time came to board the plane as I was getting tired and China Eastern's lounges weren't really a conducive place to spend the hours in. Boarding was conducted efficiently and there was not a large crowd waiting for this red-eye flight to Singapore so I did manage to board early being seated in the front cabin.

MU543 Shanghai Pudong PVG - Singapore Changi SIN
STD-STA: 2350-0520
Actual: 0002-0528
Airbus A330-200 B-6546
Gate 21 Seat 8H

photo 25850968432_9c8d2ab80b_b
Boarding China Eastern A330

photo 25945857736_737e7f22f7_b
Seat 8J and 8L

Similar to my outbound from Singapore to Shanghai, this return flight was by China Eastern but operated by a plane with Shanghai Airlines' livery. Inside it was the familiar 2-2-2 layout with full lie-flat seats that Air China also utilizes for its Singapore-Beijing route.

photo 25343041773_01d47430f8_b
Seat 8H with pillow and blanket

On every seat there was a pillow and a blanket while the slippers were wrapped in a shoe bag and placed in the storage area beside the seat back monitor. After placing my luggage on the overhead compartment, I went to charge my mobile phone through the USB port underneath the armrest. At this time the cabin crew came around to distribute welcome drinks and fresh towels.

photo 25172764009_dd99201f17_b
Welcome drink and towel

Granted this cabin configuration does not provide window seats with aisle access, but it sure was comfortable for an overnight red-eye flight since it is dark outside throughout the flight. That was why I picked an aisle seat in the centre column. The large size of the monitor is another plus point.

photo 25850969982_10c2e21dc8_b
Inflight personal monitor

Boarding continued as I relaxed and made myself comfortable for this short red-eye into Singapore and I was already planning to sleep for most of the flight. Loads in Business Class turns out to be more than half full, with the port side to be filled up with families travelling to Singapore with the elderly. On the starboard side, there was some business passengers.

photo 25971770055_9b86122478_b
View from 8H

While we were on the ground, the crew distributed the menu. The meal menu was similar in that all the choices for the year was listed, with choices depending on odd/even months and either first half of the month or second half. All the choices can be seen in the full photo album for this flight.

photo 25540290245_f3700f722e_b
Inflight menu

photo 25244673650_851d658ecf_b
Breakfast and snack menu

The wine and beverage list was exactly the same as my outbound flight.

photo 25540290205_59a6d03502_b
Wine list

photo 25514158886_d73eb08e30_b
Wine list

photo 25244664360_93010a85d4_b
Beverage list

I was expecting the meal orders to be taken since I thought breakfast would be served. However it turns out the flight attendant just asked if I wanted to be woken for breakfast since there would be no choice as only the snack listed would be served for this flight. Perhaps it is to maximize sleeping time for passengers but it is something to note that some Asian airlines do not cater much food for red-eye flights. I also wondered why bother with the full food menu if no choices are given anyway.

Since I was going to have a long layover in Singapore and planned to pass immigration to visit the city for some errands, I asked to be woken up for the snack. Our flight did manage to pull back early and even depart earlier than scheduled. Once we passed cruising altitude, I reclined my seat all the way to a bed and managed to sleep all the way until they woke me up for breakfast.

photo 25447544891_74a90b6722_b
Hot tea with towel

The snack service began with another refreshing towel along with a cup of hot tea. Because not all the passengers were awake for the meal service, the lights remains turned off. The snack tray consisted of a fruit plate as the appetizer and a main plate that contains 3 different dim sum items. One was a minced beef rice burger and they used a purple and white glutinous rice, another was a water cress dumpling and finally a bun filled with crab. The last one was the tastiest snack though it was not a filling meal.

photo 25514157076_b4ec311a11_b
Dim sum for breakfast

After the snack, I went to the lavatory to freshen up and brushed my teeth since I would be going out into the city later on arrival. It was not long before the pilot announced out descent and the cabin crew turned on the lights in the cabin. On this flight, the crew distributed lukewarm water with lemon for passengers along with more fresh towels. I thought it was a nice touch so passengers can refresh after maximizing their sleep time since it was a short flight with less than 6 hours in the air.

photo 24913570353_28a52c281b_b
Pre-arrival service

During the descent, I browsed through the inflight magazine that China Eastern has. The language difference certainly makes it harder for foreigners to appreciate the East Asian Airlines' (ANA, Asiana, JAL and the Chinese carriers) inflight magazines.

photo 25514153656_6fed59db1c_b
Connections magazine

Even though our departure was not late by any means, we did land slightly behind schedule. It was still dark outside in Changi Airport when we landed but I did have a nice sleep on the flight and was refreshed enough. This flight with China Eastern had minimal interaction with the cabin crew since I spent most of the time asleep. For the red-eye flight, the seat did what it was supposed to do but the lack of sleeping amenities like socks, moisturizers and lip balms does not make it a real premium flight. To be fair, they did hand out eye shades. If passengers wanted to maximize sleep time, this flight certainly does it quite well and the service was very good too as I liked how they gave out fresh towels and warm water as a wake-up call before landing. Finally as a gauge of value, the flight on China Eastern to get to Japan from South East Asia does offer decent value for the price I paid and as Business Class tickets earns more miles, they certainly add to the overall value of flying upfront. For the right price, I would not hesitate to fly with them again but I would definitely minimize the transit time in Shanghai!

photo 25850972042_b003937d6c_b
Business Class cabin
See more

Verdict

China Eastern

7.5/10
Cabin8.5
Cabin crew8.0
Entertainment/wifi8.0
Meal/catering5.5

Lounge #22

6.1/10
Comfort5.5
Meal/catering6.5
Entertainment/wifi6.5
Services6.0

Shanghai - PVG

5.2/10
Efficiency5.5
Access7.0
Services4.5
Cleanliness4.0

Singapore - SIN

9.8/10
Efficiency10.0
Access9.0
Services10.0
Cleanliness10.0

Conclusion

China Eastern needs to update its ground handling and connections in Pudong. Their lounge system in their hub airport also certainly needs a lot of upgrades and ever a restructure. Otherwise the lie flat seats was very comfortable for a red-eye flight and it certainly is a cheap way to get between Japan and South East Asia.

Information on the route Shanghai (PVG) Singapore (SIN)

1 Comments

Login to post a comment.