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
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.
Departure hallway of Shanghai Pudong Airport Terminal 1
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Massage chair in the Gate 19 lounge
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.
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.
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.
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.
Assorted stir-fry vegetable
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.
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.
Lettuce fish ball soup
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.
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.
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.
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
Boarding China Eastern A330
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Breakfast and snack menu
The wine and beverage list was exactly the same as my outbound flight.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
Business Class cabin
Shanghai - PVG
Singapore - SIN
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.
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