Hello, and welcome to the beginning of another SkyTeam adventure with your faithful Flight-reporter.
This report comes on the heels of my previous adventure, which saw me briefly visit Johannesburg with Air France, and this one was actually booked immediately afterwards. Having “given up” on a really good price for a year-opening status/vacation/fun run, I booked the Air France trip, only for China Eastern to launch one its periodic business class sales from Toronto to much of Southeast Asia days after. Fortunately, I was in a position to say “Why not both?”
I’ll be very interested in this trip. I’ve heard and read mixed things about China Eastern, and I’m curious to experience the airline for myself and draw my own conclusions. One thing I can’t argue — this was a pretty good deal for international business class, coming in at a little less than 10 cents per status mile, and thanks to China Eastern’s very generous earning rates on SkyMiles, just about 6 cents per mile in terms of redeemable miles.
Here’s the rundown of this itinerary, which gives me about 18 hours on the ground in Singapore — basically a full day, assuming I manage sleep correctly en route.
MU208 YYZ-PVG 1/15/2017 - You are here MU543 PVG-SIN 1/16/2017 - Coming soon MU566 SIN-PVG 1/17/2017 - After that MU207 PVG-YYZ 1/18/2017 - And finally, this
I ended up getting to Pearson Terminal 3 earlier than I expected, which is impressive, since I left home later than expected. Gotta love Sunday morning (lack of) traffic. And like the roads, T3 was pretty deserted as well.
When I first approached the check in — located front and centre between check-in rows — I was informed they wouldn’t open for another 20 minutes later. When I came back, the lineup had started amongst those who like to arrive early. Fortunately, nobody was in the Sky Priority lineup, so it wouldn’t be much of a wait.
Which is kind of too bad, because MU had thoughtfully provided snacks should the SP lineup be too long. This is an impressive little bit of attention to detail.
Check-in took all of about two minutes, an “approved cabin baggage” tag was attached to my carry-on, my boarding passes were printed, a pass for the Plaza Premium Lounge was provided, and I was on my way. Security was very quick as it’s very early in the day for international traffic ex-T3, so within a few minutes, I was free on the airside. Once I passed through the required Duty Free Shopping zone, of course.
Again, they’ve done a nice job of revitalizing the public areas of T3 international. I just wish they’d do the same with the dingy digs that are the transborder section of the terminal.
No point in planespotting on the way to the lounge this morning — I did not see any planes at gates the whole way out to the end of the terminal.
Lounges in T3 international are upstairs — there’s a BA lounge, the AF/KL lounge I visited on my AF trip, and Plaza Premium. Technically, as a SkyTeam Elite Plus, I could visit AF/KL, but in this case, I’m going to stick with Plaza Premium, as it’s not a lounge I’ve visited yet.
A short walk, and here we are. It seems that along with MU, Cathay and Hainan contract out this lounge.
Inside, my invitation is accepted, my boarding pass scanned, and I’m welcomed inside.
The lounge is fairly nice for Plaza Premium, reasonably large, split into two main rooms with a faux-wall between them, with a reasonably-sized dining area as well. It’s a little dark between the lighting and the colour choices, but there are windows facing airside. There’s pleasant background music playing, but not loud enough to either be distracting itself, or force conversation volume levels upwards.
A blurry shot of one of the TV-and-reading material stations in the lounge.
And a less blurry shot of the other one.
As I arrive in the lounge, the first arrival of the morning, a Cathay 77W, clues me into the fact that it’s not going stay perfectly quiet in here very long, especially with MU’s inbound also due very soon.
The aforementioned dining area.
The buffet starts with this collection of desserts, wraps, and bruschetta, with a bar behind it. The bar is staffed. When I request a CC&G, I’m given a glass with the CC, but informed the G will be available in the refrigerator at the end of the buffet. The bar includes a coffee machine for espresso drinks, a house red and white wine, a couple of rums, a couple of whiskeys, a gin, and perhaps another bottle. Not extensive, but not bad.
Salads ant other cold items, including the ever-present Plaza Premium cream puffs. Not sure why, but they’re always there, breakfast, noon, or night.
There are also a couple of western-style soups on offer.
Only one real hot item — a bruschetta beef dish.
It’s accompanied by rice and broccoli.
And a nice option, Hong Kong-style fish ball soup. This has to be ordered from the team, and is made (or at least the fish balls steamed to warm) when ordered, only taking a few minutes.
Self-service drinks cooler, from which I pick up my ginger ale to complete my beverage.
There are also some self-serve cookies, croissants, pretzels, brownies, and other snacks on an island in the buffet area.
I put it in my order for fish ball soup, grab my ginger ale, and as I’m taking them back to my seat, look who I see pulling into T3. Welcome to Canada, B-7367!
I’m fairly impressed with my snack. The bruschetta beef is pretty tasty, and decently tender for what is, I’m sure, very low-end beef, and the fish ball soup is quite delicious. Not quite what one would expect in Hong Kong, but not bad either, considering I’m in Toronto. In an airport lounge.
As I eat my snack, the lounge starts to fill in. At least at first, it doesn’t get too crowded, but I’m no longer nearly alone here either. The volume levels remain manageable, though.
I head back for dessert, a couple of squares that are decidedly Costco, but still quite good, especially the lemon and coconut square.
And finally, a cappuccino to finish my meal. Quite satisfying.
I’m torn — part of me wants to eat my fill here, having read mixed (at best) reviews of MU’s catering. But part of me thinks I shouldn’t fill up entirely so I can give it a fare shake. Ultimately, I decide on the latter approach, and eat enough so that I’m not actively hungry, but not so much that I’m not going to want to eat on board. Hope this doesn’t bit me in the butt over the next 15 hours or so.
For WiFi, Plaza Premium uses the free general airport-use signal, which is adequate in this case, but can bog down a little at peak times. A corporate shot reveals some interesting reading for my flight across the Pacific.
Coming up on 2:00, a lounge attendant comes through with a sign showing the CX flight number to Hong Kong, announcing that boarding has begun. It’s less obtrusive than an announcement, I suppose, and it lets staff interact with passengers, some of whom may not be native English-speakers, or indeed, English-speakers at all.
Outside, a Jet Airways 777 and a United Express Jungle Jet pass like two ships in the night. Or, two planes in the afternoon.
And a bit later, CX pushes back, bound for Hong Kong.
Overall, I’m pretty happy with this lounge experience for Plaza Premium. I really wish they had an offering in the transborder section of T3… it’s the only one of six possible lounge locations (domestic/international/transborder in both T1 and T3) that Plaza doesn’t maintain a lounge, and it seems a lot opportunity to me.
With boarding time approaching, it’s time to get downstairs, stretch my legs, and get ready for boarding. Maybe a little spotting too, if I should be so lucky.
Alas, when I get downstairs, I’m surprised to see boarding is already underway over at Gate C30, despite it still being about 10 minutes before the boarding time listed on my boarding pass. Gotta love efficiency, I suppose. I grab a quick closeup of my ride before I join the mob.
Boarding looks chaotic, but I’m able to make it forward pretty quickly, and although there doesn’t seem to be a line for Sky Priority, when I get to the first agent checking documentation, she points me to a short line to the right when she sees the business class boarding pass. This, I shall presume, is Sky Priority.
It’s not too long of a wait, my boarding pass is scanned, and I’m on my way down the jetway, which is already quite lined up at this point — they’re in the middle of boarding zone 2.
But the lineup moves quickly, and when I get to the door, a flight attendant notices the business class boarding pass, and escorts me to my seat, 15L. It’s a nice touch that it seems like all J passengers get walked to their seat personally. A good first note when it comes to service.
Flight: MU208 From: Toronto Pearson (YYZ) To: Shanghai Pudong (PVG) Date: 1/15/2017 Aircraft: Boeing 777-300ER Registration: B-7367 Seat: 15L ATD (STD): 15:36 (15:25) ATA (STA): 19:18+1 (19:20+1)
For this flight, I’m in 15L, a starboard window seat about a third of the way back in the main business class cabin, situated behind Doors 2. MU has a different configuration, with the forward cabin (between doors 1 and doors 2) occupied by a small F cabin, and then a couple of rows of J, and then a large J cabin behind that. The seats are very similar to many reverse herringbone business class seats, and virtually identical (aside from colours) to EVA. All in all, although the colour scheme is quite monotone, I find it appealing and neutral. The leather seat is quite comfortable.
Upon arrival, just a large pillow is on the seat. The pillow was pretty good. More than adequate, and comfortable as both a back rest and a head support.
The forward cubbies in the wall of the pod are stocked with an amenity kits and a pair of slippers in a shoe bag.
Requisite legroom shot. As expected, more than adequate.
And a look into the footwell, where a packaged blanket awaits. Foot room was decent in all modes, as expected.
Lots of reading material — including a newspaper, to my surprise — in the aisle-side cubby on each seat.
Seat controls are pretty straightforward. They seem to have a different “lounge” position than many airlines, which is more suppine than this setup. I found the “lounge” position ideal for eating and for working on my computer.
Touchscreen IFE remote, reading lights, and headphone and USB ports are built into the outside wall of the pod.
And immediately forward of that, there’s a storage bay which hosts a bottle of water, and the headphones. A quick look at the headphones suggests to me I won’t be using them. Decidedly bad.
The flight attendants are quite busy throughout boarding, what with escorting each passenger to their seat, and various duties. Service begins quickly, though, with pre-departure beverages, a choice of apple juice or orange juice. I guess we’re saving money by not uncorking anything whilst on the ground. Pity. The OJ is fine, though.
I was about to comment that I’d yet to find the power outlet, when I did in fact find it, located immediately forward of the fold-out table. Phew. I was concerned about a nearly 15-hour flight with free WiFi but no way to charge up.
Shortly after the PDBs are served, a first hot towel is offered, presented on a little tray.
A look out the window as boarding continues. El Al has been towed over and is likely starting preparations for its journey home to TLV.
15L affords a good view of the big powerplant and the beautiful 77W wing.
The bottled water offered appears to be Canadian in origin, although I’m unfamiliar with the brand.
The monitor is of the swing-out variety, but IFE is not available on the ground — instead, the moving map is on a loop. The monitor is of a decent size, and pretty good quality, although it’s not exactly the latest-generation moving map product they have installed.
With a lull in the action, let’s take a minute to unpack our goodies, shall we?
The slippers come in a shoe bag.
One with perhaps the most inspirational mission statement ever emblazoned on a shoe bag.
The slippers themselves are decent quality, and quite well-cushioned.
The amenity kit is Clarins-branded, and pretty basic.
A nice scene with the sun breaking through the clouds behind the YYZ control tower, as an AC Express Q400 taxis by.
Boarding is done pretty quickly, and we get the standard Chinese airlines warnings about not even thinking to turn on your cell phone, even if it’s in flight mode, or else. There’s also the “security director on this flight” making a canned announcement, which boils down to “be good on this flight, or else.” How often do Chinese flights break into pier-six brawls that this has to be done on every flight?
The safety video then rolls. Yep, sure is a safety video. It may be poorly animated, but it’s at least personalized to this aircraft, showing the Y cabin in all its 10-across glory.
Throughout boarding, a flight attendant is making her way up and down the aisle with menus, and seemingly taking orders. It seems random. Perhaps by status? Or fare class? Or…. eenie-meeni-miney-moe? I can’t figure it out. Some people are left a menu, and she comes back in a few minutes to take the order. I’m in the “other” category, in which I’m shown the menu, asked to make a selection for my beverage after take-off and my meal, and then my menu is collected before I can even really look at it.
Fortunately, I request to “borrow” the menu for a minute so I can take pictures of it, because I like to know what I’m eating, and/or going to eat. The menu and drink menu is offered to me with a smile.
Let’s start with the drink menu, which is fairly extensive.
And then the menu itself. As has been noted elsewhere, MU uses an odd system, whereby it seemingly prints one set of menus for the whole year for each route, with the menu colour-coded month-by-month. Seems an odd approach, but I’m sure they have their reasons.
I decide to risk it , and go Western, with the beef. Let’s see if this gamble pays off. I also request some champagne after takeoff. I had seen MU offering Taittinger in the past, but I guess that’s not the case anymore.
Pushback! Goodbye, Terminal 3.
As we’re departing, this beautiful Hainan 788 is arrving from Beijing.
And as we taxi, we see a DL 752 arriving. Wonder where it’s from/to? I’ve not seen DL fly anything bigger than a 319 into Pearson before this.
Continuing our taxi, as we draw near the runway, an oldie but a goodie — a Cargojet 727 getting cargoed. I’m always surprised to see these birds still in action, even with silencers on the engines.
No lineup for the runway, so we just line on up.
And away we go, into the air under the power of those big ol’ GEs.
It’s a nice afternoon on the climb, but the ceiling is pretty low, and soon we’re into the clouds.
And then out of the cloud, where we get a good look at our shadow as we continue to climb.
And finally, we start to level off — as always, it’s beautiful above the clouds.
I pull out my screen, and notice most people’s screens are still on the moving map, but my screen is stuck like this. I wait a few minutes, and then call it to the attention of a passing flight attendant. She presses a few buttons, but nothing happens, so she asks if I’m okay with changing seats, as the screen appears to be defective. No problem. She helps me move to 17L, a couple of rows back, but pretty much identical in every way. I may reoccupy 15L for our arrival, just to get an opportunity to take pics with less wing in them.
With me and my gear settled into my new seat, the crew is quickly to work, setting the table with a tablecloth.
A second hot towel is then presented.
About this time, the IFE turns on at my seat, and seemingly most seats. The interface is simple enough and pretty responsive, and the selection of western options is decent, to my surprise. I had downloaded some content from NetFlix onto my iPad, just in case. Better safe than sorry on a 15-hour flight, right?
I select the latest edition of the Jason Bourne saga, titled imaginatively enough, “Jason Bourne” for my first film of the flight.
As I’m moving to my new seat, a flight attendant is making the rounds through the cabin, closing all the window shades. A bit unique to be doing so before the meal service, in my experience.
Let’s check out these headphones, shall we? Yeah, I put them on for about 20 seconds of the commercials that pre-roll the movie, and confirm what the looks suggest. They’re cheap, and they’re not any good. They don’t even sound good, much lass offer noise-cancellation. They’re switched out for my trust Bose set before the seemingly never-ending commercials are through. Oh and hey! There are commercials after the film, too. Wow.
A side note — there are a lot of children in business class on this flight, both a number of babies carried by parents, and a number of kids in the three-to-seven range. There a number around me, including a pair of babies. I’m glad to have the noise-cancellers, although they’re pretty good.
As we start to level off, I catch the faintest whiff of something in the air — it smells a bit like very faint cigarette smoke. Could I have one of the fabled chain-smoking MU flight deck crews I’ve read so much about? I’m still not sure I smelled anything, and the smell quickly goes away, so I’m guessing not. Although that could have to do with me moving a couple of rows after to 17L. Or maybe I just got used to it? Either way, I won’t make too big a deal of it.
Two flight attendants bring the cart down the aisle, with drinks in a four-across grid, clearly laid out seat-by-seat. Clever. With my champagne, which is is quite good, I receive a pair of canapés. The salmon and asparagus one was pretty good, although the rye underneath was a bit stale. Same thing for the brie canapé, although with a softer bread underneath, it’s less noticeable.
With that done, the FAs are back down the aisle with the cart, this time equipped with the appetizers on a tray. Soup is added to the tray based on Western or Chinese order.
I fond this smoked tuna appetizer quite good. Everything seemed fresh, and I liked the balance of the smoky tuna, the asparagus, and the sweet and a bit spicy mango salsa. I found it quite a pleasant appetizer.
The tomato cream soup was also very good. It’s a small portion, but just enough. And the cheesy croutons were delicious.
When the FAs were done with their appetizer pass, one of them returns with the bread basket. I select a pretzel roll, which was excellent, and a garlic bread, which was just okay. Notice, if you will, the flimsy plastic bread dish, which really sticks out in comparison to the other ceramic dishes offered throughout the meal. Weird.
Almost as soon as I’m done the appetizer, my dishes are collected, and my main presented. I’m pleased to say this is a case where the risk pay off. The steak is pretty small, but very tasty, with a nice, deep morel mushroom sauce.
It’s also not terribly overdone. Dare I say I might even see a touch of pink?
The flight attendant who brings me my main asks if I’d like some more champagne, but I reply I’d like some red wine. It takes me a few times to get this idea across, but eventually it is delivered. I’m not sure which one it was. But it was red. And it was pretty good.
All in all, I find the main pretty satisfying. I’m glad to not feel completely stuffed, which cheese an dessert still to come.
Speaking of which, it’s cart time again, and the FAs are back with a selection of fruit, and some cheese. I request a little bit of everything from the cheese offerings, and treated to a very generous cheese plate, which is all pretty good. I’m asked if I’d like some more red wine, but I just request a glass of water.
It’s accompanied by some nice fresh fruit as well.
Another cart down the aisle a few minutes later brings dessert, a choice of a Baileys cheesecake, or a tub of Hagen Dazs ice cream. I go with the former, and it’s very good, but a little bit on the rich side. I’m glad it wasn’t any larger.
Dinner dishes are quickly picked up, and that’s the end of dinner service. I’m pretty happy with the catering of this first meal, all things considered. There was nothing outstanding, but everything was perfectly acceptable and tasty, and the service was quite good. Dinner service was also quite fast and paced very well, with everything wrapped up and the lights turned down about 90 minutes into the flight.
I put the seat back in relax mode, and decide to check out the onboard WiFi, which is free for all users. I’d “pre-registered” for the service online a few weeks ago, but I’m unable to make the validation code I received work. Fortunately, following a link on the login screen gives me the opportunity to register for a new code, which succeeds, and I’m online in a few seconds.
The WiFi seems to work well enough for the most part, and it’s a nice touch that it’s free. Second corporate shot time? Second corporate shot time! Looks like there’s some new material.
The WiFi is a bit spotty at times, but is decent. Oh, and this is definitely the Chinese Internet, so definitely no Google or Facebook or other verboten sites. But at last Flight-Report.com works!
With dinner over, I decide to head to the check out the lav and change into my pajamas — I’d brought my pair from La Premiere, as I prefer not to be stuck in street clothes on a flight this long, particularly when the cabin is kept as hot as MU keeps it.
On the way by, the flight attendants are setting up the galley/snack bar area alongside doors 2. Although it’s not lit up at this point, note that this newish 77W has the Boeing Sky Interior, most noticeable around the entryway.
The lav is a decent size, and while not super-fancy, it does have a little bit of decoration — and a fold-down bench seat for changing, which is great.
I return to my seat and finish my movie. By this time, we’re up over the top of Hudson Bay on this very polar route.
Having checked in on our status, I choose my next movie, and settle in to watch it. A perfectly decent in-flight movie. (That is the epitome of damning through faint praise, no?)
By the time it’s over, we’ve left Canada’s mainland and are out over the Arctic Ocean.
Up next, the story of what women in Britain had to do to get the vote. It’s hard to believe women were denied the vote in a liberal western democracy just a century ago, and that the idea of them voting was such anathema to society.
Throughout the movie, I have a few more “Am I smelling smoke?” moments, but again, not really enough to be sure if I’m smelling anything, or if I’m just hyper-sensitive because I’ve read the reports of MU flight crews smoking the flight away.
It’s worth mentioning that to the best of my knowledge, at no time during this flight was the seatbelt light turned off. That’s apropos of nothing. I just found it strange.
We’re north of Alaska by the time the movie is over.
As the movie ends, a flight attendant makes her way down the aisle with some small plates and offers me one. I’m not sure if this is the “western exquisite snack” or not, but it’s pretty good. It certainly fills the spot.
Having eaten it, I put my seat back down into bed mode, and decide to get some shut-eye.
Sleep does not come very easy, with the baby next to me deciding he’s/she’s had quite enough of this flight, but eventually I do get a few hours of solid sleep. I find the bed quite comfortable, although as usual, I do have to wake up to roll over much more than usual. In all, I get a few solid hours of sleep thanks to my headphones and a white noise app, and wake up feeling quite refreshed, just about three hours out of Shanghai.
I select my next movie, and enjoy the MU film critic’s brief synopsis of this film.
As the pre-movie commercials are rolling, the house lights start coming up, and a flight attendant makes her way forward from the aft of the J cabin, stopping next to me with a menu and asking my selection for the pre-arrival meal. I guess it’s going to be a bit earlier than I’d have expected. I select the lamb from the western menu, although a few items look good to me.
Sure enough, the house lights start coming up to almost full shortly after, and a hot towel is delivered.
The meal tray is then presented from the cart, along with a Diet Coke, as I had requested.
The prosciutto starter is quite good. It’s always a nice balance between the salty meat and the sweet and juicy melon.
The bread basket is presented again. Again, the garlic bread is nothing special. No pretzel roll this time, but the cheese bread has a nice crispy cheese crust, and is a more than adequate replacement.
As soon as I’m done the starter, the plate is collected, and the same flight attendant who picked it up comes back moments later with my main course. I was emboldened by the beef experience earlier in the flight to choose the lamb, and I must say I am not disappointed. As well as being pretty tasty, the lamb is very nicely prepared, with pink the in middle at the edges, and almost red in the centre, but warmed through. Very nicely prepared, and a pretty good dish.
The fruit plate is fresh and juicy. Not EVA good, but very good nonetheless.
Dessert is offered from the cart, an apple crumble cheesecake. Not quite as rich as dessert from the post-departure meal, but quite enjoyable and well-presented.
I request a black coffee to accompany it, and it’s promptly delivered — although oddly, not on the drinks cart that’s brought down the aisle.
After the meal, dishes are quickly collected, and the house lights brought back part-way down. I settle back in, and watch my movie for a while.
Arrival forms are offered, and I confirm with the offering FA that I won’t need one as I’m in international transit.
By the time the movie is over, we’re out over the Yellow Sea, just east of Weihei, with just over an hour left in the flight. I put a podcast on on my iPhone, and spend the rest of the flight catching up on a little bit of work.
Shortly afterwards, a flight attendant comes down the aisle to give each business class passenger a brief arrival briefing — We’ll be arriving about 10 past six in the evening, the temperature outside is about six degrees… and that’s about all I got out of it. Still, a nice and useful “farewell” touch.
About 25 minutes out of Shanghai, we make the turn towards Pudong, the house lights come up, and things start getting busy around the cabin.
Flight attendants collect anything and everything that can be collected — garbage, headsets, etc. — and distribute coats to those pax who had them hung up. Window shades are raised and monitors stowed. Then the house lights are brought back down again, presumably to be in the dark for the night-time landing.
The WiFi connection ceases to work about 15 minutes before arrival, and about that time, a flight attendant requests that I stow my laptop for landing. One last look across the cabin at this rather large business class section.
It’s a clear night over Shanghai, and I take a moment to reflect on how alike all cities look when arriving in the dark. Soon, though, we’re just about to touch down.
Thrust reversers deployed, we quickly bring the speed down to something manageable, and navigate off the runway.
This long flight ends parked next to our little sibling from DL.
Disembarkation is handled at door L2, with flight attendants helping passengers get their rollaboards off the plane and onto the jetways where needed. I’m bid goodbye, and released into arrivals at PVG.
It’s a short walk to transit security, and there’s no lineup for Sky Priority. A bit is torn off the top of my onwards boarding pass, I scan said boarding pass at an automated kiosk, and I’m off to the security line. Again, there’s Sky Priority offered, and it’s pretty quick. Transiting PVG, at least in this case, was a dramatically better experience than my few times transiting PEK. Now, time of day may havce a lot to do with that, but still, it’s worth noting.
All in all, it took a little less than 20 minutes from my entering the terminal at PVG, to back out and through to airside, ready to hunt down a lounge to kill a couple of hours before my onwards flight to Singapore.
And that’s where we’ll leave this flight-report, and pick up the next.
Thanks again for reading, and I hope to see you next time!
Plaza Premium Lounge Management Limited Plaza Premium Lounge (International Departures) (near Gate 3
Toronto - YYZ
Shanghai - PVG
All in all, a solid introduction to China Eastern for me.
The cabin was better than I marked it, probably an 8, but I marked it down a half-point for the possible smoking. I found the crew very good, and the catering was significantly better than expected based on what I'd heard about MU.
Based on this flight alone, I'd say I'd recommend China Eastern's 777 business class product. Not the best product ever, but a solid business class offering, especially given it seems to frequently be offered at a pretty reasonable price tag.
10 LIKESLIKE TO THANK THE AUTHORTHANKS ! FLIGHT-REPORT LIKED
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