Review of China Southern flight Shanghai Chengdu in Economy

Airline China Southern
Flight CZ 3359
Class Economy
Seat 37H
Aircraft Airbus A320
Flight time 03:40
Take-off 15 Mar 17, 16:25
Arrival at 15 Mar 17, 20:05
CZ 133 reviews
NGO85
By 1218
Published on 28th March 2017
Background:

This series covers a recent trip to China with stops in Shanghai, Chengdu, and Jiuzhaigou. As a reminder, the routing is:

Part 1 – LAX-PVG [DL 185, Boeing B777-200ER, Comfort+] – Here
Part 2 – PVG-CTU [CZ 3359, Airbus A320, Economy] – You are here
Part 3 – CTU-JZH [3U 8607, Airbus A319, Economy] – Here
Part 4 – JZH-CTU [CA 4482, Airbus A319, Economy] – Here
Part 5 – CTU-SHA [FM 9404, Boeing B737-800, Economy] – Coming soon
Part 6 – PVG-LAX [DL 186, Boeing B777-200ER, Comfort+] – Coming soon

This report will cover the flight from PVG to CTU aboard an A320. The bonus at the end will be of Shanghai (Part 1).



Pre-flight:

After 3 days in Shanghai, it was time to head back to PVG to continue the trip out west to Sichuan Province. As we approached PVG by car, we could see the iconic Pudong terminals and a BR B77W lifting up to return to TPE.

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CZ is one of the few SkyTeam airlines that does not share T1 with MU.

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This must be new, but there are now security checks to enter the terminal at all Chinese airports. They x-ray all bags and require you to walk through a metal detector.

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Our flight isn’t displayed yet, but the long list of delayed flights (marked in red) is a little unsettling given the notoriety of rolling ATC delays at airports in China.

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Entering, we head towards the domestic side to check in.

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Domestic security already looks backed up with only half of the lanes open.

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CZ’s check-in area is pretty sparse and there look to be no waits.

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Despite Ms. NGO85’s chagrin, we went to the red carpet area for VIP check-in.

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We head up for some not-so red class treatment. I hand over our passports and the agent completely ignores me and just starts talking to Ms. NGO85 as soon as she gets the whiff that she can understand Mandarin. There are some issues checking in where they can’t find Ms. NGO85’s ticket and we have to wait 15 minutes for them to figure out what Delta did in our eticket. Eventually Ms. NGO85 is handed our passports and boarding passes while I continue to be ignored despite being the ST ELPS status holder. Pretty crappy ground services by CZ.

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My boarding pass.

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We head over to the domestic security lines. I try to use the VIP lane for security, but am told that I can’t use that line and am pointed towards the standard queue since I don’t have the VIP card from the check-in counter.

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Security takes 20-25 minutes to clear and we head down towards the gate area.

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Consulting the terminal layout. There is a ST Lounge (#70), but domestic tickets don’t qualify for lounge access on ST.

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We head off towards Gate 57.

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With no lounge access, we just rest by our gate and do some spotting.

QR B77W in OW special livery.

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MK A343.

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MU B77W.

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MU A321.

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OZ A333.

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HO A320.

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JL B763 in OW special livery.

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NH A320.

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DL B763.

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CZ A321.

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FM B737 and EK A380 (great for the size comparison of the super whale).

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MH A333.

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Our CZ A320 taxis in after arriving from KMG. That’s our queue to get up and walk to the gate.

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Oops, a 9C (Chin-asss as Ms. NGO85 calls it) A320 is parked at our assigned gate. Reading the fine print below our plane’s information, it says there is a gate change.

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Consulting the FIDS, our gate has been changed to C224. Not only is this paxbus, but that gate is on the complete other side of T2.

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A 15-minute walk across the airport and we find the escalators down to the gate.

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The waiting area for the paxbus gates was filled to the brim so we have to just stand in the corner.

photo 30



————————-

China Southern Airlines, CZ 3359
Equipment: Airbus A320 [B-6623, delivered February 2010]
Departure: 16:25 (ATD: 16:58)
Arrival: 20:05 (ATA: 20:12)
Flight time: 3:14


There is some confusion, since a flight scheduled to leave before us at this gate is delayed, so we get called to board our bus and other passengers get turned away.

photo 32

Our bus today.

photo 33

We have a really smooth ride out back to the other side of the airport. Our bus pulls up in front of our plane and just stops. We wait for 5 minutes and then an agent comes out of the plane and opens the doors to the bus. He says something in Mandarin, there are huge moans from everyone, and then he goes back to the plane while we are all stuck in this cramped bus. Needless to say, this is when you start to get worried about some sort of mechanical issue leading to a prolonged ground delay. It turns out, Ms. NGO85 says he was actually very apologetic and said that the plane was not ready to board.

photo 34

About 5 minutes later, the doors open and we all file out of the bus and head towards the plane. A HU B789 in Kung Fu Panda special livery, a nice homage to jetsetpanda and Chengdu.

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Our plane today is gleaming in the afternoon sun.

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The best part of the paxbus service is the great tarmac shots of your plane.

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The CFM turbines.

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We wait and are the last person to head up the stairs.

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Fuselage shot entering the plane.

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Boarding is slow through the front door. Entering 2 FAs were standing there; they greet me in Chinese and then English.

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No cabin shot since the plane was already ~75% full. I take my seat, which was fortuitously in the exit row (we randomly picked two aisle seats across each other on Delta’s website without consulting a CZ seatmap). The pitch was therefore excellent.

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CZ has Y+ seats in a cabin behind J (maybe the service is more like W since they had trays for their meal service versus the standard Y service).

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The seatback contents.

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The old school pneumatic headphones in honor of Marathon.

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The safety card for this A320.

photo 46photo 47

Gateway magazine.

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CZ’s route map to North America.

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CZ’s fleet information.

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While sitting there taking pictures, the FA approached our row. She said something in Chinese and I just looked confused. I was afraid she was going to kick me out of the exit row for not speaking Chinese (nightmares from CM…). Instead, she just smiled and asked me to just wait one second. After addressing the other passengers in Chinese, she turned to me and gave me the exit row instructions in English and asked for my verbal confirmation.

The seatback with advertisements on the antimacassar. We have emergency instructions on the back of our seat versus advertisements like every other row.

photo 51photo 52

The audio/video controls in the armrest and the outlets for the pneumatic headphones.

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We waited after our bus boarded for 10 minutes before the 2nd bus showed up with the final passengers. As soon as they boarded, we closed the front door and pushed back ahead of our ETD. While we taxied, the safety video played on the overhead monitors.

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It was a long 30-minute taxi to get to the other side of the airport to take off. Since I had an aisle seat, my spotting was limited to this EY B789 and KL B789.

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We aligned onto the runway with no wait.

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Lifting up over PVG’s T1.

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As soon as we reached altitude, the monitors dropped down and played a car commercial followed by the movie Allied, which lasted almost until the end of the flight when it switched to the moving map.

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Service started with a beverage service. I just took the septic coffee that already contains sugar and creamer.

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About an hour into the flight, the meal service started. The FAs came down and asked if I wanted “chicken noodle” or “seafood rice.” I went for the “chicken noodle” and Ms. NGO85 had the “seafood rice,” which turned out to be shrimp fried rice. The meal as delivered.

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The main uncovered. The meal was heavy in sauce, but had decent taste and the noodles still had some bite to them. It was a good entree and would have been fine on an international flight once you put the pickled vegetables on top from the snack box.

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The snack box.

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The contents of the snack box: pickled vegetables, dried fruit snack, bread, green tea cake, fruit, and a wet towel.

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The fruit cup was only cantaloupe.

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A bag of dried dates.

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The green tea cake was very good despite being a packaged dessert. The best dessert on this trip by far.

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After the meal service, another beverage service was done. Apple juice for me.

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The flight west bound is very slow and takes nearly 3.5 hours to cover the 1000 miles. The plane was extremely warm and was bordering on uncomfortable. I head to the lavatory after a brief nap. The lavatory is clean other than some green stains from soap.

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We eventually land into a cloudy CTU and taxi to a remote stand. We take a terrible paxbus ride back to the terminal. The driver almost had a head on collision with a tug as he sped around a blind corner and then slammed on the brakes forcing all of the people on the bus to cling for dear life. This is almost on par with my IST paxbus experiences. We head into the terminal from the bus after our near brush with death.

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We didn’t check bags so head through the baggage claim and join the ranks to take a taxi to our hotel. The fare was ~55 RMB ($8) to the city center and took 30 minutes.

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I’ll leave off this series here as we begin our stay in Chengdu.





***BONUS***: Shanghai – Part 1

欢迎 (Welcome).

photo 74

Shanghai Museum, which had good temporary exhibits on currency, jade, and ancient relics from the Shanghai area.



Shanghai Natural History Museum, which had decent exhibits for a science museum despite being filled with thousands of screaming kids on school field trips.



Tulip garden outside of the museum.

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Shanghai Sculpture Park, an eclectic mix of artwork surrounded by plum blossoms in bloom.

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Sinan Mansions.

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Former Residence of Sun Yat-sen, a small tour of his house in Shanghai.

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See more

Verdict

China Southern

7.0/10
Cabin7.0
Cabin crew8.0
Entertainment/wifi4.0
Meal/catering9.0

Shanghai - PVG

7.0/10
Efficiency5.0
Access6.0
Services9.0
Cleanliness8.0

Chengdu - CTU

6.3/10
Efficiency7.0
Access4.0
Services6.0
Cleanliness8.0

Conclusion

China Southern seems to be one of the better domestic carriers in China. I found their product and catering to be better than the Chinese carriers I’ve tried. Their in-flight service was very good with respect to crews and catering. The cabin comfort is decent on CZ, but the cabins could use a refresh.

Cabin comfort: The exit row had plenty of legroom, but I found these seats to lack support and I felt discomfort by the end of this 3.5 hour flight. The cabin was well maintained and clean, but was very warm (uncomfortably warm near arrival). Ads plastered everywhere.

Crew: Domestic Chinese crews are wildly variable, but I was satisfied by this CZ crew. 2 of the 3 FAs I interacted with spoke English well and they smiled while performing service. The ground services by CZ at PVG were a completely other story…

Meal and catering: Catering was more than abundant for a flight of this length (LAX-SEA is a similar length). The main was above average and the rest of the box was very good. Two beverage services were also performed.

Entertainment: No newspapers offered. Standard seatback content. The IFE was set to play Allied, which didn’t interest me so I didn’t watch it.

Related

14 Comments

  • Comment 391620 by
    BombieFlyer 93 Comments

    Hi NGO85!

    How nice to read this particular flight report because I have done exactly the same route not so long ago and I also flew with CZ.

    Regarding the security check before you entered the terminal at Pudong airport, that was introduced late last year after a crazy guy tried to explode a home-made bomb although he was not successful. Only a lot of smoke but no explosion. Still, it got the central government's attention and the govt took very conservative measure. But as always the case in China, this extra security check will not last long. It's more of a show than an actual implementation.

    In terms of being SkyTeam Elite in China, unless you are ST Elite from either CZ or MU, the promised benefits and extra perks such as lounge access, upgrades, etc are very seldom honoured. In fact, you should have been given a pillow, a water bottle, bulkhead seat (in economy class cabin), a pair of slippers, and a choice of newspaper due to your ST Elite Plus status. But this rarely happens on non-MU and non-CZ elites.

    The VIP security check and immigration lanes are only for those who have purchased the service. It's not the traditional concept like in the States or other countries where premium pax or elite pax could use separate lanes.

    Just a friendly advice for you, when you fly domestic flights in mainland china, watch the air marshal. he usually wears black/dark blue trousers with white shirt and he is usually seated in the bulkhead row of economy class cabin or emergency exit row. This air marshal is quite notorious in 'enforcing' the rule of no electronics usage during the flight (including taking pictures). Many stories depict these air marshals being on power trip so in case you see one, just be very subtle in taking pictures or using your phone (even in inflight mode).

    Anyway, happy to see that the weather was good during your stay in Shanghai. I hope Shanghai treated you and Mrs. NGO85 well :)

    Looking forward for the next FR!

    • Comment 391885 by
      NGO85 AUTHOR 1622 Comments

      Thanks for your comments BombieFlyer!

      "the same route not so long ago and I also flew with CZ."
      - CZ seems to offer some of the better service of the Big 3.

      "In fact, you should have been given a pillow, a water bottle, bulkhead seat (in economy class cabin), a pair of slippers, and a choice of newspaper due to your ST Elite Plus status. But this rarely happens on non-MU and non-CZ elites."
      - It's not like DL is any different ;) DL gives essentially no service benefits other than SkyPriority to non-DL ST elites. I think CI is the only carrier that has gone out of their way to address me in response to my ST status.

      "The VIP security check and immigration lanes are only for those who have purchased the service." <== I'm surprised airports haven't discovered this money-making scheme in the US, lol^^

      "Many stories depict these air marshals being on power trip so in case you see one, just be very subtle in taking pictures or using your phone (even in inflight mode)." <== I had my phone hidden in my belongs during the flight so I didn't touch it once in the cabin. Come to think of it, I don't remember seeing air marshals on any of the flights in this series. I've seen them on international flights, but not domestic sectors in China. I'm generally a pretty discrete person anyways ;)

      "Anyway, happy to see that the weather was good during your stay in Shanghai." <== A little bit of rain, but blue skies and clean air the rest of the days. Wish I could have said the same about Chengdu^^

  • Comment 391668 by
    marathon SILVER 9719 Comments

    You know women are on the winning side of the evolution from experiences like that at the check-in counter ;)
    So you are Elite+ and they don't provide you a fast track ticket ?
    Great plane spotting; I always had very hazy conditions in PVG :(
    The 380 vs. 737 comparison is indeed stunning !
    Thanks for the friendly wink and for the report !

    • Comment 391886 by
      NGO85 AUTHOR 1622 Comments

      Bonjour Marathon, merci pour les commentaires^^

      "You know women are on the winning side of the evolution from experiences like that at the check-in counter ;)" and "So you are Elite+ and they don't provide you a fast track ticket ?" <== Nope, the agent was too busy ignoring me^^

      "Great plane spotting; I always had very hazy conditions in PVG :(" <== It was a very clear and sunny day in Shanghai, so much better than the normal grey haze.

      "The 380 vs. 737 comparison is indeed stunning !" <== Not to mention the B737 is also in the foreground so is getting some help from perspective^^

  • Comment 391673 by
    Numero_2 10003 Comments

    Thanks Michael ! ^^

    There was no possibility to leave Shanghai from SHA ?

    "I hand over our passports and the agent completely ignores me and just starts talking to Ms. NGO85 as soon as she gets the whiff that she can understand Mandarin." -> Now we know who is the boss. :P

    "Eventually Ms. NGO85 is handed our passports and boarding passes while I continue to be ignored despite being the ST ELPS status holder." -> Dr NGO85 is angry. Lol

    Too bad you didn't choose CA for this trip : You could have used the best lounge in PVG before the flight. ;)

    Overall a poor ground experience followed by a good flight.

    I flew CZ only once back in 2012 from XIY to KWL and it was a pretty decent flight.

    • Comment 391890 by
      NGO85 AUTHOR 1622 Comments

      Bonjour Clement, merci pour ce les commentaires^^

      "There was no possibility to leave Shanghai from SHA ?" <== PVG was more convenient given where we were staying in the city. The return to SHA was only picked because of the hour arrival was limited to SHA instead of PVG.

      "Now we know who is the boss. :P" <== The boss was the PNC on your RIX-FRA flight^^

      "Dr NGO85 is angry. Lol" <== And justifiably so, it's no way to treat passengers.

      "Too bad you didn't choose CA for this trip : You could have used the best lounge in PVG before the flight. ;)" <== Booking the domestic flights with the international legs significantly reduced the fare. I would have flown HO instead of CA ;)

      "I flew CZ only once back in 2012 from XIY to KWL and it was a pretty decent flight." <== Not going to try their long-haul service, but the short-haul service seemed perfectly fine.

  • Comment 391698 by
    Rl 777 809 Comments

    Thank you for sharing this FR with us!

    “BR B77W lifting up to return to TPE.“
    - Absolutely fantastic picture, a truly unique shot.

    Excellent spotting shots! The weather seemed to be great that day.

    A few disturbances in the whole airport experience but thankfully your flight was not heavily delayed.

    Stunning shots of your ride on the tarmac, great catch of that HU 789 as well.

    “Not only is this paxbus, but that gate is on the complete other side of T2.“
    - It is definitely irritating but I guess there is at least one positive part to a scenario like that, we get to walk more.

    “Instead, she just smiled and asked me to just wait one second. After addressing the other passengers in Chinese, she turned to me and gave me the exit row instructions in English and asked for my verbal confirmation.“
    - Good to know it was nothing serious.

    “Since I had an aisle seat, my spotting was limited to this EY B789 and KL B789.“
    - Great shots nonetheless, nice catch of that EK 388, CA 332 (I believe), ET 77L and UA 772 in the same picture.

    Thanks for the extensive details about the catering, looks good. Two beverage services, not bad.

    Wonderful bonus at the end!

    Thanks for sharing.

    Have a good one, see you!

    • Comment 391891 by
      NGO85 AUTHOR 1622 Comments

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting!

      “Excellent spotting shots! The weather seemed to be great that day." <== A rarity in China. Air quality index was below 40 during our stay so quite reasonable.

      "It is definitely irritating but I guess there is at least one positive part to a scenario like that, we get to walk more." <== But changing the gate 15 minutes before the boarding time is not very beneficial for ensuring an on-time departure.

      "Thanks for the extensive details about the catering, looks good. Two beverage services, not bad." <== The meal was better in quality/quantity than the return segment in Part 5. CZ had decent catering for sure.

  • Comment 391721 by
    757Fan 604 Comments

    Great photos and good next part of your trip series. It looks like you had a beautiful day for flying! Food looks decent - and that cake does look good from the photo!

    Looking forward to your next part.

    Matthew

  • Comment 391794 by
    aussenrist 225 Comments

    Thanks for sharing this report with us! Glad to know your flight was not delayed by ATC!
    Speechless to the CZ ground services in PVG. They even pasted the ST logo in a reverse position on the ST Lounge signage lol

    “The old school pneumatic headphones”
    - Stethoscopes on the plane?

    The cabin looks good in condition. BTW was the cabin temperature even warmer than the normal Asian carriers i.e. CX?
    The food offering is standard but generous on this flight (shame on those US domestic lol). IMO CZ is the best among the “Big 3” in China. And not related to this report, AA now buys a stake in them^^
    Stunning plane spotting at PVG and travel bonus in SH. The sky is so blue which looks a bit unrealistic :P
    Look forward to next report^^

    • Comment 391893 by
      NGO85 AUTHOR 1622 Comments

      Hi Ashley, thanks for stopping by!

      "They even pasted the ST logo in a reverse position on the ST Lounge signage lol"
      - I didn't even notice that until you pointed it out, lol, good catch^^

      “Stethoscopes on the plane?" <== The landing will make your heart start racing, better check your vitals^^

      "BTW was the cabin temperature even warmer than the normal Asian carriers i.e. CX?" <== Yes, it was one of the warmer cabins I've had and definitely warmer than the CX cabins.

      "And not related to this report, AA now buys a stake in them^^" <== Will OW finally get a mainland China member? Although based on the proximity of CAN and HKG that makes little sense...

      "The sky is so blue which looks a bit unrealistic :P" <== No editing, I promise :)

  • Comment 391919 by
    jetsetpanda 2294 Comments

    Ni Hao Michael!

    "Eventually Ms. NGO85 is handed our passports and boarding passes while I continue to be ignored despite being the ST ELPS status holder. Pretty crappy ground services by CZ."
    - The opposite happened to me @ IC Tokyo. The reservation was under my sister's name and she was the Ambassador member. We checked in and they asked us to sit down. When the concierge came back with the room keys, she knelt down and addressed me instead of her. :P

    "My boarding pass."
    - A collector's item.

    "There is a ST Lounge (#70), but domestic tickets don’t qualify for lounge access on ST."
    - That is a major letdown with Skyteam. *A is very generous in that sense (provided you have a non-UA elite card).

    "A HU B789 in Kung Fu Panda special livery, a nice homage to jetsetpanda and Chengdu."
    - What a gorgeous plane! ;) Thank you for the honorable mention. :P

    "I take my seat, which was fortuitously in the exit row (we randomly picked two aisle seats across each other on Delta’s website without consulting a CZ seatmap). "
    - You hit the jackpot. Didn't you get upgraded to J one time with SK? Double jackpot!

    "The old school pneumatic headphones in honor of Marathon."
    - They belong in a time capsule. ;)

    "Instead, she just smiled and asked me to just wait one second. After addressing the other passengers in Chinese, she turned to me and gave me the exit row instructions in English and asked for my verbal confirmation."
    - That was really professional. Great FA's can be found anywhere.

    "The meal was heavy in sauce, but had decent taste and the noodles still had some bite to them. It was a good entree and would have been fine on an international flight once you put the pickled vegetables on top from the snack box."
    - Noodles are comfort food I guess and you can't go wrong with them. That green tea cake looks intriguing.

    Gorgeous bonus of SHA and beautiful pics as usual. Thanks for sharing.

    • Comment 392363 by
      NGO85 AUTHOR 1622 Comments

      Xiexie Adan!

      "When the concierge came back with the room keys, she knelt down and addressed me instead of her. :P"
      - China is far more progressive in removing patriarchal society from their culture^^

      "*A is very generous in that sense (provided you have a non-UA elite card)." <== *A is far more generous in most regards when compared to ST, I've never really had great ST experiences wrt status benefits.

      "You hit the jackpot." <== Maybe, but as BombieFlyer said, we should have been more benefits due to status so it might be a wash. I was surprised that they even had the seatmap on DL's website for seat selection. Normally DL blacks out the seatmaps for codeshare carriers.

      "They belong in a time capsule. ;)" <== Anywhere that isn't my ears ;) I wonder how often they change them out, I didn't inspect mine closely for the quantity of complimentary earwax^^

      "Noodles are comfort food I guess and you can't go wrong with them." <== The shrimp fried rice actually looked better, but the noodle dish looked to be more popular based on what the previous rows had ordered so I just followed the locals^^

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