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).
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.
CZ is one of the few SkyTeam airlines that does not share T1 with MU.
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.
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.
Entering, we head towards the domestic side to check in.
Domestic security already looks backed up with only half of the lanes open.
CZ’s check-in area is pretty sparse and there look to be no waits.
Despite Ms. NGO85’s chagrin, we went to the red carpet area for VIP check-in.
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.
My boarding pass.
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.
Security takes 20-25 minutes to clear and we head down towards the gate area.
Consulting the terminal layout. There is a ST Lounge (#70), but domestic tickets don’t qualify for lounge access on ST.
We head off towards Gate 57.
With no lounge access, we just rest by our gate and do some spotting.
QR B77W in OW special livery.
JL B763 in OW special livery.
FM B737 and EK A380 (great for the size comparison of the super whale).
Our CZ A320 taxis in after arriving from KMG. That’s our queue to get up and walk to the gate.
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.
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.
A 15-minute walk across the airport and we find the escalators down to the gate.
The waiting area for the paxbus gates was filled to the brim so we have to just stand in the corner.
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.
Our bus today.
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.
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.
Our plane today is gleaming in the afternoon sun.
The best part of the paxbus service is the great tarmac shots of your plane.
The CFM turbines.
We wait and are the last person to head up the stairs.
Fuselage shot entering the plane.
Boarding is slow through the front door. Entering 2 FAs were standing there; they greet me in Chinese and then English.
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.
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).
The seatback contents.
The old school pneumatic headphones in honor of Marathon.
The safety card for this A320.
CZ’s route map to North America.
CZ’s fleet information.
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.
The audio/video controls in the armrest and the outlets for the pneumatic headphones.
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.
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.
We aligned onto the runway with no wait.
Lifting up over PVG’s T1.
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.
Service started with a beverage service. I just took the septic coffee that already contains sugar and creamer.
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.
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.
The snack box.
The contents of the snack box: pickled vegetables, dried fruit snack, bread, green tea cake, fruit, and a wet towel.
The fruit cup was only cantaloupe.
A bag of dried dates.
The green tea cake was very good despite being a packaged dessert. The best dessert on this trip by far.
After the meal service, another beverage service was done. Apple juice for me.
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.
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.
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.
I’ll leave off this series here as we begin our stay in Chengdu.
***BONUS***:Shanghai – Part 1
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.
Shanghai Sculpture Park, an eclectic mix of artwork surrounded by plum blossoms in bloom.
Former Residence of Sun Yat-sen, a small tour of his house in Shanghai.
Shanghai - PVG
Chengdu - CTU
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.
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