Hello Everyone! Welcome to my very first trip report as I will be flying from Los Angeles to Seoul Incheon via Beijing Capital for a 2 weeks summer vacation in South Korea with my friends. This review is the first flight from Los Angeles to Beijing on Air China. I bought these tickets directly through Air China in December when they were offering very low prices for a round trip ticket. It was my very first time flying Air China so I was somewhat looking forward for this experience. I say "somewhat" because of all the reviews and horror stories I have heard about Air China and transiting through Beijing, especially losing my bags, which seems to be a frequent occurrence. However, the actual experience on Air China was much better than what I had expected. The same cannot be said of transferring in Beijing. I was also lucky that the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) removed the in-flight mobile phone ban earlier in the year and I was able to freely record videos and take photos. Well, what are we waiting for? Let's get right to the review!
Check-In and Security
Arrival into LAX is always hectic especially at night time as many flights are heading back to Asia and Australia, including mine. The traffic after exiting from the highway to getting off the car at Tom Bradley International Terminal (farthest end of LAX) was a nightmare. My flight was scheduled to depart at 01:40AM and I arrived at TBIT a good 4 hours ahead of schedule. It was pleasant to know that my flight is on time and the aircraft would already be waiting to be towed from the remote gates as the arriving flight, CA983, landed earlier in the evening at 6:00PM. Even though I arrived early to check-in, there were already many passengers waiting in line at the Air China counters in Area C of TBIT.
Check-in went very smoothly and my luggage was sent all the way through to ICN. I was given boarding passes straight to Seoul Incheon as well. After that, I went straight to security and customs. Interestingly, going through screening was not strict at all as I did not have to remove my laptop or take off my shoes. I did not even have to go through the full body scanning machine. Probably because of the amount of traffic at this time that they were trying to expedite the process.
The perk of getting through security quick is I get time to chill out and spot some nice airplanes. I love departing LAX at night because of all the heavies during this time. After dropping off my carry-on with my friends at Gate 148, I quickly went to spot other airplanes as well as take pictures of the nicely renovated Tom Bradley International Terminal.
Qantas Airbus A380 as QF94 to Melbourne
Eva Air Boeing B777-300ER as BR11 to Taipei Taoyuan
Fiji Airways Airbus A330-200 as FJ811 to Nadi
Qantas Boeing B747-400 as QF16 to Brisbane
China Airlines Boeing B777-300ER as CI7 to Taipei Taoyuan
Finally, the plane that will be taking me to Beijing: B-2037
Flight: CA984 from LAX-PEK
Airline: Air China (CA) Aircraft: Boeing 777-39L(ER) Registration: B-2037 Delivered: April 2013 (5.3 Yrs) Route: Los Angeles (LAX) - Beijing Capital (PEK) Seat: 50A Departure Gate: 148 Departing Runway: 24L Scheduled Departure Time: 01:40AM Actual Departure Time: 01:45AM Scheduled Arrival Time: 05:20AM (+1) Actual Arrival Time: 04:26AM (+1) Landing Runway: 36R Arrival Gate: E28 Scheduled Flight Time: 12 hours 40 mins Actual Flight Time: 11 hours 41 mins
Boarding started with members of Star Alliance as well as elderly passengers, passengers with wheel chairs, and passengers travelling with children. After that two lines were formed consisting of economy and first/business passengers. As I was in the back section of the cabin, I was able to board the aircraft very early.
Economy class cabin consisted of 3-3-3 configuration, one of the few airlines that has not converted to 3-4-3.
View from my seat
*Note: The headphone jacks on this aircraft is a two prong jack so you cannot just plug in your normal single prong headphones/earphones into it. As I normally do not like to use the headphones given by airlines, I had to order an adapter to use for my earbuds. The adapters are pretty cheap online to buy and worked without a problem for me.
After pushback, the safety video and demonstration was shown on the personal TVs and the captain gave us his welcome message and informed us of a very quick flight time of only 11 hours 40 minutes. He also informed us of turbulence throughout the flight. As one of the last passenger flights to depart for the day, we were quickly given clearance to taxi and takeoff out of runway 24L. The departure quickly took us out over the Pacific Ocean before turning right back to inland California. The in-flight entertainment was quickly turned on after departure and I went through the selection of movies and music. Air China movie selections are a bit outdated as many western movies require government approval before being released. However, they did have a wide variety of choices. Music was also restricted to only traditional Chinese and Chinese pop.
Dinner service began about an hour and a half later as we were flying above Oakland and Northern California. There were two choices, beef with rice or fish with rice. I chose beef with rice and asked for a nice cup of coke to go along with it.
Dinner: Beef with Rice
I actually expected the meal to taste bad as my mom had told me when she flew with them a year earlier to Hong Kong. To my surprise, it was not as bad as I had thought it would be. Yes, the bread was a bit cold, but the rice tasted just fine and the salad was perfectly normal with the thousand island dressing. I liked that they gave us an oreo cookie too! After the dinner trays were collected, we were even offered a nice cup of vanilla Haagen-Daz ice cream!
Soon after, the lights were dimmed and the cabin crew asked for the window shades to be down so that passengers can have a nice rest before the second meal service and an early morning arrival into Beijing.
I settled for some movie time and naps for the long flight. The crew were very attentive and often times walked down the aisle offering water to passengers that were still awake.
I managed to sneak in some pictures of the outside as the sun was rising while we were over Alaska and Russia. Something that I normally do not get to witness when flying west during the summer was seeing the sun rise as we were over Alaska and with sky fully bright over Russia. Then, as we were crossing into China and closer to arrival, the sky would dim and we would be back into darkness of early morning.
Sunrise over Alaska
Ice forming on the window
Over Eastern Russia in early morning
Soon before arrival, we were given a second meal which had the same choices as dinner service. I again chose beef with rice as my friend, who had the fish with rice earlier, said the fish choice was not that great.
The cabin crew, and not captain, came on 30 minutes before landing with the arrival weather/temperatures and local time at Beijing. They quickly prepared the cabin for arrival as we arrived from north of Beijing and made several right turns to line up with runway 36R. I tried to catch glimpses of the city but it was filled with fog and smog.
We landed smoothly onto runway 36R in the very early morning in Beijing.
Flight route of CA984 from FlightAware
The aircraft finally parked at Gate E28. I grabbed my belongings to exit the aircraft and headed straight to international transfer for my 08:30AM flight to Seoul Incheon.
Inside Terminal 3 of Beijing Capital International Airport
Last view of B-2037
The walk to international transfer was fairly short as our aircraft parked near the immigration area. However, finding the international transfer counter was extremely difficult. The signage was very poor for an international airport of this size. There was one sign that led us to an area where you pick up boarding passes for international transfer but not the immigration counter. Then there was this little gateway monitored by two immigration officers where massive groups of people are trying to get through to go to immigration/customs to get into China. I took a chance and went with the massive group of people to see if the international transfer counters would be past the little gateway manned by the two officers. I was right and found a sign for international transfer leading me to a very remote area, where the international transfer counters were situated, next to immigration into China.
Afterwards, I had to go through another round of security scanning that was much more strict compared to the US before heading to airside again for my next flight to Seoul.
Los Angeles - LAX
Beijing - PEK
It was a very interesting experience for my first time flying with Air China. You never know what you are going to get when flying into and out of China. Therefore, I was relieved that the flight was on time and the cabin crew was very nice and attentive. The airplane was new and clean. Food was not as bad as I thought it would be given the previous experience other people have had. Entertainment system was decent and had many choices given the censorship laws in China. Just don't expect the latest movies to be on your tv and you'll be a-okay. Beijing Airport, however, was not as enjoyable with the unclear signs and lack of air conditioning. The troubles of navigating through unorganized groups of people and strict security screening make me not want to transfer in China again. If you ask me whether to fly Air China again, my answer would probably be no. Yes, I had a pleasant flight and was lucky to have bags not get lost in China. But I would not want to risk another try.
On a side note, please excuse my poor writing/photography skills as this is my very first review that I have ever done. Please do leave comments on what I can improve for my next flight report!
Thanks for reading and hope you enjoyed it!
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