Review of China Eastern flight Hefei Taipei in Economy

Airline China Eastern
Flight MU2049
Class Economy
Seat 38L
Aircraft Airbus A320
Flight time 01:51
Take-off 15 Jan 19, 13:14
Arrival at 15 Jan 19, 15:05
MU   #94 out of 131 Airlines A minimum of 20 Flight-Reports is required in order to appear in the rankings. 143 reviews
YGeorgeW
By 411
Published on 22nd January 2019
This is the fourth segment of my 2019 January trip to China. Since I decided to fly back to the U.S. via Taipei, I figured I might as well spend a few days there to visit before heading back. I had never been to Taipei before and was looking forward to the visit. Luckily, there is a direct flight from Hefei to Taipei. I booked this a little over 2 weeks in advance on Ctrip.com for ¥1,480 (~$216 USD). Interestingly, this flight is offered as a codeshare with China Airlines. If you book it through them, however, it would cost almost ¥2,000 more.

2019 January Trip



Lufthansa, ORD-FRA, 747-8I, First, United Polaris Lounge (Click Here)
Lufthansa, FRA-PEK, 747-400, Business, Lufthansa First Class Terminal (Click Here)
Air China, PEK-HFE, 737-800 (Click Here)
China Eastern, HFE-TPE, A320, Economy (You are here.)
EVA Airways, TPE-ORD, 777-300ER, Business, EVA The Infinity Lounge (Click Here)

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Hefei Xinqiao International Airport



I arrived at the airport a little past 7:00am - early if I was in the US, but I am departing on a quasi-international flight (let's avoid the politics here) and there's nothing like TSA Pre. This turns out to be a good decision. I ask at the ticket counter what the price for an upgrade would be (I've heard you sometimes can get a nice price for an upgrade on China Eastern) - it's ¥3,000 (~$444), no thanks. I think it was only about ¥3,400 to purchase business class outright originally. Maybe because it was bought on Ctrip…

The lines were short for check-in, but it still took a solid 20 minutes for me to get checked in. I asked the agent if I could select my seat, preferably a window seat. She asked if an exit row seat was okay - more than okay thank you! Then I headed over to the "International/Hong Kong/Macau/Taiwan Departure" area. That's one way of dodging the political issue.

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No pictures allowed in the security area, but the lines took forever, around 25 minutes. There was a single security screener and everyone got wanded down afterwards regardless. Normally I love smaller airports, but not so much so for departures in China. Right after the security area were a few duty free shops.

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Here's my gate: A18.

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This part of the terminal appeared to be completely separate from the rest of the airport - it has own few restaurants, shops, and lounges. I did not have access to any of the lounges.

The China Eastern A320 waiting to take me to Taiwan for the first time!

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MU2049, HFE-TPE



Boarding began a minute early at 8:09am. There were only two priority passengers before economy boarding started. Amazingly, not a single gate lice to be found. Bravo my fellow passengers!

China Eastern's A320s have 2 rows of business class seats arranged in a 2-2 configuration, followed by economy seats arranged in a 3-3 configuration. My seat was 38L, the starboard window seat in the 8th row of economy.

China Eastern A320 Business Class

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Row 38

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I did a double take when I saw my row. I haven't flown in an exit row (except on an UA CRJ-200, and those seats are the same as every other seat) in a while. I quickly looked around to compare with other seats and realized I had way more leg room. There are two consecutive rows of exit row seats on this A320 and I was in the first row. There are pluses and minuses to both. For one, the first row has noticeably more leg room than the second row (which appeared to be about the same as normal economy seats).

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However, the first row seats cannot recline while the second row can. This is to prevent any possible obstruction of the exit rows themselves. I was also told by a flight attendant I could not place any bags underneath the seat in front of me to avoid any possible obstruction. This was not a problem given there was plenty of overhead space to go around this time. It might be a problem on a full flight, however.

Overall, the plane seemed about 80%-85% full, but for whatever reason, only other passenger in my row was in 38A on the other side of the plane. I got an exit row to myself!

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Compared to other seats, the window seat in the exit row does not have a normal armrest alongside the fuselage. Instead, you can rest you arms on the bottom handle for the emergency door.

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The windows closed from the bottom up.

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Like the Air China 737 I flew a little over a week ago, there was a volume adjustment and hole for headphones so you can listen in on the drop-down IFE screens.

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During the boarding process the flight attendants were all smiles and directed each passenger to their seat. One flight attendant was station in my row to help customers. As soon as I sat down, she turned and gave me a quick overview of the emergency exit procedures. I noticed that as passengers walked by her - many passengers would hand her their boarding pass and she would point out their seat and exactly how many rows they had left to go. Nice, though unnecessary service.

Boarding was complete at 8:23am. We pushed back at 8:30am and they started the safety video around this time. Like on Air China, there is no individualized IFEs or streaming - just a video monitor that flipped down every 3 rows or so.

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There was a little bit of plane watching to do on our way to the runway. I apologize ahead of time for the poor quality of the photos - it was quite smoggy outside and the window itself was rather dirty.

A WestAir A320

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I don't recognize this livery.

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MU9631 (a Boeing 737-800) arriving from Taiyuan

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GX Airlines A320

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MU5077 (an Airbus A320), scheduled to depart later for Kunming

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Not nearly enough of an AvGeek to know what this:

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We sat for a while on the tarmac and finally took off at 8:48am.

View from the window:

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There was quite a bit of turbulence at the beginning of the flight. The purser came on to let us know there was nothing to worry about and that service would be starting as soon as the turbulence was over. It did, service began at 9:18 (30 minutes after takeoff).

A total of four attendants operated two carts, providing meal and beverage service at the same time. There was no option for the meal. The hot (in reality, lukewarm) portion contained a small roll, a vegetable baozi, a tiny sausage. There were some cookies and fruit. Overall, rather bland, but the cookies weren't bad. I had hot tea with the meal.

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At the time I remember thinking, whoa this is pretty nice for a 2 hour regional flight! Then I immediately remembered a conversation I had with someone else who flies a lot of domestic Chinese routes. He had just flown a regional route in economy on ANA and was telling me that the food served was way better than the food served on Chinese carriers. Yet here I was thinking it was pretty nice. Oh how U.S. carriers have conditioned us to have low expectations!

Flight attendants came around to collect trays around 20 minutes later and simultaneously offering refills.

It was around 10:11am that the captain gave us the announcement we are descending. Interestingly, the IFE screens, which were stored and not active the entire flight, came down at this time to provide some flight information. We were about 37 minutes from Taipei according to it.

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Approaching Taiwan

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Descending towards Taipei Taoyuan

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We landed at 10:57am and quickly taxied to a remote stand area where we sat for a solid 15 minutes - maybe we were waiting for a gate to become available? No announcements were made regarding why we were just sitting there. I was annoyed at first at the wait, but at least I got to see some planes taxi by…

First there was a Thai Lion Air Boeing 737 Max 9.

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Then there was the Hello Kitty Jet! I'm glad I was by myself in my row so no one could see me frantically scrambling for my phone to take pictures.

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Ahhh, even if I could not get to fly on a Hello Kitty jet this trip, I could at least see one.

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A line of China Airlines planes, including a few 747-400Fs.

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A Cathay Pacific 747-8F

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A Cathay Pacific 777-300photo 20190115_111642

We finally parked at a gate at 11:18am. Then it was a long walk through security. I had the misfortune of arriving right behind a massive Japanese school tour group and an even larger tour group from mainland China. Overall, security took about 30 or minutes. From there, it was a short walk through baggage claim to the outside and I was on a taxi to my hotel before Noon.

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Verdict

China Eastern

6.0/10
Cabin7.5
Cabin crew8.0
Entertainment/wifi1.5
Meal/catering7.0

Hefei - HFE

6.6/10
Efficiency6.0
Access6.5
Services6.0
Cleanliness8.0

Taipei - TPE

6.9/10
Efficiency6.0
Access6.5
Services7.0
Cleanliness8.0

Conclusion

It was an uneventful flight and I was happy to score an empty exit row to myself. Since this was a quasi-international flight, the prices were a bit more expensive than normal regional Chinese flights, but this is the only direct flight from Hefei to Taipei that leaves in the morning (I wanted to maximize my time in Taipei). I think Far Eastern Air Transport also operates a direct flight (they are the only other), but that is an evening departure.

Lounge: None

Cabin & Seat: The exit row seats had quite a lot of legroom and it's even better when you have the row to yourself. Otherwise, China Eastern's A320 look to have fairly standard economy seats for a regional plane.

Service: The flight attendants were fairly polished and always smiling. Service was efficient - which is all I ask for on regional flights.

Meal & Catering: A hot meal is definitely welcome even if it is only lukewarm. Is it up to the regional standards of Japanese airlines? No, but I'd take it over a US Big 3 2-hour flight any day (even in First, because I don't care that much about alcohol on a 2-hour flight).

Bottom Line: I think I have to reevaluate my previous thoughts about Chinese airlines for short-haul flights after these two trips. Providing that they are on-time, I think it's a good-enough product with usually very good prices.

Related

4 Comments

  • Comment 484944 by
    atco SILVER 95 Comments

    Hello YGeorgeW,

    Thanks for continuing the series.

    Not wishing to get political at all, but I find it very interesting that they refer to Taiwan on the airport sign. I had always thought that the Chinese Govt referred to the island as Chinese Taipei.

    That smog looks rather grim and unpleasant!

    You certainly scored a big win not only with the exit row but then having 3 seats to yourself. Might have been a good time to buy a lottery ticket!

    "Amazingly, not a single gate lice to be found. Bravo my fellow passengers!"
    - I didn't think that was even possible! I'm stunned

    "Not nearly enough of an AvGeek to know what this:"
    - That would be a Cessna 208 Caravan, interestingly with no cargo pod. Have no clue which airline it is though, sorry!

    Looks live overall a very decent economy journey. The mainland Chinese airlines have been making big strides in recent years and often with the prices on offer they represent great value for money. I have yet to fly on one, but I think its time to give Hainan, China Eastern or China Southern a try out of YYZ at some point.

    Thanks for the report
    Safe travels!

    • Comment 485111 by
      YGeorgeW AUTHOR 78 Comments

      Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment Atco!

      “Not wishing to get political at all, but I find it very interesting that they refer to Taiwan on the airport sign. I had always thought that the Chinese Govt referred to the island as Chinese Taipei.”
      -That’s just the agreement under the Nagoya Resolution as to what to call Taiwan in the Olympics. In Mandarin, the sign merely has the one character for Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan (i.e. an abbreviated name). By grouping it with two cities that are under mainland control, there is less worry about Taiwan as a standalone having an independent nation connotation.

      “That smog looks rather grim and unpleasant!”
      -Tell me about it, my lungs are still in recovery.

      “You certainly scored a big win not only with the exit row but then having 3 seats to yourself. Might have been a good time to buy a lottery ticket!”
      -No, but I did enter the United Sweepstakes.

      “That would be a Cessna 208 Caravan, interestingly with no cargo pod. Have no clue which airline it is though, sorry!”
      -Impressive! Especially through all of that smog as well.

      “Looks live overall a very decent economy journey."
      -The mainland Chinese airlines have been making big strides in recent years and often with the prices on offer they represent great value for money. I have yet to fly on one, but I think its time to give Hainan, China Eastern or China Southern a try out of YYZ at some point.”
      -I’m not sure about China Southern having never flown them, but have had friends who have flown both Hainan and China Eastern longhaul. Hainan is definitely worth a try. I would also add Xiamen Airlines to the list. China Eastern is improving, but my sense of it is that catering leaves a lot to be desired (even if you are Chinese) and the language barrier can make service somewhat difficult at times.

      Thanks again!

  • Comment 485050 by
    hometoyyz SILVER 498 Comments

    Hello YGeorgeW!

    And so we start the trip home. It’s too bad you couldn’t get a decent upgrade offer from MU.

    “I asked the agent if I could select my seat, preferably a window seat. She asked if an exit row seat was okay”
    - Short of “Would you mind sitting in business class?” that’s about a big a win as you can get. Did you see the load in J? With just eight seats, maybe they were in “one seat left, get the most for it” mode?

    The airport looks very similar to PVG stylistically. I guess any large terminal does. Are there many international (and quasi-international) routes out of HFE?

    “My seat was 38L, the starboard window seat in the 8th row of economy.”
    - It makes me laugh that MU keeps the seat numbers all the way to L for consistency with widebodies. And even more than they start economy rows so ridiculously high because some planes have First and big business class sections. And here I thought AC was silly for starting economy seats in Y with row 12 even on CRJs.

    “Overall, the plane seemed about 80%-85% full, but for whatever reason, only other passenger was in my row - in 38A on the other side of the plane. I got an exit row to myself!”
    - Poor man’s business class! Score!

    My experience with service on MU has been good. Very well-intentioned, helpful, an earnest, if not polished for premium cabins. Sounds like it’s about the same in Y, which is good. MU got a bad rep for the smoke in the cockpit thing, and apparently some have problems with the food even in business, but I’ve found them a pleasantly above average flight experience, and great value for money most of the time, even in business.

    Catering doesn’t sound too exciting — and that fruit looks really boring — but this is narrowbody two-hour flight, so not so bad overall. Comparing Chinese to Japanese carriers isn’t fair

    “Then there was the Hello Kitty Jet! I'm glad I was by myself in my row so no one could see me frantically scrambling for my phone to take pictures.”
    - Haha! To borrow from Blazing Saddles — “Pardon me while I… whip this out.” Nice traffic, as one would expect from TPE.

    That food in Taiwan looks very good. I take it Din Tai Fung is a highly-recommended dim sum place?

    Thanks for sharing this, and looking forward to the grand finale! Happy flying!

    • Comment 485112 by
      YGeorgeW AUTHOR 78 Comments

      Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment Hometoyyz!

      “Did you see the load in J? With just eight seats, maybe they were in “one seat left, get the most for it” mode?”
      -There were no J passengers when I boarded oddly enough. I think later on there was at least one person

      “Are there many international (and quasi-international) routes out of HFE?”
      -I’m not sure if I would call Hefei a large airport. By passenger traffic it is about the same as Portland (I think) and the 37th busiest airport in China. There are a few routes to Southeast Asia such as SL 983 to Phuket. There is also a direct flight to Seoul on KE 814. You can also fly to Macau and Taipei. I don’t think there’s even a direct flight to Hong Kong anymore.

      “It makes me laugh that MU keeps the seat numbers all the way to L for consistency with widebodies. And even more than they start economy rows so ridiculously high because some planes have First and big business class sections.”
      -Ohhhh, so that’s why they do it. I was wondering about that.

      “My experience with service on MU has been good. Very well-intentioned, helpful, an earnest, if not polished for premium cabins. Sounds like it’s about the same in Y, which is good. MU got a bad rep for the smoke in the cockpit thing, and apparently some have problems with the food even in business, but I’ve found them a pleasantly above average flight experience, and great value for money most of the time, even in business.”
      -Yes, I think they’ve improved since some bad blog reports a few years ago. Also, I think tend to think the language barrier makes service a bit more problematic for Western travelers. Not an issue for me since I’m fluent in Mandarin.

      “Comparing Chinese to Japanese carriers isn’t fair.”
      -Fair enough, it was more of a long-winded way for me to fit in a complaint about domestic economy flights in the U.S.

      “That food in Taiwan looks very good. I take it Din Tai Fung is a highly-recommended dim sum place?”
      -It’s a Michelin-starred restaurant chain famous for its xiaolongbaozi (soup dumplings). They’re not a dim sum place. They have locations all over the world now. However, as someone who has eaten xiaolongbaozi his entire life, I felt while they were very good and among the best I’ve had, it wasn’t quite worth the premium I paid and the wait time (even at a branch). The huge variety was awesome though and service was great.

      Thanks for reading!

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