In late 2018, China Southern announced its intentions to bid farewell to its then-current alliance mates in SkyTeam. While I had booked some rewards with China Southern over the last couple of years, I’d always ended up cancelling before departure for one reason or another.
But with the countdown on for the airline’s departure from SkyTeam, the clock was ticking on trying their premium products using Delta SkyMiles. And thus, this series of flight-reports, which will chronicle a quick impromptu trip to China and back to be able to “check off” China Southern on my list of experiences before its heading off for greener grass on the other side of the airline alliances fence.
… he had just arrived into Guangzhou Baiyun Airport from Beijing, and thought, “Okay, let’s turn around and go back.”
That was a long process that involved leaving the Arrivals level on an escalator up to Departures. I managed not to screw it up.
The terminal at Baiyun is quite an impressive building, and the departures level is especially so. I liked the rainbow lights on the ceiling, adding a lot of colour to the scene.
The furthest counters to the left are for First and Business Class. Odd that there’s a dedicated premium check-in lounge area at PEK, but not at home base here at CAN, I guess because of the volume it serves.
I don’t have to wait too long, though, to get checked in. My seat preference is confirmed, and I’m given a boarding pass and instructions on how to find the lounge and sent on my way towards the security checkpoint for premium pax.
That was not very hard to find, located at the end of the premium check-in aisle.
There was no wait here, and even with the usual thorough Chinese security patdown, I was through and airside in about three minutes.
It would turn out the instructions for finding the lounge should be “go across the hallway,” because look, there it is.
But before hitting the lounge, I decide to check out the Sky Garden, a beautiful little oasis of nature in the middle of the airport, which unfortunately doubles as the smoking area, putting a bit of a pall on the experience. It’s nice, though and unique.
Alright, time to hit the lounge. My boarding pass is scanned, and the agent explains that they’ll come and get me when it’s time to board.
Unlike yesterday, the Sky Garden portion attached to the lounge is open. This part of the Garden seems to do a very odd double duty as an activity space for kids and families, and the smoking area.
Back inside, I don’t have too much to say about the lounge — I reviewed it more thoroughly in the previous CAN-PEK segment listed above. But it’s a very nice domestic lounge. And if I thought it was surprisingly quiet yesterday, today it’s downright dead. Clearly, it’s not a big travel day.
The buffet is decidedly different from breakfast time, as one would expect, and is quite elaborate.
I grab myself a snack of spicy stir-fried chicken, braised beef with radishes, and BBQ pork, along with some veggies. Everything is quite enjoyable, but as one would expect the BBQ pork is the star of the show. Delicious.
Yesterday, I was able to log in to the WiFi without credentials, but today I seem to have to log in with my cellphone. I’m trying to figure it out, and about to get up and ask for an assist when an agent appears over my shoulder and asks if I need help with WiFi. He gets a code delivered to him on his phone, and once I input it, I’m off to the races. With the lounge being so underpopulated today, there’s no surprise that the WiFi is fast.
I putter for a while, and with about 20 minutes left to the boarding time on my pass, I decide that I’m still quite hungry, so I go and get myself some noodles with brisket. I’ve just mixed it all up and am pulling out my phone to snap a pic when an agent appears and informs me that CZ3999 is boarding. Alas, poor noodles, it is not to be.
She hands me off to a male agent, and he takes me on the long walk to gate 154, from which we’ll be departing. I try to engage him in a brief conversation about the massive scale of the terminal, but it doesn’t go anywhere.
When we get to the gate, it’s still a couple of minutes before the posted boarding time, but the sign at the gate is reading Final Call and boarding is well underway.
Hello, Chinese Whale.
He walks me all the way down to the jetways and hands me off to a flight attendant at the door 1L.
From: Guangzhou Baiyun (CAN)
To: Beijing Capital (PEK)
Aircraft: Airbus A380-800
ATD (STD): 15:12 (15:00)
ATA ( STA): 17:49 (18:05)
For this flight, I’m in seat 2K, in the second row of the eight-seat First Class cabin on the China Southern A380. The seat is very similar to that offered on the 777, but there are some key differences. For one, the A380 seat has doors, enhancing privacy. The other difference is that it’s a generation older in terms of the IFE and IFE remote offered.
Two pillows again.
The flight attendant serving my aisle explains the drink is unique for the new year celebration. It seems to be a tea of some sort with previously-dried fruit in it. If anyone knows what this is, I’d appreciate the insight. It’s quite tasty, though. The cookies are, once again, delicious.
There are no overhead bins at all in F, so my backpack is taken from me and stowed by the flight attendant. Later, I would notice as we were leaving the plane that there are dedicated lockers for each First Class passenger just aft of door 1L.
Menus are offered again. Better get some pictures before they’re gathered up.
I didn’t see the bottle on this flight, but on PEK-CAN is was a Piper-Heidsieck 2012, not the 2008 advertised here. I’m not entirely sure which one’s better, although the 2012 was chilled adequately due to the cold 787, which probably gives it the edge in my opinion.
Note also six (!!!) entrée choices for a two-and-a-half hour flight.
Unlike other flights, my slippers aren’t laid out but are stored in this deep and narrow bin next to the ottoman.
Mattress pad and blanket are bagged and stored on the ottoman.
The IFE screen is a bit older than the 777 product, but still a decent size and good resolution.
IFE remote, headphone and USB ports and a storage cubby are under the window-side ledge.
A look out my window — I forget how thick the fuselage wall is on the lower deck of the A380. Our twin is next door.
Three windows in the First Class suite on the A380.
Headphones and literature are in a bin next to the seat. The headphones are the same ones offered on YYZ-CAN, which were quite good, although I wouldn’t use them on this flight.
When the flight attendant notices my slippers aren’t laid out, she corrects that problem and sets them out. She explains I can stow my shoes in the bin in the ottoman, which I do when I change into the slippers after takeoff. But my size 12 shoes barely fit into the surprisingly cramped
Even here on the ground, the passenger across the aisle from me has his doors closed. We’d end up with four of eight seats occupied — all of row four. The other three passengers were a Chinese couple and their kid of about eight.
Orders are taken on the ground, and heeding Atco’s advice (and having tried all the Chinese dishes that interest me) I decide to go with the steak. I request a glass of champagne after takeoff, and a glass of water, of course.
Boarding is pretty quick, and the safety video plays.
We push back about five minutes ahead of schedule (To Beijing? Inconceivable!) as a light rain starts to fall.
But by the time we reach the runway, the rain has stopped, and the sun is out. Just Malaysia and Shenzhen ahead of us.
And then we’re off, with a beautiful view of Baiyun Airport as we climb out.
As soon as we cross 10,000 feet, the flight attendant serving my aisle closes the doors to our suites. Note that while these doors meet at the top, there’s a bit of a gap midway up as a result of the angle at which they meet.
The lavs are located aft of door 1R, and are decently appointed but nothing too exciting.
Back at my seat — a million-dollar view. (Or at least a 30,000 SkyMile one.)
In-air service begins with a hot towel.
A rather elaborate place setting is offered, different from what was presented on the 777 and 787.
My drinks are offered with nuts. The champagne is delicious once again, and do my eyes deceive me, or is that real ice in my water?
The starter of sous vide salmon isn’t entirely my cup of tea.
Speaking of tea — this isn’t tea, but rather an interesting presentation of a very delicious chicken soup. I enjoy it a great deal, and once my champagne is gone, I use it kind of like a second drink, since I’m feeling pretty exhausted, and don’t think more alcohol will help with my head.
The meal is delivered as fast as I can eat it, and up next is the steak. I’m not disappointed by this selection. It’s more well-done than I’d like, but still quite tender, and very tasty, with a very peppery sauce to it: not the best steak I’ve had on a plane, but a pretty good one.
After I polish off the steak, I’m presented a full plate of fruit and asked if I’d like some ice cream.
To my surprise, she also asks if I’d like some more soup. Why actually, yes I would, thank you very much.
Ice cream is for dessert, and once again, it needs some time to melt to the point where I can chisel it with my spoon.
Once dinner is over, I start to get out the mattress pad, but when the flight attendant sees me, she asks if I’d like to sleep. When I say yes, she quickly takes over, closing the window shades and making up my bed for me, as well as providing a bottle of that great Canadian Gordon Bay water.
She even closes the door behind me as I get in bed. I guess tucking me in would have gone a bit too far.
The bed is super-comfortable, and I fall asleep almost immediately, only to be awakened about 40 minutes later by the flight attendant informing me that we’ll be landing soon. I head to the lav, and when I return, the bed has been turned back into a seat. We’re about 30 minutes out Beijing at this point.
Even with my seat back up, I manage to doze off once again, waking up just seconds before we touch down at Capital.
It’s a short taxi, and we pull into a gate at Terminal 2. No remote gates for the Whalebus!
A couple of looks at the cabin as we prepare to exit through door 1L.
The other First Class passengers and myself are met at the door by a China Southern agent, who motions for us to follow him.
One last look at my ride as we head off.
All the agent does is escort us through the arrival corridors to the domestic luggage hall, which is pretty easy to figure out, since you don’t have many other choices. I think he escorts the other three passengers to the luggage carousel for our flight, but I don’t find out, as I’m just carrying my backpack today, so I split off from the group and head landside to find the shuttle back to the Cordis. I’m ready to get some sleep.
Thanks for joining me for this fourth leg of this flight, and I hope to see you when I start making my way back to North America. Cheers!
It was a pleasure to fly First on the A380 once again, and three consecutive very good First experiences with China Southern.
The cabin was solid, ground services were reasonable and the lounge was good for a domestic lounge. The crew didn't quite grab me the way the personality or style on previous flights did, but the service was attentive, courteous, and proactive. And the food was very good, aside from the starter.
I walk away from my four-flight streak with China Southern much more impressed with them than I was coming in.