Review of China Airlines flight Taipei Seoul in Business

Airline China Airlines
Flight CI160
Class Business
Seat 5A
Aircraft Airbus A330-300
Flight time 02:25
Take-off 30 Aug 12, 07:45
Arrival at 30 Aug 12, 11:10
CI 97 reviews
By 5136
Published on 20th October 2013
This was a business trip to France from Taipei, and after AMS, HKG and SIN, this was my first transit in ICN. There is a direct flight TPE-CDG, not daily, less fun… and 50% more expensive. I could not change much anyway, according to my ticket conditions:

photo conditions_tarifaires2

TPE-ICN (China Airlines, 333) You are here, but you can read it in French too
ICN-CDG (Korean Air, 773ER) in French here, in English there
CDG-ICN (Korean Air, 773ER) in French here, in English there
ICN – TPE (Korean Air, 738) in French, to be posted in English later

The flights between TPE and ICN are codeshared: operated by CI on the way in, by KE on the way back.

My readers know that I have a strong tendency to skirting typhoons each time I have a long haul flight to and from Taipei. Typhoon Tembin, after drowning Taitung just before my return from DPS made a sudden U-turn south of Taiwan to head north and landfall in Korea the day after I connected in ICN.

photo 2012082800_PTA-96_0

I was more or less sure to be able to land in ICN, but I could not expect to see much landscape on the way. The day before the flight, the probabilities of rain on the TPE-ICN seemed very humid.

photo typhoon_tembin_rain_29Aug

That was on top of Typhoon Bolaven, which created also a lot of damage in Korea on August 28th – near all domestic flights in CJU, GMP and ICN were cancelled that day.

Departure from home before dawn, after a very short night due to a FR meeting in TPE. I had hardly reached the avenue that a taxi driver made an acrobatic U-turn to beat a colleague arriving from the other side.

photo P1070683a

He seemed to try to beat a speed record, driving like a madman in the empty avenues of Taipei.

photo P1070678a

In record time, I was in front of the CI/KE gate at TPE Terminal 1, where he wrote me a receipt.

photo P1070699a

Look again at the picture above. Did you notice the small device with a screen on the right of the rear mirror? No, this is not a GPS navigator (although there may be a GPS receiver inside). It has a mini-camera on the front side, and the image is simply what is being recorded continuously in loop. Why? In case of an accident, the driver has the entire film of what happened from his perspective, which helps reduce arguments. Some drivers who witness serious offences also call the police and give them the recording. In 2011, such a recording has been a serious charge against a drunken Japanese hoodlum who beat up and critically wounded a taxi driver before fleeing. The camera of another taxi arriving at the scene from the other direction had recorded it.

photo P1070700a

Let's go back to TPE Terminal 1, where there has been change again: in early August, gate CI/KE and several others were closed for renovation.

photo P1070701a

The renovation is over: I enter directly and reach CI and KE's check-in counters.

photo P1070710a

I guess that the area was closed off by temporary partitions in order to install these new escalators that the area the month before.

photo P1070709a

An employee rushed to ask me my flight and show me the relevant counters as soon as I had stopped in front of the departing flights display.

photo P1070707a

No, it had nothing to do with the fact that I am obviously a foreigner: he does that for anybody slows down in front of the display.

photo P1070706a

Of course, I tried to choose my seat on KE's website, only that with KE, you can only choose your seat in advance if you bought your seat from KE, or if a Skypass (KE's FF program) number had been provided when the ticked was bought. And that is only if the flight is operated by KE.

I am completely out of these tight constraints: the ticket was bought by a travel agency and recorded with a FB number. What is the purpose of Skyteam if the alliance's FF passengers are excluded?

Even arriving early in TPE, I was not sure to have a window seat, especially on the first flight, but good surprise, I have a window for both flights, and what is more on the correct side, looking away from the sun.

photo P1070712a

On the other hand, the bad luck is that KE serves CDG with A380s, but not that day: it will be a much more ordinary 777. See below the scale for checked in luggage: there is no conveyor belt to bring the luggage to the main conveyor belt: an employee is there for that: unqualified labor is still cheap in Taiwan.

photo P1070704a

This shop just in front of the airside zone sells works of art of exquisite beauty. At least that is what the sign claims.

photo P1070713a

In front, it is the line for the security check: it seems very long, but it moves fast. An employee repeats continuously in Mandarin (with a very Taiwanese accent): Prepare your passports and your boarding passes. This is another curious use of manpower, whereas countless shops in Taipei place in front of their window loudspeakers repeating a short pre-recorded message. I actually find it a rather annoying sound pollution, and so do my Taiwanese colleagues, but meibanfa (we can't do anything about it, a very common expression in Taiwan).

photo P1070715a

The security check was fast, and immigration equally fast and friendly too. No smile from the policewoman, because she wore a face mask because of a probable cold, to avoid contamination. But she was careful to lift a leftover stapled form in my passport to fit her exit stamp without using a blank page. That was equivalent to a smile for me.

photo P1070718a

Direction B wing through these famously useless escalators

photo P1070719a

This is the beginning of one hour of plane spotting, because the lounges are either blind or only give a view on service areas, and I do not need to eat. The weather is very overcast and it is very early, so the quality of the pictures is limited. Let us start with this Far Eastern Air Transport MD-83:

photo P1070720a

Close up on the cockpit windows which gave vertical visibility for stars navigation of yore.

photo P1070723a

Two Transasia Airlines A321

photo P1070722aphoto P1070737a

I can't remember, but I think I already saw this logo

photo P1070740a

Garuda Airlines 738

photo P1070745a

This is part of the summer catalogue of my favorite open air clothing supplier. This picture memorizes an unexpected gag: note that water flows from the tap on the left.

photo P1070730a

This automatic taps have at their base an infrared LED, whose rays reflect on the hands when they are ten centimeters away. A high visibility jacket is designed for reflecting light, no matter if it is visible or not. Consequently, even though I am over a meter away, the sensor detects the light and lets the water flow.

Passing successively in front of the urinals and the sinks triggers them one after the other – a rather stupid but funny game.

For older children, I mention this bookstore

photo P1070734a

.. which displays four rather expensive models (1,900 TWD = 50 EUR)

photo P1070732a

… and challenge my ideas about the configuration of the landing gear of the A330 and B747.

photo P1070733a

JAA (Japan Air Asia) was a wholly owned subsidiary of JAL created at the time when China forbade serving both Mainland China and Taiwan.

The crew of a CI widebody passes by.

photo P1070736a

I know this e-library, less for its e-book reading offering on self serve tablets, and more for its good remotely parked planes-spotting potential. Not the locks for securing a suitcase to avoid carrying it upstairs.

photo P1070752a

This is where I have had the best view of that Air Macau A320.

photo P1070753a

And that CX 744

photo P1070754a

Back to the boarding rooms level for that Hong Kong Airlines A330. Whereas the C wing is entirely on a single level, plane spotting from B wing is good for your health, because the boarding rooms are downstairs, which means going down the stairs each time just to know if it was worth anything. There are lifts of course, but they are slow.

photo P1070755a

Does this picture of the limit between the B wing and C wing strike you? It should: in early August that year, it was sealed by a temporary partition (again the Terminal 1 renovation work), which made impossible to circumnavigate the airside quadrangle of TPE.

photo P1070756aphoto P1070757a

So this time I can enter B wing, which is part of Terminal 2, and start with this Malaysian Airlines

photo P1070758a

Dragonair A330

photo P1070759a

A United Airlines 772

photo P1070771a

The orchid exhibit has been renewed, and is as pleasant as before.

photo P1070762a

I could not help but stop at Gate C3.

photo P1070763a

My readers know that TPE Gate C3 is dedicated to Eva Air's Hello Kitty jets. This one will leave to Fukuoka. The association of Hello Kitty and Fukuoka's IATA code (FUK) is somewhat unexpected!

photo P1070764a

There is of course a children playground to Hello Kitty's design:

photo P1070767a

Note that all the kids took their shoes off.

photo P1070769a

I'll spare you the coverage of the adjoining Hello Kitty store this time. On the other hand, there comes the quiz of the day: what is the subtype of the Eva Air aircraft in the center?

photo P1070774a

It's a tough one, so I zoomed in to provide a hint.

photo P1070770a

This one is easier: it is a 744 because the preceding and following types never land in TPE (at time of reporting, of course).

photo P1070779a

An ANA 767-300

photo P1070785a

It is about time to remember about the corporate screenshot, for instance at this self serve computer which overlooks the people mover that I never used.

photo P1070778a

It is also time to think about childcare facilities, which are a signature of a Marathon FR. This one is of course indicated by the pink sign, in Chinese, English, and Chinese again, because there are traditional ideograms (used in Taiwan and Hong-Kong) on the left, and simplified ones (used in Mainland China and Singapore) on the right. Much like you must wear a sarong before entering a Balinese temple, you appear to have to wear a skirt to enter a Taiwanese kid care area, according to that pictogram.

photo P1070783a

It is very kawaii inside, that means total look Hello Kitty

photo P1070782a

You can admit it: you all wondered what a nursing room is like. Well, it is not very sexy (but very Hello Kitty).

photo P1070781a

It is time to leave Terminal 2, below:

photo P1070786a

And to reach Gate B7, passing by a toy store whose decorator curiously cut out the entry porches. Anybody has an explanation for that design?

photo P1070788a

Arrival pier side of my 333

photo P1070744aphoto P1070749aphoto P1070789a

The list of plane types patronizing that gate

photo P1070748a

The essential registration number

photo P1070792a

Gate B7 is decorated with a work of art to the glory of the Taiwanese electronics industry:

photo P1070794a

There is already a long and orderly (because Taiwanese) line on the Economy side, and a single passenger going through the Business / Elite access. When she saw me approach at a leisurely pace, the face of the ground staff at that access obviously meant No kidding, who does this waiguoren (foreigner) thinks he is, short cutting the Economy line? I am going to put him politely where he belongs like all others, while her colleague tries hard to refrain her giggling at the sight of my high visibility jacket of a typical basic ground crew

photo P1070795a

Fail for judging on clothing: after checking my BP, and taking longer than for the previous passenger, they had to admit that you can travel business class AND wear a construction site garment, especially when it is all the more shiny that is clean.

photo P1070796a

On the other hand, the FAs pass the test when they welcome me aboard as I start taking pictures in all directions.

photo P1070799aphoto P1070800a

This will be my living space for the next two hours and a half…

photo P1070802a

… after choosing from one of these drinks. Water, a low quality orange juice and an unidentified but presumable alcoholic drink.

photo P1070801a

Of course, it is less pretty when there are neither bubbles nor sun.

photo P1070812a

The same, with the set of crackers
photo P1070819a

The only minor error is that the luggage racks above my seat are full of blankets, and I have to put my hand luggage one and half row further up front. Big deal…

photo P1070803a

The seat pitch is gigantic for such a short flight

photo P1070822a

The multistandard 110V 60 Hz power socket

photo P1070813a

A general view in front of my seat: there are two boxes for putting personal items under the IFE.

photo P1070815a

For a change, I mix the menu and the safety card

photo P1070807aphoto P1070808a

With this grand description of the resume of CI's chef who is a woman

photo P1070809a

On the other hand, I am somewhat puzzled by this description:

photo P1070810a

Pushback is delayed – excuses of the captain, claiming air traffic control – and one of the FAs comes to me. She is obviously both very anxious and ill at ease:

- Excuse me, to you work for an airline?
- Haha, I guess why you ask me that!

I explain that I do not work for CI or a competitor, and explain about Flight Report.

-Ah, now I understand; I saw you take so many pictures… and your unusual clothes…
- My high visibility jacket is a test: a FA should not behave differently according to the clothes of a passenger. You and your colleagues passed the test successfully, but not the ground staff at the boarding gate.

After takeoff, she came back with a smile and told me: This is a gift for you: a set of envelopes and writing paper, a postcard of Sun Moon Lake (one of the Taiwanese' favorite tourist spots) and a CI deck of playing cards.

photo P1070863a

Whether I was a Flight Reporter (a rather rare species in the Taiwanese air space), or a mystery passenger paid by CI or an independent firm, one thing was obvious for her, after a possible discrete discussion in the galley): better be on friendly terms with this passenger who was scrutinizing and taking photographic notes of all the details of the cabin and the service.

The FAs take the orders for the breakfast. She uses my name (with the help of the PIL, and some commendable pronunciation effort).

photo P1070811a

The jet bridge moves away

photo P1070817a

Some pre-pushback plan spotting: we were parked next to a FAT MD-83 already seen earlier in this FR.

photo P1070804a

And a Zest Air A320 Zest Air, a Filipino airline that I had never heard of.

photo P1070805a

It is simpler here: a CX 773

photo P1070818a

Pushback at last: this is the farewell of the ground staff, in front of the giant Taiwanese flag.
Zaijian, Taibei ! (See you again, Taipei !)

photo P1070826a

A few aircraft seen during taxiing: Transasia Airways A321

photo P1070828a

TG 333

photo P1070829a

Air Macau A319

photo P1070830a

There is a traffic jam for both cars and planes

photo P1070831a

Takeoff from 23L or 23R ?

photo P1070834a

This is not a traffic jam toward 23R. These planes were parked remotely during the night and are heading to their respective jetbridges.

photo P1070833a

For 23L, there are only two planes in front of us.

photo P1070837a

We taxi by CI's freight and maintenance areas

photo P1070835aphoto P1070838a

A long stop alongside the 747s undergoing maintenance. The line of the aircraft towards their gates did not move much.

photo P1070840a

I had ample time to look at that 747:

photo P1070847a

Several pictures for engines geeks

photo P1070845a

Ready to go version

photo P1070848a

Onion peel version

photo P1070849a

I have this one for APU addicts

photo P1070846aphoto P1070850a

Take off at last from the plain of Taoyuan

photo P1070854a

On the left, the Taiwan Air Force base which is parallel to TPE

photo P1070855a

They appear to have made progress on the viaducts of the future subway line which will serve TPE (and the high speed rail station too)

photo P1070856a

Some of the many artificial ponds of the Taoyuan plain

photo P1070858a

It did not use the IFE, which displayed a welcome message in Chinese, Japanese and English, in succession.

photo P1070859-60-61a

Now, the test of the 110V power supply: there is multistandard Type A/B/E-F/G, but will it power my voracious laptop?

photo P1070862a

Passed ! (many airlines fail it)

photo P1070867a

There comes coffee (I could have had tea). With my pro-Taiwanese prejudice, I find it initial rather poor. The second sip brings me back to reality: it is awful, Taiwanly awful.

photo P1070868a

This coffee to CI+AE standards creates a real problem. How can I rate such an awful coffee together with a breakfast which smells so good?

photo P1070870a

The FA proposed to place the tray of the meal on the tablet of the next seat, seeing me busy typing my FR (and possibly worried that her management finds a negative comment in it). Good initiative: I prefer a poorly placed breakfast tray to a poorly placed laptop.

photo P1070871a

Let us forget about the curious layout: not only did it smell good, but it was good. In the foreground, and below cut in two, the egg + ham + vegetables were perfect.

photo P1070872a

I am slightly too much in front to have a complete view of the reactor.

photo P1070874a

On the other hand, the winglet shot is easy. I find its combination of blue colors pleasing, like that of Garuda.

photo P1070876a

A short visit to the toilets – note the bottles on the left (perfume, moisturizer, liquid soap and whatever else).

photo P1070879a

They are next to the access door to the cockpit, on the left behind the two jumpseats.

photo P1070882a

The decoration in front of the front left door, i.e. what a J passenger sees when entering the plane. It is supposed to be a view of Amsterdam.

photo P1070881a

There was no explanation of this decoration in the rear of my cabin.

photo P1070883a

The magazines available at the rear end of the cabin (and identically on the right beyond the picture limits)

photo P1070885a

Yazhou Zhoukan (Asia Hebdo), a Taiwanese magazine, focuses its front page and a whole series of articles on the Chinese-Taiwanese conflict on the sovereignty on the Diaoyu islands, inhabited but strategic islands north of Ishigaki (ISG). Pure coincidence, The Economists devotes a full page on the Chinese-Japanese sovereignty conflict on the same islands (called Senkaku by Japan), while hardly mentioning Taiwan at all, because they are claimed by all three countries. (The Chinese would not mind Taiwanese sovereignty on these islands, as long as their own sovereignty on Taiwan is made a fact, but the Taiwanese take a different view on this issue).

A FA empties the magazine display before landing, obviously to avoid passengers helping themselves before leaving the aircraft.

Strong turbulences at the beginning of the descent: Crew, be seated, in English as appears to be the rule in all airlines that I know of, and three FA on Economy class duty rush to empty J seats. Why not? they were closer and more comfortable. It would be a nuisance to the 13 passengers spread around the 30 J seats, whereas it is quite full in Y

photo P1070886a

The descent to ICN is entirely in the clouds: only one minute before gears down did I see the muddy area beyond ICN's runway.

photo P1070890a
See more


China Airlines

Cabin crew10.0

Taipei - TPE


Seoul - ICN



The flight was on time upon arrival, which was what mattered to me.
The FAs were flawless. Of course, they knew that they were being scrutinized, I met some in the past whose personal best was bad. On the other hand, the ground staff loses a point on the high visibility jacket test.
About the meal… I considered rating it 10.5 and withdraw half a point for the coffee, but some would find me partial. It is therefore nearly perfect.

With regards to comfort, I wonder what else could be asked on a short J flight in day time, with the bonus of an empty seat next to me. The plane was spot clean. On this flight, CI was saved the demerit of its lounge which I know to be disappointed (I reported on it elsewhere).

(ICN : 10/8/8/10)

Information on the route Taipei (TPE) Seoul (ICN)

The contributors of Flight-Report published 4 reviews of 3 airlines on the route Taipei (TPE) → Seoul (ICN).


The airline with the best average rating is China Airlines with 8.2/10.

The average flight time is 2 hours and 23 minutes.

  More information


If you liked this review or if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to post a comment below !
  • Comment 90501 by
    jetsetpanda 2294 Comments

    Thanks for sharing this interesting report with great pictures.

    I guess TPE is Hello Kitty territory. I know EVA will start a transpacific Kitty theme flight from LAX-TPE in November. It should be quite an experience to step into one of these.

    Your breakfast looks adequate. Too bad about the coffee though. The translation on the menu is a bit off and I think this problem is prevalent with most Chinese carriers.

Login to post a comment.