This report was initially published on the French version of Flight-Report.
After a challenging context in recent years (no need to elaborate), China is once again "Open for business," according to the Chinese embassy official in Rabat. Without further ado, I organized a trip to meet my partners in China, in Yiwu and Shenzhen. This gave me the opportunity to report on a domestic Chinese flight, with the following specifics for the Flight-Report audience:
- First CZ flight post-COVID at the time (or perhaps the first domestic Chinese flight post-COVID in general?)
- First report from Yiwu Airport (and consequently its lounge, which should be added to the database)
I booked this domestic flight upon arriving in China through the CTRIP platform. Having a foreign phone number meant that I couldn't check in or manage my booking online. I am traveling on this flight with a Chinese colleague. I arrived in Yiwu from Shanghai by train (1.5 hours).
The flight was scheduled for 7:55 AM, requiring an early wake-up at 5:15 AM for a 5:50 departure with a taxi reserved the night before via the local Uber, the Didi app.
The airport is not accessible by metro, so taxi or bus are the only options. The airport is small and close to downtown.
A FIDS intermittently displays flight schedules in English. The flight is on time for now. There are few flights departing from this small airport, which is surprisingly close to Shanghai and Hangzhou.
Landside, there's a KFC and a few souvenir shops.
I need to pick up my boarding pass, and my colleague needs to check his suitcase. The check-in counters are shared across all airlines. Despite being Flying Blue Platinum and traveling in Premium Economy, I have no formal proof on me, which prevents us from using the dedicated priority check-in.
Boarding pass and lounge invitation collected. The stubs of Chinese tickets are different and much smaller than what we're used to in Europe.
We quickly pass through security via a dedicated Priority access (that is now granted to me based on my Boarding Pass) and find ourselves airside (no picture for security). A few shops, a KFC, and a Starbucks
Yiwu Airport has a lounge for eligible passengers. It's quite "simple" as you'll see in the following photos.
It offers a few snacks, some beverages, and several tables and couches (comfortable)
The selection is really limited… My selection below
And then, a classic drama for a 1h20m flight. A significant delay is announced, which keeps getting extended…
Yiwu Airport also serves as a military base for the Chinese Air Force, which has priority for all its operations. Delays therefore regularly affect departing flights. We patiently wait for our flight to be called, which will happen at… 9:00 AM (for an originally scheduled departure at 7:55…)
The attendant comes to call passengers in the lounge for our flight, inviting us to proceed to the gate. Boarding through a semi-blind jet bridge.
The 737 shows its nose. It's B-1701, delivered new to CZ in July 2014. So, it celebrates its 9 years of service at the time of the flight.
At the gate
We quickly go through business class, which has two rows of 4 seats (with a real "Domestic" business class) numbered 1 to 2
We then land in Premium Economy, separated by two curtains (between business and economy). The first row starts at 31 (thus jumping from row 2 to row 31). Note that all windows are closed (a specificity related to the military activity of the airport).
Amenities for this flight of less than 2 hours consist of a pillow, a blanket, and a bottle of water. Everything is clean, and the legroom is comfortable.
The safety card for the enthusiasts amongst you
While boarding continues, I briefly open the blind to see what's happening outside. I'm able to keep it open for 5 minutes. A flight attendant will come by to kindly ask me to close it. You'll see an Air Force jet if you zoom in.
Which takes off a few moments later. Quite rare to see this at a civil aviation airport, at least a first for me.
Safety demonstrations are done via the IFE but the wait continues…
To the point that the cabin crew decides to start the service (at least in premium). Here is the snack served.
While service is still ongoing, the jet bridge is removed, and pushback begins, at 9:50, nearly 2 hours after the scheduled time.
Takeoff with all windows closed, I can only reopen them once we have left the ground.
Note, we stay at 5100 feet for 10 minutes before climbing to 30100 feet (a peculiarity of Chinese airspace where flight levels are always 100 feet above the thousand), likely due to military activity.
Curtain drawn for Business
Taking this opportunity to show you the PSU, quite modern
The flight proceeds smoothly (and without further service) as we fly along the Chinese coast
A documentary on turtles is shown on the central IFE screens. Little did I know I'd be eating those poor turtles a couple of days later with my business partners.
Some snapshots of our descent into Shenzhen, in the vast Guangdong.
A mint candy is distributed during the descent
Welcome to Shenzhen!
Taxi to the gate is quite quick for such a large airport
And deplaning is quick as well. I wait for my colleague who is at the back of the plane.
Heading to the exit!
Chinese airlines often use wide-body aircraft for their domestic flights
Arriving at the carousel to pick up the checked luggage. Delivery will be done in 5 minutes.
We head towards the taxi stand. The airport is truly very modern.
Thank you for following this journey in China, and see you very soon!
Flight plan below
A very high-quality domestic flight, aside from the delay, which does not seem to be the airline's fault. China Southern is a good choice for short to medium-haul flights in China, with pleasant cabins and adequate service given the flight duration. Hot beverages would have been appreciated.