Review of Air China flight Beijing Hong Kong in Economy

Airline Air China
Flight CA115
Class Economy
Seat 17A
Aircraft Airbus A321
Flight time 03:30
Take-off 11 May 14, 15:30
Arrival at 11 May 14, 19:00
CA   #83 out of 142 Airlines A minimum of 20 Flight-Reports is required in order to appear in the rankings. 183 reviews
Numero_2
By GOLD 7001
Published on 23rd May 2014
Hi everyone !
Welcome on my first English-written flight report. In fact it's just a literal translation from the original one I wrote in French few days ago.
So, why do I make the effort of a translation just for sharing with you a boring Air China medium haul flight in economy class ? Just to show you how awful this CA experience has been, and why you should avoid this airline in the future. lol

I'm not a fluent English speaker, so I apologize for all the mistakes I made in this FR.

For my third trip to mainland China, I chose to spend 3 days in Beijing because I've never been there before.
Let me show you a couple of pictures of my stay before the FR itself.

Sorry for the lack of originality about my pictures, the monuments I've visited are part of the most popular sights in town. lol
First of all, the huge and famous Mao portrait on the Forbidden City South Gate entry.
photo photo 5

Most of the tourists around here are Chinese citizens. You can easily realize that mainland China has more than a billion citizens !
Here is the exit of the Forbidden City at its North gate.
photo DSC06697

Here is the view of the huge palace from the top of the Coal Hill (??) in Jingshan Park (????).
photo DSC06698

The Temple of Heaven (??).
photo DSC06702

Typical roof detail.
photo DSC06704

A wine and liquor shop with plenty of Swiss flags. ^^
photo photo 2

Gui Jie (??) by night which is famous for the restaurants all along it and especially the Hu Da (????, not the one on this picture).
photo photo 3

I've also been to the famous Quanjude restaurant (???) which is well-known for its Beijing roasted duck (??).
Here is the Hepingmen branch (????) where 2000 people can have dinner at the same time.
photo photo 6

The chef cutting the half duck I ordered.
photo photo 7

And here it is ! Absolutely delicious. Bon appétit ! ;)
photo photo 4


FLIGHT REPORT

The complete routing of my 3 days trip to China :

GVA - ZRH, A320, LX, Y In French
ZRH - PEK, A333, LX, Y In French
PEK - HKG, A321, CA, Y Hell in French
3° PEK - HKG, A321, CA, Y / Hell (You are here)
KWL - HKG, A321, CA, Y / Purgatory in French
KWL - HKG, A321, CA, Y / Purgatory in English
5° KWL - HKG, A320, HX, Y / Heaven
6° HKG - ZRH, A343, LX, Y (Coming soon in French only)
7° ZRH - GVA, A320, LX, Y (No show)

HELL

Just arrived at the Beijing Capital airport after a short trip from Guomao (where the hotel I've stayed in is) with the metro line 10 to Sanyuanqiao (2 yuans) and then with the Airport Express to PEK Terminal 3 (25 yuans).
The good thing is that you can pay both rides with the same IC card. The one in use in Beijing area is the Yikatong prepaid card(???).
photo DSC06706

Going up to the departures level.
photo DSC06707

It's now 13h15. The next afternoon T3 departures are shown on the FIDS. My flight is scheduled at 15h30.
photo DSC06709

I'm supposed to be in HKG at 19h for a 3.5 hours layover before boarding my LX flight back to ZRH at about 22h30. I thought that I had all the time in the world because I'm just carrying a hand luggage…

The check-in desk is at the H row.
photo DSC06710

Here it is, H02 ! There's just one desk opened for this flight. No idea where the Business class or Premium passengers check-in is (I have the Star Alliance Gold status), and I didn't want to waste my time looking for it.
photo DSC06711

The PEK-HKG CA route has codeshares with Dragonair and CX.
photo DSC06712

I eventually got my BP 15 minutes later, and the check-in agent told me that the flight was delayed for 50 minutes.

Quite a nice piece of interior decoration. Haha
photo DSC06713

I needed to have a ride on a small train / people mover to reach the international gates.
photo DSC06714photo DSC06716

Once arrived, I had to pass through the temperature screening, immigration inspection, another control of my boarding pass and passport and finally the security screening.
photo DSC06717

What a big mess it was !

About one hour after the people mover ride, I am airside.
photo DSC06718

There are a couple of typical Chinese pieces of art and architecture among the shops.
photo DSC06720

But I was not here for shopping and I walked directly to the Air China lounge located in a mezzanine.
photo DSC06721

The welcome wasn't warm at all… Anyway I'm in now !
Small cinema area.
photo DSC06722

Central lounge.
photo DSC06724

I wanted to seat here but the power outlet wasn't working… What a pity !
photo DSC06725

The view isn't bad.
photo DSC06726

Here is the buffet with warm dishes.
photo DSC06727

Some rice and chicken.
photo DSC06728

This is all the pictures I can show you about the buffet area, because after that someone told me that taking pictures wasn't allowed in the lounge. No, sorry, she just shouted NO PHOTO. lol

After that I found a new seat and fortunately the power outlet worked fine here !
Corporate picture. The wifi is free but you have to scan your passport to obtain a password.
photo DSC06729

I just picked a Sprite and a Tsingtao beer from the fridge because I wasn't hungry at this time.
photo DSC06730

Boarding pass, LX Senator Card, passport and the wifi voucher.
photo DSC06731

I left the lounge slightly before the new boarding time (15h50).
A B777 AC spotted on my way to the gate E51.
photo DSC06732

This way, please !


Then I had to go downstairs to find the gate. For sure we will be paxbussed to the aircraft remote position.
photo DSC06737

The first bus already left, and here's the second waiting for the last passengers.
photo DSC06738photo DSC06739

It's almost as packed as in the metro during rush hours. lol
photo DSC06740

After a couple of minutes in the bus, we were dropped off in front of our A321 to HKG.
The man in black standing downstrairs seemed to be an air marshall or something similar in China. He was seated at one of the first seats of economy class and walked between the cockpit and the rear of the cabin several times during the flight.
photo DSC06741

It's not raining anymore now.
photo DSC06742

The crew welcomed us with a smile and a ?? or welcome depending on each passenger.

I walked through the business class cabin in a 2-2 configuration.
photo DSC06743

Then I discovered the Y class of this aircraft.
photo DSC06744

The legroom of my seat, the 17A. Not bad (I'm 1.80 meters tall).
photo DSC06745

The plane seems to be quite new, at least the overhad panels are. lol
photo DSC06746

In CA's A321s, two lavatories are located in the middle of the Y class.
photo DSC06747

Now a look to the left through my window.
photo DSC06748

There's only CA around here !
photo DSC06749

I can see this ugly communist-style building decorated with plenty of Chinese flags.
photo DSC06750

Air China inflight magazine, unfortunately in Mandarin only, and both sides of the safety instructions.
photo DSC06751photo DSC06752

This airplane has central overhead monitors and the audio channels can be selected with this remote control at each seat.
photo DSC06753

A CA B737 in a special livery.
photo DSC06754

This sticker mentions that wifi is available during the flight. We'll see !
photo DSC06756

The air marshall is going to board the plane.
photo DSC06755

Hong Kong arrival card is given by the crew.
photo DSC06757

Doors are closed, then the lead FA welcomed the passengers again and explained the today's flight details. Security video is displayed on the screens and taxiing began.
But the taxiing was quickly stopped for an unknown reason. We waited there for one hour with engines running, without any explanation from the crew.

After a long time of waiting, we can finally reach the runway following 3 other planes, but we had to let this Turkmenistan B777 landing on the take off-reserved runway !!!
photo DSC06758

The reason of this is easy : It seems that day, Turkmenistan had an official reception with China…
photo DSC06759

And here we go ! We can see the old T2 where AF is still at home.


The moon is already here at about 17h30.
photo DSC06764

Once our cruising altitude reached, a drink service is offered.
photo DSC06765

Yanjing beer for me !
photo DSC06766

Let's test the wifi : I can join my phone to the network, but it doesn't provide any connection.
photo DSC06768

A first air to air with a B747.
photo DSC06769

Unfortunately, a lousy movie is displayed on the screen. The airshow would have been a thousand times better than that.
photo DSC06771

Then, the meal is served. The FA gave me the choice between a seafood rice and chicken noodles.
I chose the latter. A salad and fruits are also on the tray.
photo DSC06772

The most refined cutlery ever ! lol
photo DSC06776

In fact the meal doesn't look bad. At least it is definitely better looking than the one I got on the SHA-PEK CA route last year.
photo DSC06779

That's not bread, but a dessert filled with sweet red beans paste. It tasted good.
photo DSC06780

After the meal service, the flight was quite uneventful. At least I thought so. lol

Winglet picture.
photo DSC06781

It's time for the last drinks service. I wanted to try the Chinese Great Wall red wine : The FA poured it in my glass already used for my beer, that's why there's some foam on the wine…
photo DSC06782

We're now flying over Wuhan.
photo DSC06783

Second air to air with maybe an Air India B787.
photo DSC06784

Night is falling.
photo DSC06785

When we were supposed to begin the descent to HKG, the captain made a short announcement to explain that due to bad weather at destination, our flight was rerouted to Guilin !!!
Of course he didn't apologize for that.

photo DSC06786

Finally we landed in Guilin. I was there two years ago and it's indeed a nice place to visit.
photo DSC06789

It's about 21h15. The crew made another announcement to say that we are supposed to continue our journey to HKG at 22h30, after a refuelling. But we have to wait inside the aircraft during this.
photo DSC06790

So, let's wait !

After a while, the FAs give a snack to the passengers.
photo DSC06791

These Especial crisps are special indeed, because they can taste salty as well as sweet depending what you're eating with.
photo DSC06792

Fortunately a bottle of water is given, too.
photo DSC06793

22h30, nothing.
23h00, nothing.
23h30, still nothing.

Then, a bus comes next to our plane.
photo DSC06794

A second one is arriving. In the meanwhile an other rerouted CA flight landed.
photo DSC06795

Then the captain rewarded us with a second announcement, telling that our flight is finally cancelled. Again, no apology at all.

FAs told us that we have to wait more time in the plane because we had to wait for the reopening of the airport immigration before disembarking. And yeah, Guilin Liangjiang Aiport is international : TG, BR and Dragonair sometimes land here.
It's now :
photo DSC06797

Eventually, everybody's invited to leave the plane for the bus.
photo DSC06798

Which took us to the international part of the terminal.
photo DSC06799photo DSC06801

The immigration was just an awful wait because the officers had to verify each passport to cancel the exit stamp of mainland China.
photo DSC06802

This is definitely a collector stamp !
photo DSC06811

Then passengers with a checked-in luggage had to pick it at the baggage claim.
photo DSC06803

Nobody's here this late…
photo DSC06804

Air China hired buses to bring us from the airport to the city, which is about half an hour far by car.
photo DSC06805photo DSC06806

We are finally in front of the dingy hotel CA offered us.
photo DSC06807

And I still have to find someone who wants to share the room with me !!!
photo DSC06808

Here's the dusty room. Not fancy at all.
photo DSC06809photo DSC06810

I didn't take any picture of the bathroom because it was quite disgusting. lol
But I want to show you what was standing next to the phone, on the night table. ^^
photo DSC06812

It's now about 2 am, I'm exhausted and I missed my business class flight back to ZRH. Good night.
See more

Verdict

Air China

2.9/10
Cabin2.5
Cabin crew2.0
Entertainment/wifi2.0
Meal/catering5.0

Air China Business Lounge - 3

6.0/10
Comfort8.0
Meal/catering4.0
Entertainment/wifi8.0
Services4.0

Beijing - PEK

7.9/10
Efficiency4.5
Access10.0
Services8.0
Cleanliness9.0

Hong Kong - HKG

5.0/10
Efficiency5.0
Access5.0
Services5.0
Cleanliness5.0

Conclusion

Well, after this epic flight I will try to be as much objective as I can with Air China.

CA :
- Comfy seats and decent legroom. 8
Minus 0.5 point for the lack of clear signs for finding the premium check-in counters in PEK. Each paxbus lowers the comfort grade by 0.5 point (-1), and -1 for waiting during one hour before take off, -2 for waiting in Guilin and -1 for the dingy hotel we stayed in. 2.5
- Efficient and quite friendly crew. 8
But I don't tolerate the lack of information in general (-1), the lack of announcement while we waited during 1 hour before take off (-1) and the lack of any apology (-1). Finally the captain lowers the crew grade by 3 points for his complete disinterest about passengers comfort (-3). 2
- Decent drinks and fair food. 5
- Inflight magazine in Mandarin only, wifi out of order and a boring movie shown on the screens. 2
- Nothing else than 0 for the arrival in Guilin instead of HKG !

Air China Business Lounge, T3 :
- Big lounge with plenty of seats, but few power outlets don't provide any electricity. 8
- Free wifi, but it's slow. 8
- The staff is not friendly and can sometimes be rude with the passengers. 4
- The food offer is not sufficient enough, because most of the hot dishes weren't supplied regularly. 4

PEK Terminal 3 :
- 50 minutes for passing through immigration and security, it's quite slow for this airport. I didn't see any priority lane neither. 4.5
- Easy access by train from Dongzhimen or Sanyuanqiao. Both rides can be paid with the convenient Yikatong IC card. 10
- The shiny T3 is huge and has many possibilities for food and entertainment. 8 and 9

I put a 5 grade to HKG just for not lowering its actual ratings.

Thank you for reading !
Feel free to leave your comments down there. :)

Information on the route Beijing (PEK) Hong Kong (HKG)

The contributors of Flight-Report published 19 reviews of 4 airlines on the route Beijing (PEK) → Hong Kong (HKG).


Useful

The airline with the best average rating is Cathay Pacific with 8.4/10.

The average flight time is 3 hours and 37 minutes.

  More information

25 Comments

  • Comment 109141 by
    Durian 1171 Comments

    ha ha, you must be really pissed off to translate your FR in English ;-)

  • Comment 109151 by
    lagentsecret GOLD 12150 Comments

    Thanks for sharing this Fail Report

    For a Non stop you frequent flyer it was a hard CA experience ;)

    And I still have to find someone who wants to share the room with me !!!
    Was it that difficult ? So CA gave you the possibilities to have new relationships !

    See you soon for the end of this CA odyssey

  • Comment 109158 by
    marathon GOLD 9559 Comments

    Well worth the translation effort. I noted (from a comment on the French version) that Flight Report is no longer blocked by the Chinese internet censorship (a.k.a. the Great FireWall), but I doubt that CA's customer service bothers reading customer reports and addressing the issues.

  • Comment 109175 by
    Avionero 77 Comments

    Thanks for sharing this interesting and adventurer FR ;)
    I'm surprised that you found the CA economy seat comfortable. I flew once a CA's A320, with another Recaro seat, and it was the most uncomfortable I've tried in my life... My back still hurts while remembering...
    I hope you got cool companion in that room... lol
    The safety instructions on the night table are not only hilarious, they're surreal... lol

    • Comment 294724 by
      Numero_2 GOLD AUTHOR 9915 Comments

      Thank you for your comment.
      Yeah this seat wasn't bad, but as I said the aircraft wasn't old at all... Maybe the comfort will be different in few years.
      My room companion was a 60 years old chinese-american guy. lol

  • Comment 109179 by
    KévinDC TEAM SILVER 5273 Comments

    Yay! Thanks for finally writting a report in English, even if it is about a bad experience. Beautiful report....rough flight. It's a shame because it starts out looking like a decent flight, with OK seats, IFE (albeit overhead monitors), an actual meal, and friendly FAs, then it all goes to hell in a second. As you know being a frequent flyer, Hong Kong can get some pretty bad weather and diverted flights are not rare. I can't blame the airline for the weather and ATC delays, but I get your point about the lack of information. Unfortunately, this is one of the risks that we take when we plan complicated itineraries....99% of the time it works out and sometimes we get burned. Just be glad you weren't on the CX JFK-LAX a few weeks ago that got diverted to mainland China, after a 17hr flight, ALL pax were forced to stay on board for an extra 8 hours because Chinese immigration wouldn't let them off...now that's hell! Last year, I almost had a disaster when I strung together 3 different itineraries when I went to France for the Paris Airshow and got delayed by the Air Traffic Controllers' strike...luckily everything worked out, but it was too close for comfort and a reminder of the risks we take. Did CA seriously make you share a room with a stranger or did I misunderstand that? Oh, and by the way, you're English is very good, I know since I've heard you speak English before! No need for modesty. That being said, I'm going to need you to translate more report since I barely ever have time to read the French ones anymore :-)

    • Comment 294657 by
      KévinDC TEAM SILVER 5273 Comments

      Oops...I meant JFK-HKG of course

    • Comment 294658 by
      KévinDC TEAM SILVER 5273 Comments

      P.S. I added the Air China T3 Business Lounge to the database for you

    • Comment 294726 by
      Numero_2 GOLD AUTHOR 9915 Comments

      Wow Kévin, how enthusiastic you are ! ^^

      Of course CA was not responsible for the weather in Hong Kong, but at the time we were waiting in KWL a couple of CX flights landed in HKG. So, what the hell with CA on that day ??

      The JFK-HKG flight delay is not a right comparison with my CA case, because I wouldn't have another long haul flight to catch after such a long trip from the US : After that I would take maximum a short haul flight with a quick connection.
      In my case, I had to catch the only LX flight to ZRH after a 4 hours layover, on a separate ticket of course.
      And let me remind you that I arrived in HKG with a 27 hours delay, so the JFK-HKG extra 8 hours waiting is quite of piece of cake !!!

      Yeah, we HAD TO share the rooms. No possibility to sleep alone.

      I'm thinking about translating in English the next report with CA and my First Class flight with LX, but I need time for it. For me an English report is not as quick to write as a French one.

      Thank you for your comment and for the lounge adding in the database.

  • Comment 109297 by
    Chibcha 432 Comments

    Thanks for sharing this unfortunate flight, CA looks quite lame indeed, and the hole fiasco looked really awful.

    The room sharing experience must have been really awkward...I can't imagine what would've happened to me in that case.

    Are STDs or AIDS a big concern in China?

    Saludos!

    • Comment 294742 by
      marathon GOLD 9559 Comments

      AIDS and other STDs are a major concern in China, made worse by the fact that for decades local authorities covered up rather than address the issue. Check the biography of Dr Gao Yaojie about their harassment of whistle blowers about careless blood transfusions. Prostitution has long been denied, but it is rampant and is the main vector of STDs because unprotected sex is still the norm at the lower level of the scale. There are massage parlors everywhere, some decent and many not; casual visitors may not notice them if they do not read Chinese. I remember a street in Hohhot which looked more like a red light district. I had many late evening calls ??????(Do you want a massage?) in hotels off the beaten track, and name cards of call girls in top level hotels of major cities.

    • Comment 295090 by
      Numero_2 GOLD AUTHOR 9915 Comments

      Well, I don't really care to share my room with a stranger... I'm used to sleep with different people in the same room since I've been in the army. lol
      Thanks for the comment !

  • Comment 109710 by
    jetsetpanda 2294 Comments

    Quite an informative and eye opening report for your first one in English, although I am somewhat aware of CA's reputation for handling irregular operations from other sources.

    Having a passenger share a room with a stranger is just unconceivable and this practice among others tells me how far CA needs to go in order to attain the status of a respectable world carrier. I am surprised that it is even in an alliance with the likes of SQ and LX.

    • Comment 295092 by
      Numero_2 GOLD AUTHOR 9915 Comments

      I chose to translate this report for my first translation try, because I think its drama is more attractive than the LX First Class opulence. ;)
      CA is indeed one of the worst Star Alliance carriers. What a difference with SQ and LX !
      Thanks for your comment.

  • Comment 111111 by
    Lozza 2501 1 Comments

    I feel like I should comment here, since I was on this flight as well (I'm actually in one of the above photos)

    This report is all true, but it tells only half the story. The plane was delayed once more the next day after we boarded it again, apparently due to a faulty air conditioning part. No communication from the crew again as to when we might be taking off, apart from advising us a new part would have to be flown in from Beijing to repair the aircraft.

    After a few more hours on the plane, passengers took matters into their own hands and disembarked the airplane by the stairs still attached to the door. The crew tried to stop us. There was a real risk of being arrested for being on the tarmac unauthorized, but eventually a bus came to take us back to the terminal.

    I managed to get on another flight to HKG (a big thanks to Dragon Air), but this was only possible because I had no check in luggage. Only a few of us passengers managed to get on this flight, and there was only one more flight to Hong Kong that day. Our Air China flight ended up being cancelled and so never arrived in HKG.

    It would be interesting to hear from the author how things panned out for him. He/she has written a great report, but it would be even better if he could finish the entire story.

    And a big thumbs down for Air China- they were absolutely dismal on this occasion, and I will not be taking them again out of principle.

    • Comment 296205 by
      Numero_2 GOLD AUTHOR 9915 Comments

      Hey Lozza 2501 !

      What a surprise to read that we were in the same flight !
      Thank you for giving your own thought about this memorable experience here.

      You can find the next part of the story on the following link (which is also in the flights summary in the beginning of this report) : http://flight-report.com/fr/report-7138.html

      Thank you for the comment.

Login to post a comment.