Review of Air China flight Houston Beijing in First

Airline Air China
Flight CA996
Class First
Seat 1H
Aircraft Boeing 777-300ER
Flight time 14:50
Take-off 17 May 14, 01:00
Arrival at 17 May 14, 04:50
CA   #64 out of 120 Airlines A minimum of 10 flight-reports within the past two years is required to appear in the rankings. 183 reviews
ordbkk
By 7540
Published on 30th September 2014
Air China's first class cabin consists of 8 open suites in a 1-2-1 configuration. The suites are semi-private but do not have a door that closes. Between the two center suites is a large partition that can be raised or lowered for privacy or couples travelling together. It was this feature that helped us choose CA over other airlines, since couples in first can be quite separated. (I hear this is a similar layout to the Thai A380)

The seats are very wide and comfortable for sitting. When converted to a bed, the flight attendant added a thin mattress cover but I was still a bit uncomfortable and could not seem to fall asleep (I usually sleep quite well in other lie-flat seats). Another factor that made getting comfortable difficult was the power seat adjustment. The motion of the seat was somewhat basic, so although you could make minor adjustments to the top and bottom surfaces of the seat, it was mostly limited to one continuous adjustment between sitting upright and laying down. (I prefer to lift my legs but not recline too far, a position which was impossible to achieve with this seat)

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There was lots of storage around the seat, which was nice since the front two center seats do not have overhead storage. We ended up putting our bags over the outside seats, since they were unoccupied. The outer shell of the suite does have a thin compartment suitable for hanging up a suit coat or jacket.

The amenity kit (although L'Occitane brand) was small and basic. It contained a comb, ear plugs, eye shades, toothbrush, colgate toothpaste, lotion, and lipbalm. The blanket provided was perfectly thick and soft, but the only pajamas available were too large to be comfortable. The bathroom had a nice fold-down bench that you could use when changing clothes, however the bathroom itself was a little small and not kept very clean.

During boarding we were served cold nuts, a cold towel, and water. This again was sub-standard as most airlines provide warmed nuts and hot towels, with champagne even in business class.

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As our flight was departing at 1:00 AM, menus were quickly distributed and orders taken.



The wines and alcohol available were very limited and lower quality.



Several different teas available.



Simply prepared Ahi tuna. Served with another cold towel. I ordered a white wine.

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Beef with black mushrooms. The taste was okay but plain, and this presentation reminded me of an economy class meal.

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A quick peek out at the snowy landscape below

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The Chinese appetizer: Chicken salad, cabbage salad, and jellyfish salad served with cold canape of prosciutto and smoked salmon. None of this was my cup of tea, but others may have enjoyed it.

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Ginseng soup

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Main course of chili chicken & shrimp. The taste was okay, but again a little more bland than I expected. Also, for some unknown reason my wine was replaced with orange juice, and though I requested more wine, it never appeared.

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Assorted fruit plate.

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Lemon raspberry cake

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Small icecream snack, it says a lot when this was actually the best part of the meal.

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The IFE was slow and glitchy (my companion's IFE was crashed for most of the flight). Even if it had been working, the English selection of movies was very limited. One interesting feature of the IFE was the many configurations of the navigation maps showing the flight from different perspectives.

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Another interesting feature was the ability to play No-limit texas holdem with other passengers. However, there were no other players online when I checked, and with most of the first class suites empty, I wasn't sure if business or economy passengers had access to the same IFE games.

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I have no photos of flight attendants, since they spent most of the flight in the galley chatting amongst themselves. While they weren't rude when called, I wouldn't call them friendly either and I got the impression they didn't understand most of the English I was speaking.

I landed in PEK, a bit disappointed with this flight, sore and tired from the lack of comfortable sleep, and to top it off, Air China lost half of our luggage. We spent a couple extra hours waiting for our luggage to be found before giving up and going to the hotel without it. Luckily, they found and delivered our bag the next day.
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Verdict

Air China

5.1/10
Cabin7.0
Cabin crew5.5
Entertainment/wifi4.0
Meal/catering4.0

Houston - IAH

7.6/10
Efficiency8.0
Access8.5
Services6.0
Cleanliness8.0

Beijing - PEK

7.0/10
Efficiency4.0
Access8.0
Services8.0
Cleanliness8.0

Conclusion

Overall, I felt my experience with Air China was disappointing. Better than economy, of course, but this service would have been lackluster for business class, so it was certainly not a first-class experience I would pay for in the future.

Pros: Spacious, semi-private suites. Soft, thick sleeping blanket. Interesting IFE navigation screens.

Cons: Uncomfortable seat/bed, mediocre food & drink, standoffish service. Low-quality amenity kit, pajamas, slippers. Lost luggage for a day.

Related

13 Comments

  • Comment 118990 by
    Alcam 2072 Comments

    Thanks for this report and welcome.
    Not a very good experience indeed, far from one could expect from a first class trip. Catering is clearly below Standards, and the wine list is....
    A lot of the pics are upside down.

  • Comment 118991 by
    02022001 SILVER 4362 Comments

    Great FR ! Thanks !

  • Comment 118993 by
    KévinDC TEAM SILVER 5302 Comments

    Awesome first report! Very detailed with lots of good info. Shame that the experience was disappointing. It's true that the catering looks Business-Classish, although some dishes are well presented. And when you have a mediocre crew to top it off, the overall experience suffers. Even in Business you expect a little extra attention, but in International F, an absent crew is not good. Thanks for sharing! Looking forward to more reports!

    KevinDC / Community Manager

  • Comment 119003 by
    marathon GOLD 9566 Comments

    Reader Alcam comments about the wine list - I note that Air China offesr exclusive Pu'er tea and Longjing tea, arguably among the best. There is a lot of hype about 5100 ???????: Air China tries hard to offer high end domestic drinks, but I did not find anything special about that Tibetan water, other than it is expensive if bought outside Tibet, due to the distance. The Chinese often drink orange juice during their meal, which is unusually to Westerners. Sometimes, they serve it warm.
    I agree with the choice of an airline which allows a couple flying first class to be together (even though I may never fly F). Unfortunately, the whole impression of that flight is substandard, seat, FAs, meal and checked luggage handling alike, which is on par with the disparaging comments in J. My own experience in Y is that it is somewhat below the other major Chinese airlines.
    It is great to welcome a new contributor breaking new ground on the website. Thanks for this report !

  • Comment 119012 by
    SKYTEAMCHC GOLD 8232 Comments

    Thanks for sharing with us this experience. It would have beengood for a business class product but lacks of prestige for a First. I quite like the second meal both it's content and it's presentation.
    The main course of the first one is, as you say, more premium economy looking than first. I can't believe that FA were not more present in the cabin ! it's not tolerable in First.

  • Comment 119015 by
    Numero_2 GOLD 9930 Comments

    Thanks for sharing.

    The cabin seems to be quite compact...

    Menu and wine list are very basic, and the Great Wall red wine can be found in CA business lounge at PEK T3.
    What a shame bout the ice cream !

    As you told, even the service is bad... So how CA can claim that this product is First Class ???

    Well, after all everything here looks like a standard J class and not like a real F should be.

  • Comment 119021 by
    ordbkk AUTHOR 3 Comments

    Thank you everyone for your encouragement. Other reports I've read about CA's service in F have been mixed, but complaints about the food seem to be consistent. We flew NH later on this trip and the difference in quality really stood out. In any case, for me the lack of comfortable sleep and the loss of our luggage really started our vacation on a sour note.

  • Comment 119098 by
    greg787 31 Comments

    Hi and Welcome to FR.
    I've been following a lot of the flight reports out of IAH and this flight in particular keeps getting mixed reviews. Mostly so-so in J and sub par for F. Being a fairly new route you'd think they'd make sure it's the best, or at least up to par for the competition.
    -greg

  • Comment 119136 by
    jetsetpanda 2294 Comments

    Welcome and thank you for sharing this report.

    CA has an underwhelming product and the meal looks perhaps more fitting for J than F. I've read horror stories about how they handle irregular operations and that is one of the reasons that have kept me away from trying this carrier. The design of the plates is just hideous. Those red stains look so unappetizing.

  • Comment 119138 by
    lagentsecret GOLD 12395 Comments

    Thanks for sharing your first FR and welcome aboard

    It's a comprehensive and pleasant report with a bunch of great pictures

    CA First Class product is pathetic

    Old style cabin and seats

    Unappetzing catering and the wine list's offer is really weak

    It could barely be a Business Class product

    Looking for your NH flight

  • Comment 423790 by
    Airline_Alliance_Flyer 1 Comments

    I had an okay experience with CA, The service was not what I expected. In capital pavilion they didn't offer a thin mattress I only had a thick blanket to sleep in. The meals onboard were not the best. Very little menu verity onboard.

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