Flight-Report

Review of Air China flight Nagoya Beijing in Business

Airline Air China
Flight CA160
Class Business
Seat 2A
Aircraft Boeing 737-800
Flight time 03:35
Take-off 21 Dec 14, 09:00
Arrival at 21 Dec 14, 11:35
CA   #84 out of 129 Airlines A minimum of 20 Flight-Reports is required in order to appear in the rankings. 161 reviews
NGO85
By 5044
Published on 22nd December 2014
Background:

The purpose of this trip is flying home from Nagoya to Houston for Christmas vacation. Houston is primarily a Central/South American hub and has limited offerings to Asia. Recently, both Korean Air and Air China started operating routes into Houston-Bush Intercontinental Airport to compete with United’s daily service into Narita. Being a Star Alliance person, my shortest options between NGO and IAH were either: 1) NGO-NRT on NH, then NRT-IAH on UA or 2) NGO-PEK and PEK-IAH all on CA. Based on flight schedules and price, I opted for the exotic routing on Air China through Beijing for $2700 round-trip in J. I’ve read CA is a hit or miss airline, but I figured it couldn’t possibly be any worse than UA.

Ch'bu Centrair International Airport (NGO) is located on an artificial island about 25 miles south of Nagoya. It’s a small, efficient airport that sees very little long-haul international air traffic given the proximity to KIX/HND/NRT. Mainland US flights are limited to a single Delta flight to Detroit and European flights are limited to Lufthansa (Frankfurt) and Finnair (Helsinki). The rest of the international operations consist of regional Asian routes.

Part I – NGO-PEK (CA160, Boeing 737-800, J) – You are here
Part II – PEK-IAH (CA995, Boeing 777-300ER, J) – http://flight-report.com/en/report-8935.html
Part III – IAH-PEK (CA996, Boeing 777-300ER, J) – http://flight-report.com/en/report-8949.html
Part IV – PEK-NGO (CA159, Boeing 737-800, J) – http://flight-report.com/en/report-8962.html

Pre-flight:

I arrived by train to Centrair at 7:20am, and was checked in at the empty First/Business Class check-in line by a JAL agent. Since Air China only operates two daily flights from Nagoya (9:00am to Beijing/Capital and 9:30am to Shanghai/Pudong), all ground services are handled at JAL counters by JAL agents. I was handed boarding passes and an invitation to the JAL Sakura Lounge. Not sure why Air China, a Star Alliance member, use JAL (OneWorld) for their ground services/lounge instead of ANA.

photo BP2

Immigration leaving Japan often seems to take just as long as immigration entering the country and took ~20 minutes to get planeside. After a stop to do some last minute banking, I had 20 minutes before the scheduled boarding time (8:20am) so I made a quick stop in the JAL Sakura Lounge, which was very crowded due to CX and JL flights. The lounge wasn’t worth a picture and the food options were poor. The only breakfast option I could find was yogurt, not even a piece of fruit in sight.

I left after 15 minutes to go do some plane spotting. You can get almost all of NGO’s early morning operations in a single photo. The TG B773 had just arrived from Bangkok. Also seen are a CX A333, VN A321, and MU A321.

photo 1

By the time I made it to the gate at 8:20, boarding was underway. I snapped a quick photo of our ride to Beijing then hopped into the Business Class line. Heading down the jet bridge, got a nice view of our neighbor, a CI A333 bound for Taipei.

photo 2photo 3

————————-

Air China, CA160
Equipment: Boeing 737-800
Departure: 9:00am (9:03am)
Arrival: 11:35am (11:33am)
Flight time: 3:30

Entering the plane, the purser and flight attendant both welcomed me aboard in English. Since I came on in a sea of economy passengers, I was seated for 5 minutes before the flight attendant made her way to me with an oshibori on a platter, a pair of slippers, and the drink tray, I took a glass of orange juice and water. The oversized Air China pillow (by far some of the best on offer) and blankets were already in the seats. The load up front was 2/12 (3 if you include the Chinese air marshal that sat behind me) and economy was ~95%. The front door closed at 9:03am. Thanks to our pilot’s lead foot, we had a brisk taxi to the runway. We pulled up short to let this ANA B738 land from Kagoshima.

photo 4photo 5

We did a rolling takeoff and were up in the air in no time heading north up over Ise Bay. We did a sharp left turn providing a great view of Centrair in the dawn’s light. We headed dead west passing over the Suzuka Mountains and some snow-covered fields before the turbulence started.



It was a very bumpy ride over Japan so the captain suspended cabin service for ~40 minutes until we got into cleaner air. Since the air marshal was right behind me, here are some discreet cabin shots. Seat pitch was good and the recliner seats were more than comfortable enough for a regional flight. There was no personal IFE, overhead TVs played Chinese TV programs.



Flying over southern Korea the turbulence finally let up.

photo 14

Service began with an oshibori, a cup of green tea, and a ramekin of nuts. The flight attendant handed me a printed menu to pick between an Asian (flatfish) and Western (cordon bleu) meal for lunch. The menu was then taken away.

photo 15

Shortly, the lunch tray was set down containing a plate of starters along with cold soba noodles and a bowl of fruit for dessert. If you look closely, a packet of instant coffee somehow made it on to my tray in the top right corner and I have no idea how/why it ended up there. On the plate was a chicken salad with sesame dressing, pickled vegetables, and three shrimp (the orange things on top of the lemons in the front). Hot bread was brought around soon afterwards.

photo 16photo 17

The main was brought out looking a little sad and brown. Contrary to its appearance, the fish was actually really good and the stewed vegetables weren’t overcooked. My tea was refilled twice during the meal service without asking.

photo 18

After the meal tray was taken away, drinks were offered again along with bottled water and the cabin lights were turned off. After an hour nap, we were already beginning our decent into Beijing as indicated by the SimCity 2000 scenery.

photo 19

Final descent into Beijing/Capital on a sunny day.

photo 20

After an on-time touchdown, we taxied past the SkyTeam operations at Terminal 2 (KL, MU, SU, and KE) and then Star Alliance operations at Terminal 3 (LH, CA, OS, UA) before making our way to a remote stand.

photo 21photo 22

We pulled into remote stand 459 next to a CA A321. While waiting for the stairs to get put in position, the purser and flight attendant both thanked me for flying with CA. One last photo of our plane before getting onto the VIP bus back to the terminal.



Some plane spotting as we cruised back to T3.



That’s where the fun ended. I was met with a 500+ person queue to get through international transfers that took around 2 hours to clear since only two immigration officers were processing people (domestic transfers had 8 people working). I think Beijing/Capital takes the cake for worst transit airport. Two things: I’m glad I went to the bathroom before getting in line and I’m glad I had a comfortable 3.5 hour layover in PEK. After clearing immigration, I then waited 20 minutes to go through airport security where a female security officer gave me a long “handsy” 3 minute pat down. When all was said and done, it was ~2:00pm when I made it back planeside.
See more

Verdict

Air China

7.0/10
Cabin8.0
Cabin crew9.0
Entertainment/wifi4.0
Meal/catering7.0

JAL Sakura Lounge Annex

1.8/10
Comfort1.0
Meal/catering1.0
Entertainment/wifi4.0
Services1.0

Nagoya - NGO

8.5/10
Efficiency6.0
Access10.0
Services8.0
Cleanliness10.0

Beijing - PEK

6.8/10
Efficiency0.0
Access9.0
Services9.0
Cleanliness9.0

Conclusion

All in all, I can’t complain too much about this flight on CA.

Cabin comfort: For regional service on a narrow-body aircraft I would say this was on par with other carriers. The recliner seat had ample pitch/width, the cabin was clean and quiet, and with a low load-factor in J had plenty of privacy/personal space.

Crew: Welcomed me on board and thanked me for flying. All spoke English with no hesitation. Service always performed with a smile, proactive when refilling drinks, but they weren't chatty (not something I care about).

Meal and catering: Food options limited (only one Asian and only one Western). Presentation was lacking on the main, but the taste certainly made up for that. Was it the best food I've had on a plane? No, but it was also far from the worst I've had before.

Entertainment: No personal IFE and only Chinese TV shown on the overheard screens. I don't care about IFE on these short flights, but I'll rate it based on what I've seen on other narrow-body aircraft. I flipped through their two in-inflight magazines (one was general and the other was an interesting special issue on Chinese culture). It certainly provided enough entertainment during the 40min delay in service during turbulence.

On-time performance: Boarding started on time and was orderly, we left on time, we arrived on time, and even though we went to a remote stand, I was in the never ending immigration line less than 20 minutes after touchdown.

Related

7 Comments

  • Comment 125027 by
    marathon GOLD 9333 Comments

    Nice early morning light on the tarmac ! The VN A321 operates the night flight I took from SGN, connecting to the CI A333 to TPE.
    An air marshal on a CA flight to/from Japan ? It may tell something about the current relationship.
    The seats look old fashioned, but that does not make them uncomfortable.
    This transit delay shows how new the concept is new to the Chinese. The terminal which opened for the 2008 Olympics had not been designed with that in mind and the result is a disaster. It is likely to be much faster to enter China on the visa waiver option (72 hours max, incoming and departing flights from two different countries) if you have one of the eligible nationalities. It took me roughly 15 minutes to be landside, and going airside back through immigration takes about the same amount of time, people mover included.
    This is an excellent first FR, for the quality of the pictures and narration, and the unusual routing. Welcome among the contributors !

    • Comment 307355 by
      NGO85 AUTHOR 1624 Comments

      Thanks Marathon, you are the only other person to report NGO and did a thorough walk-through of the airport airside. I was in a rush that morning so didn't get the chance to take pictures of the terminal, next time I fly out I'll be sure to add some to get a more complete report next time.

      Yes, the air marshal was an unexpected cabin mate, not a normal citing. The decision to put CI and CA at adjacent gates might have been a little passive aggressive by Japan as well...

      The 72-hour transit visa line had no more than 10 people in at any time and the people filtering into T3 from landside looked very light once I made it to security screening so that probably would have been the much faster option.

  • Comment 125030 by
    jetsetpanda 2296 Comments

    Welcome and thank you for sharing this FR with great pics.

    • Comment 307446 by
      DiscountTentsSale 1 Comments

      I think this is the best way to express your feeling, I must say! the photography is too good. Because of these images, it looks that we also here in the flight and watching everything live. It feels good to see this. Really thanks to you for this act of kindness. :)
      Keep travelling But safe travelling..
      ________________________
      www.discounttentssale.com

  • Comment 125032 by
    KévinDC TEAM GOLD 4742 Comments

    Awesome first report! The pics are great and the reading is very entertaining! It starts out well with...It couldn't possibly be able worse than UA LOL, I love it....sooooo true! A TPAC Roudtrip in J for $2.7K, now that's a great deal not to be passed up! I'd backtrack even further for that kind of a price. Love all the planespotting...that's my kind of report. Are there Air Marshalls on all Chinese flight/flights operated by Chinese airlines? Looking forward to the report on the TPAC leg. I hear CA's J on 777s is pretty decent. Thanks again for sharing this first report with us; glad you found our little site :-)

    Welcome to Flight-Report!

    KevinDC
    Community Manager

  • Comment 125134 by
    Numero_2 SILVER 8794 Comments

    Thanks for sharing and welcome here.

    Nice report, pleasant to read and full of clear and sharp pictures.

    CA uses JL's ground services in KIX as well, but the reason why the airline uses an other alliance carrier for that remains unexplained for me.

    Your flight seems to have been overall good.
    The Air China FA's English level is constantly improving, and that's a good point for the airline.

    I can't explain the presence of an air marshall on many CA flights : There was as well one onboard a PEK-HKG flight I took earlier this year.

    The food offer is OK for such a regional flight.
    Do you have a souvenir about the wine list ?

    After an hour nap, we were already beginning our decent into Beijing as indicated by the SimCity 2000 scenery. -> I've played to this game, too. But it was many years ago. lol

    Thanks again and see you soon for the next leg.

    • Comment 307699 by
      NGO85 AUTHOR 1624 Comments

      This flight is code-shared with NH, which makes the whole JL ground services the more absurd. JL code-shares their NGO-PEK passengers onto MU. I think the only service into mainland China on a Japanese carrier out of NGO is a daily NH flight to PVG.

      There was no wine list on this flight, sorry.

Login to post a comment.