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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Final descent into Beijing/Capital on a sunny day.
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.
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.
JAL Sakura Lounge Annex
Nagoya - NGO
Beijing - PEK
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.
0 LIKESLIKE TO THANK THE AUTHORTHANKS ! FLIGHT-REPORT LIKED
Flight-Report is a free website hosting more than 500 000 pictures and 17 000 reviews, without ads, this website can't exist. We understand that ads can be annoying, this is why we only display a maximum of 2 non-invasive ads per page.
To continue using Flight-Report, we invite you to add Flight-Report to your blocker's "white list".