Filtering back planeside around 2pm with a scheduled boarding time of 2:20pm, I didn’t have much time to explore PEK or do any planespotting so I apologize for the lack of pictures at PEK. Having spent lunchtime clearing immigration, I quickly ran up to the Air China Business Class Lounge, grabbed a plate of dim sum and a bowl of cream of asparagus soup. I came in at the end of lunchtime so there was ample hot food in the lounge and I thought the soup was especially good. After 15 minutes in the lounge, I headed off on the trek to my gate. Economy boarding was underway by the time I got down there, so I just snapped a quick picture of my plane and headed in. To my surprise, there was an inspection on the jetbridge. All passengers had carry-on baggage searched by Chinese customs inspectors for any sort of beverages, there went the bottle of water I took from the lounge. Another security peculiarity in as many flights with CA (I didn’t see an air marshal on this flight).
Air China, CA995 Equipment: Boeing 777-300ER Departure: 3:00pm (Actual: 3:16pm) Arrival: 2:40pm (Actual: 2:02pm) Flight time: 12:46
Entering the plane through L1, the purser welcomed me aboard in English and directed me through the F cabin to my seat. The business cabin is large and open containing 7 rows in a 2/2/2 arrangement. A pillow and a pretty good quality duvet were already located in the seats and noise-cancelling headphones were located in the little cubby next to the headrest. Slippers and amenity kit were already placed in the storage area below the large IFE screen (15.4 in/39 cm). Walking into the cabin, I was surprised to see seats upholstered in blue to match those recently released on CA’s newly acquired B748s (these seats were previously grey). Also shown are the contents of the amenity kit by L’Occitane for all of those kit aficionados.
After getting settled into my seat, the flight attendant made his way to me with an oshibori on a platter and the drink tray containing champagne, orange juice and water. Needing a drink after the transfer ordeal, I went for a glass of champagne and a glass of water. After a slow boarding process due to the aforementioned carry-on inspections, we eventually were cleared for departure. The load today was light up front (F: 2/8 and J: 26/42), but sold out in Y. Given the light load in J, I had no seatmate giving me an empty window seat that I planned on using as my designated bed (Lufthansa F-style).
We had a short taxi to the runway, which allowed for a little bit of whale watching in the late afternoon light.
There were no aircraft ahead of us, so we did a rolling take-off with the powerful GE90s roaring into life as we powered over the outskirts of Beijing.
Some over engine/wing shots as we continued our ascent to the north and an air-to-air spotting of another CA wide-body (too far away to accurately identify it).
After leveling off, dinner service started. My side of the cabin was served by a young male flight attendant. Oshibori was distributed and dinner/lunch orders were taken. There seemed to be just one set of menus and the flight attendant very slowly made his way down the aisle showing the meal menu and the drinks menu (wine/alcohol/tea) to each passenger and waiting for them to make their selections. Sitting near the back of the cabin, it took a good 20 minutes for him to make his way to me. Here’s a picture of the cabin while I wait my turn…
Presented with the menu, I was faced with 3 Chinese options (fish, chicken, or vegetarian) and 2 Western options (beef or vegetarian) for dinner. I wanted the fish, but was told that it was already out so I settled for the chicken. Our second meal was to be a lunch and I had 2 Chinese options (chicken and rice or beef noodle soup) and 1 Western option (beef and pasta). I decided to go with beef noodle soup for my pre-arrival meal. Two drink orders were taken at this time, which seemed strange. The first was a settling-in drink and the second was a drink to be served with the dinner.
About 5 minutes later a beer was delivered with a ramekin of mixed nuts. Before I could get some normal lighting shots, the red mood lighting came on (I apologize in advance because this red mood lighting made pictures near impossible to take, it really isn’t that bright, but the camera just soaks up all color).
Another beer was dropped off along with an amuse bouche (seared scallop) that I devoured before I remembered to take a picture of it. Given the size of the cabin, I was surprised to see the flight attendant individually walk dinner trays down the aisle. Since we departed at 1am Houston time, I was hoping for a quicker dinner service in order to get some good sleep in, but this turned into a two hour meal service. Eventually, my tray was delivered containing a salad. Despite being a little unpolished, the flight attendant was very attentive and quickly cleared up by my empty salad plate and brought out my main and bowl of rice followed by a basket of bread. Since the mood lighting kills the photos, here is your description of the tray: back left is cucumbers in spiced oil, back middle was a strange mixture of shrimp and vegetables, and back right was a Chinese succotash (can’t think of a better description). The main was chicken and vegetables in a good-tasting sauce.
Immediately after I finished my meal, my tray was quickly cleared by the attentive flight attendant and he immediately returned from the galley with a tray containing a cheese plate, a fruit plate, a chocolate cake, and a bowl of vanilla ice cream. I was told to take what I wanted so I went for a fruit plate and a piece of chocolate cake. He then asked if I wanted any after dinner drinks, I asked for a Bailey’s and a glass of water.
A picture of my bed tonight. Since I didn’t have a neighbor, I used one duvet as a mattress pad and the other as a blanket. The cubby for the window seats is a little on the small size, but I didn’t find it cumbersome during the night. The arm rest retracts so you can get a couple more inches of width. The length of the bed was no problem for me (182 cm). I found the padding of the seat to be good, whether in a lounging position or in full-flat position. I never once felt any sort of butt discomfort or feeling of restlessness during the entire flight. I should point out (as on most Asian carriers), the cabin temperature on all my CA flights was on the warm side so some Westerners might find it uncomfortable.
After 5 hours of sleep, I awoke somewhere near Anchorage. Feeling hungry, I went up to the bar area and the flight attendant helped me assemble a little tray for a continental breakfast that I took back to my seat to enjoy as I watched dawn’s light begin to appear. After breakfast, I dozed off again…
I was awoken by the flight attendant somewhere near the Washington/Idaho border in preparation for our lunch service (I requested this when he was assembling my breakfast earlier in the bar). Linens were laid, oshibori were distributed, and drinks were served. Being a lighter meal service, we received our meal on a single tray. There was a salad in the back right that had raw salmon on top, the beef noodle soup, a bread plate, a fruit plate. That beef noodle soup was extremely good, it had a really flavorful broth. I was almost feeling gluttonous to ask for a second bowl, but felt full enough after this meal.
Unfortunately it was very cloudy in the US today and we had nothing, but a bed of clouds below us the entire way from Seattle to Houston so no views of the snow-capped Rockies today. I just spent the remaining time watching TV shows on the IFE, which I felt had enough variety for my tastes (others may disagree). We had a very smooth ride and eventually began our descent into the Houston area. Today we would be landing from the east, so I was able to get this aerial shot of Houston-George Bush Intercontinental Airport as we do a fly by.
As always, we make our U-turn over Lake Houston.
Before starting our final descent over I-69.
After touchdown 40 minutes early, we have a short taxi back to Terminal D. There is heavy tarmac construction going on as we get a glimpse of this KLM Asia B744-Combi that just arrived before us from Schiphol. As we turn into the terminal, we can see the Queen has a neighbor, a SQ B773 that is getting ready to head back to Moscow-Domodedovo.
We were followed in by LH’s A388 from Frankfurt.
UA B753 getting ready to depart from Terminal C.
A final shot of the KL B744 with cargo bay open as we pull into our gate.
Deplaning took place through L2. You have to cross over to Terminal E in order to get to immigration, which is a little bit of a walk. The KLM flight must have already filtered through, as there was no one in line for US Citizens. Our early arrival meant that we beat all the TATL flights that were beginning to filter in. It was a ten-minute wait for bags, but I was through an empty customs line and into my parent’s car by 2:35pm.
Air China Business Lounge - 3
Beijing - PEK
Houston - IAH
Another good CA experience.
Cabin comfort: I found the cabin to feel very open/airy. The seats were really comfortable and had plenty of pitch/width for me. I like the layout of the seat, although the placement of the literature could prove annoying. Low J-load makes for a quiet cabin and plenty of space/privacy (I’d take two seats to myself over a herringbone seat any day of the week).
Crew: Crew seemed consistent with the first flight: spoke English well and performed their jobs efficiently with a smile (more than you’d get on some European carriers…). Some crew seemed a little less polished/refined on this flight since it was a young cabin crew.
Meal and catering: Catering out of PEK was good, but the overall presentation/experience is not what you’d get on some other Asian carriers (I’d say it's on par with KE).
Entertainment: IFE screen was big (15.4 inches). I thought the selection of TV shows/movies was good. Yes, 60% of the options are Chinese movies/programs, but it is a Chinese airline so I’m not going to fault them for that. What I care about the most, they have a good moving-map.
On-time performance: Boarding started early and we left on time, but most importantly I was in the car on the way home before our scheduled arrival time.
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