Air China Business Class aboard the Airbus A350 provides a modern interior, more spacious seats, and enhanced comfort compared to their older Boeing 777 planes. As a Star Alliance member, many award redemptions are available from alliance members such as United and Lifemiles programs. While the new airplane is great, service could use improvement and transfers at Shanghai airport could be much more streamlined.
For this booking I used 75,000 Lifemiles to book a flight from FRA-PVG-ICN-ROR. Considering just about all flight itineraries from Frankfurt to Palau were over 24 hours long, I absolutely needed to find a business class award redemption. Flying that long in economy class would be torture.
The Lifemiles program has several bugs and quirks to it, but are manageable if you are aware of how to work around them. There is an active thread on flyertalk that discusses how to avoid issues with booking awards with Lifemiles.
In my experience, conducting searches without using “smart search” yielded better results and using AMEX cards did not cause errors with during the booking process.
Air China 936 Frankfurt (FRA) to Shanghai (PVG) Cabin: Business Seat: 12A Aircraft: A350-900 Duration: 10h, 10m
Air China Business Class lounge is spacious and easy to find. There was plenty of seating and power outlets to charge electronic devices. The food options were pretty limited and for the most part I didn’t bother eating the food provided.
Cabin Atmosphere (4/5)
I’ve flown business class on several A350s and have never been disappointed by the cabin atmosphere. The large windows, humidity and air pressure control, and lighting packages always make for a more comfortable flight. Furthermore, the A350 is usually the flagship plane for many airlines and tend to have better seats than on older planes.
For instance, Air China as more cramped business class seats on their 777 in a 2-2-2 configuration whereas on the A350, the seats are arranged in a 1-2-1 configuration. My only complaint would the interior was a bland beige color that reminded my of old computer desktops from the 90s.
The Air China Business Class seats had much more space on the A350 than on the 777 along with more storage space. There even was a seat belt that went across the chest like cars, which I’ve never seen before on a plane. The arm rests and television screens were positioned more ergonomically to make the seat feel less cramped.
The footwell wasn’t too small but obviously not as spacious and other business class seats such as Japan Airlines or Etihad Airways Business Class. The only other negative was the seat made loud clicks like plastic was cracking and the seat cushions already seem worn on this plane. Surprising since the plane is only about a year old.
As for the entertainment system, the TV was a good size and came with noise cancelling headphones. However, there was not much content available for non-Chinese (Mandarin) speakers.
Compared to the lounge, the food on the flight was surprisingly good and with a variety of flavors. The menu was broken up in to Western and Eastern options.
I wasn’t given much time to look at the menu since they handed it to me and stared at me until I told them my options. This also occurred on my other flight back which I found weird. There are many drink options but with 15 seconds to decide, its hard to choose and remember the drink options if I wanted to order another drink later on during the flight.
The service was adequate with timely meal service and frequent cleaning of the bathrooms. However, compared to the exceptional service on Eva Air and Singapore Airlines, the service could use some improvement. For instance, the staff could be friendly and let passengers keep the menu for more than 15 seconds.
As a side note, transferring in Shanghai (PVG) is a pain. Passengers have to go through passport control, customs, get a visa, pickup luggage, go upstairs to check-in counters, drop off luggage, go through passport control again, and then go through security screening. This process takes about an 90 minutes, most of it standing on line.
Compare this to transferring in Seoul, were the process just requires going though security in about 3 minutes. Unless I plan on staying in Shanghai for a few days, I do not anticipate on transferring in Shanghai ever again.
In conclusion, Air China has new A350 planes with comfortable cabins along with good food. Award availability for Star Alliance partners is plentiful for business class bookings, which is a great option for long flights to Asia. Drawbacks for flying with Air China are service could be better and transiting Shanghai is an annoying process. Regardless, Air China is still worthwhile flying and I intend on flying with them again if awards are available in the future.
- Flight Review: French Bee Economy Class A350
- Flight Review: Qatar Airways Business Class A350
- Flight Review: Ethiopian Airlines Business Class A350