While our day in Xiamen was a bit disappointing due to unexpected illness and a tour gone awry, my son and I were both still looking forward to our Xiamen Air 787-9 economy fight back to California that evening. We’d arrived into Xiamen from Taipei the evening before on an excellent 737 flight, spending a specifically planned 23-hour overnight layover in this coastal Chinese city. The tickets cost us $186 per person, all-in, an absolutely phenomenal one-way economy fare across the Pacific.
Transit to Xiamen Gaoqi Airport
What was not phenomenal was our taxi ride from the Hyatt Regency Xiamen to the Xiamen Gaoqi Airport. Our driver was literally the worst taxi driver I’ve ever ridden with. I’d read that Xiamen Airport has an awkward taxi queue that essentially strands the drivers at the airport until they make it to the front and can pick up a passenger.
I didn’t expect to end up in it. It didn’t appear that the queue was the pickup and drop-off point for passengers. It’s like the driver had no idea where he was going. He was also struggling with the manual transmission, which concerned me as well. I cannot imagine that the queue was where he was supposed to drop us. We had to walk a decent distance and find our way to the international departures terminal. But we made it safe and sound.
Check-In And Lounge
Check in at Xiamen Gaoqi International Airport was essentially as smooth as when we flew Xiamen Air 737 economy class from Taipei the day before. There wasn’t as long a line, however. I didn’t bother flashing my Delta Platinum card to be able to use the shorter queue since there was basically no one in either. The SkyTeam elite status that Delta Platinum provides saved us a ton of time at Taipei Songshan Airport, though.
Boarding passes in hand, we then passed through customs and immigration. We were just under the limit of 24-hour transit visa. Even if the stopover had been longer, you can utilize the 144-hour transit without visa to visit Xiamen. You’re restricted to just the city, though, and cannot travel all of Fujian province.
Once we were through, I used my Priority Pass membership to get us into First Class Lounge 7. it is the contract business class lounge for a number of airlines as well.
However, the lounge closes at 7:30 PM and the staff were already cleaning up the food and drinks for the night. We stayed for the duration, moving to the gate with a little while left to wait.
The First Class Lounge 7 was right over the Gate 17 waiting area, which was our gate. We even sat by a window where we had a view of our waiting 787.
Boarding our Xiamen Air 787-9 Economy Flight
We had a bit of a wait for our evening flight after the lounge closed, maybe an hour. I was a bit giddy, as this was my first long-haul flight on a 787. My son shared my excitement, as he has a large COBI (knockoff LEGO) 787 set at home, so finally getting to fly one was quite the treat.
The Xiamen flight crew looked very sharp as they boarded. They were outfitted with matching everything. The matching light blue uniforms are an excellent look.
I did pull my Elite Plus status for boarding, which got us into the SkyPriority queue. Even with the lack of clarity at check-in, I simply showed my Delta Platinum card in the app to the agent checking our boarding passes and she waived us into the business class line. Early boarding is a perk I don’t really give any value, but I do like to get aboard and snap some photos before the crowds arrive.
Boarding started about 10 minutes late. Xiamen business class looks like a fairly typical reverse herringbone product. Sure would have been nice to fly it, but I was fare more keen on the economy deal we got than burning a lot of miles. With a 7:00 PM arrival time into LAX, we would just simply collapse at an airport hotel and sleep once we arrived back in the United States.
The economy cabin is the standard 3-3-3 layout found on 787 aircraft. There is a forward and rear section, separated by the lavatories.
Pleasant, relaxing instrumental piano music greeted us. We got our bags stowed and settled into seats 62D and 62E in the middle of the rear section. We were not able to check in online or select seats ahead of time. Our seats were just assigned at check in. I would have much rather been on either side of the aircraft.
At nearly 9:00 PM after a day of being sick and then exploring Xiamen, someone was still excited for our flight!
Xiamen Air 787-9 Economy Seats
Xiamen Air 787-9 economy seats offer 32 inches of pitch, which is reasonable for a long-haul flight. It’s not a top-tier product like what you’ll find flying Japanese carrier’s in terms of space, but it’s not the worst available. They are on the narrow side, however, at just 17 inches in width. Each seat had a blanket and pillow for our 12.5-hour haul across the ocean.
Like the seats on the Xiamen Air 737, I thought that the seats are not especially well-padded. They appear plush, but the material is actually fairly stiff. This is a bit of an issue for a long-haul flight.
In the pocket was a bottle of water, along with a pair of socks sealed in plastic. I don’t know why, but the socks offered by almost every airline irritate my feet. I never use them.
The recline is decent. Unlike most economy seats where the back just pivots, the seats actually slides forward slightly. There aren’t any footrests, so I did grab my bag and place it at my feet for support when I wanted to nap.
I wish I would have asked the check-in agent for seats further back where no one was assigned. The flight wasn’t completely full, but they managed to leave multiple rows with no one in them. There was unfortunately a third passenger in our row of three, which meant we didn’t have the luxury of an extra space.
The safety video ran with some very familiar background music. I spent the whole time tying to place it instead of paying attention (turns out it is the theme from Forrest Gump). My son was a whole lot more concerned, studying the safety card intently. This is a running theme with the kid.
One gripe I have about the Xiamen Air 787-9 is that there aren’t any air vents. When the cabin gets unbearably warm (which it was that evening at the tail end of boarding), there isn’t even a breeze you can enjoy. The cabin started fairly hot but cooled down nicely as we got airborne. I was worried it was going to be miserable all the way to Los Angeles.
Xiamen Air Economy Service
Before I go any further, I need to mention that the Xiamen Air crew was extremely professional throughout the entire trip. You could tell they take pride in their job, and that the airline is proud to be a SkyTeam member. As a “third tier” Delta partner that doesn’t fly to many U.S. destinations, I didn’t expect a whole lot from them. But after both our flights, I am thoroughly impressed. They have great crew that is pleasant and provides excellent service. They may not speak English well, but they will offer their best.
The flight time between Xiamen and Los Angeles clocks in at a few minutes under 12 hours. Xiamen Air economy class include an actual full menu at each seat, rather than a small card.
The choices for our May flight included a choice of three different main courses: rice with mustard leaves and scallop, stewed pork served on plain rice, or roast chicken with black pepper sauce pasta. I chose the pasta and my son went with the pork and rice. The menu also includes the offerings for the return flight, which are entirely different.
The drink list in Xiamen Air 787-9 economy is fairly short. You have two wine options and a single Chinese beer. Aside from that, there are the typical soft drinks, juices, coffee, and tea.
We unfortunately experienced moderate turbulence which prevented the cabin service from starting for well over an hour. It was intermittent through the whole service. After stopping the crew once, I think the captain just wanted them to let them get through things and allowed them to wrap up and serve everyone.
The meal trays followed drinks by a few minutes. The crew were efficient and professional through the service.
Overall, the food was decent. There were a few differences, however, from the published menu. The meat with the pasta was definitely beef instead of chicken, and the shredded lotus root came with shrimp instead of ham. I consider both improvements. I do have to say I found the lotus root interesting. Dinner was served with packets of radish and Chuan spicy sauce.
Shortly following dinner snack packs of nuts and dried tomato were handed out.
In-Flight Entertainment and WiFi
The selection of English titles on Xiamen Air flights isn’t especially extensive, but they do have a nice variety of options. I considered whether the flight would be enough to entirely binge the Lord of the Rings trilogy. If I didn’t want to sleep, I might have gone for it.
I was curious to see how our flight path would compare to what the map tracker was showing. Given the air currents across the Pacific, the path is often much longer than the great circle distance shown, but the pilots are able to take advantage of an excellent tailwind.
During the flight I wondered what “Amoy” meant. Prominently placed on the IFE screen, it didn’t seem like a Chinese word. Turns out it is the former anglicized name for Xiamen (LOL). Guess I need to brush up a bit more on geography and history.
We both watched a movie during and after dinner. My son swore he wouldn’t get tired, but by the time he finished a second film, I could tell he was exhausted. He slept on my shoulder for a bit while I tried out my Trtl neck pillow for the first time. My thoughts are mixed on how helpful it is, although I really like the idea behind the “neck brace” design.
Descent And Arrival Into LAX
One issue during our flight was that the turbulence didn’t stop for a long time. Rather than constant, gentle vibration, it came in bursts. This didn’t help sleeping. But I think I still managed a solid 2-3 hours, enough to get me through until we arrived at our LAX airport hotel.
The lights came on about 3 hours before landing, much sooner than I expected. Seems like the flight attendants wanted to get the second meal service out of the way. I would call it breakfast, but given the flight timing, it was more like a second dinner. We would arrive in the evening of the same day we departed, technically earlier, based on local time. Such time zone fun.
The second service started about 30 minutes after the lights were brought back up. There were two options: fried rice noodles with shredded pork or boiled tilapia fish. As I’m still not sure tilapia is actually a fish, the noodles were the obvious choice. The “seasonal fruit” included tomato. Which is technically a fruit. Just not what I was expecting. Overall, I liked the second meal more than the first.
As we began our descent, the cabin was soon lit with an interesting rainbow lighting that varied and slowly moved the length of the plane. It repeated several times, lasting maybe 5-10 minutes. My son thought it was quite cool.
Just as I expected, we definitely flew longer than the great circle distance, using the jet stream across the Pacific.
The rest of the flight was uneventful, and we landed at LAX on a nice Southern California evening. It was a whirlwind trip, but quite an enjoyable one!
I would happily fly Xiamen Air 787-9 economy again, especially for what we paid. The seat isn’t the most comfortable from a padding perspective, but it is adequate for a long-haul economy flight and the pitch is good. The service during our flight was excellent. Xiamen Air crew take pride in their work, a far cry from recent experiences with U.S. airlines (*cough* American *cough*). The food is average, maybe slightly above for an economy offering. We had no complaints. The western movie selection is a bit slim, but still sufficient for a 12-hour haul.
Sure, we were tired. But any long-haul coach flight will do that to you. Still smiles. Even Jeff the Penguin look happy.