The internet is littered with negative reviews about Air China. But are these reviews justified? What’s it really like to fly Air China Economy class? AFF member trentusjuventus recently put the Beijing-based Star Alliance carrier to the test, flying Economy from Taipei to Europe and back.
Though initially hesitant to fly Air China Economy class, they had an unbeatable fare of $720 available from Taipei to Madrid, returning from Paris to Taipei. The outbound flight had a transit through Beijing, while the return trip was via Shanghai.
The first short flight from Taipei to Beijing was on a regional A330 aircraft without any in-flight entertainment. But the seats were comfortable, the food was adequate and the flight arrived early in Beijing.
Fine for a short flight but definitely not memorable. I didn’t however care as I was looking forward to hitting the streets of Beijing for some dinner later that day.
There was a long layover in Beijing from 4pm to around 1am the next morning. Some might consider this an inconvenience, but not trentusjuventus who took advantage of China’s Transit Without Visa (TWOV) policy. This member caught the airport train to downtown Beijing for an authentic Chinese dinner.
The onward flight to Madrid was on a new Boeing 787 Dreamliner and, again, was perfectly fine. Our member slept for much of the flight.
This was what I assumed to be a relatively new 789, with IFE this time, but I don’t think Air China went to any great expense to match this nice aircraft with a nice interior; it was pretty much the same as the A333 we’d just been on.
Returning from Europe, the Paris-Shanghai leg was very lightly loaded. This flight left around lunch-time so our member had plenty of time to check out the in-flight entertainment on offer. There was a reasonable amount of content, but you would be well-advised to bring a book or some extra movies if flying Air China all the way from Australia to Europe.
The screens were touchable but not very responsive. The selection of moves was decent with some quite recent ones such as Black Panther, as well as some older movies. You’d be OK on a long flight but after two long haul flights you could probably get through almost every movie worth watching. There was of course of a a lot of Chinese content, both movies and TV shows, not sure if the Chinese movies had English subtitles.
Unfortunately the transfer process at Shanghai’s Pudong Airport was not exactly seamless, although this is hardly Air China’s fault.
Ultimately, all of the flights were on time and our member did not experience any major problems. While Air China Economy class was not a spectacular experience, it was perfectly fine for the price paid.
Was I happy with Air China? Yes, quite. I paid for a service – to get me to and from Europe safely and in a timely manner – and I got it. There was not one time when I was cursing myself for not paying the extra money to fly on another carrier.
Would I fly Air China again? Yes, if the price is right, but it would have to be significantly ‘right’.
Would I recommend others fly Air China? Maybe. I would suggest in most cases that if there is a better option at a marginally higher cost to take it, as you may well be taking a gamble on Air China. However that said, if you come across a good deal, and don’t set your expectations too high, you might just come away with a win.
So if you have an opportunity to fly Air China Economy class, don’t just assume you’ll have a bad experience!
Trentusjuventus has included some great photos, tips and advice about Air China Economy class in their trip report. Read the full review and join the discussion on the Australian Frequent Flyer forum: Airline Review – Air China Y TPE to Europe