Let me start by saying that now I know what it is like to have been on a smoking flight. That, a fairly comfortable seat, horrible food, and totally unprofessional service are my takeaways from my first China Eastern flight, a 777-300ER in business class from Los Angeles to Shanghai.
China Eastern operates from the Tom Bradley International Terminal at LAX. Boarding began at 11:55a. Ben rushed onboard while I tried to slow down the people behind us to allow a few extra moments for unobstructed onboard pictures. Teamwork! Read Ben’s take on the flight here.
China Eastern 586
Los Angeles (LAX) – Shanghai (PVG)
Tuesday, July 26
Arrive: 5:30PM (+1 day)
Duration: 14hr, 00min
Aircraft: Boeing 777-300ER
Seat: 10A (Business Class)
China Eastern 777-300ER Business Class Seats
Let’s start with the one thing China Eastern business class has going for it–modern, 100% horizontal lie-flat reverse herringbone seats. Ben found the finishes on the seat to be boring, but I appreciated the simple, clean cabin.
There was plenty of personal storage and a spacious built-in ottoman. Power ports, extra reading lights, and a USB port were available.
Even the pillow and bedding were comfortable, through I found sleep quite difficult for a flight departing Los Angeles at at 12:30p (and filled with smoke).
China Eastern 777-300ER Business Class Amenities
Three amenities were waiting at the seat: slippers, a Clarins-branded amenity kit, and bottle of water. The slippers were too small for my feet, but of good quality and came with a shoe bag. The amenity kit contained skim cream, lip balm, a dental kit, and earplugs.
China Eastern 777-300ER Business Class Service
I wish I could give China Eastern the benefit of the doubt and say the service was well-intentioned but just unpolished. But it wasn’t. No FA was directly hostile or rude, but the cappuccino and smoking incidents suggested willful malevolence.
After lunch, I ordered a cappuccino and it was soon brought to my seat.
It was of the rancid powdered variety. But when I ventured up into the galley for a snack a couple hours later, I noticed this–
And so later on Ben and I ordered a cappuccino, specifically requesting the crew make a “real” one. They said it was not possible.
But then we “caught” the crew having a coffee party in the galley later in the flight. They had illy pods and were foaming milk. I was incredibly annoyed.
Takeaway: China Eastern has great coffee…as long as you are part of the flight crew.
I’ll address the smoking incident below, but service was just generally unpolished as well. For example, a “China Eastern cocktail” was offered as a pre-deapture beverage. When asked what it contained, the FA had no idea.
Meals were plopped down hurriedly and left to sit for far too long after I was done eating. No soup spoon (or even a tea spoon) was offered with soup.
I actually don’t think it was a language barrier issue. The crew’s grasp of English seemed strong. It was more a surprising lack of training in customer service.
China Eastern 777-300ER Business Class Smoking
I wrote about this contemporaneously here already. Every 15-20 minutes the cabin filled with the smell of cigarette smoke. It was unavoidable and undeniable.
Ben and I “investigated” by checking out the lavatories and galleys in business and economy class, but found no evidence of smoking. It seemed to be coming from the air vents via the cockpit. I asked a FA about it and she pretended she did not understand me then later claimed, 1.) it was the oven 2.) she didn’t smell anything and 3.) do we want to smoke? Later, she claimed to have spoken to the flight crew and was assured that they “never” smoked.
Just be warned. Maybe every flight is not like ours, but the stench was pretty unbearable and it wasn’t just once or twice but literally the entire flight.
China Eastern 777-300ER Business Class Food
You can criticize me for ordering western meals instead of Chinese, but other Chinese carriers do western food much better.
Here’s a look at the flight menu–
Note that the menu changes quarterly and the whole year’s menu is printed. Oddly, our flight listed many breakfast options, but there was no breakfast served — only two lunches.
Furthermore, our IFE system also contained what appeared to be an on-demand menu system with a lot of choices. Sadly, it was merely illusory.
First came canapés: balik salmon with blinis & goat cheese zucchini roll. I don’t eat batik salmon even in Cathay Pacific first class, but the goat cheese zucchini roll was fine.
Next up came drinks and mixed nuts (including peanuts).
The starters were served on a tray and included summer squash and red quinoa salad with marinated prawns plus cauliflower velouté (soup). These two dishes were the best parts of the meal.
For my main course I ordered the pan seared veal chop.
While the veal wasn’t the worst airline meal I’ve had by a long shot, the quality of the meat was poor and the gravy ruined it. A gravy may have been necessary to give the meat some more flavor, but not this gravy. The mashed potatoes and mixed vegetables on the side were fine.
At least I did not order what Ben ordered…
Dessert included a cheese course, fresh fruit, and Haagen-Dazs vanilla ice cream. I don’t like that the ice cream is saved in plastic, but this seems very common on airlines around the world in business class so I don’t hold this against China Eastern.
Finally, FAs offered chocolate from See’s.
I’ll say this: there is a lot of potential to the China Eastern meal service. Better service and higher quality main courses would make a huge difference. The multi-course concept already in a place is a great thing.
A snack basket was available in the galley between the meals:
Halfway through the flight, we each ordered a “Western Western Exquisite Western Snack”. Sadly, it was only a stale piece of bread with salmon inside. Horrible!
The pre-arrival meal began with more salad and fruit. The Boston lettuce with toasted pecans and cherry tomatoes was quite good and would turn out to be the extent of my meal. The main course was so bad. So bad. The pork tenderloin was dry and once again the gravy was disgusting. I took one bite and that was enough.
This time Ben made the better choice in ordering ravioli.
China Eastern 777-300ER Business Class IFE + Wi-Fi
China Eastern has wi-fi that requires preregistration online. Ben lays out the registration process here. While we did that and successfully connected, speeds were so poor (when the internet functioned) that it was very difficult to accomplish much online.
Movie selections were fairly decent, but English TV selections quite poor. Audio selections and games were also available. For most of the flight, however, I simply had the moving map on.
China Eastern 777-300ER Business Class Lavatory
The lavatory itself on the China Eastern is 777-300ER is above-average in terms of size and design, but had one problem: it stunk.
I was incredibly disappointed by the experience overall, despite an industry-leading business class seat. While I do believe China Eastern has great potential, it must improve the quality of its food offerings (quality, not quantity) and its service. The cappuccino and smoking incidents were inexcusable.
Here’s the paradox: China Eastern is a rich source of award space. Even so, I’d take economy on another carrier over business or first class on China Eastern because of the cigarette smoke. You’ll have to make that choice yourself.
Well, you you’ve experience chinese airlines hospitality first hand. At least it was on international side, not domestic one. You know, where incidents caused by…. well you get the point.
I would never fly with China Eastern I have heard the smoke horror stories before. I have a friend who flew the YYZ-PVG round-trip in economy class on China Eastern and it too had a strong smell of smoke. The seats were apparently really outdated and terribly maintained as well, though this was back in 2015 when they flew their old A340-600s to Toronto.
I’ve taken MU ULH JFK/PVG 6 times in biz class (mostly sitting the mini cabin close to FC and galley–absolutely no cig smell like several bloggers experienced. So I’d find that strange. I don’t smoke and hate second-hand smoke. If I detect any cig smell, I’d definitely file a complaint to the purser as a paying customer (rev ticket) and SkyTeam E+ flyer. All of my inflight experiences have been positive, thankfully. And I enjoy the free limo rides to/from JFK, provided by MU.
What type of car do they send?
I am looking to travel with family
Btw, that “cocktail” is actually a mocktail with mainly apple juice in it. I asked the FA before.
Maybe the cigarette smell is to cover for the pot and crack fumes. 😉
The meal pics made me wish for pizza delivered, a bucket of fried chicken or any grocery store frozen dinner variety.
So you acted as Ben’s wingman. There’s another piece of the puzzle. 🙂
You deserve it for going to that shithole China.
That is chinese quality for you. The Captain and the first officer probably lit up in the flight deck, to let off stress and a cip of coffee. Think of it, back in the 70s and 80s 747 200 and DC 10s and A300s were full of smoke in the aft section and you lit up the moment you were on a 13 hour flight.
Chinese carriers will never be an SQ or CX or MH. They dont try being one. If you dont like them, feel free to swim to China. The west needs China more. Screw Margaret
Screw Margaret? Is that so? I’ll bet you’ll want a piece of this, but you’re not a real man like my husband Frank or my lover here Matthew to even sniff your pig snout into my voluptuous behind.
How is China a shithole? Lived here for 6 years, about to leave. Many things I will miss, some things I did not like… it is a wonderful country which has its flaws like any other place. It does not deserve ignorant comments like this
What was wrong with what Ben ordered? It looks like the best thing there. A Pork or Beef ragu?
Ymmv, but it looks horrible.
Funny how everyone has had issues with CE. I fly the LAX – PVG route at least 1 times every month for work and I have never experienced anything bad or horrible, but I guess my purpose of each flight is to sleep and not really enjoy the entertainment or the food on board.
If you are looking for entertainment or food, I dont think chinese carriers are for you.
Daniel….do you ever have the smoking problem on that flight? I am flying that route in a week or so. Not really looking forward to sucking on cancer fumes for 14 hours.
I have to fly to Bangkok via China and I have a choice between Air China or China Eastern. The smoke story worries me. Both airlines have more bad reviews than good but I have to pick one. Any suggestion? Don’t want to inhale smoke for over 21 hours of my trip!
China Eastern seat is better. May depend on where you want to credit the miles. Air China to Star Alliance (like United) or China Eastern to SkyTeam (like Delta).
I fly regularly (every month) from MEL to PVG and then PVG to LAX, SFO or ORD in Business. All long haul flights.
The Australian route is typically served by an A330, the US route a B777.
The B777 has the modern style seating described in this article, the A330 still fully flat but it is a 2-2-2 config and you have no privacy. That being said I always sleep perfectly on the A330 seat, and more often than not there is nobody next to me. There is also an insane amount of leg room.
I find the B777 seats on the other hand really uncomfortable, the leather is incredibly hot and sweaty. The ridges in the seat when fully flat dig into my spine.
Service on the Australian route I find amazing. It’s a smaller business class and often I’m the only westerner. The staff will literally do anything for me. Often times I eat all the main meals they have going, and they continue to bring me all the ice cream I can possibly eat.
They even personally take my iPhone and get me connected to the Wi-Fi. Wonderful, friendly, personal service.
The American route can be a polar opposite. There’s a lot of business class seats, there’s a lot of westerners (Americans). I have seen and experienced most of what is described in this article including terrible and unprofessional service.
I think this actually has more to do with the arrogant nature of American passengers, especially the business travellers who believe the world owes them something. When the staff realise I am Australian and I can also speak Mandarin, things change very quickly. I imagine the Chinese staff begrudge having to deal with them.
I bring my own entertainment and watch it on a laptop, it’s not unreasonable that a Chinese airline doesn’t have a great selection of Western content.
I have smelled cigarette smoke on all my CE flights, but very faintly and not continuously throughout the flight.
I would hardly describe it as a smoke filled cabin or that the cabin air smells putrid the whole flight (but disclaimer I do smoke). It’s definitely concentrated to the crew rest area and flight deck. I usually choose a seat to the rear of the business cabin.
Overall for the price of the tickets it’s good value. Just set your expectations accordingly and you’ll be fine.
I could fly other airlines to China but CE have direct flights which don’t require me to transfer in Singapore or Hong Kong so that wins out.
chinese airline (not including hong kong and taiwan) qualities are as good as chinese knock-off products that are sold in china. chinese airline pilots and male FA do smoke in-flight…it’s an open secret that most chinese passengers are aware of. if you ever need to smoke during flight, FA will take you to their rest area and they will let you light one up.
I actually know a copilot from CES. He told me that pilots can smoke in the flight deck
What are your thoughts on Xiamen business class?
Haven’t flown them yet, but I look forward to trying it.