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.