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Flight Report: China Airlines CI106 TPE-NRT

Taiwan Taoyuan International (TPE) – Narita International (NRT)

STD: 4:10PM ATD: 4:43PM
STA: 8:30PM ATD: 8:31PM

A330-300
Flight Date: April 20, 2016

 

Introduction

After a quick 4 days in Taipei, I was headed back to Tokyo to finish up some meetings before heading back to New York. I had booked a multi-city trip, flying Delta into NRT. Naturally, I was booked on TPE-based Skyteam Partner China Airlines for the TPE leg of the trip.

Admittedly, I was a little uneasy about flying China Airlines – I’d read some trip reports online that suggested a fairly underwhelming experience, but I was excited to be flying an airline that was new to me (and more importantly, earning MQMs while doing it).

I had a bit of ticketing drama the night before I was ticketed through Delta, and while their records reflected no issue with my ticket/reservation, the China Airlines listed my reservation as CANCELLED. After a mild panic attack (insert hyperventilating here) and 2 hours on the phone between DL and CI, Delta reissued my ticket, but neither party could explain what caused the issue to begin with.  I got to the airport extra early to make sure that there would be no issue at check in (there wasn’t), and I’d found myself plenty of time to spare at TPE.

At The Airport

One thing to note about the check in process in TPE – they were less strict about the weight of the carry-on. My colleague, who’s carry on luggage was likely easily 22 pounds, was forced to check her bag from NRT-TPE, however on this leg, she was allowed to bring it on. Not sure if stringency is related to which airport you fly out of, but it certainly was a bit odd.

The Lounge

I attempted to enter the Dynasty Lounge, though when they saw my business class ticket, they promptly shooed me away and sent me over to the China Airlines Sky Team Lounge. Was a little bit confused (and let down – was keen to see the CI lounge in its home airport), but I wandered over to the SkyTeam Lounge regardless.

The place was packed when I got there – was filled to the brim with the lunch time crowd. I managed to find a spot and popped over to the food area. Picked up some dumplings and such, and was thrilled to find a made-to-order noodle bar.

Though beef noodle bowls are incredibly popular in Taiwan, I have a bit of a sensitive stomach, so I try to opt for vegetarian dishes when I travel. Enjoyed the bowl of vegetable noodle soup (not life changing, but I’ve had much worse at other lounges) and managed to get some work done before boarding.

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China Airlines TPE lounge food

As boarding time neared, I walked over to the gate, which you had to walk down a flight of stairs (or take the elevator) to access from the main level. The seating area was huge, and remarkably empty considering boarding was supposed to begin in about 10 minutes.

Maybe everyone else got the memo, but the flight was delayed. As the actual boarding time neared, the seating area was packed. People were standing everywhere! It wasn’t particularly clear when we’d be taking off, so people mostly stood around and waited.

The Flight

Once boarding finally began, I made my way over to my seat (3G) and found the business class was fairly empty… with the exception of where I was sitting – I managed to pick a seat where someone else was assigned right next to me. Just my luck.

Unlike the bright new cabins with reverse herringbone flatbed seats on the transpacific flights CI runs, the inter-Asia business class cabins are set up with in a 2-2-2 configuration with angled lie flat seats.

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China Airlines A330 business class cabin. Image Credit: China Airlines

It’s not terrible for a 4 hour flight, although I would have preferred a flatbed seat since I tried to nap on this flight. Most other airlines that fly between Taipei and Narita offer a recliner or angled lie flat seat (Eva, JAL and ANA), though Delta surprisingly flies a flatbed in their Delta One cabin on this route.

CI106 China Airlines TPE NRT Business Class

China Airlines CI106 business class recliner seats across the aisle

Shortly after I was settled, the purser came over to introduce himself and thank me for my SkyTeam loyalty. Menus were handed out shortly after.

CI106 China Airlines TPE NRT Business Class

China Airlines CI106 business class menu

Now, I enjoy a good meal as much as the next person, but I wouldn’t consider myself particularly picky – especially on planes. However, on my NRT-TPE leg on CI, I had what was quite possibly the worst meal I’ve ever eaten on a plane. More on that another time, but my expectations were low for this meal.

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China Airlines A330 business class meal

I opted for the stir fry shrimp dish. The presentation was a little lackluster, but tasted better than it looked. I’d say at about a similar standard to a good Chinese take out place. Underwhelming for business class, but if you had the same meal I had coming over, you too would be glad  this was at least edible.

While the food was a little lackluster, I will admit I found service to be friendly and hospitable. The flight attendants were cheery and happy to oblige with any request.

Despite the delayed departure, the flight was pretty smooth. The IFE options were a little limited, although I will admit I prefer watching TV shows vs movies on planes and the options are always never quite up to snuff. I did manage to watch (and enjoy) “The Librarian” series the entire flight, but only due to the limited nature of everything else offered. We landed just a little later than expected, and immigration was empty, so I was processed fairly quickly.

All in all not a terrible flight (minus the ticketing issue), meal options were alright and service was great. Not sure that I would recommend springing for a business class ticket on a similar route given the length of the flight, however, if you find yourself with CI as an option on your inter-Asia route, it’s certainly not a terrible way to go.

 

The Takeaway:

Check in: 6/10 – Easy  but forgettable. Ticketing Agent did not provide details on which lounge I could use.
Lounge: 7/10 – Basic, small, but extra points for the noodle bar
Boarding: 7/10 – a little hectic and not particularly organized
Food: 7/10 – Fine, nothing special. Below par for business class but decent for coach
Seat: 8/10 – Not extremely comfortable but not terrible either for a 4 hour flight
Cleanliness of aircraft: 10/10 – No notable issues. Seat was clean, as was the lavatory
Crew: 10/10 – Friendly and polite. I appreciated that the purser spoke to me directly and addressed me by name.
IFE: 6/10 – Found a new show I liked, but otherwise just okay. About equal number of English vs Chinese options, though this means even fewer options if you only speak one of the two languages. Shows and movies were not recent releases/episodes
Elite recognition: 9/10 – While the ticketing agent made no mention of my SkyTeam status, the pursor came by to personally introduce himself to me while I was on the plane and made sure all my needs were met.
Flight Timeliness: 8/10 – Departed late, but landed timely
Overall: 78/100 (78%) ★★★★

 

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