John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) – Beijing Capital International Airport (PEK)
STD: 4:50PM ATD: 8:33PM
STA: 6:20PM ATD: 9:47PM (August 13, 2016)
Aircraft: Boeing 747-8
Flight Date: August 12, 2016
On my recent trip to Malaysia, my colleagues (and friends!) Laura and Sam were off to China on a similar trip, flying Air China to Beijing. The next few posts are contributions from them, who were so awesome and documented all the details of their trip!
We are two of Joey’s co-workers, who are traveling to Beijing for a 2 week work trip while Joey is in Kuala Lumpur. Because the trip from JFK to Beijing is 13.5 hours, we get to fly business class (first time for both of us!).
Laura: We got to the airport around 2:45pm for our 4:50pm flight. At the check-in area, there was a specific line for both business class and first class. The line was short and the check-in process was quick.
Sam: The check-in process was the simplest I have ever experienced! We were off to a great start…
LR: When I got to the front of the line, there was a sign taped to the counter that our departure time had been delayed to 7:15pm. This was the first time this was communicated to us, and we would have stayed later at the office if we had known!
SM: I must say I was quite disappointed that we weren’t notified ahead of time of the significant delay. I don’t think I would have joined Laura in staying at the office but a solid lunch before the airport would have been nice!
LR: Air China does not operate its own lounge in JFK, but our business class seats allowed us access to the Lufthansa lounge. When we initially entered the lounge, it was about half full. However, as we were in there for about 3 hours due to our delayed flight, it did get pretty full around 5pm and then emptied out towards 6:30pm.
SM: Again, being new to business class perks, this lounge was a really nice surprise! Hanging out on some comfy chairs with snacks, drinks, and excellent Wi-Fi made the flight delay much less painful.
LR: The lounge offered a cold buffet, hot buffet, soups, drinks (alcoholic, non-alcoholic, juice, coffee, and tea), and a dessert station. Food was complimentary. The hot food selection was mostly Middle Eastern, and the cold food selection was mostly European. I thought the paneer and naan was very tasty, but the cold sandwiches were just okay. Some of the options were switched out during the time that we were in the lounge. They had wine, liquor, and German beers on tap. There were attendants clearing empty trays regularly and the food was being replenished in a timely fashion. There were plenty of outlets, and two small side rooms that were darker. The side rooms didn’t have doors, but they were off to the side of the lounge and appeared quieter inside. As the sun moved in the sky, they would adjust the window shades to block the sun. I didn’t notice any additional amenities being offered.
SM: The assortment of food and beverages was pretty good with warm naan and I always appreciate unlimited seltzer water! The staff did a really great job keeping the common area tidy and collected empty plates and glasses timely. My only complaint about this lounge was that the bathroom cleanliness was not maintained but other than that it was a nice change from the seating at the gate.
LR: We left the Lufthansa lounge when they announced our flight was boarding, which was around 6:45pm. When we arrived at the gate, there was a long line of people already queued in the coach line. There were separate business and first class lines. They started boarding around 7pm. There was no overhead announcement made by the gate agent about the delay or when boarding was starting.
SM: Like Laura said, there was a very long line for coach when we arrived at the gate but fortunately, a separate line for business class. I can really get onboard (pun intended) with all of the separate business class lines! It makes the travel process much more enjoyable when you can get through the uncomfortable waiting portions much quicker.
LR: Since the Boeing 747 has both lower deck and upper deck business class cabin, we chose seats upstairs! The seats were set up in a 2-2 configuration. My seat was 85C, an aisle seat closer to the back of the cabin. I noted two empty seats in the back of the cabin, but no one moved to sit in them during the flight. Due to the delay in boarding, we pushed back from the gate at 7:32pm. Unfortunately, there was traffic on the runway, so we didn’t take off until 8:33pm. There was an announcement made by the captain to update the passengers, but it wasn’t made very timely. I was annoyed by both the poor communication and the flight being delayed, it messed up my sleep plan!
SM: This was my first time climbing a flight of stairs INSIDE OF A PLANE. It was pretty cool and allowed me to get to my seat much faster where I was immediately offered a beverage. I sat in 81C which was an aisle seat towards the front of the plane. We had another delay with traffic on the runway but to be honest, I slept through this – I must have been exhausted from all of the delays.
LR: I felt my seat was very comfortable. Under the personal TV, there was a shelf, ottoman, floor space, and a shoe area for storage. Each seat had a pillow, comforter, amenities kit (from L’Occitane) and slippers provided when we boarded the plane. There was a small privacy partition between the two seats, and a wide shared armrest between the seats. The tray table pulled out from the side of the armrest. There was also an area behind the headrest where the headphones were stored and there were indents for resting a glass.
The seat lay completely flat and was easy to control from the control panel, located on the seat console. The controller also allowed me to move just the leg portion of the chair and change the lumbar support. The side of the armrest is also where the tray table was pulled out of. Once flat, it felt great, and was very easy to sleep in. There was enough leg room between my extended seatand the row in front of me for the man next to me to exit without asking me to move. There was a USB outlet next to the IFE controller, and an outlet and headphone jack behind the headrest. Additionally, there was a light behind the headrest. There was no wifi available on the flight.
SM: This being my first experience in business class, I could not believe how comfortable I was during this flight! The seat was very comfortable and I felt like I had plenty of personal space. The flight attendant came over as soon as I settled in to offer me a beverage of my choice but after all of the seltzer in the lounge, I refrained from ordering anything to drink. She took time to confirm my meal preferences as well. Everyone was very attentive and friendly!
LR: The amenity kit included lip balm and lotion from L’Occitane, earbuds, toothbrush, toothpaste, eyemask, and comb.
SM: I was VERY impressed with this kit and even though I didn’t use all of the products on this trip, they are the perfect size for future travel.
LR: We were provided with nice over-the-ear headphones that were also noise cancelling. While my headphones worked fine, I noticed that a few of the passengers around me had trouble with their headphones. The flight attendants were quick to replace them with spare functioning headphones.
SM: I loved these headphones! Much more comfortable than the earbuds you usually receive in the economy cabin.
LR: Prior to take-off, the flight attendants went through the cabin to take meal and drink orders. My flight attendant didn’t show me a menu, but described the different options to me. Her English wasn’t great, so I didn’t press for a lot of detail. The first meal was a choice between beef and chicken, and the second meal was a choice between beef, chicken with noodles, and seafood.
Around 9:00pm EST, they started the first meal service. They began by passing out drinks and small trays of nuts to everyone. They laid out a napkin over the tray table for me and shortly after and brought an appetizer plate with two small hors d’oeuvres.
I thought they were pretty tasty. Next, they brought a tray with my entrée (I opted for the beef), which also included 3 sides and a bowl of rice. I didn’t love the sides, but the beef was well cooked and the rice was fine. A few minutes later, they brought by a tray with a few bread options.
SM: Luckily my flight attendant showed me a menu so I was able to easily check out all of the options. I also had the beef which was good considering I was on a plane and not actually in a restaurant.
LR: Afterwards, they gave me a choice between cake and a cheese plate, from which I selected the cake. The cake was served with a bowl of fruit – I didn’t try the fruit, but the cake was adequate.
SM: I was offered a choice of dessert which was just okay because the fruit was actually really tasty and I took advantage of the wine selection so I didn’t need any additional sugar. They had a selection of two reds and two whites. I ordered a glass of a Montepulciano which was actually quite good!
LR: After the meal service, they brought around bottles of water. The lights were dimmed around 10:30pm EST. I didn’t see the flight attendants offer any additional water because I was sleeping, but I did notice at one point that my neighbor had a package of Oreos.
Around 8:30am EST, they began the second meal service. I had ordered the salad, fruit, and my entrée of chicken and noodles. Another bread tray was offered with the meal service. The noodles weren’t great, but the broth and meat tasted good.
SM: Between the first meal and the next, I must admit I slept most of the time so I appreciated the dimmed lights. For the second meal I ordered beef (again) and it was good not great. The meat was very tough so I stuck to eating the veggies and fruit!
LR: The personal TV was a fairly large screen with a very clear picture. There was also a remote stored in the arm rest area that could be used to control the IFE or for playing games on the TV. There were numerous Chinese language movies choices, but the new releases for English language were a little sparse. The selection was fine for a flight where I would be sleeping most of the time, but might be more difficult for the flight back! There were a couple of random American television episodes shown as well.
SM: I agree with Laura, the selection of entertainment wasn’t the best. Thankfully, I was sleeping for the majority of the flight and the few movies they had were able to entertain me for the hours that I was awake. I was hoping the flight back would have a different selection…stay tuned!
LR: A weird fact about the on-screen map, before we took off, the screen showed a local USA map with cities identified, but there also some names that I didn’t recognize identified with years. A quick Google search showed me that there were all sunken ships! A little strange that they would be included on the map!
SM: Meanwhile, I was sleeping and noticed none of this…
LR: There were two bathrooms in the cabin. The one in the back of the plane looked probably 33% larger than the one in the front. They were kept clean throughout the flight, but they weren’t spotless. There were some toiletries available in each bathroom, along with a toothbrush – though as part of the amenity kits, we were also given toothbrush and toothpaste. The cabin appeared very clean throughout the flight. Flight attendants were quick to remove food trays, but didn’t seem to pass through the cabin with trash bags, which would have been nice, since most of the items that were placed on my seat were stored in plastic bags. They seemed friendly, especially with the two kids sitting in the row ahead of me.
SM: There was also a fresh red rose in the bathrooms! Nice touch.
LR: Our flight reservation noted the flight duration as 13:30, but based on our departure and arrival times, our actual flight time was 13:15. Small compensation for taking off almost four hours after scheduled takeoff! There was some turbulence a few times during the flight, but the ride felt pretty smooth.
Check in: Average – 6/10
LR: 6/10. It was efficient, but we did not like the lack of communication about our flight status.
SM: 6/10. I was very disappointed that we weren’t notified of the lengthy delay.
Lounge: N/A – Air China utilizes another airlines’ lounge
Boarding: Average – 8/10
LR: 8/10 – Instructions weren’t clear, but boarding went fast.
SM: 8/10- The signage for boarding was a bit confusing but it was quick.
Food: Average – 6.5/10
LR: 7/10 – Better than normal airline food, but not food I would prefer to eat.
SM: 6/10- Much better than what I have experienced on airlines before but my second meal was pretty subpar.
Seat: Average – 9.5/10
LR: 10/10 – I’ve never slept so well on a plane!
SM: 9/10- I slept very well but was awoken several times by the individual next to me trying to hurdle over my seat.
Cleanliness of aircraft: Average – 10/10
LR: 10/10 – Everything appeared clean.
Crew: Average – 9/10
LR: 9/10 – Not much to judge them on, but the service was good.
SM:9/10- Very friendly and good service.
IFE: Average – 8/10
LR: 8/10 – Not a lot of English choices, but the IFE functioned well.
SM: 8/10- If my seat wasn’t so comfortable and this wasn’t an overnight flight, the options would have been really disappointing.
Elite recognition: N/A – Neither Laura or Sam had elite status on Star Alliance.
Flight Timeliness: Average – 9/10
LR: 9/10 – Flight delays were not under the control of the airline, flight time was good.
Overall Rating: 66/80 (82.5%) ★★★★★
LR: Hard to tell if we’re giving this flight a fair review! Personally, I was blown away by the experience of flying business class for the first time. It made the long flight very tolerable!