Flight Review: China Airlines A350 Business Class


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I had the chance to try out China Airlines A350 Business Class last year and was determined to use the lovely plane again for my flight(s) to Indonesia.

I jumped on a Business Class mistake fare from Jakarta to Taipei on their A350 for just under $600 USD Round Trip for a total of 12 hours in lie-flat Business Class.

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China Airlines has been named the most turnaround airline worldwide – they came from a reputation for miserable old planes and a shaky safety record to one of the safest airlines in Asia with some of the newest jets.

China Airlines Business Class Lounges

Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport features a total of four (!) different Business Class lounges for departing China Airlines Premium passengers now. The rules apparently say you can only really use one for your flight. However, there is no internal system that tracks where you have actually been before, so ‘lounge hopping’ isn’t a problem.

There is no real reason to lounge-hop unless you are a travel writer! Most feature an uninspiring menu of food options that won’t raise your appetite in any way. The same goes for the uninspiring drinks menu. The only difference is the occupancy and if you like modern interior design (only a few have it). Generally, these lounges have minimal natural light and no views.

When I arrived at the gate, boarding hadn’t started, and huge lines thronged all over that old part of the terminal. The boarding announcement was so loud it overcame my headphones easily. I found it a very unpleasant place to wait.

China Airlines Business Class A350 seats

Once boarding was underway, it moved quickly, and I was happy to see nothing had changed with these beautiful cabins. I love the design in warm and understated colors. The seats are the same (but newer) model that you can find on China Airlines 777. It is a new version of the B/E Aerospace Super Diamond seat that is turn, modeled after Cathay Pacific’s super successful Zodiac seat. It is a little hard to get into your seat, but it delivers privacy and plenty of room (in all directions) for a comfortable fight.

China Airlines Business Class A350 catering

Our takeoff was at 10:00 am local time, and the flight attendants handed out a menu with lunch options just before takeoff. I fully expected to have lunch served right after takeoff (that is the usual workflow). After two hours, I rang the call button and asked what happened to the lunch service, and the flight attendants mentioned it starts 2.5 hours after departure (which coincides with body time lunchtime). Interesting!

Once the catering came out, I liked it quite a bit and actually ate half the meal (a rarity for me usually on a plane). I liked the champagne and tried some white wines that were lovely as well.

China Airlines Business Class inflight Wi-Fi

In the meantime, I wanted to experience with the Wi-Fi. I was glad to see that the China Airlines system, which is powered by Deutsche Telekom, had no volume limitation. The charge was $16.95 USD for three hours. That sounded perfect, and I paid happily.

However, it turned out that the system is superbly slow, with download and upload rates limited to 256kbit. That is the equivalent of 1/200th of most cable connections we find at home. It is just 1/20th of a Gogo inflight connection and 1/100 of an inflight Panasonic Wi-Fi connection. To access an email, you would click on it and had to come back 15 minutes later to actually read it. It was painful. I emailed Deutsche Telekom support after that this was much too slow to be called inflight Wi-Fi, and the customer support simply said that I downloaded several MByte, and this was all they were concerned about, no refunds. Talk about customer support in Germany.

China Airlines Business Class Service

The flight attendants were barely visible during the whole flight. They only came by once to set up lunch and collect it later. It was almost spooky. Frankly, there wasn’t much need, and I’m sure they would have reacted to the call button quickly.

We got to Jakarta on time, and the separate Business Class immigration helped us avoid crowds.

China Airlines Business Class: My impression

The ‘hard product’ is aging well, and I still love it. The A350 is such a quiet plane, and the seat is fantastic. The whole cabin was so quiet. Loved it.

I was also positively surprised by the good catering and wines on offer. The timing of lunch was perfect (though it was something I expected).

The lounges should stock up on premium food items, and boarding could be much improved. I also think the airline should reign in on their inflight Wi-Fi provider. Provide a product customers expect and charge for it or make it free.

I would, however, certainly fly China Airlines on the A350 again!

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