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Chinese Airline Reviews

Melbourne, Australia
posts: 4
reviews: 1
Chinese Airline Reviews

Hi, I'm looking to fly from Australia to UK in July and all the airlines that offer the most competitive rates seam to be the Chinese based ones, namely Air China, China Eastern and China Southern.

Can anyone please offer any advice on experience flying long haul on any of these airlines recently? Is it a case of you get what you pay for or are these comparable to the other Asian airlines such as Singapore and Malaysian to name but two (both fine options in my experience).

The savings offered by the Chinese airlines are too great to ignore however I'd hate to arrive in my destination after a flight from 'hell' which then takes me a few days to recover.

Any comments are greatly appreciated. Thanks for your time.

40 replies to this topic
posts: 26
reviews: 46
1. Re: Chinese Airline Reviews

Pardon me if my post gives you too much information to digest.

Chinese airlines are nothing like SQ (Singapore) or MH (Malaysian). The quality level is markedly lower, especially compared to SQ. However, they are all safe carriers which will take you to your destination safely and hopefully without too much trouble. The main thing which distinguishes the 3 carriers is their main hub, which will be your transit point. CA (Air China) is based out of PEK, MU (China Eastern) is based out of PVG and CZ (China Southern) is based out of CAN. Of all of these, CAN is the closest to the traditional Kangaroo Route transit points of SIN, BKK and HKG. Transiting CAN is also relatively easy compared to PEK. PVG is the most modern of the 3 airports but MU seems to have the worst ground handling. In terms of food, entertainment and service, all 3 are pretty much the same with edible (better than US-based airlines) food, poor/non-existent in-flight entertainment and acceptable service.

CA has the best seating, assuming you're flying economy, they have 34" pitch (compared to 31-32" industry standard) in economy on most of their fleet. If you're flying business, I also think they have the best business class (other than for CZ A380) of all the Chinese carriers. CZ has some great planes in their new fleet but they also have some planes with a bad layout like the 10-across (vs 9-across industry standard) rows of death on their 777. MU seating is not too much different from CZ, but I don't think they have any rows of death.

Another option to consider among the 3 is CZ premium economy. It's certainly a bit better than economy and the price usually isn't that much different. Legroom is much better, seats are a bit wider and you don't have to share overhead compartments with quite as many people.

I'd rather the 3 choices as follows:

1. CZ, for the option of cheap premium economy and convenient routing through CAN. (non-777)

2. CA, good standard seat pitch and the most "Westernised" of the 3 airlines imo.

3. MU, relatively poor technology and ground handling but a chance to eat some good food at PVG during the layover.

4. CZ on a 777 in economy. Rows of death.

Destination Expert
for Bangkok, Air Travel, Thailand
posts: 14,168
reviews: 71
2. Re: Chinese Airline Reviews


I will wholly agree with the above.. This is not to say they're bad.. they're not.. only that the reality is that (unfortunately for them) they operate in the one of, if not the most, competitive airline markets-- Asia.. and one that's home to at least half of the world's best* airlines.. So to that end, the "bar" in set very, very high.


The other part is that none of the Chinese (PRC-based) carrier are 'old'.. While this may seem like a plus, the reality is that it takes time to develop your staff talent, internal processes and such.. to gain experience running day-to-day a top tier carrier, and none of the PRC-carriers have that kind of time. They'll get there; I'm sure of that.. but it won't be overnight.. it takes time.

I'd tend to agree with the rating per se in #1.. Air China would be, IMHO, the most westernized, but is also the oldest of the three, and has the largest overseas presence.. so again, more time and experience in that metric..

Cabins, I find to be about average for the industry.. seat pitch or leg room tends to run at or just below the industry average.. so nothing special in that regard..

CZ in Y on the B777 is a 3-4-3 in both cabin configurations.. so that's 10-across.. By contrast, Air China's B772's are 2-5-2... or 9-scross..

But, the width of the CZ seat is recorded by Seatguru as being not less than 16.7 and to a maximum of 17.2in.. That compares to Air China's B772's which are 17.0.. so a net difference of 0.3in narrower than *or* 0.20 wider than CA's...

(note: some of the rear-most rows have a few less seats due to the inward tapering of the cabin itself)

Travel Safe,

Edited: 11:52 pm, April 03, 2012
Portland, Oregon
Destination Expert
for Air Travel
posts: 18,888
reviews: 5
3. Re: Chinese Airline Reviews

I'm still only half way through my trip report of my recent China flights. But here's a snippet.

I've not flown long haul with Air China, but I take a short-medium haul with them around once a year. IMO they're improving with every flight, and are a pretty good airline. As good as the mainline US carriers, and including the overall product (free meal service) maybe a notch ahead. Based on my experience of these flights, I wouldn't have a problem taking a long haul on CA.

posts: 500
reviews: 37
4. Re: Chinese Airline Reviews

Mycrazyhat, have you looked at Emirates? We too considered the China Southern etc options due to pricing, but after a bit of research, decided to opt for Emirates, which were much more affordable than Malaysian Airlines, yet from our experience just as good, if not better. We flew China Airlines to Taiwan a yr or so back and they were fantasic (just as good as flights we've had with Singapore & Emirates etc), but they are alot more expensive than the ones you mentioned above, just have a similar name ;-)

Portland, Oregon
Destination Expert
for Air Travel
posts: 18,888
reviews: 5
5. Re: Chinese Airline Reviews

I should have mentioned this in #3. There's one other thing to consider. It's not airline related per se, but something to bear in mind.

Call me paranoid, but I'm very wary of transiting in a country where I don't have entry clearance (either visa free access or a visa). If there's a problem meaning you miss a connection, or another significant delay, there's a possibility of being stranded for hours (or even longer) at the airport's air side area without being able to enter the country and relax.

Fortunately, I do now have visas for the PRC and India, so these countries aren't off limits for me, but if I didn't have them I'd steer clear of transiting there.

Chapala, Mexico
posts: 117
reviews: 5
6. Re: Chinese Airline Reviews

I flew Air China from SFO to Beijing on 13 March and from Beijing to Singapore on 14 March and both flights were excellent. The pilots were good, the flight attendants were helpful. The food service on Air China is much better than on the US carriers and the seats were comfortable (I'm short, which helps). Overall, they were good experiences and I would definitely fly Air China again. I flew them today from Chengdu to Beijing and again had a good experience.

Melbourne, Australia
posts: 1,652
reviews: 156
7. Re: Chinese Airline Reviews

Have a look at Zuji, or the airline's site itself, for flights with Royal Brunei. They use old Singapore Airlines B777's but have good prices and go MEL-BWN-DXB-LHR.... yes it's a bit of a roundabout way to get to London, with a couple of extra stops, but if price and quality are your concerns then this may be a good option.

If you saw the old Shanghai Airlines B767s that China Eastern are running to Melbourne at the moment you'd probably go weak at the knees. B767's are good workhorses, but this one looks like a very tired, old workhorse......!

One of my main considerations would also be the in-cabin comfort. Although seat size is one part of this, the general demographic of the passengers who use certain airlines does also come into play. I can tell you that there are lots of loud Chinese tour-groups who use MU, CZ and CA. The loudest seem to be on MU, but CZ are getting up there too..... :P

You get what you pay for, but in this case an extra $100 might serve you very well.....!

posts: 26
reviews: 46
8. Re: Chinese Airline Reviews

Definitely agree with #7 that your cabin mates may not be what you expect on any Chinese carrier if you have not at least flown to/from China before. BI (Royal Brunei) is an option but keep in mind that they are an alcohol-free carrier, which could be a concern for people who like to fall asleep in-flight with a glass of wine.

EK (Emirates) and the other gulf carriers like EY (Etihad) and QR(Qatar) are all good options but they aren't nearly as glamorous as you see in their advertising in economy. They do have very modern fleets with well-equipped cabins, though.

posts: 8
9. Re: Chinese Airline Reviews

I booked return tickets with China Southern from Melbourne to Paris for $1100 with the connecting flight from Guangzhou to Paris and vice versa being operated by Air France. For that price I dont care what the service is like as long as I get there.

Auckland Region...
posts: 5,076
reviews: 80
10. Re: Chinese Airline Reviews

i wish i was so easily pleased.

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