Category Archives: China Southern

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Arrival Board

InFlight: CZ3260 Guangzhou to Guilin

Route: Guangzhou to Guilin

Flight: CZ3260

Carrier: China Southern Airlines

Class: First

Terminal: The domestic terminal is to put it simply, massive at Guangzhou. On arrival from the international terminal transfer area on the enlarged golf cart we sought to find the first class lounge to await our connecting domestic flight. We didn’t appreciate the scale until we found a lounge, only to be told hat we needed to use the lounge closer to our gate. After misunderstanding the directions we were chased down the concourse by the agent who eventually lead us in the right direction to the correct lounge after walking past one of the largest security screening points I think I’ve ever seen.

The first class lounge was quite a simple room tucked away at the beginning of one of the concourses. A tropical fish tank separated the food area from the rest of the lounge, where lounge seating was rather closely packed together. There was a decent selection of food available free of charge however given I had just had lunch prior to landing I passed and instead had some fruit and a few beers. Fortunately there are 2 drinks fridges, one turned in for those who like their beer cold and one off for those who like theirs warm.

Departure: There was a departures monitor that rotated between English and Chinese On the wall of the lounge however there were no overhead announcements within the lounge itself. Each time a flight was ready to board an agent would walk around the lounge yelling the departure (at least that’s what I think he said, it was in Chinese but I could make out the city name so put two and two together). I’m guessing the announcement is supposed to be more personal but think an overhead speaker would be more effective. Right on the boarding time the I heard ‘Guilin’ in the agents announcement so headed for the gate.

The walk to the gate was a reasonable distance so we made use of the moving walkways this time and were thankful we didn’t have to walk from the other lounge. The economy queue to the aircraft was long but fortunately the first class line was easily marked out and had no one waiting. For some reason my boarding pass failed but I they agent pointed me to the aircraft anyway. After settling into our seats we pushed back very early and were airborne a few minutes layer after waiting for a company A330 to land before us.

Seat: 2C. Although originally assigned 2F the 8 seat first class cabin only had 4 on board so instead of sitting next to a stranger I moved to 2C next to my colleague. The seats are similar to the dragon air A321 business class seats although slightly more comfortable. The tray table folds into the arm, there is a separate cocktail tray and a retractable footrest in the seat in front. I actually found this footrest useful, which is odd as most. Of them area waste of time for someone my height.

Aircraft: The Airbus A319 is setup in a 3 class configuration, which is different for such a relatively lower capacity aircraft. The first 2 rows are 2-2 business followed by a few rows of 3-3 premium economy and then 3-3 standard economy. Thankfully this aircraft had personal air vents so temperature control was not an issue like on the A330-300. The first cabin was separated from the main cabin by the curtain after take off and felt quite private and comfortable (especially given the 50% loading). The aircraft felt relatively new and in good shape, and the engine noise wasn’t as loud as other A320 family aircraft I’ve flown.

IFE: For the short 50min flight to Guilin the overhead screens folded down and played some local shows, none of which were in English. Interestingly each time a show finished the crew changed the DVD in the overhead locker above 1C with the new show. I was tempted to give them one of my DVD’s to play but I guess that would breach copyright, and probably confuse the other pax on board. I didn’t have. Instead of headsets the audio was played over the loudspeaker which was something different to what I’m used to.

Meal: On boarding we were offered apple or orange juice or water and shortly were asked what drink (from the same selection) we wanted during the flight. I went applied juice twice but was surprised that no beer or wine was offered. After take off the table was set with a white table cloth before a plate of fresh fruits with a side of desert snacks was offered along with the second juice. Although lovely food, I wasn’t that hungry so just picked at it for a while before the crew cleared it before landing.

Arrival: As we took off early we were expecting an early landing and despite some miscommunication from the crew towards the end of the flight (we were told that landing would be in 50mins, which was actually 5mins) we touched down with a thud in the dark Guilin airport. After my shocking Air Asia landing in the dark at KL earlier this year I’m a bit tense when coming into an unknown airport in the dark now, which probably exaggerates my perception of a hard landing in dark conditions these days. A short taxi and we were at the gate and glad that this was the last flight of the day.

Being first out of the plane is always a nice feeling (sadly I don’t get to experience it often) after which it was a short walk downstairs to the Perspex fenced luggage claim area on the ground floor of the terminal. Unlike most airports staff check every baggage receipt to the bags you take before you leave, which is good for security but not so good if you loose that bag receipt. Fortunately I had kept mine so we were out and into the waiting hotel car and ready to get some well earned sleep pretty quickly.

Crew: Onboard the crew were very friendly and attentive and despite their limited English, it was enough to get by (remembering it’s a Chinese airline in china, you can’t and shouldn’t expect fluent english). Hot towels and English newspapers were served very quickly and each time you opened anything to read they would quickly turn on your overhead light for you. They also cleaned the toilet after each use which although unnecessary for such a shirt flight and few passengers was a nice touch.

Overall: Although it was such a short flight the quiet cabin, bigger seat and snack (even though I ate very little) was a welcoming sight after the connection from Australia. I think the soft product could have been improved with some wine or beer, and then would be similar to domestic business class in Australia. Having said that, on a comparison basis, overall I think it was better than the China Southern long haul service, although I wouldn’t want to be there for more than a few hours.

Don’t forget to check out my long haul China Southern review in the InFlight section of my site and if you liked this then leave a comment below and share it with your travel savvy friends on Facebook or twitter.

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CSA Feature Image

InFlight CZ326: Sydney to Guangzhou

Route: Sydney to Guangzhou

Flight: CZ326

Carrier: China Southern Airlines

Class: Business

Terminal and Check In: After arriving into Qantas terminal 3 we boarded the international transfer bus which provided a great Tarmac tour of the maintenance base and dropped us off near the A check in desks in the international terminal. The queues for China Southern at the G desk were relatively long, but fortunately the business/first desk had no queue at all. I found that It pays to ask how full a flight is as I was able to both get a window seat and have the seat next to me blocked so I could spread out a little during the flight. This turned out to be a blessing later onboard.

Once checked in, I transferred some cash at the travelex outlet (which I was determined to avoid, but the queue of Bali schoolies at ANZ was way too long to consider) and then used the express path card through security and Customs. China Southern don’t operate their own lounge at Sydney and instead share the Air New Zealand lounge (along with what seems like every other non oneworld airline). On arrival the lounge was pretty full as there were a fair few NZ flights due to depart, but once a few of those departed the lounge cleared out and felt a bit more spacious.

The food and beverage offering changed while we were there from breakfast to light snacks, all of which hit the spot. I’m not sure if it’s because Delta use the lounge or it’s just a regular Air NZ thing, but they had a very American hot dog stand in the lounge. I didn’t try but it had decent patronage. The best thing about the lounge is the amazing view a across the apron and runways, especially as everything was coming in from the south which meant every landing was a great photo opportunity.

Departure: Due to the late arrival of the incoming aircraft our departure was pushed back to 11:25 and the gate changed from 56 to 60 (which is right beneath the lounge and thus provided a great view of the turnaround). Once on the ground the aircraft was turned in about 40mins which is pretty good for an international wide body turnaround. The queue for boarding was as long as the check in queue and to get to the business class line you had to push through the economy line as there isn’t much space around gate 60.

On board the crew were pretty friendly when they saw business class on the boarding pass and were very fast to swap my shoes for slippers and hand out some juice and a hot towel. Given the fast turnaround the door was closed pretty soon after we got seated and we pushed back and began our taxi to the end of Runway 34L. Behind Vietnam Airlines and a Qantas 737 we had a brilliantly smooth take off, rotating just before crossing the intersecting east west runway before making an ever so slight right hand turn and heading towards Darwin.

Seat: 3A. Having blocked out the seat next to me in check in I had the pair of 3A and B to myself which turned out to be a blessing as the A seat didn’t recline very far – which the cabin crew advised it was broken. The seats in the business cabin are an angled flat bed seat which means that the seat reclines to a bed, but the bed is at an angle to the floor. When fully reclined one of the arm rests sinks with the seat which gives another few inches of elbow room. The other armrest folds up which allows your other elbow to use the small items storage space and further widens the width available.

On storage there is the overhead bins and a few small holders for your wallet’ phone small camera etc but there isn’t much space for an iPad or even all the blankets and pillows that you are provided with (fortunately the empty seat next to me became a perfect blanket storage unit). The tray table folds out from the armrest and seat controls are located in the centre panel as well as a retractable IFE control unit. There is an adjustable reading lamp in each seat, however mine flickered so much I couldn’t really use it.

The padding on the seat isn’t soft but it’s also not as hard as the first generation Qantas beds. The crew put the spare blanket down on the seat when in bed mode which gave it a little more padding which was a good move. There is also an inbuilt massage function in the seat, but in each massaging seat I’ve ever tried all it feels like is a metal roller forcing it’s way into your back. I’m it sure why airlines keep trying to sell this as a feature – get rid of it and save some weight. Also this model of the seat sounds like it needs an oil as for every movement you can hear the gears spinning.

A Bio-essence amenities kit was provided before take off which contained an eye mask, earplugs, comb and some moisturizers which the crew told me would be good for my skin. If this seat was fully flat and had a little more storage options it would beat Cathay’s older herring bone configuration, mainly due to the extended width. Perhaps a privacy screen would also help if the cabin was full. Otherwise it was relatively comfortable, but the angle made it hard to get to sleep.

Aircraft: The Airbus A330-300 has 4 rows of 2-2-2 in business class behind 1 row of 1-2-1 in first class (where I believe there are actually fully flat beds). The business cabin closed all the window shades however no one in first did so the cabin didn’t get very dark or conducive to sleep on this daytime flight. I’m not sure what’s back in both economy and premium economy as there is a significant galley between business and the main cabin. Well forward of the engines it’s relatively quiet, but some noise canceling headsets wouldn’t go astray. My main peeve with this cabin is the lack of personal air vents and the overly warm set temperature. Fortunately I layered but shorts would have been a blessing! Also the seat belt and no smoking signs didn’t work for the first half of the flight, and then were on for the entire flight (no one paid any attention to it mind you). Overall a spacious mini cabin especially given it was only half full.

IFE: Each seat has a personal monitor about the size of a square iPad built into the back of the seat in front of you which is controlled by a hand held retractable control that sits in the console between the two seats. Ok now before rating the IFE content I have to remind myself that the key market for China Southern is the Chinese market, thus the western content is somewhat limited, with about 7 Western movies, none of which were recent or appealing (unless you want to watch Harry Potter).

I couldn’t find any western TV programming either so my advice is skip the system altogether and bring a laptop or iPad (I had come prepared with a few iPad movie rentals and a stack of DVD’s for my laptop). One neat feature of the IFE is the ability to select which part of the moving map you see – e.g. The map, flight data or “pilots view”. I remember seeing somewhere that noise canceling headsets are provided but the headsets given were not noise canceling, and the pair i was given only having one ear working.

Meal: Orders for the first meal of the flight were taken just after take off, although no personal menus are provided which is disappointing for business class (especially as I like to collect that kinda swag). Instead the crew present the catering loading chart to each passenger where you select your mains for both meals (which is interesting if you ever want to know what the split between chicken and beef was).

Shortly after a white table cloth, small bread plate and stack of cutlery fill the fold out tray table before a simple salad (lettuce, celery, tomato and capsicum) arrives to start the meal accompanied with a choice of balsamic or italian dressing. The second course, cold meats were served but as the raw fish was placed onto of everything else I had to decline (I don’t eat fish). The crew quickly delivered my main instead which was a nice touch.

Unfortunately the main was extremely disappointing both in presentation and taste. The beef was very overcooked and almost impossible to cut on the semi flimsy fold out table with the butter knife provided. I’m hoping this is due to the delayed departure and not the standard . The beef was covered in gravy and served with a few potatoes, some carrot and broccoli. Honestly it felt more like a meal at an RSL than business class – and I think I’ve had better meals at an RSL.

Previous commercial reviews of this service are accurate on the wine list needing some rapid expansion with only chardonay, a red and beer offered. Bring on some bubbles and some sav blanc would make a huge improvement. I declined the cheese selection which was presented on the trolley as I didn’t really feel like it, although the crew seemed very concerned that I was declining parts of the meal so quickly brought a yummy desert which was some chocolate thing and a fruit selection.

The second meal was served about 3 hours before arrival and was a huge improvement in the first service in both taste and presentation. I opted for the pasta dish, which although simple was just what I was after, served with some fruit and an apricot cake/turnover thing as desert. Nice and simplistically presented on a single tray was a much better meal, even though the turbulence coincided directly with meal time. I’m not sure why airlines serve the second business meal so early, as it would have been great to have finished the meal and then landed an hour later, but alas I feel quite full and satisfied regardless. Unfortunately overall, in my view the meal product provided was not of business class standard.

Arrival: Our approach into Guangzhou was marked by the engines being pulled back followed by a long and quiet gradual decent over Guangzhou. Although the light was rapidly fading I was still able to get a bit of a look down over the city which was massive by any standard. The landing was textbook and very smooth and not what I was expecting after being told of some harrowing experiences by others who have flown domestically within China. A short taxi to the gate and the dual aerobridges attached our A330 to what I discovered to be a massive airport terminal. On the other side of the gate an agent was waiting with my name on a sign. She quickly attached a first class lounge pass to my boarding pass and escorted me to immigration.

I was connecting to a domestic flight and thus expected to have to pick up my bag to pass through customs however this is not the case in Guangzhou. Instead without our bags we waited in a corridor after Customs for about 15minutes, before being able to clear domestic security and take the golf cart buggy across to the domestic terminal. Although the process definitely saves time in clearing customs and rechecking your bag, it could be communicated a little better (as until it was explained to us by a friendly Chinese speaking Sydney based student, we didn’t know why we were waiting in a hallway.)

Crew: The crew were attentive and friendly however as the airline is very China mainland focussed their English needs some improvement to help out the western guests. However the crew arrived within seconds of pressing the call button and were happy to assist people getting their seats into beds. Overall the crew did their jobs well, but were not as proactive later in the flight as some other Asian airlines.

Overall: Given the price difference between this flight and it’s nearest competitors, Qantas and Cathay Pacific was less than $700 I felt a little disappointed on the level of service, particularly with the meal and IFE. However I went into this flight expecting the worst and was somewhat surprised with a higher service level than expected. If the meal and IFE were upgraded, and fully flat beds installed I think China Southern’s reputation would improve. Currently although marketed as business class, it is more comparable to other airlines premium economy product, with a bigger seat. On the plus side the number of mainland China destinations that China Southern can connect you to is impressive. I’ll post another trip report on my domestic flight shortly which is an example of one of many possible connections at Guangzhou.