Air China B777-300 Forbidden Pavilion First Class Trip Report PEK-LHR

Flight Date:  03JUN13—I chose Air China for the Beijing-London leg of my journey and although I was a bit wary after my experience with China Eastern last month, but with the allure of the ‘Forbidden Pavilion’—Air China’s name for their first class cabin—how could I resist? I was only connecting at Beijing and had arranged, or so I thought, ample time to connect from my Korean Air flight to my onward Air China flight; however in hindsight the two hours I had allotted were barely enough.

Air China Ground Staffer Trying to Find the Bus Driver

Air China Ground Staffer Trying to Find the Bus Driver

Korean Air uses Terminal 2 at Beijing’s Capital Airport whereas Air China uses Terminal 3. This sounds reasonable enough—how far apart could two terminals be spaced anyway? I was met by an Air China agent who was waiting for me on the jetway. He escorted me to the Air China transfer desk where I was presented with a hand-written boarding pass for my onward flight to London. He then led me down a hallway, through a retail shop(!) and down a flight of stairs…I started to wonder what I had done wrong and that maybe I was being taken to a secret interrogation room for questioning. We ended up at an unmanned immigration desk and after waiting 10 minutes or so, an immigration official arrived. He logged on to his computer, scanned my passport and then attempted to stamp it, however the stamper gadget had ran out of ink! He fiddled and fumbled and then finally called someone to bring him some ink. Another 10 minutes passed and the replacement ink arrived. Never a dull moment at Beijing Capital Airport.

My trusty Air China rep. led me to an outside bus stop area and told me to wait. There were two buses but no drivers so he started calling around to find them. We waited and waited and although I was uncharacteristically calm and cool, he was visibly flustered. Another five minutes passed and all of sudden our wayward bus driver magically appeared from inside the bus—he had been sleeping!

Little Did We Know the Bus Driver was Sleeping in the Back of the Bus!

Little Did We Know the Bus Driver was Sleeping in the Back of the Bus!

I could see terminal 3 just across the tarmac so I assumed a quick five-minute ride was all it would take…boy was I wrong. The bus started heading in the opposite direction around the perimeter of the airport. Maybe I was headed for that interrogation room after all!

We finally arrived a good 30 minutes later and I made my way to the Air China first class lounge. Terminal 3 opened in 2008; just in time for the Beijing Olympics. It’s massive with super high ceilings. The lounge uses an open-air design and you have a nice vantage point above the main floor of the terminal’s goings-on below. Even though it was still early June and mild outside, the terminal seemed unnaturally hot and stuffy inside.

Beijing Capital Airport Terminal 3

Beijing Capital Airport Terminal 3

Air China First Class Lounge Beijing

Air China First Class Lounge Beijing

Like many things in China in general, the Air China lounge is well…kind of funky: plastic trees and plants along with faux leather armchairs dotting the outer areas. The interior section of the lounge contains staff areas and the lounge kitchen. The lounge is set up very oddly with the dining area placed in a narrow section at the far back of the lounge and strange un-staffed bars on the other. Maybe some feng-shui thing?

Plastic Trees at the Air China First Class Lounge Beijing.

Plastic Trees at the Air China First Class Lounge Beijing.

Air China First Class Lounge Beijing Snack Station

Air China First Class Lounge Beijing Snack Station

Air China First Class Lounge Beijing Main Seating Area

Air China First Class Lounge Beijing Main Seating Area

Being China, you are not allowed simply to log on to the internet either. You have to insert your passport into a kiosk machine located at the entrance which spits out a password and username receipt similar to an ATM receipt. Do they filter the internet access by nationality?

Due to the length of my connection ordeal I didn’t have much time to ‘enjoy’ the lounge anyway and gathered my carry-on and headed to the boarding gate.

I boarded the B777-300 and presented my boarding pass to the flight attendant. I was in 2L and as I was getting situated another flight attendant rushed over and said, ‘not you seat’. I said, ‘excuse me?’ She insisted I was in 20L and snatched my carry-on and headed towards the business class cabin. Aha! Now I understood why they call it the ‘Forbidden Pavilion”; they don’t actually allow you to sit down!  :) I showed her my boarding pass and she still didn’t seem convinced. I said this was my seat and that if she had any issues to call the head purser. English skills were rough, so I’m not sure if she understood me. Nevertheless, they figured out eventually that it was indeed my seat and I was finally allowed entry.

Air China B777-300 Forbidden Pavilion First Class Cabin. Nice!

Air China B777-300 Forbidden Pavilion First Class Cabin. Nice!

The Air China B777-300 first class cabin has eight seats in a 1-2-1 configuration. The cabin décor is finished in white, dark grey and burgundy. Wow! What a difference between this cabin and the China Eastern product. Impressive.

Air China B777-300 First Class Seat & Monitor

Air China B777-300 First Class Seat & Monitor

I got settled in when a flight attendant came by with a set of pajamas, L’Occitane amenity kit, wine list and menu. Soon after another came by with glass of champagne and some nuts.

Air China First Class Pajamas & Welcome Drink

Air China First Class Pajamas & Welcome Drink

The Air China B777-300 first class seats are spacious and are similar in design to Malaysia’s A380 first class seats. Flight #937 departed on time and as soon as we reached our cruising altitude I snapped a few more shots of the interior.

Air China B777-300 Forbidden Pavilion First Class Cabin

Air China B777-300 Forbidden Pavilion First Class Cabin

Although extensive, both the Chinese and Western menu choices consisted of meat dishes only. As I was the only one in first though, I asked if they could create an impromptu seafood main dish out of the appetizers: lobster and smoked salmon. Again the flight attendant’s English skills were not quite up for such a request, but we all managed with a lot of finger pointing and gestures in the end.

Air China B777-300 First Class Menu

Beijing – London

Menu

Wines
Champagne
Cattier Brut, France

White
Domaine du Chardonnay, Petit Chablis
Domaine Martin Premiere Cuvee, Bourgogne (white burgundy)
Chateau Jacquet, Bordeaux Blanc
Greatwall Sun-God Chateau Reserve, Reisling (China)

Red
Chateau de la Riviere 2002, Fronsac
Les Sources du Chateau de la Riviere 2005, Fronsac
Chateau Puynard 2010, Premieres de Blaye
Greatwall Dry Red Wine (China)

Cognac
Camus V.S.O.P.

Lunch/Dinner Menu

Chinese Selection
Amuse Bouche
Parma Ham and Dragon Fruit Skewer
with Cream Cheese

Hot Canape
Prawn Skewer with Tai Chili Sauce

Appetizer
Lobster with XO Sauce
Five Spice Beef
Steamed Eggplant with Sesame Dressing

Soup
Chinese Clear Pork Soup with Selected Mixed Mushrooms

Main Courses
Braised Hot and Spicy Beef Brisket in Clay Pot
served with Steamed Pearl Rice and Seasonal Vegetables
Braised Pork with Preserved Vegetables, Gongbao Prawns
served with Steamed Pearl Rice and Seasonal Vegetables
or
Vegetarian Choice
Selection of Stir-Fried Seasonal Vegetables
served with Steamed Pearl Rice

Additional Starch Accompaniment in Steamed Basket
Steamed Corn on the Cob, Asian Yam, Golden Pumpkin, Sweet Potato, Baby Taro

Dessert
Opera Cake
Mango Marble Cheesecake
or
Selection of Cheese with Crackers
or
Seasonal Fresh Fruits

Western Selection
Amuse Bouche
 Parma Ham and Dragon Fruit Skewer
with Cream Cheese

Hot Canape
Prawn Skewer with Tai Chili Sauce

Western Style Appetizer
Smoked Salmon, Sesame Spinach Roll and Prawn

Soup
Zucchini Cream Soup

Salad
Fresh Seasonal Salad Leaves

Main Courses
Grilled Beef Tenderloin with Truffle Cream Sauce
served with Duchess Potato
or
Vegetarian Choice
Selection of Stir-Fried Seasonal Vegetables
served with Steamed Pearl Rice

Dessert
Opera Cake
Mango Marble Cheesecake
or
Selection of Cheese with Crackers
or
Seasonal Fresh Fruits

Pre-Arrival Light Meal
Appetizer
Smoked Salmon and Vegetable Salad
Assorted Bread Rolls
Sautéed Beef Slice in Black Bean Sauce
Thin Rice Noodles with Pork Julienne and Preserved Vegetables in Clear Chicken Soup
Mixed Seafood in Saffron Cream Sauce on Steamed Rice
Seasonal Fresh Fruits

 

The meal service started out with an amuse bouche of Parma ham and dragon fruit skewer (I ate the dragon fruit and left the ham) and a canapé of prawn in chili sauce.

Air China First Class Meal Service

Air China First Class Meal Service

Following the appetizers was a nice bowl of zucchini cream soup and salad. Lastly, the lobster and smoked salmon.

Cream of Zucchini Soup

Cream of Zucchini Soup

Smoked Salmon, Salad and Lobster

Smoked Salmon, Salad and Lobster

The dessert choices looked a little sketchy so I went for the cheese assortment instead.

Cheese and Crackers

Cheese and Crackers

The meal service was a bit hit and miss. The silverware, china, and glassware were all of good quality; however the food itself wasn’t quite up to international first class standards and the inclusion of at least one seafood dish would be a welcome addition as well. The wine and tea selections however, were top notch. I tried a few and I especially enjoyed the Chateau de la Riviere 2002 Bordeaux.

Air China First Class Table Setting

Air China First Class Table Setting

Functionality-wise the Air China AVOD system is state-of-the-art. The English language movie and TV program selection was limited though. I was sleepy anyway and decided to try out the bed.

Air China B777-300 Forbidden Pavilion First Class AVOD Screen

Air China B777-300 Forbidden Pavilion First Class AVOD Screen

The seat was the best thing about my Air China flight; very roomy and long with just the right amount of cushioning. I was able to get some much-needed sleep until one of the cabin crew mistakenly turned the lights on!

Air China B777-300 Forbidden Pavilion First Class Suite Bed

Air China B777-300 Forbidden Pavilion First Class Suite Bed

Good Night

Good Night

Final Thoughts—
Air China’s Forbidden Pavilion first class service was a mixed bag. The seat, pajamas, L’Occitane amenity kit and wine selection onboard were great. The connection at Beijing Capital Airport from terminal 2 to terminal 3 was a nightmare. The first class lounge was tacky with a user un-friendly lay out and although I could tell they were trying, the Air China in-flight crew didn’t seem to have received proper training. The flight attendants were friendly and helpful but also bungled the little things like my seat assignment, spilling wine and turning the lights on during mid-flight. Ground crew, lounge staff and the in-flight crew’s English abilities were lacking and it was difficult to communicate. I don’t want to sound mean-spirited or anything as I never came across any outright rude staff members, but Air China needs to invest more resources into service training and language skills. Good intentions by the staff cannot compensate for bad training. If you can source a really good deal on the ticket price I would recommend Air China’s Forbidden Pavilion first class product, however if you’re paying full fare you may want to choose another carrier for now.

Air China Forbidden Pavilion First Class Photo Gallery

 

 

5 Responses to Air China B777-300 Forbidden Pavilion First Class Trip Report PEK-LHR

  1. Pingback: Lufthansa B747-400 First Class Trip Report FRA-EWR - FABFLYER

  2. GeekAbroad says:

    Thanks for the review. I will be flying Air China’s Forbidden Pavilion (first class) later this year, LAX->PKG. Most of what I’ve heard about Air China has been bad but so far the reviews of the seat have been great. First time in First.

    • FABFLYER says:

      Hi There,
      Thanks for the note. CA is definitely not the best, but not the worst either. I think you’ll like the seat; it’s very roomy and comfy. Service is a bit hit and miss, but you never know, you might get lucky. Let me know how everything goes after your journey. Until then all the best.
      Fabflyer

  3. Pingback: Air China First Class on IAH-PEK Route? - FlyerTalk Forums

  4. Pingback: Air China F Meal Service IAH-PEK - FlyerTalk Forums

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