Flight Date: 13MAY13—Trying to find information, especially photos, of China Eastern’s first class service is an allusive endeavour. I checked their website and they have a grand total of one photo and one sentence describing their A340-600 first class service…hmmm? Searching the web for photos didn’t turn up much either. I was returning to Tokyo after a short stay in Bangkok and although I could have just flown non-stop on another airline, I thought this would be a good opportunity to chronicle everything China Eastern.
China Eastern (MU) flight 548 to Shanghai departs Bangkok at 01:55am. I arrived at the terminal just as their computer system crashed and it took forever to check-in. China Eastern don’t have a dedicated lounge and even though I was travelling in first, you are only allowed access to Thai Airways’ business class lounge. This isn’t a showstopper as Thai’s main Bangkok business class lounge is one of the better around. It was well past midnight and the lounge was nearly empty.
Boarding for the flight was called and I settled in to seat 2L. I was the only one in first class for this flight. The China Eastern A340-600 first class cabin has eight seats in a 1-2-1 configuration.
I was approached and greeted by no less than five different flight attendants and they all offered me a glass of orange juice or water. Right before take-off a flight attendant asked if I would like to have dinner. I asked if there was a menu but she looked confused and told me to “wait a minute”. She returned and said there was no menu, but I could have ‘Beef Rice’, ‘Pork Rice’ or ‘Fish Noodle’. None of those choices sounded very tempting and as it was 01:30 in the morning, I decided to try and get some sleep instead.
The seats are fine in the sitting position and the length is generous. There was adequate padding and although there was only one pillow provided, I snatched another from the seat next me. In the bed position the seat is strangely narrow at the shoulder and the arm rests uneven; which means it’s difficult to find a comfortable sleeping position.
Worse still was the smell of cigarette smoke wafting through the air vents. China Eastern is a non-smoking airline, however this rule evidently only applies to passengers. As soon as the flight took off I saw one of the pilots sneaking out of the cockpit to grab a quick smoke inside the crew bunk rest area. This continued on and off during the entire flight. Cigarette smoke or not I was able to get about two hours of sleep and woke up right before landing at Shanghai’s Pudong Airport.
I had a two hour layover before my flight to Narita. China Eastern have several lounges and although they all say first class on the signs I was refused entry into one of them and the clerk pointed me towards another. The lounge is on the small side, but it had a well-stocked buffet and bar.
The equipment to Narita was an A321. This aircraft was much newer than the A340-600 and although there was no first class service, the business class seats were surprisingly spacious with a nice pitch.
There were two choices for breakfast: Western or Japanese. I chose the Japanese meal and frankly it was disgusting. I took one bite and that was enough.
The service on China Eastern is hit-and-miss at best. English skills of the crew are lacking and it was difficult to communicate. Their first class cabin on the A340-600 is old and the seats are not suitable for a long haul journey. The business class seats however, on the A321 are quite nice and perfectly suited for flights under four hours. Pilots smoking during the flight, inedible food, no menus, minimal drink choices, and no amenity kit are some of the issues China Eastern needs to address. The only saving grace was the dirt cheap airfare; only $680 USD from Bangkok to Tokyo via Shanghai in first and business.