China Airlines’ A350-900 in business class was every bit as impressive as I hoped it would be. Great service, great food, and a great seat made for a great flight.
I had started in Los Angeles the previous morning, with a 6hr layover in San Francisco followed by 10hr flight flight to Amsterdam with only a two hour nap, followed by a 5hr layover in Amsterdam. Thus, by the time I finally boarded this flight I was exhausted.
As I approached the gate I spied my aircraft. Although a white, simple livery that many airlines seem to embrace, the paint job was sleek. Boarding began on time.
China Airlines (CI) 74
Amsterdam (AMS) – Taipei (TPE)
Wednesday, February 15, 2017
Aircraft: Airbus A350-900
Seat: 16A (Business Class)
China Airlines A350 Business Class Seat
Resisting the urge to put my head back and fall asleep, I took note of the cabin around me. So impressive. Dark accents with light woodgrain works very well. The ball and claw lamps at each seat are elegant.
It was the same reverse herringbone seat as my previous flight on the KLM 787-9, with plenty of personal storage and room to stretch out.
In lie-flat mode, the bed was 6’5″ and my feet did not feel claustrophobic inside the cubbyhole. There is no bedding beyond a down blanket and plush pillow. A FA was happy to prepare my bed.
China Airlines A350 Business Class Service
Just after boarding the purser, dressed in red, came over and introduced herself. Welcoming me onboard, she presented a hot towel, headphones, a newspaper, slippers, and an amenity kit. She also asked what I would like to drink.
Moments later she returned with a “mixed snack” (oriental rice crackers) and glass of sparkling water.
An Evian water bottle was already present in the seat–
I would not call the crew overly friendly, but they were very professional. I was repeatedly addressed by name and my requests (a cappuccino after dinner, for example) were promptly accommodated.
The crew was also very attentive: during the main meal service my empty tray did not sit for more than 30 seconds before it was collected. At the same time, the crew was not obtrusive: they seemed to anticipate needs without having to patrol the aisles.
Meal service occurred quickly, really quickly. This seems to be a China Airlines signature and I viewed it not so much as FAs trying to finish quickly so they could rest as a service to maximize the sleep of business class passengers. Orders were taken prior to takeoff. The first course was out 10 minutes after takeoff and dessert was finished just over an hour after takeoff. That is impressive for a flight in which most passengers, myself included, wanted to maximize sleep.
I will add here that we pushed back on time and had a short taxi and quick takeoff at just after 4:05p.
China Airlines A350 Business Class Amenity Kit
The amenity contained essential toiletry items as well as hand creme and lip balm from Institut Karite in Paris. It also contained hair oil — the first time I have ever received that in an airline amenity kit. A special A350 sticker was also inside.
China Airlines A350 Business Class IFE
The in-flight-entertainment system could be controlled by touch screen or by a handheld passenger service unit. The movie and film selection was decent. Noise-cancelling headphones were provided. The only thing I watched was Libera in concert – one of my favorite singing groups. It surprised me to see that available and I enjoyed it!
China Airlines A350 Business Class Wi-Fi
Wi-Fi was available for purchase and worked well for most of the flight, even flying over Mainland China. The T-Mobile based system charges $11.95/hr or $21.95 for a 24-hour pass. I did not choose either option.
I noticed there was a roaming option and Boingo was a listed roaming partner. American Express Platinum provides complimentary Boingo to its cardholders so I logged in through Boingo. I wondered whether Boingo would charge the EUR0.18/minute listed fee to me or AMEX, but as of yet (two weeks later), no charge has appeared on my AMEX.
China Airlines A350 Business Class Lavatory
China Airlines A350 Business Class Food
Last, but not least, the food. I appreciated the prompt service discussed above. The food itself was good. It wasn’t the best business class meal I’ve had, it was not the worst, it was just average. I did go with the Western option for both dinner and breakfast because it sounded better.
The menu and wine list:
Dinner began with prosciutto canapés.
Next was a cold salmon appetizer course served with a side salad. Although served on a tray, the presentation was flawless.
A soup course with quiche followed. Although the menu specific a spinach soup with potato and coconut, it tasted like mushroom soup instead.
For the main course I chose “chicken in apple syrup with hazelnut potatoes puree”. A little too creative, perhaps, but I ate it all: it was not bad.
For dessert, I was offered fruit, cheese, or ice cream. I asked for all three and the FA was ecstatic to oblige (most skipped dessert, it appeared). I also ordered a cappuccino, which was delivered without any frothed milk. Perhaps a different FA prepared it the following morning for breakfast, because it was much better.
Halfway through the flight I visited the rear galley where an elaborate set-up contained mid-flight snacks and even a small library. Salty and sweet snack, noodles, fruit, and alcohol was available and self-serve.
A full two hours prior to landing breakfast service began. My breakfast was delivered on a single tray and I enjoyed the meal better than the earlier dinner. The croissant was particularly fresh.
We landed on time in Taipei and taxied to the gate for several minutes, passing by a Untied 747-400 before finally pulling up next to a Korean Air 747-8. The purser thanked each passenger for flying on China Airlines, leaving one last favorable impression.
While jet lag kept me wide awake for most of the flight, I found China Airlines to be a great airline with a solid business class experience — in all aspects. I’m not sure China Airlines would win awards for best service or best food, best bedding, or best anything…yet everything combined made for a very enjoyable flight. I highly recommend China Airlines.