China Southern provided flawless service, a comfortable suite, and a culinary adventure on my A380 First Class flight from Guangzhou to Beijing. I walked away very impressed.
In all honestly, I sort of dreaded this flight…in a good way (I was still looking forward to it). We don’t have many reference points for China Southern first class and most reviews skew negative. Quite candidly, my expectations were so low that I had essentially given up before I even stepped onboard, especially after a seat assignment issue and the crowded lounge in Guangzhou.
But I truly had a WONDERFUL flight on China Southern. In fact…and I do not say this lightly…the service rivaled that of ANA and Thai first class, two carriers I flew just prior to China Southern. I am not exaggerating. I know better.
After arriving from Bangkok, I cleared passport control (30 minutes) and customs, then proceeded to the transit desk to pick up my boarding pass for the domestic flight to Beijing. It was there I learned that the window seat I had pre-assigned had disappeared and I was given a seat in the center section instead.
I spent many hours in the lounge waiting out a prolonged weather delay (thunderstorms in Beijing) before boarding finally began around 11:15 PM.
China Southern 3105
Guangzhou (CAN) – Beijing (PEK)
Friday, July 5
Depart: 07:00 PM (11:47 PM actual)
Arrive: 10:15 PM (02:23 AM+1 actual)
Duration: 03hr, 15min
Distance: 1,165 miles
Aircraft: Airbus A380-800
Seat: 1K (First Class)
Stepping onboard, flight attendant Liu Chang Jun welcomed me at the door and immediately escorted me to my seat.
China Southern A380 First Class Suites
The first class cabin contains eight closed-door seats and is located on the lower level of the A380, like first class on Qantas or Malaysia. The suite cushioning felt much firmer than other 1-2-1 first class products and the ottoman and suite itself offers less personal storage than other, similar-looking first class suites.
That said, there were personal lockers for each first class passenger. The lockers were protected by a combination you set yourself, like you see in many gym lockers. No overhead bins in first class.
Thanks to the 4.5 hour delay, first class went from 8/8 to 2/8. I ended up with my window seat after all in seat 1K. Although I’m not a fan of the rather drab off-white first class color scheme, the cabin was immaculate.
My suite included power and USB ports, plus several settings to adjust the seat.
After dinner, Liu transformed my seat into a bed and I managed a one-hour snooze. Even though this was just a domestic flight, China Southern still offered full bedding including a thick mattress pad. The suite has a pitch of 82 inches in lie-flat mode.
China Southern A380 First Class Dining
After boarding, I was presented with a cold towel and welcome drink of sparkling water with mint in a martini glass with cookies, served on a silver-colored platter.
How about champagne? China Southern offered a $50 bottle of Piper-Heidsieck Vintage Brut 2008. It’s no Krug, but certainly an upgrade from the Duc de Paris sparkling wine served in years past.
After takeoff, mixed nuts and a beverage were offered.
A menu offered several main course choices and I asked the flight attendant for a recommendation. She ended up bringing me a feast.
Here’s the menu:
First, Liu nicely set the table for dinner:
The appetizer included baby abalone, marinated jelly fish, and crispy sweet and sour seabass. With it, I had Chao Zhou beef ball soup, which Liu claimed was a China Southern specialty.
For my entree, I ordered braised fish maw with marinated goose wing and mixed vegetables. Good thing I did not know what fish maw is (at the time). So unbeknownst to me, I had fish bladder as my main course…
Frankly, I did not know which was which on the plate, just that it was presented to me. The texture and taste was new to me. I found it to be fine, just something that would take a lot of getting use to before I voluntarily ordered it again.
Now that should have been enough, but Liu next insisted that I have some beef noodle soup. I obliged and was surprised when she promptly delivered a huge bowl. With the fried peanuts and coriander on top, this really made for a tasty second meal.
Next Liu wanted me to try some soup with red beans and lotus for dessert, but I just had some fresh fruit and Chinese ice cream. Liu also made an excellent cappuccino.
If this meal looks familiar, it is because I dedicated a Meal of the Week post to it shortly after the flight. While certainly outside my comfort zone, I quite enjoyed the culinary adventure.
China Southern A380 First Class Service
During this flight, I enjoyed 1:1 attention from Liu. She was charming, professional, and spoke excellent English. I point out the English because communication has traditionally been an issue for non-Chinese speakers on Mainland carriers, particularly on domestic flights.
Liu knelt down at my feet and presented slippers to me prior to takeoff, in a way that reminded me of Garuda Indonesia First Class.
I was so pleasantly surprised with the crew overall that I requested to take a picture prior to landing and was happily obliged.
If this is the level of service you can expect on a longhaul flight, then I put China Southern in the top-tier…it was that good. Thanks to Dong Jin Li and Wang Xiaojing for excellent service as well.
China Southern A380 First Class IFE
I was fascinated by the in-flight-entertainment library, which included recent movies but all kinds of 1990s and 2000s Hollywood movies I had never heard of. Some of them looked interesting…
The IFE library also included TV shows, games, and music.
Noise cancelling headphones were functional, but felt cheap and did not block all ambient noise.
China Southern A380 First Class Lavatory
The first class lavatory was not oversized (the primary reason I prefer first class on the upper deck rather than lower deck), but roomy enough. Hanging on the door was a cute little A380-shaped air freshener.
China Southern A380 First Class Amenities
While full bedding was offered as well as an elaborate menu, no amenity kits or pajamas were proactively offered. It did not dawn on me to request them until after the flight, so I cannot say if they are available upon request.
China Southern A380 First Class Arrival Ground Service
The great service did not end on the aircraft. When we landed, a representative was waiting for me and the other first class passenger at the door. She led us through the crowds, down to baggage claim, and out to the curb.
I was spending the night at the Hilton and had to take a bus from Terminal 2 to Terminal 3 in order to catch a shuttle to the Hilton. Despite the late hour, the airport was hopping.
I’m now quite pleased to recommend China Southern to others after such an excellent flight. The delay was outside of China Southern’s control and the superb in-flight experience not only exceeded expectations, but was objectively an amazing product. Even the post-flight ground service demonstrated what a great product China Southern offers domestically in first class. I look forward to a transpacific flight!