When it comes to luxury in the sky, mainland Chinese carriers are not known for offering best in class products. However, with the rebranding and launch of the A380, China Southern is looking to shake things up. In 2011, China Southern (CZ) received a Skytrax 4 star rating and over the years they’ve focused on how to make flying more comfortable and better for everyone. The airline has opened new airport lounges, launched new routes, and ordered the newest planes available in order to enhance their onboard products. My flight on CZ this week was my first since 2008 when I lived in China and took multiple domestic flights to places such as Shenzhen, Hong Kong, Dalian, and Kashgar and I’ll preemptively say a lot has changed on China Southern in the last 4 years!
By the time I arrived at Lax, my flight was scheduled to depart in 40 minutes and boarding had already begun. There was not a soul in line at the check in counter, but thankfully my friend’s mom was standing at the check in counter insisting that they waited for me before closing shop. The friendly agents appeared to be agents of China Eastern not CZ for they had CE branding all over their uniforms, my guess is CZ outsources LAX to China Eastern since CZ only does one flight a day. The staff checked me in and printed my boarding passes and took my bag without concern. They told me I needed to rush to the gate and an agent appeared at the end of the counter to escort me through security and to the gate. Due to my late arrival, the agent took me past everyone waiting in line at security and put me to the front of the line, even at the x-ray machines. I felt like I was a cabin crew because I even got to bypass those who were already stripping and placing their bags on the x-ray machines. Once I got to the gate the agent wished me a good flight; I boarded a bus that was waiting and it took me to the remote gate.
By the time I boarded the plane, almost everyone else was already on board and preflight drinks were being collected by the staff. I found my seat, 22A, and made myself comfortable. I love the layout of the CZ A380. The seats are in a staggered 1x2x1 arrangement giving every person direct aisle access. Furthermore, for those traveling alone, it provides extra privacy. My seat was next to the window and I had a large workstation separating myself from the aisle. This meant when people passed by I wouldn’t be bothered nor would I have to tuck in my arms when the food carts passed.
Within a few minutes of boarding we were taking off and were on our way to Guangzhou. I had missed preflight drink service, but wasn’t too concerned. On each seat, passengers are greeted with slippers, an amenity kit, noise canceling headphones, a large blanket, two pillows, and a thin “mattress” to put over the seat when it’s reclined in the bed position. While we were taxiing, flight attendants passed through the aisles and passed out pajamas to those passengers in business class. There were three sizes (Small, Medium, Large) and the FA gave them out based on their own judgment. At the same time, another FA passed hot towels to passengers and a third took drink orders. I had asked for whisky on the rocks and the FA then asked me what kind. She whisked away towards the galley and came back with a basket holding Jack Daniels, Johnny Walkers Red Label, Noblige Cognac, and Chivas Regal 12. She quickly recommended the Cognac for it was the highest end product they carried and she was certain it was the best. I took her recommendation and found myself extremely satisfied later.
Which One Would you Choose?
Inflight Dinner and Breakfast Menu
Taxiing time at LAX was long and dreadful. It took us almost an hour from the time the cabin doors were shut to the time we were actually lined up on the runway awaiting permission to take off. During this hour, no additional preflight beverages were offered or refilled (which was fine) and thankfully I had nabbed a couple bottles of water from the galley because after my run from T2 and jaunt through the terminal I was extremely parched. During the elongated taxi time, the FA came through the cabins and greeted each passenger and took their dinner and breakfast orders, this was only after the drink orders were taken. There were 3 options for both breakfast and dinner. I was in the middle of the second business class cabin and by the time the flight attendant had reached me, she only had 2 of the 3 items available for both breakfast and dinner. This was not a concern to me though because she still had what I had wanted both times.
An hour later, we were finally taking off towards China. During taxiing, I had encountered four different FA, each of them spoke English, but no one seemed fluent. Although most passengers were greeted with a number of amenities, because of my late arrival, my seat was stripped bare from everything but the pillows and blankets. I had asked 4 different FAs for an amenity kit, headphones, and slippers, and each time they returned to the galley with a confused look on their face and then returned empty handed or never came back down my side of the aisle. It wasn’t until after takeoff that I was able to gather such items, but it took me showing them examples of what I wanted that my request was fulfilled.
Amenity Kit & Bad pics of the PJs before I put them on
Within 45 minutes of takeoff, now close to midnight local LAX time, dinner service was starting. It started with a miniscule plate of nuts and the first dish on the menu. This was also accompanied by the drink I had requested when still on the ground at LAX. Dinner overall was extremely satisfying and delicious—this being a HUGE improvement to the catering I had experienced on CZ years ago. Everything from the seared poke, the soup, the full flavored garlic bread, to the flakey and perfectly cooked cod was memorable. By the time dessert came, fresh fruit and the pineapple tart, I was so full I could barely breathe! I had to ask the FA to bring me dessert at a later time because eating more at that time was out of the question! Dessert was serviced upon my request: Fresh fruit and a Pineapple Tart. Despite having a number of choices for dessert, when I asked for dessert, I wasn’t given a choice and the fresh fruit and tart were just brought to me. Although I really wanted the mousse, when I informed the FA, she just looked at me blankly as if she didn’t understand. I found it odd that they didn’t ask me what I wanted, but did not complain either. The tart wasn’t that great, so I skipped it. Following dessert, a cheese cart appeared with a number of dairy delights and my pallet welcomed it, salivating with excitement—after all I’m a sucker for cheese! The FA asked me what cheeses I wanted, I was greedy and asked for all three. Maybe this is unusual, but the FA looked at me like I was off my rocker, she repeated to me “You want all three?!” I reassured her that I wanted all three and she served me. However, she seemed as though this was unusual; either way, I my belly and my pallet were highly satisfied.
hor d'oeuvres & Drinks:
The dinner spread & dessert. I chose the Cod
After dinner, I was full and delightfully buzzed. During dinner the FA has refilled my large glass of Cognac at least 3 times (maybe even 4) and I was ready for bed. I put my bed in the sleep position, found it to be extremely comfortable, probably the most comfortable seat I had at 30K feet and while watching Ice Age 3, I drifted into a deep sleep. 7 hours later, I woke up, somewhere over Russia, and by looking at the map found that we still had 6 hours of flight time!
During the next 6 hours I did what everyone does on the plane, I tried to sleep, walked up and down the aisles, grabbed a snack from the forward bar, watched some movies, etc. During this time, I noticed the FAs were not visible anywhere except that galleys and even then the number of FA seemed to be sparse.
The forward bar had a number of spirits, some fruit juice, milk, fresh fruit, and some delicious chocolates and a bowl of fresh fruit. Despite there being nothing of substance available to eat, for the most part it was sufficient. Another issue was that there was no ice for drinks, so in the case of wanting a cool beverage one would have to track down a flight attendant. If that was not enough, another thing I found odd was on a later trip to the self-serve bar I saw a number of glasses with water sitting out. I grabbed one for I was thirsty and instead of being cold or room temperature, it was hot! I laughed to myself because this reminded me of the times when I lived in China and I was told a number of times that drinking cold water would give you diarrhea (Goes back to the time when if you didn’t boil your water you’d get sick). It appeared as though that old tradition carried onto the plane!
Forward bar in business class with fruit and decadent chocolate
With about two hours before landing in Guangzhou, breakfast began and it was time to eat. This meal was as large as the first one and was more than enough for one person to eat! FA first brought trays with fresh fruit and yogurt, added warm pastries or bread of your liking, and then filled a bowl on the tray with milk. Next, I had the option of Kix or Fruit loops Cereal. Satisfied with my meal, it reminded me of a domestic breakfast flight in the US, however I also was curious about what was brought to me because I had originally asked for the congee and dim sum. But with the language barrier, I decided not to ask any questions and just eat what was given to me. Then, after I had finished eating, the FA came and took my tray and appeared back with the dim sum and congee! I was already full from round 1, I couldn’t’ imagine eating round 2. At first I thought it was just me they were serving two breakfasts, but nope, that was not the case, round 1 was just the beginning of breakfast! There was so much food, I again could not finish everything and was more than happy when the FA cleared my tray table!
The breakfast spread including fresh esspresso:
It wasn’t long after breakfast that we began to descend into Guangzhou and I was very happy to see the airplane touch down after a long 15 hour flight across the Pacific. As we taxied into Guangzhou, the plane was directed to a remote stand and it was a good 10 minutes after we were parked before stairs were put into place and we could disembark. Both decks received one set of stairs and the masses started to flood from the plane. For economy class passengers there were standard buses awaiting them, but for first and business class passenger representative held signs with our names and connecting flight information. The representative then took you to smaller VIP van that sat approximately 15 people and took us to the terminal. The same airline rep then walked us through the terminal to customs and ensured we had no issue finding the lounge to relax in before our connecting flight.
Overall, the flight experience with CZ was memorable and was one of the Best Business Class experience I have had. There were a few set backs but none of these were major. The plane is clean, modern, new, and really offers a unique flying experience! Not to mention it’s a huge upgrade to the CZ hard product that use to ply the route before the A380!
Now a quick recap:
Seat: Very comfortable and was easy to find a number positions to both recline in or sleep in without difficulty. When sleeping, the seat is 180 degree and is 100% flat, so it’s no different than sleeping in a bed in your own home. Your feet tucks under the passengers work station in front of you. No matter what seat you’re in, people next to you will not have to climb over or to disturb you while you sleep. Lots of privacy & comfortable bedding. I love the fact you get two pillows!
First Class suite, Biz Class middle seats, and Economy Seats
Business class seat in the bed position and upright
IFE: Lots of movie choice, large TV screens, and movie and TV choices from all around the world. No matter what your mood is you can find something to easily entertain you during the 15 hours of flight time. In addition to movies, there was a large selection of TV shows, music, and games. The only downside to the IFE is that CZ has disengaged the multiple cameras, so there’s no bird’s eye view while flying.
Food: Meals are large, tasty, and there are plenty of options available. Snacks during the flight are not obvious but can be arranged by asking an FA according to the inflight menu.
Amenities: Above and beyond what most airlines gives you in Business Class. Pajamas which are actually comfortable (I wore them for a good 13 hours), slippers, noise cancelling headphones that are large and actually good at reducing noise, and an amenity kit featuring BVLGARI products! Also the PJs had their own special slippers so really you end up with two pairs!
whitening lotion in the bathrooms--anyone else find this humorous?
Service: Functional and friendly. The FA were there to make sure everyone was comfortable on their flight, however there is still a learning curve when it comes to the English language. Flying a number of airlines across both the Pacific and Atlantic and to and from South America, I found CZ language skills to still be highly lacking. I heard a number of passengers raising their voices or getting frustrated because the FA was not understanding their request. However, other than the language barrier everyone was very friendly and helpful.
Transportation: Passengers in Business class were greated by agents in Guangzhou with signs directing them to private vans to take them to custom. These agents also boarded the bus with us and then walked us through customs, bypassing the line of those waiting in economy class. Economy class passengers were packed like sardines into large buses and first class passengers had the excate same vip vans as us, however they rode with only other 1st class passengers.
Read more from this series:
- China Southern A380 Business Class Los Angeles to Guangzhou
- Sky Pearl VIP Lounge Guangzhou
- China Southern Business Class Guangzhou to Manila
- MIASCOR Lounge Manila
- Asiana Business Class Manila to Seoul
- Asiana Business Class Lounge
- Asiana Boarding Gate Lounge
- Thai Airways Business Class Seoul to Bangkok
- Thai Airways Domestic Bangkok Business Class Lounge
- Thai Airways Business Class Bangkok to Phuket
- Thai Airways Domestic Phuket Business Class Lounge
- Thai Airways Business Class Phuket to Bangkok
- Thai Airways International Business Class Lounge
- Thai Airways Business Class Bangkok to Singapore
- Singapore Air SilverKris Lounge Terminal 2
- Singapore Air Business Class Singapore to Manila
- Malaysia Airline Business Class Manila to Kuala Lumpur
- Malaysia Airline Golden Lounge Kuala Lumpur
- Malaysia Airline Business Class Kuala Lumpur-Narita
- Malaysia Airline Business Class Narita-Los Angeles