Review: China Airlines Premium Business Class 777-300ER JFK to TPE

To say that I had an unbelievably pleasant journey would be an understatement. Both segments in China Airlines new Premium Business Class on their 777-300ER aircraft were flawlessly executed with professional service and attention.

Flight Details:

China Airlines 11 
New York (JFK) to Taipei (TPE)
Depart: Friday, July 28 1:35 AM

Arrive: Saturday, July 29 5:30 AM
Aircraft: Boeing 777-300ER
Seat: 21A (Business Class)

Booking:

My fiancee and I needed to be in Bali for a wedding the first week of August. When looking at mileage flights to Bali, the flights most commonly came up with a connection in Taipei. In order to save a decent amount of miles, we booked a round trip through Taipei and paid cash for the remaining flights, giving ourselves a layover in Taipei on the way back, too. While the cash fare for this fight came out to well over $3,500, we were each able to redeem 160,000 Delta SkyMiles + $38.06 for the over 30 hours we would spend in China Airlines new Business Class. Flying with Delta to Taipei would have required a connection in Seattle and would have cost about 225,000 SkyMiles plus taxes and fees.
Booking China Airlines was a great use of Delta SkyMiles

Checking In:

When we arrived at JFK Terminal 4 at around 11:00 PM, we headed over to China Airlines small check in counter, located to the back left (almost the exact opposite direction of Delta and Virgin Atlantic's massive area). While the Economy and Premium Economy lanes were quite long, Business Class had almost no line and we were through quickly with our 4 bags dropped off and tagged. We also received our vouchers to enter Priority Pass' Wingtips Lounge, since China Airlines does not have their own, nor do they grant you access to Delta's SkyClub in T4. 

Security:

Unfortunately, due to the late nature of the flight, both TSA Pre-Check (which China Airlines isn't eligible for anyway) and the Premium lines were closed. That left us taking off our shoes and taking out our laptops. The line moved relatively quickly, but was still a minor frustration.

Lounge:

Right after security is the entrance to Priority Pass' Wingtips Lounge. Unfortunately, there was a huge line with many people pulling out various credit cards trying to get in. Luckily, the woman checking people in noticed us with our vouchers and waved us on. The food selection was tepid and almost empty. All beverages, including wine and beer, were self-serve. The lounge was quite crowded for such a late time and it was hard to find seating. We each had a few vegetables from the crudités platter, as well a small piece of chicken covered in some brown sauce.  We were meeting friends taking the flight in Economy, so we ended up heading to the gate around 11:45 PM. 

Boarding:

China Airlines Flight 11 boarded pretty far down Terminal 4 (I cannot remember the gate). Boarding began promptly an hour before the flight. There were 4 lines (2 sides with 2 lines) clearly marked with Business Class, Premium Economy and 2 lanes for economy based on your row number. We were on around 12:45 AM and found our seats quickly, just to the right of the door in the small second Business Class section. 

Cabin:

China Airlines has done incredible work transforming an airplane into a modern, calming atmosphere. Filled with a combination of light and dark wood with dark upholstery, the cabin was truly stunning. So many passengers walking by made comments about it and a few even jokingly sat down and took selfies before proceeding back to the Premium Economy and Economy cabins. There were 3 bathrooms for Business Class passengers (1 in the front, 2 between the cabins). Each was kept in clean condition and I never saw any paper towels or toilet paper on the floor or around. The bathrooms were interesting, in that they each had a window and some classical music playing. 

Seat:

I was seated in 21A, both a window and an aisle, which is the second seat in the second section of Business Class. The seat was in immaculate condition when I boarded. Waiting at my seat for me was a bottle of water, a pack of "mixed snack", an amenity kit and a rectangular gold pillow as well as a small comforter. The cabin temperature was all over the place, so sometimes I was freezing and other times I begged for mercy from the heat. China Airlines has selected a pretty standard B/E Super Diamond seat. The seat is a reverse herringbone seat. I had never sat in this model before, but I cannot imagine anyone ever saying the seat was tight or cramped. In total lay flat, I could have rolled over completely and not hit anything. I am almost six feet tall, and the seat was more than enough for me. 
The cabin was absolutely stunning in person

Flight / Meal Services:

The Menu
We left promptly at 1:35 AM. Our captain informed us of our 15 hour flying time. We were airborne by 2:00 AM with almost no line for take off, a first at JFK.


China Airlines offered 3 meal services throughout the flight, aligned to the local times in New York. We were served a small snack after take off, a breakfast about 5 hours later and then a full dinner right before landing. That means, yes, we were served a gigantic dinner at about 3:30 AM Taipei time. Who really knows what time it is on such a long journey anyway?

For the first meal, I chose the Asian option. It came with pork rib soup and stir-fried rice noodles. Both were delicious and comforting. They were served without a tray and each item and was brought and cleared quickly. The lights were shortly dimmed after so people could sleep.



'Midnight Snack' and Frozen

I awoke about 4 hours later to the lights coming for breakfast. While this was the only time I was actually fast asleep on the flight, I straightened up my chair for the next meal. Once again, I chose the Asian option. It was a gigantic bowl of Congee (Rice porridge) with a ton of sides, including a delicious steamed bun, fruit and minced pork.



Breakfast, served on one tray

I tried to sleep again and was on and off. As I said before, the temperature was all over the place, so at times I was in a deep sweat and others I was shivering. I propped up my chair about 3 hours before landing and watched some TV. The flight attendants proactively offered me snacks, which were in these cute containers that could have been accessed through the lounge area between the Business Class cabins.



Image Courtesy of China Airlines
About 2 hours before landing, the final meal was served. The first course was a lobster medallion with a carrot salad. The lobster meal was tender and tasted fresh. I was offered bread throughout, but tried to be good.


Final Meal - Lobster Appetizer
Next came the main course. Striving for consistency, I chose the Asian option. This was a braised chicken thigh with rice and green vegetables. It was really great, but the presentation of the sauce was bizarre. 


Final Meal - Braised Chicken Thigh, Rice and Vegetables
At the end, I finished up with a fruit and cheese plate, as well as some cheesecake. I was totally stuffed and it was 4:30 AM Taipei time. Knowing I wouldn't be able to sleep, I stayed up with a coffee and a Champagne (because, why not?).

Final Meal - Cheese and Cheesecake
I watched some Spongebob Squarepants, which was one of the hundreds of options on the gorgeously responsive screen. I loved the navigation system, which really showcased just how much of a straight line it is from the USA to Asia. I watched our 15 hour trip a few times, in awe of how far we had traveled. I looked at the window and watched the sun rise over my first trip to Asia.


Champagne and Spongebob
Actively avoiding North Korea
We touched down right on time and were at the gate by our scheduled time of 5:30 AM. I was seriously sad to leave this flight. While I've flown business class before on a few carriers, nothing was quite as wonderful as this flight. From the seat, to the crew, to the food, I was pampered the entire time.
Sunrise over the Pacific

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