Review: China Eastern - Business Class - Boeing 777-300ER - New York JFK to Shanghai PVG


Trip Report Index:

Introduction
China Eastern - Business Class - Boeing 777-300ER - New York JFK to Shanghai PVG
China Eastern - Lounge 36 - Shanghai Pudong Airport
China Eastern - Business Class - Airbus A320neo - Shanghai PVG to Chiang Mai CNX
Thai Airways - Royal Orchid Lounge - Chiang Mai Airport
China Eastern - Premium Economy - Airbus A320neo - Chiang Mai CNX to Shanghai PVG
China Eastern - Business Class - Boeing 777-300ER - Shanghai PVG to New York JFK

Flight Details:

China Eastern Flight 298
New York (JFK) to Shanghai (PVG)
Depart: Friday, July 19 at 1:45 AM (Actual 2:00 AM)
Arrival: Saturday, July 20 at 4:55 AM (Actual 4:03 AM)
Aircraft: Boeing 777-300ER
Seat: 16L (Business Class)

Booking:

I've never heard anything great about China Eastern. In fact, I've done just about anything I could to avoid them. We rerouted our honeymoon to Singapore Airlines and for this trip only planned on taking it on the way home. Our original itinerary was from JFK to Guangzhou to Chiang Mai on China Southern. In order to make that trip work, I called Delta and they booked us in Business to Guangzhou and Economy for the last leg. I really, really wanted to avoid a 5 hour layover in Shanghai and China Eastern entirely. Tickets confirmed - great. Next day, called China Southern. No dice. Was told the ticket was unconfirmed and Delta had sold seats that didn't exist.

After an extensive two hour call with Delta to do everything they could to reroute us (including giving us Delta One Suites on an A350 for the price of 85,000 SkyMiles), a 2 stop itinerary in Detroit and Seoul with the final leg being 7 hours in Economy just did not seem appealing. I begrudgingly agreed to China Eastern. The tickets were each 85,000 SkyMiles + $121.90 in fees.

China Eastern seat reservations are a mess. You cannot select through Delta, nor can you do it through China Eastern's own site. Any reservation made on China Eastern through a different airline or travel agency is not accessible on their site. Luckily, they have offices in many cities with an email. After a quick response time, I selected seats 16 and 17 L. They were towards the rear of the large second Business Class cabin. Normally, I'd prefer the smaller one, but that one was further up and closer to the cockpit. I've heard horror stories of pilots smoking, and I wanted to be as far away as possible.

Check-In / Security:


China Eastern operates from the cluster-fuck that is JFK Terminal 1. We arrived around 10:30 PM and headed to where China Eastern was set up. The line for SkyPriority and Business Class was quick and the agent was very helpful. We had her check on all of our reservations and confirm our seats, since this was the first time we ever interacted with a China Eastern employee in person. She confirmed it all and handed us lounge passes.


The lounge passes were pretty confusing and due to some delayed AirFrance flights, China Eastern would be using another lounge. That lounge ended up being the Alitalia one, though the agent didn't clarify. Since China Eastern doesn't participate in TSA Pre-Check, we used the premium line, which cut off about 1 minute of the 30 minute security line. Next, we headed to the lounge.

Lounges:

No, the word lounges was not a typo. After heading to the Alitalia lounge and finding out their showers were broken and they weren't serving food, we said no and tried our luck elsewhere. Across the hall was the Korean Air lounge. Since my husband and I are both SkyTeam Elites traveling on an international ticket, we get access. They checked us in quickly, but let us know that the lounge would be closing in an hour when the flight to Seoul boarded (it ended up being delayed so this never happened).


This late at night there was almost no food left. The buffet selection was limited with a few hot and cold options that were being actively cleaned up, even while the lounge was still filled to the brim.


There were some sautéed vegetables that looked to have once been frozen. 


There was a small liquor selection that I avoided. There was a fridge full of canned beverages and some small sandwiches, too.


I ended up just grabbing a small snack.


While the Korean Air lounge was pretty lackluster, it did provide excellent views of our ride to Shanghai. Our plane, B-2020, was a 4 year old Boeing 777-300ER delivered in March of 2015.


I decided to check out the restroom while we waited.


Like the rest of the lounge, it was just another disappointment. I asked about using the shower, but was told there were a dozen people in the list. At this point, a delay for the Korean Air flight announced a delay due to catering and the room groaned. It was around midnight at this point, and I was at my end with the crowd. Our plan? Lounge #3.

We tried out the AirFrance lounge. Although the lounge was completely empty, we were wrongfully denied access. The agent told us China Eastern was not contracted with them this evening, but due to our status we should have been granted entry. This lounge also participates in Priority Pass, so with a swipe of my card, we were in.


My husband took a shower, while I explored the midnight buffet.


There was still a decent selection available, though nothing near as extravagant as when I came around 5:00 PM a few months ago. I made a small salad and chose from the vast array of seating.


It seems AirFrance uses these cute coasters to know which flight guests are taking.


I really wanted to take them, but I behaved myself. Finally, at 1:00 AM, we headed to our gate, located right outside the lounge.

Boarding:

Although boarding was called for 1:00 AM, we arrived to this.


The gate area was entirely empty of staff and signage. Finally, a few signs went up and everyone rushed the area. We were the first in line to board. Once they allowed boarding, I sprinted down the jet bridge and was the first on. Waiting at the door was a flight attendant, who looked at my seat assignment and escorted me there.

Cabin:

To get to my seat, we crossed through the First Class cabin.


Then, we passed the small Business Class cabin.


And onwards to where I'd be sitting.


There were 46 seats in the larger cabin, which felt quite large. I was dropped off at my seat, 16L.


It was a standard reverse herringbone seat, outfitted with cream colored leather and darker accents. One thing, I'll note is that while all seats are the same, 16L is missing a window.


The cabin was relatively simple, but looked quite calming in person.


Each seat had an arrange of amenities waiting, including a pillow, amenity kit, water, headset and slippers. A duvet cover for each seat was in the overhead compartment. I took mine down right away as I'd heard some passengers take two leaving others without.


The amenity kit was fully stocked and branded with  L'occitane name and products.


It came equipped with all the essentials, including a full-sized toothbrush.


The slippers came in a shoe bag, which suggested I take them with me.


The headphones were nothing special, and I only used my Beats throughout the flight.


As I waited to depart, flight attendants came around with a pre-departure beverage. The choices were orange juice and something undetermined with a cute China Eastern stirrer. I selected the orange juice.


My husband had the other option, which appeared to be apple juice with lemon.


The flight attendants were able to communicate their intentions, but not necessarily much further. I asked what was in the drink and they said juice. At this point, the plane was almost full and we were given a warm towel. Well, it was lukewarm.


I used mine to wipe down the seat, just to see how clean it was.


It wasn't.

I asked a flight attendant for pajamas, which were brought to me within a minute. Although, I'm not a size large, these ones did end up fitting appropriately.


Prior to pushing back, the safety video screened a full two times - once in Mandarin and once in English.


The sound was very quiet and I cannot imagine a single person paid attention to it. Finally at 2:00 AM, 15 minutes late, we backed away from the gate.

Flight / Meal Services:

As we backed away from the gate, I looked over the menu.


In an effort to save money, China Eastern prints one menu for the entire year.


I flipped to the blue tab for July.


I'd heard terrible things about the food, but these didn't look awful. China Eastern skips the soup and dessert course for evening flights. It felt kind of cheap, although I understand they want to maximize sleep on this late of a departure. China Airlines, on the other hand, actually only served a small snack after take off and saved the full meal for much later on.


There was also a snack menu, that didn't explain much.


I love me some "flour based food" and "western style pastry." 

There was also a pretty extensive drink list.






At 2:22 AM, we finally took off. After take off, the flight attendants came around and took our meal ordered, as well as our first drink. Although our take off was rather smooth, the seatbelt sign stayed on. This is apparently pretty standard for Chinese carriers, so I got up and went to the restroom.


This bathroom at the rear of the cabin was in good condition and had a few amenities.


I did appreciate the air freshener on the back of the door which kept the room smelling nice the entire flight.


I changed into the pajamas, which bore a striking resemblance to an Adidas track suit....


The pajamas were unbelievably comfortable and made of a soft cotton material, like a sweatshirt. The cabin was warm and didn't have air vents, so these were a little too much. 

Once some turbulence started 40 minutes into the flight, the crew started the meal service.


Service began with another lukewarm towel. As I waited for the next course, I pulled out the tray table. With a quick pull it came out easily.


A few minutes later, a table cloth and a drink cart came around with the wine I had selected. I had the Shiraz, which was fine.


A few minutes later, the lone appetizer choice was served.


The dressing had almost no taste and was served in a plastic container. I don't love cuttlefish, but the duck and vegetables were great and fresh. A basket of warmed bread came around.


Once I finished, my entree was brought promptly to me.


My beef was served with lo mein noodles and bok choy. Honestly, it was all pretty good. The steak was just over the point of being medium-well.


I had heard China Eastern consistently serves white rice and steamed vegetables with every entree, but this was not the case today. The napkin had a shirt attachment.


Finally, about an hour after the meal started, the simplified dessert was served.


The cheese platter was actually cut and assembled in the aisle. One had quite a smoky taste, which was good. The fruit tasted fresh. The service ended with a chocolate.


At this point, it was about 4 AM and I was ready to sleep. I made my bed.


The comforter was so soft and comfortable. I was actually really cozy being underneath it, even though the combination of it with the pajamas was quite warm. I slept really well and woke up about 5 hours later.


At this point, we were just north of Russia. I was a little peckish, so I rang the call button to find out about the snacks. A flight attendant came right away. With a little help from my Mandarin speaking husband, I ordered the congee. Although congee was also for breakfast, I was told the side dishes were different.


The salted egg was not for me (mostly because I don't like eggs) and the pickled vegetables were so salty but yummy. I slept a little more.

When I woke up, I went to the restroom. Outside, was a snack basket filled with some packaged snacks and what appeared to be leftover dinner rolls.


I grabbed a hazelnut wafer snack.


When I got back to my seat, I played around with the Wi-Fi. China Eastern has free internet that requires activation prior to the flight. I could never get the website to work before, and I couldn't get anything to load on the flight.


Breakfast began two hours before landing with another towel. Our orders were taken, as was my menu.


It was served all on one tray.


The congee came with a lot of side dishes and the pastry was served warm. I wasn't very hungry, but this did the trick. Just as breakfast finished up, I finally smelled a faint trace of cigarette smoke. To be honest, it was not very strong, but it clearly came from the front of the plane. At this point, I had been doubting what others said about the crappy food, poor service and cigarette smoke as the first two hadn't been true. It only lasted a few minutes and then we began to land.


As we landed, flight attendants opened window shades and stored any pillows and comforters that people were not using We touched down at 3:49 AM.


Our taxi to the gate was great, as I finally got to see a Delta A350 in person! We arrived at 4:03 AM, almost a full hour ahead of schedule. We had almost 6 full hours until our next flight, so I was in no rush.

Courtesy of FlightAware

Bottom Line:

Listen, is China Eastern the world's best business class? No. Will it win any awards? No. Did it provide a safe trip with lay flat seats, comfortable amenities, edible food and reasonable award pricing? Yes. I wouldn't hesitate to fly them.

All images from the author, unless otherwise noted.

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