Review: China Airlines (CI) 777-300ER Business Class: Taking Taiwanese Aviation to New Heights

Hello Everyone!

As a longtime China Airlines flyer, I have been eagerly awaiting the arrival of their 777-300ER fleet since the airline announced their order for 10 77W. Starting in April 2014, CI began releasing images of their interiors for the new plane and when I saw what was in store, I was simply amazed. CI asked internationally acclaimed Taiwanese interior designer Ray Chen to help the airline rebrand and upgrade its products. His intention in both the aircraft interior and new lounge design (currently only the TPE Terminal 1 has been renovated), was to bring Taiwanese culture, art and history to the world by infusing traditional design with Sung Dynasty elements and modern Taiwanese artistry. The design evokes some of his prior works such as that of the Eslite bookstores in Taiwan and the Palais De Chine Hotel Taipei, and the idea was to create a sophisticated, calming and serene space onboard.

Unfortunately I was unable to fly the first flight out of Taipei to Hong Kong as I was still in the U.S, but I made sure to book my return flight to the states on a 77W (I took Cathay Pacific in December). I booked Premium Economy and used some mileage to upgrade to “Premium Business Class”. The new CI J is a customized B/E Aerospace Super Diamond reverse herringbone seat, much like that of Qatar and Air Canada 787. And the whole experience lived up to and actually exceeded my expectations and imagination.

Flight Information

Company: China Airlines

Date: January 10, 2015

Flight: CI 008

Route: TPE-LAX

Plane: 777-36N/ER B-18052

Class: Premium Business Class

Seat: 21A

Flight Time: 10 Hours and 30 Minutes

Pre-Departure

Check-in was smooth and I quickly went through Taipei’s rather efficient security check and passed immigration. I headed for the Terminal 2 general lounge (CI has two lounges in Terminal 2: one for Emerald Card/ Paragon Card and first class passengers; the other for Gold card and above and J/F passengers), which unfortunately has yet to be renovated to the new standards of the lounge in Terminal 1 (which I have yet to visit). The lounge was packed with those departing to SYD, AKL, CHC, LAX and SFO. CI’s lounge has always been mediocre in terms of amenity and food offerings, but the dim sum and noodle bar always hits the spot for me.

Boarding was delayed by a few short minutes due to ground work, a common occurrence on outbound transpacific flights from Taiwan it seems, but we soon commenced boarding at around 11:25PM.

The Flight

I was in much awe the moment I stepped aboard. The 787-esque curved ceiling was a welcoming touch. The wood paneling throughout the plane didnt feel awkward or out of place to me (many have expressed this as their only criticism), especially in Business Class (J). I was seated in 21A, 1 of 4 rows in the aft J cabin, the larger 6 row cabin was in front. Boarding was thus made a little more hectic for the flight attendants as the Y+ and Y passengers filed through.

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Seat 21A. with the 18″ personal touchscreen (one of the biggest in Business class), touchscreen AVOD controls, touchscreen seat controls, folded and stowed tray table and 1 out of 3 storage bins.

 

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Touchscreen seat controls.

 

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2 of 3 storage bins, one shallow one for things like phones/ ipads, one deeper one where the AVOD controls, power outlets, headphone socket and USB connectors are. in the middle seats these act as privacy dividers.

 

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Welcome drink and mixed nuts. Only water, apple juice, and orange juice is offered as welcome drinks, CI has never offered champagne or otherwise for welcome drinks, I think it has to do with the fact that the majority of CI flyers dont really drink alcoholic beverages unless paired with their meal.

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Apologies for the blurry shot, legroom shot with the ottoman, and 3/3 side storage bins.

 

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The retractable armrest, when opened it features a “mini bar,” though the crew use it to store your water bottle and amenity kit. It can be raised and lowered (which gives you more shoulder space when in sleep mode).

 

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The storage bins, when closed, feature the wood paneling and more space to place items during the flight, also featuring the small lamp (this is in addition to a reading light), the lamp can be turned on and off as you please, its a very nice addition in my opinion.

 

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The reading light, it has two brightness levels and can be adjusted into 2-3 positions.

 

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First meal service. Showing CI’s completely new china, absolutely beautiful, except for the plastic used for the salad and fruits (looks good but it’d be nicer if it was real china like the rest of it). China Airlines has never served soup in J until now, and in a very nice bowl too, the soup is supposed to be the “lake” in the traditional Chinese landscape painting that is featured. Also a nice upgraded and enlarged water glass featuring a small China Airlines seal.

 

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CI also now serves their wine and champagne in proper wine/champagne glassware. A nice glass of Bordeaux, a much improved wine selection onboard China Airlines too.

 

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My main course, Braised pork ribs with Yi-Lan spring onion Stir- fried vegetables and steamed rice. Presentation much improved than previous CI, mind you I already took a bite of rice before I realized I hadn’t taken a photo. Not the tastiest of meals I’ve had on CI, but decent.

 

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I was rather impressed that CI introduced turn down service for Business Class, they did have it in First Class in the past, but never in J. It was quite comfortable, though for someone with a larger body like mine, there wasnt quite enough quilt to fully wrap around me as a blanket, but I didnt mind, there was already a fleece blanket and I get hot on planes anyways. The “bed” was so comfortable and there was plenty of space for my legs, knees, elbows, and shoulders, I was even able to sleep in multiple positions. I dont think I’ve ever slept as soundly on a plane before, in fact, I forgot I was on a plane for a good few hours.

 

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One of the nicer features of the new 77W, the walk up Sky Lounge bar. The center features exclusively made cup noodles for CI (2 flavors), selection of liquor and wine (the Flight Attedant (FA) said she puts out more during the daytime flight to/from LAX than the overnight as most CI passengers prefer to sleep than to congregate and use the space). Some small snacks. fruits, and cheeses and napkins/wet wipes.

 

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The right hand side of the main bar features a selection of 6 Taiwanese teas and snacks that pair well with teas, and Chinese literature. The packaging is also exclusively designed for CI

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Detailed shot of 2 out of 6 tea selections.

 

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The left side features a selection of 4 Nespresso coffees and 2 Taiwanese coffees with snacks that pair well with coffee as well as some English literature.

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A close up of the 2 Taiwanese coffee blends.

 

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On either far side by the doors, there are lamps and small counter spaces. On the right wall is a Chinese poem and on the left wall is a travel quote by Marcel Proust (though these quotes are hard to read in the dark). “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in seeking new eyes” -Marcel Proust. I quite like this quote, definitely adds to the ambiance of the space.

 

I spent quite a while in the Sky Lounge, taking full advantage of it, to the right of the lounge is the galley, so I chatted with the FA who offered to make me any of the teas or coffees from the lounge. I tried 3 teas and the dark Nespresso blend. All of which tasted great. The FA explained to me some of the guest feedback on the new plane and seats, most of which were positive but that older passengers had a large learning curve with the new technology. She also said that most passengers dont actually utilize the sky lounge, or even realize it exists (its mainly those who sit in the smaller J section who see if on their way to/from the lavatory).

 

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The lavatories feature a window to check out the nice views of the sky as well as a Chinese landscape painting wallpaper. Quite a nice touch to the bathroom.

 

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Mid-Flight snack: Taiwanese braised pork belly over rice with boiled egg and tofu and veggies. Quite tasty, though I wish there was more pork or sauce, as I had quite a bit of rice leftover.

 

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Breakfast served 2 hours prior to arrival: stir-fried bamboo shoot with mushroom, Stir-fried pork and green beans with soy sauce, Tofu and eggplant with garlic soy paste, Bean sprouts salad, salty fermented egg, plain congee, Steamed bun. Always my favorite meal onboard CI transpacific flights, especially when flying back to Taiwan.

 

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The front J cabin upon disembarking. We arrived nearly 30 minutes ahead of schedule at 6:45PM LA time.

 

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A look at the middle seats.

 

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The new CI amenity kit. One thing that CI has always lacked and still sort of does lack in is a good amenity kit.

Conclusion

I slept extremely well on the flight, better than the night after in my hotel in LA. I am simply in awe at what China Airlines has done to step up its game. I never would have imagined this product on a CI plane, even though I knew they were going to introduce a lie flat bed in J, I never expected this. The added turn down service, improved china and display of meals, the Sky Lounge, and much improved service from the already great CI crews, made this one of the most memorable flights I have ever had. It was probably the first time I didnt want to leave the plane on arrival! Good job China Airlines!!

I cannot speak directly on how this compares to EVA Air’s Royal Laurel Class or Cathay’s business class, but having observed those cabins when flying those airlines and knowing many who have flown on those J cabins, I can say that CI’s seat itself exceeds that of BR’s and is on par with CX, but CX still has better catering and service. I cannot wait to fly this again on JFK-TPE nonstop in May.

CI is not perfect, and the level of service and amenities is still behind those of Singapore Airlines and Cathay Pacific, but the changes and investments made are taking CI and Taiwanese aviation to new heights that I never thought was possible. Having given up hope on CI, I was ready to switch my loyalties to CX, when CI announced their cabin products on the 77W. But after this flight and the fact that CI was kind enough to renew my Gold card, even though I wasnt quite close to the requirement, I have decided to continue to remain loyal to China Airlines.

 

Below are some pictures of the Economy and Premium Economy cabins. Y features 10 rows on the left aisle of “Family Couch” seats, aka the sky couch introduced by NZ. The Flight Attendant said that its hit or miss as to whether all 10 family couches get booked, but that it is popular with families and many families will upgrade themselves to Family Couch at the airport when they learn of the new features.

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Premium Economy class, similar to that of Japan Airlines.

 

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Economy class, featureing 3-4-3 10 abreast seating, walking down the aisle didnt feel as cramped as I had imagined for a 3-4-3 layout, but I still have yet to flown in a 3-4-3 777 economy layout, so cant really say for sure how it feels (most have said the lack of space is noticeable in comparison to a 3-3-3 layout).

 

Chine Airlines is deploying the new 777-300ER on both daily LAX flights, it will being deploying it on roundtrip nonstop to JFK 3x/week in February, and in August begins SFO, followed by one of their European destinations, either FRA or AMS from my understanding. This also sadly means the beginning of the retirement plan for the 747-400 from China Airlines’ fleet. i will be on the lookout for when the sad day comes for the last 747 China Airlines passenger flight, I will do my best to get myself on that flight, as the CI 747 has been a huge part of my life.

China Airlines:

http://www.china-airlines.com/en/index.html

http://www.china-airlines.com/ch/index.html

 

Best,

Garythegastronomictraveler

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