A few weeks ago I wrote about flying business class on the ANA 787 Dreamliner going to Japan, and why I didn’t want to stay at the Intercontinental while I was in Tokyo. When planning this trip, I found a business class itinerary available for a saver-level redemption on my desired return date on China Eastern Airlines. As a member of the SkyTeam alliance, I was able to get this one-way flight for 70,000 Delta SkyMiles. I was departing from Hiroshima, Japan, and ultimately arriving in San Francisco. This meant that I had to go a bit backwards to fly through China Eastern’s international hub in Shanghai, but I’m sure that many of us (including yours truly) have flown much sillier routing to get a free upper class flight.
This wasn’t my plane, but one of its counterparts:
China Eastern is not an airline I ever really expected to fly, so I was excited to try it out. They operate this route on a 777-300, one of the best products out there. We boarded through the forward door of the aircraft, which took me through the first class cabin (which has pseudo-suites) on my way to business. Here’s a glance at a first class “suite”:
The business class cabin is configured in a 1-2-1 reverse herringbone layout. The seats are roomy and comfortable. I was able to walk around to the far side to get a good picture without any people in the shot, as I was one of the first business class passengers to board:
I took a mid-flight nap, and enjoyed the fully lie-flat seat in bed mode:
One of the staples of a business class experience is the amenity kit. Although they did provide one, the contents were a bit pathetic, comparable to those offered by other business class products. The kit contained only lip balm, ear plugs, and slippers. It was certainly better than nothing, but quite inferior to ANA’s offering on the Dreamliner.
The menu contained an option of either a Chinese or Western style meal. The food, however, was quite mediocre.
As we were landing at 9:30am in San Francisco, I woke up from my nap with a few hours left in the flight, and opened my shade to see a beautiful sunrise over the north Pacific:
The seat was comfortable, the entertainment system was good, and overall the plane was a great product. The Chinese staff left a bit to be desired, however, managing the entire flight process with military-like precision. The best example was when one attendant came to my seat and without saying a word, reached over me to turn off and stow my TV, unplugged my charging phone, and manually put my seat in landing mode with 45 minutes left in the flight. When I asked why that had to happen now, rather than only in the last 10 minutes, the attendant tersely replied “for safety.”
The plane was second only to the Dreamliner in quality, although the in-flight amenities and service left something to be desired. It is far from the best overall business class product that I’ve flown. That being said, it was easily worth the 70,000 Delta SkyMiles to take this flight, especially since they had wide-open saver availability for the dates I wanted to fly. With lots of availability for many dates, don’t hesitate to take a look at China Eastern as a solid business class product, and a good value for your SkyMiles to get yourself to Asia and beyond.
Michael Prodanovich is a contributor to Point Me to the Plane, and author of The Ultimate Guide to Free Travel.