HKG – TPE, Business Class, China Airlines Flight CI642
Booking the day before travel, Cathay prices between Hong Kong and Taipei on the dates I wished to travel were unreasonably high so I looked at EVA Air, an airline I enjoy flying. I used the website to book a ticket and three times got to the payment page but on each occasion at that point the page froze and the booking dropped. So I decided to give China Airlines a go.
In general my preference for EVA over China Airlines is driven not only by their excellent customer service but also their safety record: EVA has never lost a passenger whereas China Airlines has a long history of crashes over several decades, and their last two fatal crashes (in 1999 and 2002) were both on the Hong Kong route, including Flight 611 where the 747 on the route disintegrated midair. Still, I decided to take my chances with China Air this time. Booking on the website the total price for a return in business class the total price was $4,200 – about $600 cheaper than the EVA ticket I had been trying to book and not much more than economy on Cathay, which on this route has gone very downhill in terms of food as per our previous review.
At the airport
I checkin in at aisle F at Hong Kong airport where the China Airlines signage on where to queue was a bit unclear and so a few people were hanging around, hovering between lines. China Airlines uses the Skyteam lounge which felt crowded and had run out of some food options including congee, a first on me (who runs out of congee?) After some time there I headed to the gate (gate 21) at around 11.20, as departure was due for 11.40 and boarding on the boarding pass said 11.10.
At the gate not much was happening and after a few minutes it was announced that the aircraft had only just arrived and so boarding would be at 11.40 for a 12 noon departure. I think it would have been helpful to announce the delay in the lounge.
The flight was operated by a Boeing 737-800 (registration B-18652). The interior was modern, clean and felt new. It struck me as a bit odd that there was no at seat entertainment, only some overhead monitors which folded down inflight and displayed a flight map.
The seats in business class were four abreast, in two rows, and had reclining backs, though as I was in row 1 (window seat 1K), forward foot space was limited.
We pushed back at around 12.20 and took off about a quarter of an hour later, into a clear, beautiful sky for a smooth trip over to Taipei.
We got to the gate there (D3 in Terminal One) at about 2.10, versus a scheduled arrival time of 1.30.
When I was seated, there was a blanket and pillow along with Japanese-style mixed snacks at my chair already. A flight attendant offered me a hot towel and drink promptly and for the rest of the flight, she served me proactively, promptly and in a friendly manner.
China Airlines launched a new uniform last year, which was designed by the Hong Kong designer William Cheung. A video of the launch is on You Tube here. The old uniform was fairly conservative in its colour choice but the new uniform uses a range of bright colours, with many pieces involving split colour panels. I have seen it in airports and thought that it was less elegant than what it replaced but this was my first time to see it in flight. The uniform by ranking is pictured in the inflight magazine:
In practice, I thought that the uniform was neither elegant nor beautiful (and split colour panels are often not practical for the wearer). The male uniform actually came across worse than the female: black shoes had blue soles, while the backs of the waistcoats (not pictured) had thick stripes, more like something one may see at Burger Circus in HK than on an aviation professional. The ground staff uniforms had the same elements.
Food and Drink
The menu was as follows:
I had the chicken leg, which was a tasty dish though very salty.
The drinks list was as follows:
Aperitif: Gin tonic, Bloody mary, Screwdriver, Gin tonic, Vodka tonic
Spirit: Kavalan Single Malt whisky, Smirnoff vodka, Gordon’s gin
Digestif: Martell Noblige, Taylor’s 10 year old tawny port, Bailey’s Irish cream
Chinese rice wine: Premium Shaohsing 10 years
Sake: Kizakura ginjo
Beer: Golden Medal Taiwan beer, Heineken beer, Sapporo beer
Tea: Oolong tea, jasmine tea, Japanese green tea, Twinings Darjeeling black tea
Coffee: fresh brewed coffee, decaffeinated coffee, cappuccino
Champagne: Moutard Père & Fils, Brut Cuvée Prestige, France
White: Rudolf Müller Riesling Spätlese, Mosel, Germany (no vintage given), O:TU Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, New Zealand, 2014
Red: Conti Serristori Chianti Classico, Italy, 2008, Galvan Family Cellars Family Reserve, Napa Valley, U.S.A., 2013.
This wine list was rather eclectic and I was tempted by the Riesling but instead opted for the merlot, which turned out to be a full-bodied, rather simple Californian merlot. I also had the Kavalan whisky, which the flight attendant proudly presented as “our Taiwanese whisky”. It was years since I had last tried Kavalan, which does get some rave reviews, and been unimpressed. Having been next to the Macallan distillery in Scotland just the week before this flight, I decided to give Kavalan another go, but again it came up as a harsh and rather characterless whisky.
China Airlines formerly had an extensive tea menu of Chinese teas, served traditional clay cups, but this was absent from this flight.
This was a good flight – very friendly, good service, decent food and nice flying conditions.
Guest Blogger: Christopher R.