Review: Chengdu to Hong Kong, Sichuan Airlines flight 3U8617

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Ticketing

I had originally planned to fly Cathay Dragon on this journey but as it was over the holiday period they were price gouging. I then tried to book an Air China flight but due to problems with my travel agent on the day of travel it emerged that I was not ticketed. At that late hour the best ticket I could find was a mixed return which came in at over $4,000, which I find to be excessive. The return flight was driving the price. The return flight was to be with Sichuan Airlines.

Checkin

I arrived at Terminal One of the airport an hour before the flight and was a bit confused by conflicting signage about where to go for international checkin. The first indicated desks were empty, so I proceeded to the set closest to security and those used by Cathay Dragon. All were empty except desk 01. When I got there, it and the two beside it were marked as serving Sichuan Airlines, but the sign above the desk showed only a flight to Krabi, not Hong Kong. There was only one passenger in front of me, but as time ticked on I became more nervous. I didn’t want to interrupt the passenger in front of me, not headed to Hong Kong, but I was also conscious that there was little sign that this was the correct desk and Sichuan close their desks forty five minutes prior to departure.

Finally the ground agent got to me and confirmed that this was indeed the correct check in desk. I asked for an aisle seat and he gave me 21C. From here, passport control, security and the departure gate are all a short walk.

Flight

The flight was scheduled to depart from gate 17 although on arriving there it was announced that the gate had been changed to 18, which is adjacent. This is a bus gate and after queuing to get onto the bus, it drove for ten or so minutes before stopping at remote gate 205 where we boarded up steps.

We pushed back at 4.08 and the flight was smooth. We landed at Hong Kong and arrived at the gate exactly on schedule at 6.30, from where it was a train ride to immigration.

I had thought from the way in which the ground agent was able to allocate me an aisle seat at the last minute that the flight might not be full, but in fact it looked to be completely full in economy class.

Equipment

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This was operated by an Airbus 320 (registration number B-2373). The chairs were comfortable enough and clean, but had no power source or entertainment systems at seat. There were some small communal television screens overhead, which showed a Chinese film with Chinese subtitles and English subtitles which were half cut off by the bottom of the screen.

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Service

The cabin crew on this flight was outstanding and a real credit to Sichuan Airlines. They were hardworking, helpful and friendly.

First they came around with Chinese newspapers, later they came around with a meal service from trolleys. They then had a drink service from trolleys. There was then an additional tea service from a tray. One flight attendant then came around with a basket of baked potato slices, and later there was another tea service from a tray. They were helpful throughout, despite it being a crowded flight and aisle at times.

The elegance wasn’t complete, however: when a passenger halfway down the cabin stood up before the seatbelt sign was off, rather than making an announcement over the public address system or going to speak to him, one flight attendant simply shouted at him from her seat at the back of the plane.

Food and Drink

The meal was a choice of rice and fish or pork and noodles, and I went with the fish. It was somewhat stodgily presented but delicious and hot. This being Sichuan airlines, the meal cart also came with a jar of chilli sauce which the server would offer with the meal.

In addition to the warm meal tray, a meal box contained bread, pickles and some savoury jelly.

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The drinks were Chinese brands for the most part and included a good range of fruit juices as well as Snow Beer, a Chinese red wine and the like.

The flight attendant offering warm slices of baked potato, with tongs, was new to me but I took one and it was perfectly cooked, which is quite a feat as I find that baked potatoes in Asia are often too hard or falling apart.

After the meal service was complete, a flight attendant came through the cabin with a tray of remaining entrees offering one to passengers who wanted second helpings.

Conclusion

This flight was expensive but I was highly impressed by the service level of the cabin crew. The meal service was excellent and I would be happy to fly again with Sichuan Airlines on this route.

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