In December 2014, >talkairlines had the opportunity to experience the new 777-300ER Premium Business Class and the new Dynasty Lounge! Click HERE for the trip report and HERE for the review of the lounge!
2014 is going to be an extremely exciting year for China Airlines, the national carrier of Taiwan. The airline will be receiving its first Boeing 777-300ER, introducing new uniforms, rolling out more Taiwan-themed special liveries, launching Premium Economy Class, renovating its lounge at Taipei Terminal 1, starting Tigerair Taiwan, further expanding its route network, and announcing its next generation narrow-body order. China Airlines has launched the “Next Generation Plan” to design the interior of the 777-300ER and to carry out a series of changes that will refresh the airline’s brand image.
China Airlines had announced that the new 77W, subject to delivery in September, will become the flagship aircraft of the company. The new aircraft will first be flown between Taipei-Taoyuan and various regional destinations including Hong Kong and Bangkok. The first flight of the CI 77W will be CI601 from Taipei to Hong Kong on 1 October 2014. The aircraft will operate 1 morning flight to HKG and 1 afternoon flight to BKK that day. (Previous data shows Xiamen and Ho Chi Minh City as the first destinations, however they have been removed in the revised schedule) As more 777s arrive, the aircraft type will be deployed on the new New York-JFK nonstop route and other long haul routes including those to Frankfurt, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. The airlines is expecting 3 777s to be delivered this year, 5 in 2015, and 2 in 2016.
First Class service will not be introduced on the 777s. The three classes on the aircraft type will include 1-2-1 lie-flat business class, premium economy (not yet named), and economy class. The economy class will feature Air New Zealand’s “Skycouch”, which will be renamed by China Airlines as “Family Couch”. A walk-up bar for business class passengers will be installed while Wi-Fi will be offered throughout the cabin. (Details of pricing not yet released)
During a press conference on 18 March 2014, the airlines released videos and images of the new business class, new in-flight eating utensils, and the cabin design of the new aircraft. Designed by Ray Chen (Chen Rui-Hsien 陳瑞憲), named “Most Influential Asian” thrice and winner of numerous other architectural awards, the new interior will demonstrate the beauty of Song Dynasty minimalism. Chen, famous for his simplistic design of the Eslite Bookstore interiors and the main hall of the “National Theater and Concert Hall” in Taipei, stated that his design will allow customers to experience the Taiwanese art of living.
The new design of the cabin will give customers a feeling of relaxing in their personal reading space. The texture of persimmon tree grain will be used to decorate the walls of the cabin. (First usage of wooden textures in the business.) Books and Taiwanese tea will be provided on the plane, further enhancing the experience of being in one’s very own study room in the sky.
Unreleased data shows that one of the galleys will be transformed into a walk-up bar/bookshelf, providing business class passengers food, drinks, and books.
The business class seat product, a customized version of the Super Diamond Seat by B/E Aerospace, will feature a lamp for every customer. According to the images released by the airlines, leather will not be used on the seats, which is rather different from the trend of the industry due to the fact that leather is easier to sanitize comparing to other fabrics.
In Economy Class, “Family Couch”, a new seat based on the “Skycouch” product by Air New Zealand will be introduced. This will make China Airlines the first airlines other than ANZ to use the revolutionary “Skycouch”. According to Air New Zealand’s press release, “Skycouch” is a row of three economy seats that together adapt to create a flat flexible space to stretch out and relax in. “The Skycouch has transformed the Economy flying experience and has been really well received by our customers since it was first introduced in 2011” , stated Air New Zealand Chief Executive Officer Christopher Luxon. In order to allow customers to understand the purpose of “Skycouch”, China Airlines will rename the seats as “Family Couch”.
According to publicized information, there will be 10 sets of “Family Couch”. The layout will most likely be 3-4-3 in Y Class. Note that Air New Zealand uses 3-4-3 layout for economy class with 20 sets of “Skycouch” (rows 37-46) .
The in-flight utensils will also be completely redesigned. Those in business class will include artistic plates and bowls made from porcelain. Designed by Chen Chun-Liang (Translated from 陳俊良), the new utensils will feature elements of the Song Dynasty to give customers an unique dining experience. In-flight amenity kits will also be redesigned by “Grand Design” award winner Chen Ching-Kuan (Translated from 陳靜寬).
The new premium economy product, however, is not yet made public. >talkairlines do expect to see exciting new products for the particular class that will make the new China Airlines 777-300ER even more competitive in the business. Also yet to be introduced is the airline’s new uniforms designed by Academy Award nominated designer William Cheung. It will be interesting to see whether the new uniforms are more Chinese or Taiwanese regarding the airline’s attempt to strengthen its position as the airlines of Taiwan.
The interior of the A350-900XWB, scheduled for delivery in 2016, will also be designed by Ray Chen. Though details are not yet released, the designing of the A359 will be less reserved and more “brisk” than the Song-Dynasty-themed 77W, according to the airline.
>talkairlines is absolutely relieved to see China Airlines finally catching up with its competitors. In the ridiculously competitive East Asian airline business, it is essential to keep evolving and introducing new products. However, China Airlines had been rather disappointing in the past decade. The airlines wasted money installing out-of-date angle lie-flat business class seats on its also out-of-date 747-400s while other airlines in the region, most notably EVA Air, are busy retiring their 747s and introducing fully lie-flat seats in their business class cabins. The inefficiency of the airline in introducing next generation aircraft and products also resulted in it being noncompetitive and unprofitable in the long haul markets.
In the past two years, the airlines introduced various revolutionary changes. First was the order of new wide-body aircraft including the Boeing 777-300ER and Airbus A350-900XWB. The 24 aircraft of the two orders will replace the oil-guzzling Airbus A340-300 & Boeing 747-400 and make up the next generation long haul fleet. Joining Skyteam is also significant for the airlines as the alliance made the company more international than ever. The other change is the airlines trying to make itself more “Taiwanese”. By introducing local cuisines and Taiwan-themed special liveries, the airline is attempting to differentiate itself from its competitors and to give customers the impression of China Airlines being the airlines of Taiwan. Interestingly though, the airline is also trying to use more Chinese elements (such as the design of its new Dynasty Supreme Lounge at Taoyuan Airport and the design of its new 777 cabins) as an attempt to attract foreign customers.
In conclusion, >talkairlines hopes 2014 will mark the start of an all new era for China Airlines. Not only will the transformation of the company’s fleet and products enhance the passenger experience, it will also increase the competitiveness and profitability of the airline. As September approaches, more details of the new 777-300ER will be released. >talkairlines believes that it will sure be something worth looking forward to.