This is the second part of a two-part trip report. For the first part, a review on the newly renovated Dynasty Lounge, please click HERE.
Today we celebrate the first anniversary of >talkairlines. Throughout the year, we have been very lucky being the exclusive reporter on many new products in the airline industry. Among the exclusive reports are those on the China Airlines Boeing 777-300ER cabin products. Back in March 2014, China Airlines started unveiling, one feature per month, its extraordinary Boeing 777-300ER interior designs by renowned Taiwanese designer Ray Chen (陳瑞憲) along with cultural designers Wang Jung-Wei (王榮薇) and Su Yao-Chang (蘇耀昌). Being the first English media to report on these products, >talkairlines was able to gain both traffic and recognition rapidly despite our short history. More importantly, we helped draw global attention to the transformation of the Taiwanese national carrier.
In Decemeber 2014, we were finally able to experience the products ourselves and write a review based on the experience. Please enjoy this report we had been very excited about presenting to you.
Airlines: China Airlines (中華航空)
Aircraft: B-18052 Boeing 777-36N/ER (77W) (波音777-300ER) (358-seat configuration/ 40C 62PY 256Y)
Class Type: Premium Business Class (豪華商務艙) (C Class)
Seat: 23A (Last row in the class type; window seat)
Origin: Taipei/ Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport – Terminal 2 (TPE/T2) (台北/台灣桃園國際機場/第二航廈)
Destination: Los Angeles International Airport – Tom Bradley International Terminal (LAX/TBIT) (洛杉磯國際機場/湯姆·布蘭得利國際航廈)
Date: 30 December, 2015
ATD: 17:52 PM TST
ATA: 12:53 PM PST
After experiencing the beautiful new Dynasty Lounge at Terminal 1, I walked through the corridors connecting the two terminals at TPE, arrived at Terminal 2 and found my way to gate D5, where the plane taking me to Los Angeles was parked at. When I arrived, boarding had already started. Walking through the Sky Priority lane for Premium Business Class passengers and certain frequent flyers, I was able to board the aircraft quickly. I entered the plane via door L1, walked by L2 (where Sky Lounge was located at), and found my seat 23A at the very last row of the class.
After storing my bag in the overhead bins and placing some working tools in the storage areas by the seat, I sat down and made myself comfortable. The 18-inch PTVs were showing a 777 interior promotional clip and a video of the natural beauty of Taiwan. The cabin crew walked by and offered a welcome drink along with the menu and wine list. With options of juices and water, I chose the latter.
About half an hour after boarding, the plane pushed back for the runway and the PTV screens began showing the safety demonstration video. Looking forward to a new safety video alongside the new 777 products, I was disappointed to find out that the video was merely a re-edited version of the previous one. Moreover, the calming background music was changed into one that was rather mundane. Perhaps the carrier was still holding on to releasing a brand new video until the debut of new uniforms in May 2015.
Due to constructions on the southern runway, TPE was under single runway operation. This resulted in congestion at the airport and my plane had to hold short near the runway for about 15 minutes before finally taking off. After the plane was airborne, the IFE systems were activated and I was able to try out the newest AVOD of China Airlines.
The new welcome page background featured the lotus-like edges of two Northern Song Dynasty “Ru” ware ceramic bowls (北宋汝窯蓮花式碗). These were collections from the National Palace Museum (國立故宮博物院). Located in Taipei, the museum has the largest number of Chinese artifacts in the world. The menu page, on the other hand, featured a child releasing a sky lantern (天燈) into the night skies. In Taiwan, Pingxi (平溪) in particular, people launch sky lanterns to pray for good luck.
PTVs featured the latest Panasonic eX3 systems. Choices of entertainment included typical ones, such as movies, music, videos, games and 3D maps, along with more special ones, such as seat-to-seat chat rooms, e-books, duty free shopping and survey taking. I personally loved the e-books feature as it contained quite a variety of magazines and books. Being able to save movies and music to a “favourites” folder was also great as I could watch one movie after another without having to browse through the movie list again and again. The chat room feature, however, seemed slightly useless.
According to news releases from last year, China Airlines was, similar to China Eastern Airlines, planning on allowing passengers to purchase duty free items through their PTVs. By selecting the item and using the controller for credit card-swiping, travelers would’ve had cabin crew bring over the purchased item. During my flight, the feature was still unavailable. I will be looking forward to trying out the option while flying to the States this summer.
I also tried out the Wi-Fi option. Utilizing T-Mobile systems, Wi-Fi was rather speedy and could allow me to upload pictures within a snap. During the journey, I uploaded multiple pictures to the >talkairlines Facebook page.
Besides the technological entertainment options, there were also various magazines placed at each and every seat.
An amenity kit designed by Kuan’s Living could be found in one of the main storage areas by the seat. The kit contained body lotion, face moisturiser and lip balm from Italian brand Acca Kappa in addition to eyeshade, comb with mirror, toothbrush and toothpaste. A pair of slippers was also provided.
About half an hour after take-off, meal services began. For the new 777 products, China Airlines re-invented its dining experience, introducing ancient Chinese-inspired dining ware designed by Tang Award-nominated designer Chen Chun-Liang (陳俊良) and gastronomic delights in cooperation with famous Taiwanese hotels, such as the Regent Hotel.
The new meal service on China Airlines was extremely impressive. While all the dishes were enjoyable, the soup was phenomenal. Being a Taiwanese native, I have loved pork rib soup ever since I was a child. I was surprised by how China Airlines managed to make the dish so authentic. The soup bowl was another highlight. While the outside was coated with metallic material, the ceramic inside had a beautiful Chinese landscape painting. The cabin crew was thoughtful to have filled the bowl to the foot of the mountains, thus creating a beautiful image of a lake surrounded by incredible landscape.
According to designer Ray Chen, the 777 interiors contained various surprises awaiting to be discovered by the passengers. After finishing the meal, I decided to explore the plane a bit to find these surprises.
I found the first few in the lavatory. While entering the supposedly plain and boring area, I immediately noticed a huge Chinese landscape ink painting occupying an entire wall space. The artwork was inspired by “Travellers among Mountains and Streams (谿山行旅圖)“, a masterpiece of Northern Song Dynasty artist Fan K’uan (范寬). I then noticed music playing in the background. These thoughtful and unique designs, along with the large window, created a calming atmosphere for lavatory users to relax in.
Another surprise on the China Airlines 777 was the aesthetic Sky Lounge, exclusive to Premium Business Class passengers. Located between doors L2 and R2, Sky Lounge was a self-serve bar providing food, drinks and an area to socialise.
Sky Lounge was available to passengers a short while after the end of the meal service, when cabin crew started setting up the lounge and preparing it for service.
The lounge provided a variety of snacks, liquor, tea and coffee packs and instant noodles. Furthermore, there were sections dedicated to books selected by China Airlines and Eslite Bookstore, which interiors Ray Chen designed. The selection further enhanced the sense of “being in one’s very own reading room” the new interiors created.
On the other side of the galley, there was a wonderful Nespresso machine.
For those prepared to sleep and didn’t want coffee, there was a selection of liquor and liqueur, including whiskey from Taiwanese distillery KaVaLan, Matisse, Johnny Walker (Blue Label), wine from Château Haut-Brisson and cherry brandy from Marie Brizard.
For those feeling like having a midnight snack, there were two types of instant noodles, spicy mushroom noodles (similar to Shin Ramen) and seafood flavoured noodles, for the passengers’ enjoyment.
At the lounge, there were two separate social areas, each of which had a quote hidden in the graphite-colour walls. Next to L2 was a section of the verse Villa on Zhongnan Mountain (終南別業) by Tang Dynasty poet Wang Wei (王維): “I sit down watching the clouds as they begin to rise (坐看雲起時)”; next to R2 was a quote from the novel À la recherche du temps perdu (In Search of Lost Time) by French novelist Marcel Proust: “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.”
Sky Lounge was an eye-catching feature to me before the 777 entered service. I was not disappointed at all when I got to experience it myself. From the food and drinks to the books and quotes, every aspect of the lounge was thoughtfully designed and wonderfully presented.
The mood lighting also contributed to creating the relaxing atmosphere of the Sky Lounge and the Premium Business Class cabin. To complement the wooden textures, the lights were showing orange-red colours during take-off, landing and meal times. Other stages of the flight, when most passengers were sleeping, saw the lights showing cold blue colours.
After touring the lounge, I decided to return to my seat to catch some sleep. Not aware of the turndown service, I used the seat pillow as a bed pillow and the blanket as a duvet. The seat was a little hard to lie on and I had a hard time trying to fall asleep.
It wasn’t until I read other reviews of the product did I realise that turndown services should have been offered and that mattresses would have been laid on the seat to make it comfortable to sleep on. I am slightly disappointed by the crew’s inability to inform passengers of what services were to be provided.
About two hours before landing, the mood lighting started to show the rise-and-shine orange-red colours. It was breakfast time.
Congee served in China Airlines First/ Business Class had always been my favourite. The set I enjoyed during this journey was no exception. However, there was a part of the meal set, the “Shampignon Chicken Essence”, which I could barely take a sip. It came in a cup and was served about half an hour after the empty congee bowls were taken away. Its flavour was similar to chicken stew yet much stronger. I could not take its bizarre taste and asked the cabin crew to take it away.
After breakfast, we were ready for landing. During the descend, we passed by the beautiful downtown Los Angeles and landed at LAX at about one o’clock in the afternoon.
The new China Airlines Premium Business Class was truly an exceptional product the carrier could proudly present on behalf of Taiwan to the world. Every aspect of it, from the seats, the meals, the lounge, to the thoughtfulness present throughout the cabin design, blew me away and left me truly impressed.
As a flyer of China Airlines for almost two decades, I was relived to see China Airlines not only catching up with its competitors but also exceeding them in some ways. Of course, there were still places for improvement. As mentioned earlier, I was not informed by the crew that I could ask for turndown service. That was quite a disappointment. Also, I noticed how not all of the items listed on the menu were served. For dinner, the meal should have included cheese platter and ice cream; for breakfast, there was supposed to be a cup of soybean milk. Yet, I never got to taste any of them. Furthermore, the carrier spent so much effort on designing its dining ware yet served fruits in a plastic bowl.
Lastly, China Airlines should consider providing a printed introduction of the various features and services of the 777. While talking to the crew at Sky Lounge, I was informed that not many customers were aware of the lounge and thus missed the opportunity to experience the installation. An introduction, in this case, could allow the passengers to leave time for exploring the designs of Ray Chen, notice that there were books selected by the famous Eslite Bookstore, or, in my case, be aware that they could ask the crew to set the bed.
Nevertheless, I still enjoyed the 777 Premium Business Class product a lot and would be more than excited to experience it again in the future. I will be keeping an eye on the new Airbus A350-900XWB interiors, which is being designed by Ray Chen and will debut in 2016. According to Chen, the Boeing 777-300ER cabin is a cultural experiment, pulling many elements from different Chinese dynasties and putting them together. The A350 interiors, on the other hand, will focus on presenting a contemporary interpretation of Song Dynasty beauty that will be both “joyful” (as described by the company) and elegant.
Congratulations to China Airlines on its transformation into an airline that is exotically unique and stands out from the rest of the industry!
For the first part of the trip report, please refer to Review of the Newly Renovated Dynasty Lounge at TPE Terminal 1.
For a report on the NexGen Boeing 777-300ER Premium Economy product, please click on the picture below: