My business class seat on China Eastern – Photo: Jason Rabinowitz
China Eastern is not an airline I ever really expected to fly. With a fleet of new Boeing 777-300ERs, the opening of a new route to Chicago, and a small investment from Delta Air Lines, China Eastern is modernizing and becoming a real player in the North American market. When I saw a fare posted of $650 round-trip between New York and Japan, I jumped at the opportunity to give this airline a try.
My routing was New York JFK to Osaka, Japan via Shanghai, returning from Tokyo Narita back to New York. On the first leg to Shanghai, China Eastern graciously upgraded me to business class in order to experience the new product.
A Boeing 777-300ER at Paine Field showing China Eastern’s new livery- Photo: Bernie Leighton
At JFK, China Eastern departs from Terminal 1 and uses the recently renovated Air France lounge. Although this flight departed at 2:00 am (thanks for nothing, daylight saving time), the lounge was actually surprisingly crowded. As boarding time neared, I headed to the gate to find utter chaos. Lines of passengers extended in every direction with no signage to tell anyone where to stand. Eventually, gate agents put up a few signs, but that should have been done much earlier. A hectic boarding process sets a negative tone for a 15-hour flight. The same hectic process was applied to all four of my flights, indicating that China Eastern has a systemic problem with orderly boarding.
During the recent ITB exhibition in Berlin, Emirates revealed its new Boeing 777 business class product – Photo: Jacob Pfleger | AirlineReporter
During the recent ITB travel exhibition in Berlin, Emirates revealed its new business class seat which will become standard on all Boeing 777-300ER aircraft delivered from November 2016. This includes the future Boeing 777X, when it eventually enters into service. I was fortunate enough to take a look at this new business class seat from Emirates and develop an opinion on it.
As predicted, Emirates has chosen to maintain its 2-3-2 layout with the new business class – Photo: Jacob Pfleger | AirlineReporter
Prior to the official reveal of the new seat, there was much talk in the industry about this new product for the 777. While Emirates remained reasonably tight-lipped, it did reveal that the new product would remain in the existing 2-3-2 layout. My initial impression of the seat was that, despite being on the slightly narrow side, the legroom is vastly increased, as is the size of the IFE screen, which is one of the biggest I have seen in business class.
Ground crews at LAX prep an American 777-300ER for its flight to SYD
Previously, I discussed the process and reasoning for using miles for an economy ticket on an American Airlines Boeing 777-300ER from Los Angeles to Sydney. In this story, I am going to share the actual flight experience, and discuss if this was the right call… or a huge mistake.
FLYING AMERICAN DOWN UNDER: Before the Flight
American Airlines Flight 73
Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) to Sydney Airport (SYD)
Equipment: Boeing 777-323ER
Scheduled Departure Time: 9:50pm (actual 10:21pm)
Scheduled Arrival Time: 7:55am+2 (actual 7:31am+2)
Scheduled Flight Time: 15 hours, 5 minutes (actual 14 hours, 9 minutes)
The day came, and we headed out to dinner before going to LAX to catch our evening flight. While taking our dinner at a leisurely pace, I checked on our flight status and realized that I had confused the departure time as being 10:50pm instead of 9:50pm; fortunately I caught my mistake with enough time to rush through our meal and still make it to the airport comfortably.
Entering the ANA 777-300ER Inspiration of Japan first class cabin – Photo: David Delagarza | AirlineReporter
Airline: All Nippon Airways (NH)
Aircraft: Boeing 777-300ER
Departed: Houston Intercontinental (IAH)
Arrived: Tokyo Narita (NRT)
Class: First Class
Seats: 1D & 1G
Length: About 14 hours
It seemed to happen every day for two weeks – I’d glance out my office window in Denver at about noon, just in time to see the contrail of a high-altitude wide-body fly by. Being the diligent AvGeek I am, I would check out my flight tracker phone app to find out what I just saw. The answer was the same every time: ANA Flight 173 – from Houston to Tokyo. It felt like I was being teased — I had first class tickets booked on that very flight for our upcoming trip. Seeing that plane in the sky, day after day, was just rubbing it in — today’s not the day. But that day would soon come.
Flying this route was actually somewhat of a last-minute change to our itinerary, in which Bangkok was our final destination. We had initially been booked trans-Pacific on United’s Global First service from Chicago to Beijing; however, a very short layover in Beijing combined with United’s poor on-time performance on the 747-400 was making me nervous. I had been keeping an eye on alternate routing when I found first class award availability on ANA and Thai Airways via Houston and Tokyo about three weeks prior to the trip. Yes, please! The Houston-to-Tokyo route is a new addition to ANA’s North American offerings, having just kicked off service in June.