An Airbus A330 with off-colored nose – Photo: Ken Donohue
For the past few years, our family has spent spring break in Maui, but with the increasing number of Asian carriers landing at North American airports, especially those from mainland China, airfares to Asia have been too good to pass up. That’s why we decided to fly from Vancouver (YVR) to Bangkok (BKK), and spend two weeks in Thailand, instead.
Vancouver has long been Canada’s gateway to Asia. In fact, from many U.S. cities, it’s often quicker to route through Vancouver when traveling to eastern Asia. Fifteen Asian carriers currently serve Vancouver; seven of those are from mainland China, including Hainan Airlines which joined the list in May, with a twice-weekly service connecting the western Canadian city with Shenzhen and Tianjin.
We booked with China Eastern, as they had a great deal of $730 CDN ($570USD) all-in to Bangkok. The airline first started service to Vancouver in 2004, and now has 14 flights a week to YVR. I had never flown the Shanghai-based carrier before, and looking at the online reviews, their service is decidedly mixed.
Some of the reviews went like this: ’œwhat a nightmare experience’, ’œnever recommend this airline’, ’œservice is awful and messy’, ’œworst airline’. To be fair, there were an equal number of positive comments, but I even noticed that social media comments on the airline made the overly anxious reach for the refund policy when they read negative comments.
A day before our trip, I caught my wife looking up reviews of the airline. ’œWhat kind of airline is this,’ she asked? ’œJust go with no expectations, then you might be surprised,’ I told her. ’œWell, I do have an expectation now, and it doesn’t seem good,’ she replied.
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.
China Eastern’s first Boeing 777-300ER seen next to the Future of Flight – Photo: Jeremy Dwyer Lindgren / NYCAviation.com
Covering a story for AirlineReporter can be a dangerous business. Originally we had our Lee Zerrilla heading to the reveal of China Eastern’s first Boeing 777-300ER, when BAM he got in a minor accident. Lee is okay, but sad he was not able to make it to the event.
Have no fear, our good friends at NYCAviation (and photographer Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren) were nice enough to share their photos and information about the aircraft (thanks guys!).
Although, the photos end up showing what, I think, is a pretty ugly livery, it is what is on the inside that counts with this bird.
This is not the first time we have seen China Eastern’s new livery on the 777. We saw it when it came out of the paint booth and I have to say that I wasn’t a fan. Heck, I might have even called it the worst livery ever. Maybe a tad bit harsh, but I am just not a fan of these bland designs.
Okay. The livery doesn’t look half bad in the sunset – Photo: Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren | NYCAviation.com
Some wondered if this was a temporary livery, but no, this is China Eastern’s new official livery.
The new logo on the tail is not so bad. It is a swallow consisting of the letters C and E, which represents the airline’s name. Sure, that is fine and dandy, but why so boring for the rest of the aircraft?
The airline was more excited to show off the new interior of the aircraft, which is probably the part that most passengers will care most about.