Aircraft Type: B777-300ER
Class: Premium Economy Class
Date: November 2014
Best for: Those looking for extra perks and comfort for those not wanting the heavy price tag.
Most likely to sit next to: Savvy cool Trans-pacific travellers
Business or pleasure: This airline is built for business. Great schedules, frequent services, good connections and wifi onboard, means for a logical choice for those on business.
Routes: Mainly intra-asia, however the 777-300ER will be flown on its long haul routes to the US to start with, followed by Europe.
Frequent Flyer Programme: Dynasty Flyer. All the usual perks attached to a four tier frequent flyer program, but with the added benefit of being attached to Skyteam, with farther reaching benefits around the world.
Best bits: The brand new plane smell and the brand new seats
Worst bits: Need more long haul routes!
China Airlines B777-300ER Premium Economy Class Report
We have been writing about the China Airlines 777-300ER for quite some time, as the airline is one of a handful of carriers that are really reinventing their passenger experience from the ground up. Both Fiji Airways and Etihad have both also done the same recently with their new products. When we were invited to test out China Airlines product on one of their regional test flights for the new long haul product we jumped at the chance, and decided to write up the experience as a business, premium economy and economy traveller in one hit (stay tuned for our other reports). It’s hard not to be impressed by a carrier who decided to invest heavily into creating a truly industry leading product, utilising already existing products to bring the best of the market to the skies in one perfectly packaged aircraft.
On the Ground
As we were connecting from Europe on the airline’s previous business class product, we were warmly greeted off the flight in Taiwan, and escorted to the lounge for our flight on the 777. Whilst not normal practice to be greeted, we realised connecting in Taipei was both efficient and fast. The route was well signposted, and we were off the plane, through security and in the lounge within 10 minutes.
For those checking-in in Taipei or Los Angeles (to start with), expect a separate Premium Economy check-in desk for faster service and those flying from Taipei airport can expect a variety of very high-end boutique shops to keep you entertained during your wait. The main Taipei Airport has large waiting areas situated one level down at each gate, and each gate is has a different theme based on Taiwanese tradition. These segragated departure gates gives the illusion of a much emptier airport than it actually is. The airport itself also has some beautiful and understated elements, such as living walls, and beautiful ‘webbed’ architectural details along some of the long walkways.
Once boarding, Premium Economy and Economy passengers enter through the same air bridge, whilst Premier Business Class passengers enter through a separate air bridge, however, of all the economy class traffic, Premium Economy Passengers are invited to board first.
Once boarded, two of our team were invited to take their seats. As the product is fairly new and operated on their non-regular routes, the cabin was fairly empty. On longer-haul routes such as Los Angeles, the extra space and better quality service will mean this cabin will fill up fast. The cabin features the same wood-panelled bulkhead and details as the rest of the aircraft, and in neutral moss and grey tones has a very smart appearance. The injection of colour will be supplied by the newer soft products such as blankets, yet to be rolled out.
Compared to the slightly tighter 3 x 4 x 3 configuration in economy, the wider seats in 2 x 4 x 2 configuration mean for a lot more passenger space, and perfectly suited for sitting in pairs due to the shared cocktail table per two seats and seat divider that increases personal space from your neighbour.
As well as appearing smart, and modern, the cabin also feels spacious, with high ceilings and ample leg room. The hard shell seats also means the recline of the seat doesn’t impact the passenger behind, and each seat offers a leg rest to help cradle the passenger to comfort. Compared to other premium economy cabins, the 39″ seat pitch is really noticeable. The cabin, like the rest of the aircraft is fitted with mood lighting and WiFi.
The seat itself is both spacious and well equipped, with a host of amenities usually only found in International business class include moveable reading light, in-seat power, large 12.1″ responsive touchscreen and privacy walls between seats to offer a modicum more privacy. The seat with its leg-rest and deep recline is similar in comfort level to the First Class of some American regional carriers. Unlike most forward facing seats there is an airbag in the seatbelt, meaning extra safety, but a little more weight on the waist when seated.
The seat also offers a variety of tray table offerings; folded, fully expanded, and even a cocktail shelf with drinks holder. The tray table also acts as an iPad rest, allowing for the passenger to choose their preference from a large selection of in-seat entertainment. What is noticeable even on a short haul flight to Taipei, is the fact the hard shell seat back doesn’t recline into your personal space, meaning that you are able to claim the space to yourself and make yourself comfortable.
We also love the water bottle holders between the seats, and also foot rest that folds down from the seat in front. For those on the front row, there is a little more leg room, however the TV screens are raised slightly and attached to the bulkhead.
In front of you is also an 12.1″ touchscreen monitor with a brilliant user interface, hi-definition imagery and animated menus that is similar to the interface found on Windows 8. The system is quick, responsive, and even has a slider on the TV and movie programming allowing for a very quick swipe to the point you wanted to watch from.
There are hundreds of movies and TV channels to chose from, as well as audio channels. The system is simple to use, and is easy to navigate. The Panasonic ex3 system also has a wealth of extra options, from onscreen food and drink menus, seat to seat chat and a very powerful moving map system full of extra functions to keep the very best #avgeeks entertained.
Whilst we bypass the food and extras on this report, as it is one area still being worked on by China Airlines, expect a similar product to those found in standard International Premium Economy products, such as enhanced dining options compared to economy, as well as improved amenity kits, pillows and blankets. This sneak peek on the new hard product however is incredible, and is up there with some of the best Premium Economy’s on the market. The IFE is responsive and extensive, with an excellent range of current blockbusters and and classic films. The seats are comfortable and support the body and the cabin, light airy and well serviced by cabin crew. We look forward to seeing the cabin on the long haul flights come into its own with full amenity offering, but this is certainly an affordable and comfortable way to cross the pacific when it launches in a few weeks time. Well done China Airlines once again.