Aircraft Type: B777-300ER
Class: Economy Class (Family Couch Seats)
Date: November 2014
Best for: Affordable customisable luxury at an economy class 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 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 (sift through the site for more reviews). 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 the usual economy class check-in, which depending on the time of day can have no queue at all, our advice though is check in early, the airport has a wealth of shopping and dining options to keep you entertained. 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, Business Class and Premium Economy passengers are invited to board first, as are Sky Priority members, so if you are a member of SkyTeam, its worth while taking a few flights with the alliance to build up your status, to enjoy earlier boarding to make yourself comfortable.
The economy cabin onboard China Airlines, like both our Premium Business Class and Premium Economy reports, is a sea of soft earthy tones and Persimmon wood. Occasional red seats are dotted through the cabin to help break up the sea of seats.
There are large overhead bins and plenty of legroom, and the seats, whilst 3 x 4 x 3 utilise as much space as they can. The cabin itself is bright, spacious and feels modern and clean. Each seat is brand new, and with the hard seat back shells, should hold its age well for years to come, even with the long haul trips it sets out to complete.
The seat itself is the ingenious bit. Situated in rows 41-51 HJK, the ten rows of three seats turn into what China Airlines have entitled ‘Family Couch’ a carbon-copy of the original and successful Sky Couch from Air New Zealand. Trialling this new product we were pleasantly surprised how the three seats can both operate completely normally as regular seats, as well as transforming into a fully flat bed, capable of taking an adult and child in relative comfort for a fraction of the cost of a business class seat.
Don’t be fooled that this feature would accommodate three people (three children perhaps) but instead should be purchased as a way of enjoying more space for two. As the seats are roughly 17.5inches wide, the full bench roughly stretches out to under 5ft long, so the foetal position will be essential for most people to rest well.
Another nice touch is that the arm rests completely fold up, not sticking out at all, and a mattress protector is used to prepare the seats and help create a soft continuous surface.
When in bed mode, special seat belts are utilised to help secure the passengers, so they can sleep, even when the fasten seatbelt sign is on. And is it wrong, that we got excited by the cuddly toy, also given to Family Couch travellers (awesome!)
As with premium economy, In front of you is a 11.1″ AVOD 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. We have to say, the widescreen format is excellent, and will be really something when the airline adopts widescreen films onto the system.
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.
In between the seats is also seat power, meaning that as well as USB charging, its possible to keep all of your electronic devices alive on these long flights. Naturally as well, is a wealth of magazines, and also WiFi onboard at a nominal cost.
Like our other reports on this flight, we have bypassed the food and extras on this report, as it is one area still being worked on by China Airlines, however, expect a similar product to those currently found on the trans-Pacific routes, with two meal options and a drinks service, as well as improved amenity kits, pillows and blankets. We have been told that the airline is looking at every single product and there will be an improvement across the board. This sneak peek on the new hard product however is great, and whilst following the standard protocol of bringing 10 abreast to the economy cabin on a 777, the Family Couches really help provide extra comfort to those who wanted to pay just a little bit extra.
For most economy passengers, the second biggest importance to seat comfort is IFE, and this new system is responsive and extensive, with an excellent range of current blockbusters and and classic films. The seats are comfortable and well appointed 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.