Flight: CI061 (Westbound) and CI062 (Eastbound)
Aircraft Type: B777-300ER
Class: Premium Business Class
Date: November 2015
China Airlines has really managed to wow the world with their ‘Next Generation’ program. The airline has won not just one but three awards at the Global Traveler Awards, including best business class seat design. It’s also been voted one of your favourite airline brands in our very own Passenger Choice Awards. November saw the launch of the flagship 777 product on the Frankfurt route meaning passengers from Europe can now also enjoy the luxury onboard product in Economy, Premium Business Class and now Premium Economy too. We were lucky enough to be invited on to the service a couple of weeks in. You can see our 747 experience approximately a year before here.
Although we experienced both the Premium Economy and Premium Business Class cabins on the flight from Frankfurt to Taipei, we have combined both business class trips into one report to help give a more complete experience of the Premium Business Class product.
On the Ground
Frankfurt Airport is incredibly well connected throughout Europe with many direct flights to the International hub. However it can also be one of the most confusing airports in Europe to navigate and the expanse of the two terminals can mean connecting from Europe to the morning China Airlines flight can be tricky. Our recommendation is leave a lot of time to connect, or as we did, enjoy one of the nearby airport hotels the night before.
On arrival in Terminal 2 at FRA we made our way to the China Airlines counter, which was separated out into two lanes, one for Sky Priority / Business Class, and the other for economy and premium economy. Check in was fairly quick and courteous and before we knew it we had our boarding pass and were headed through security.
As we were originally checked into Premium Economy on the TPE – FRA leg we weren’t able to use the lounge, however Frankfurt also has a variety of shops and restaurants to enjoy, and Premium Economy Class is allowed to enjoy the Sky Priority seating next to the gate while waiting to board.
In Taipei, on our return flight, we were able to experience the full Sky Priority experience with all the China Airlines lounges available in Taipei, our favourite of which is in Terminal 1, which is their latest designer lounge created by Ray Chen. It’s spacious, elegant, and well appointed. You can check out a full review of the lounge offerings at Taipei here.
As a SkyTeam member, China Airlines uses Sky Priority lanes to allow priority boarding, meaning that both Business Class and Premium Economy flyers board first as well as SkyTeam elite partners.
When entering the aircraft you still get the new plane smell, even though a few of them are turning a year old now. Most passengers will enter through the “Sky Lounge”, the galley space in the middle of the business class cabin that’s been redesigned to offer a walk-up environment mid-flight.
As well as beautifully designed, it is always staffed and kitted out with a wide range of drinks, coffees and teas, as well as Taiwanese snacks and a selection of literature.
The whole concept of the Premium Business Class Cabin is to create a library and study atmosphere and this is evident when the main cabin comes to life. Each seat has its own personal table lamp and permission wood veneer that gives the effect of an elegant office desk.
The permission wooden effect runs through the bulkheads too which helps soften the cabin and give the cabin a residential feel. China Airlines has invested into mood lighting too, which not only helps with jetlag, but helps offer a myriad of lighting effects that dramatically change the atmosphere in the cabin. The cabin itself is split in two, with the main cabin at the front featuring 6 rows of 1 x 2 x 1 seats, and the cabin situated behind the SkyLounge featuring a further 4 rows, each seat with aisle access.
The airline has opted to use Ray Chen for both the lounge offerings and the cabin interior. Design is evident everywhere on China Airlines 777-300ER including the lavatories, each with its own window, hand painted Chinese landscape on the walls and lounge music.
We really like the fact the airline has opted away from any fabrication that is common to aircraft, instead working hard to make sure every element of the cabin is unique to CAL.
This is perhaps one of the best customised BE Aerospace seats on the market, offering an excellent balance between space, privacy and access. Whilst passengers wanting the most privacy should opt for the window seats, the centre seats can be given a little more privacy by opening the two small storage lockers however they are most definitely best for two people travelling together, although the distance between can make it a little difficult to hear each other. A good reason why the airline has installed seat chat!
The seat is incredibly comfortable, and beautifully finished. The seats are covered in a cool grey-green fabric with splashes of silver, making for a nicely futuristic marled finish. The seat is also very ergonomic with all the seat controls in easy reach. The seats are heavily padded making for an excellent bed as well as a comfortable seat, which can be positioned into a variety of positions.
In front of you is a large, 18-inch, HD, touchscreen monitor. The picture is clear and quite bright. It’s the perfect size for the seat given how close you sit to it, making it both very easy to see and to reach when wishing to manipulate the IFE – and the controls are super intuitive, meaning passengers of all ages were up and running with their movies and TV shows before the aircraft even took off.
The seat is also a labyrinth of storage compartments. The larger houses your China Airlines-branded super comfortable slippers, on-ear, noise cancelling headphones, the corded IFE controller, two USB ports, and a multinational power outlet. The headphones have recently been upgraded meaning they are of excellent quality.
Next to the main storage area is a shallower which is perfect for phones and passports. The height-adjustable armrest on the aisle side of the seat sports yet another compartment that holds a small bottle of water and a personal uni-sex amenity kit, stocked to the brim with Acca Kappa products.
By the feet is another storage area, which is perfect for storing your shoes and laptop should you be inclined to work.
The winning element of this seat is its bed mode. It’s a spacious 6’6” and the taper around the feet mean isn’t too severe meaning that passengers can enjoy plenty of toe wiggle room. The space around the shoulders is also ample, and when the armrest is lowered, the space increases.
China Airlines service differs slightly depending on the aircraft type, and the 777-300ER features the most comprehensive of all the service offerings, one of the reasons the airline has dubbed the 777 a ‘Premium Business Class.’ During boarding passengers were offered drinks, and their new luxurious menus were handed out.
The cabin crew shortly before take off, came along to take food orders, however, we noticed that some passengers were asleep on our Taiwan departure to Frankfurt before the plane took off, and cabin crew were attentive in offering menus and the actual meals a few hours after the rest of us had eaten. It’s a lovely touch and one of the small details that made the carrier receive as much recognition as it has this year.
The menu on both flights was brilliant, with an amuse bouche to start the service, served with a 2004 Pol Roger Vintage champagne. On the outbound to Taipei we received smoked duck breast with Quince chutney and on the return was a burdock root and pork roll with seaweed and turnip soup which was served in China Airlines new tableware which is stunning, and the soup bowl is hand painted to make a mountain scene around the lake that the soup creates.
The main courses included options such as pork neck in hoisin sauce, pan-fried red snapper in a veloute and black truffle asparagus stuffed chicken roll with porcini mushroom, all were delicious and good sized portions. To accompany both meals were a selection of warm breads, which were constantly distributed.
The desserts were not only tasty, but beautifully presented. The candied orange chocolate cake and hazelnut financier both were light, tasty and perfectly proportioned not to over feed. For those still wanting more, there was a range of late night meals and ice creams, as well as a selection of chocolates and snacks available at the skylounge.
Both flights offer a breakfast a couple of hours before landing, which are split into a Western or classical Chinese option. The classical Chinese option is Congee, which is served with a wide range of high-quality accompaniments. The western options were both egg based, either a scrambled egg crepe with sausage or baked eggs with eggplant and tomatoes. Both were accompanied by Muesli and a wide range of baked pastries and breads.
China Airlines not only offers coffee, but a wide range of Nespresso coffees, including Ristretto, Espresso, Lungos and decaffinated Nespresso too. Our only criticism of the food service is the plastic serving dishes used for the fruit bowls standing out compared to the rest of the tableware.
China Airlines has a pretty substantial inflight entertainment offering, with plenty of latest releases and a large library of movie favourites from Avatar to Despicable Me. There are also a wide selection of TV programmes and music albums.
The screen is fairly large, and supported by a hand controller which means watching the moving map and a show at the same time is easy, as well as selecting your favourite shows whilst watching the first of your options. In the last 12 months, its clear to see the carrier has invested in increasing its entertainment library, as there are many more options compared to our previous trip.
The system is incredibly responsive and easy to use, especially for anyone that uses iPads. The touchscreen also comes into its own with the moving map which allows you to pinch, flick and swipe your way around the globe as the aircraft makes its way to either Taipei or Frankfurt. The entertainment as well as seat comfort is light-years ahead of the 747 product, and if you had given China Airlines a chance from Europe before, we definitely recommend giving it another go on the 777, as the experience is so vastly different, its like flying a whole new carrier.
We also sampled the WiFi onboard. It’s important to note it currently disconnects while flying over China, however, a large portion of the flight is WiFi enabled, meaning if you purchase WiFi for the entire flight at US$21, it is well worth the cost, and the connection is fairly stable and fast meaning we were able to answer emails and surf the internet without frustration. Considering the Frankfurt – Taipei connection is popular with business travellers this WiFi connection will be well received by most on the aircraft.
Having experienced both the previous China Airlines 747 product and the 777-300ER product on the same route, we couldn’t have been happier to see the carrier’s updated product. The new product is phenominal and perfectly suited for the route which offers an overnight component on each sector.
So the hard product is faultless – the fully flat beds allow for a perfect nights sleep, but China Airlines’ signature warm and sincere service now shines. In our honest opinion China Airlines was always held back slightly with an ageing business class hard product, yet the new product has allowed the carrier to really come into its own, where product, service, food and drink all work in harmony to create one of the best business classes in the sky. If you haven’t already, this is one carrier you really should sample in 2016.
The Big Picture
THEDESIGNAIR.NET TRAVELLED AS GUESTS OF CHINA AIRLINES, HOWEVER THE VIEWS EXPRESSED HERE ARE OUR OWN