Thursday, October 13, 2011

Travel with Air China - I dare you...

I need to travel to Beijing next month from Hong Kong. So I pick Air China as the carrier. But my experience so far...oh well...I dare you to try it and see you will agree with what I said.

Air China is a Star Alliance member who is ranked by SKYTRAX as a 4-star airlines. While the airlines I travel the most, United Airlines, is a 3-star airlines, I suppose my experience will be better in general.

I was wrong (so far...)

1. Price

I know - I should not complain about the price. But if I told you that the Round-Trip ticket price is as expensive as half of the cost of a Round-Trip ticket from SFO to PEK, you will be surprised.

So my only choice - award ticket.

2. Pre-Travel Service

I booked my ticket with Continental with my OnePass miles (as they are willing to waive the booking fee for me). After it was ticketed, I called Air China North America for a seat assignment. And here is what I have encounted:

a. An invisible "D" seat

The servicing aircraft is a Airbus A321 (Man...I hate Airbuses). I have reviewed seat arrangement from Air China's website, as well as SeatGuru. So I know what to expect.

First - all bulkhead and exit-row are blocked. Based on the agents, not even PhoenixMiles elite members can get those. Fair enough.

Then the first agent assigned me to a 15D. But wait - there is no D seat in A321 at all - so what's going on?

None of 2 agents from North America can tell me why. So I called Hong Kong instead.

The real reason - it is the aircraft borrow from its subsidiary - Air Macau.

b. Baggage Allowance

I only go for 1 night. So it will be obvious to have no checked baggage. But still I checked the baggage allowance with the agents. Apparently, Air China's agents are extremely lack of training, as they totally forget the rule of Most Significant Carrier, which in a simple way, the passengers should follow the airlines' policies for baggage who transport them the most distance.

My ticket is on travel with Air China entirely. But they told me to check with Continental and follow their allowance. it mean I can get 3 bags, 70 lb each? (The right answer is I get 40 kg as weight concept applies).

c. Airport lounge.

As I am a Star Alliance Gold member, I am entitled to use the lounge (as soon as it is not a U.S. domestic only travel). Since I know that there is no Air China lounges in Hong Kong, I asked them which one I should use (as each airlines has a preferred one).

My answer is - I can't use the lounge as there is no lounge. Such a LMAO...

Finally a competent agent in Hong Kong tell me that they do have a preferred lounge - CNAC lounge.

Oh well - since I am a Star Alliance Gold member, I can use whatever Star Alliance Gold lounges I want - I will simply choose - United Club (No offense, but it is in fact one of the best Star Alliance Gold lounges in Hong Kong).

My trip report is definitely going to follow.

Good luck to me and whoever travel with the greatest Air China...


  1. I traveled on CA for over 30 segments during the past 3 years (domestic and intl) and I don't find it that bad.
    On a recent HKG-pek flight, I was on A321 and it was quite new and very clean.

    Agree that they block off the front economy section even for their own elites. But the trick is to board near the end and then just take the bulkhead cuz it will be empt if not a full plane.

  2. Thanks for your comment. In fact, you are the first one ever posted a comment.

    Since I have not yet traveled on Air China, I will definitely give them the benefit of the doubt.

    But their pre-flight service, oh well...

  3. I am looking forward to this TR. I just booked an award seat using Delta miles with Chinaestern. It will be in business class(JFK-PVG-BKK). I am a bit worry about my future trip also. Their reviews are even worse than Air China. I didn't have a choice since this was the only ticket available but still I am a bit worried. So far, they have been very good. I called their NY office to confirm and reserve the seats and they have all the info(transfer info in PVG), plus able to get me the seats I wanted. Crossing my finger! Any tips you can share???

  4. It will be a long flight - remember to be ready for something to do in case you can't sleep.