One of the first things you have to keep in mind when flying Air China is that its country of origin is China. That means there is a lot of control exercised when it comes to passengers and in-flight behaviors, so you can expect the unexpected. For example, all passengers enter the airplane through one door, located at the front of the plane. If you were expecting special treatment for flying First Class or Business Class you need to leave those expectations at home.
The boarding process means that Economy is boarding with Business Class, so being one of the first on the plane will put you under great pressure to grab an overhead area and your seat since there will be hordes of people waiting to pass you. There are 42 Business Class seats arranged rather oddly, with some seats slanted slightly to the right, others slightly to the left. There is a modicum of privacy to be found with privacy screens, but on the flip side it isn’t the friendliest seating design to fly the skies.
By the way, they named the Business Class “Capital Pavilion” perhaps based on the simple idea that people who fly Business Class are all Capitalists. In another unusual twist to flying Air China, there is little information to be found on the particular seat configurations, which should make people a little suspicious. What is known is that it is 22 inches wide and can extend to lie completely flat for sleeping. When you are flying non-stop from Los Angeles to Beijing, being able to lie down for a solid sleep is a benefit words cannot express.
Your seat will have power ports to charge your mobile devices, and you can sit back and relax to watch a choice of movies and other entertainment options. The problem is that the movies are outdates and feature both American and Asian genres, so it’s not a good idea to expect catching up on any missed episodes of The Walking Dead. There is also music available, but it is recommended you load your own tunes on your mobile device.
There are a few distinctive Chinese items that fall into the “cute” category. One is the red slippers that are part of the amenity kit you are provided with after boarding. The other is the set of Mao-style pajamas which button all the way to the top with the signature Mao-style collar. It is a nice cultural touch that makes up in some ways for the rather boring and odd in-flight surroundings. Also in the kit is an eye mask for sleeping, toothbrush and toothpaste, and ear plugs.
Food is an important part of a long flight, and you get a choice of Western or Chinese menu options. The Chinese menu is focused on fish and beef entrees, with more recognizable dessert options such as Chocolate Mousse. When it comes to the assortment of wines, some consider it to be bare bones – white or red.
Equally important is the service from flight attendants, and Air China only can muster below average ratings in this area. There never seem to be enough attendants to offer any actual personal care to passengers, and if you are expecting any type of friendliness from them you will be disappointed. It might be their training or they are worked to a frazzle, but whatever the reason the extra money you paid seems to be more for the lie-back position of the seat than anything else. They did leave out some cookies, candies, and snacks at the front bar area, but that was the maximum of the hospitality.
As long as you leave your Western expectations at home, the Air China Business class experience will suffice for a long trek across the Pacific. The price for the 12 and a half hour round trip flight is $5,209 from LAX to Beijing. If you are someone who only goes on these trans-Pacific flights once every 5 years or once in a lifetime, it is highly recommended you choose Business Class, non-stop. There are more than 230 Economy Class seats on the plane, and it’s quite hard to imagine how they manage the 12 hours in the air. Making a stop or two seems to only make the flight much, much longer.