Two Pesos at a SkyTeam: China Eastern A340 Business Class

In playful tribute to @OneMileataTime and at the prodding of @WeeklyFlyer, this lonely SkyTeam flyer presents China Eastern’s A340 and its sleepless lounger, the ultimate in “oh crap, I redeemed miles for this?”

The day started in sunny New York with bedlam at JFK T4’s gate 30. I was fortified with periodicals from the Oasis Club, and had the best Delta seat in the sky, 72K on the 747-400.

The flight was overbooked by 5 and the siren song for volunteers drew me in, knowing the China Eastern nonstop to Shanghai would get me in earlier than originally planned. I angled for a different airline but with most flights departed and others not Delta partners, I could only push so far. $800 in Delta vouchers was irresistible. Two other volunteers joined, eventually two others were denied boarding but given $1000 checks and decent alternate flights, especially the guy who got moved to ANA to Haneda.

I chatted with the gate agents as they worked on all the arrangements, which are quite time consuming when contacting other airlines. One was a snappy Chinese women with sharp quips. I said that China Eastern is improving, she said, “Really? I don’t think so.” And on the A340 “Why they fly that? It’s an antique.” She said that when thae JFK-NRT flight has a cancellation she is typically there till 2 am. The first reissue had moved me to economy, second got business to stick. The certs were a half hour issue, a $600 came out fine but issuing the next $200 required many phone calls. My suitcase had been pulled off the plane and purportedly was on its way to T1.

I ambled over to T1, checked in with the agent claiming my suitcase had arrived and was being loaded. Ha ha. I know JFK better than that.

A stop in the Alitalia lounge and on to the creaky A340.

China Eastern A340 22

Welcome to the A340

China Eastern A340 05

Precious cargo: mid-flight instant noodles

China Eastern A340 14

Duty Free galore

China Eastern A340 08

My seatmate won't be losing his glasses

China Eastern’s service is stiff and quite inefficient. Meal services take ages as the flight attendants run back and forth with one or two beverages or drinks at a time, rather than something more systematic or using their carts. For those familiar with restaurants in China, here, too, there only seems to be one menu in the plane and the flight attendant shows it to you, taps her foot while you decide, then takes it away. The food is ok, portions small, strawberries dessicated.

China Eastern A340 10

Starter

China Eastern A340 11

First course

China Eastern A340 13

Falls asleep waiting for the main course

China Eastern A340 15

Braised pork belly, Cantonese style, not Shanghainese

China Eastern A340 16

Fruit plate, no special desserts

China Eastern A340 20

Breakfast

China Eastern A340 21

More withered strawberries

Another quirk common to Chinese airlines is facial tissues in the bathrooms in place of paper towels. Dry your hands and spend the next hour picking off the tissue shreds.

China Eastern A340 02

Tissues instead of paper towels

The seat is dreadful. Push the buttons all you want, that leg rest is not going higher. Try stuffing your feet into the seatback pocket.

China Eastern A340 01

The sleepless seat

China Eastern A340 17

Fully reclined and can't see my feet

China Eastern A340 19

Yikes!

China Eastern A340 18

Feet stuffed in seatback pocket

My biggest pet peeve on flights is when movies are ‘edited for content,’ and I gave up when even Salmon Fishing in the Yemen was edited.

China Eastern A340 09

"Edited for content"

The amenity kit is Ferragamo. The pajamas were not to be found today but I got his and her’s sets last time and kept them unused, maybe time for a giveaway? Give one to Ben so he is spared the A340 experience, though perhaps he will try the A330?

China Eastern Ferragamo Amenity Kit

Ferragamo amenity kit

China Eastern Pajamas

Pajamas

No surprise that my suitcase ended up in Detroit. Many others behind me were wondering about their luggage. I got RMB 400 and a promise to deliver to my hotel if/when it arrives, which delta.com says will happen tomorrow.

Delta Delayed Luggage JFK-PVG

You know what? It doesn’t matter because I am thrilled to be back in Shanghai. However, if you want New York to Shanghai nonstop, by all means take United. Leave China Eastern for short China domestic hops. And that $800 can help with a massage to work out the crick in my back and cramp in my calf.

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Comments

  1. The seat looks terrible (for business class, of course), but the food actually doesn’t look that bad. Unless it looks better than it tasted?

  2. I flew China Eastern between PEK and SHA last month, and it was definitely a different experience. I had been tempted several times to book that direct JFK-PVG flight but after looking at the cabin pictures, I’d rather be on a 15hr southwest flight. No personal IFE either? Really comical that people will pay $6000 for that flight.

    On my china eastern flight, one of the flight attendants was smoking a cigarette in the lavatory, and the captain kept the cockpit door open for half the flight since he had to use the bathroom 3x on a 2 hour flight. Different world…

  3. THank you for posting. Quite a change from your expected evening. Thanks for warning me off China Southern.

  4. The range of a A330 is 7250 nm (A340 is up to 9000)
    PVG-JFK is 7395 nm
    ORD is 7050
    MSP is 6700

    If they had any sense, they would go one stop with a connect in MSP or at least LAX/SLC, to get benefit of connections.
    I wonder why they think SFO is better for biz class c/w JFK?

    Looks worse than my pesos flight to LIM from ATL on a DL 767
    (should have gone with AA or LAN)

  5. Delta compensated you $800 for switching you from a one stop Delta flight to a nonstop China Eastern flight? Sounds pretty cool.

  6. What will Braised pork belly in Shanghai style look like I wonder? Why “Salmon Fishing in the Yemen ” were edited? It’s a romantic movie and has no sensitive material against Chinese government. It was a movie in 2011…their entertainment collection is kinda of out of dated. Do you feel the crew treat foreign passenger better than domestic customer?

  7. @Shannon – the Shanghai style is the hong shao style, more red like Hunan, but smaller cubes. It is served in a pot with quail eggs and a pressed bean curd knot. I should have taken pictures yesterday!

    As for the movies, I don’t know why so many were edited, I had similar issues with Korean Air but not so bad. Delta is hit or miss.

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