China Eastern Airlines is one of the newer additions to the SkyTeam airline alliance.  As Delta continues to shrink its service out of Tokyo, it has strengthened its relationship to China Eastern and its hub at PVG.  Delta puts China Eastern in the top group of airline partners for earning Delta miles, bonuses and qualification dollars.

I booked this trip in business class for 140,000 SkyMiles.  Now, thanks to an unannounced, no-notice, mega devaluation, it requires 160,000 SkyMiles for a business class trip to Asia on Delta and a whopping 170,000 SkyMiles on China Eastern.

Other posts about this trip from Charlotte, NC to Bangkok, Thailand via PVG:

Delta CRJ 900 First Class, Charlotte, NC (CLT) to New York, NY (JFK) and a “Midfield” Takeoff

Delta Airlines SkyClub, New York, NY (JFK) Terminal 4

China Eastern Airlines Business Class New York, NY (JFK) to Shanghai, China (PVG) – Terminal 1 Check-in and Expedited Security Process

Quick Look, Korean Air Lounge, New York, NY (JFK) Terminal 1

Transfer at Shanghai, China (PVG) and China Eastern VIP Lounge, Terminal 1

China Eastern 777-300ER Business Class, Shanghai, China (PVG) to Bangkok, Thailand (BKK)

Bangkok Hotel Review – The Sheraton Grande Sukhumvit, A Starwood Luxury Collection Hotel

JW Marriott, Bangkok, Thailand — The Best Hotel Lounge Buffet

Review — Air France/KLM Lounge, Suvarnabhumi Airport (BKK), Bangkok, Thailand

Korean Air 777-300ER Business Class, Bangkok, Thailand(BKK) to Seoul/Incheon, Korea (ICN)

Asiana Airlines Business Class Lounge Seoul/Incheon, Republic of Korea (ICN) Main Terminal – Priority Pass Lounge Review

Korean Air A380 Business Class (The Celestial Bar), Seoul, Republic of Korea (ICN) to New York, NY (JFK)

I’d flown economy and a short business class flight on a China Eastern 737-800 and was looking forward to a long-haul business class experience on this airline.

Update:  In 2018 I flew four flights on China Eastern 777-300s between PVG and LAX.  Those flights provided a much different experience.  Check it out Here.

MU 588 from JFK to PVG, a China Eastern 777-300ER, was scheduled to depart at 16:25.  The flight was delayed slightly.  I remained in the Air France lounge in T1 until after the boarding announcement.  It was a short walk to the boarding gate on the main concourse at T1.

There was no one in the Priority boarding lane.  I presented my China Eastern (not Delta) boarding pass and my passport and went right on board to the business section.  Boarding through the second door from the front, a flight attendant (FA) offered a warm greeting and directed me to my seat, 8A.

China Eastern 777-300ER Business Class Cabins

China Eastern 777-300ERs have 52 business class seats in two cabins, a small, intimate cabin of eight seats (two rows) between the second boarding door and first class, and a large cabin of 44 seats (11 rows) just aft of the second boarding door.  I prefer the smaller cabin.  Those seats were unavailable on this flight when I booked my ticket.  From PVG to Bangkok (BKK), I was able to reserve a seat was in the small cabin.

China Eastern 777-300 Business Class Seat

Business class seats are 23.5 inches wide and have 75 inches of pitch.  I like these seats.  They are essentially the same seats as on American Airlines 777-300s and Cathay Pacific 777-300s that I have become  familiar with.

20170509_182047_resized (1)
Seat 8A MU 777-300ER

On China Eastern seat 8A is a bulkhead window seat on the port side of the aircraft.   In business class, bulkhead seats usually have a flat shelf at the bulkhead that I use after takeoff for things like pillows and blankets.

On night flights, proximity to the galley and/or lavatory can be bothersome.  Noise-cancelling headsets block the noise, but light from the galley in particular can be annoying when the cabin lights are off.  Seat 8A also has only one window.  It affords a limited view when seated.  Avoid 8A.

Seat Features

This seat has plenty of room to stretch out when reclined or sitting up right.  20170411_164541_resized

The video screen swings out for viewing.  Not my ideal arrangement since viewing during takeoff and landing may be denied.  The tray table deploys horizontally in a very simple fashion.

Storage was adequate although there were no enclosures for things like wallets and glasses.  Seat controls, USB power, reading light, and video remote were within easy reach. 20170411_162121_resized20170411_162118_resized


As pictured above, there was a soft pillow and warm quilt on the seat when I sat down. Slippers and the amenity kit were housed in the storage compartments near the footwell.20170411_162053_resized

The Clarins amenity kit was stocked with an eye mask, dental kit, comb, ear plugs, lip balm, and hand lotion.20170509_184820_resized

The slippers were very nice and came in a pouch that said “Carry me home.”20170509_185015_resized20170411_164402_resized

China Eastern also provided bottled water and headphones.  The headphones weren’t very good.20170411_162113_resized

Even though the flight would last for more than 14 hours, there were no pajamas or mattress.  A mattress would have been appreciated given that the leather seat cushions were hard.

JFK Departure 

Pre-departure Service

Not long after boarding the FAs offered non-alcoholic beverages.

Lemon and apple juice

They then handed out menus.  Five minutes later, the FAs returned to take my order.  Just before the door closed, the FAs distributed warm towels.

At 16:49 we pushed from the gate and began taxing to the active runway.   The taxiways were busy.

An Emirates A380 and other planes following us to the active runway.  The windsock, an aid to pilots that has been around since the earliest days of aviation, indicates a favorable wind for takeoff with a slight right crosswind component.

Takeoff was at 17:11 on runway 13R (One Three Right), a chunk of grooved concrete 200 feet wide and just over 14,500 feet long.  Visibility was over 10 nautical miles with a ceiling of high, thin cirrus.  A great day for flying.

Turning onto 13R.  Arrows denote a displaced threshold, the portion of a runway suitable for takeoff but not landing.  There is probably an obstacle or other descent restriction on the approach 

The fully fueled Boeing needed much less than half of the runway length to launch itself skyward for the 14-hour journey to the other side of the world.

View of JFK Terminal 4 on takeoff.  Delta’s $1.4 billion Terminal 4 and what I call the Pit, the regional jet gates at the lower right.  In building T4, the historic Pan Am Worldport (T3) was demolished.

Two minutes after takeoff, the video screen was activated.  It showed a total distance to PVG of 7,666 miles and an estimated travel time of 14 hours and 11 minutes.


After leveling at our initial cruising altitude, I moved across the aisle to seat 8D.

In-flight Service

Shortly after takeoff, I contacted a FA to change my dinner order from a chinese selection to a western one.  While waiting for dinner, I reviewed some of the features of the in-flight entertainment (IFE) system.  As I recalled from a previous flight in economy, China Eastern offers on-board upgrades.20170509_203345_resized20170509_203521_resized

To upgrade my business class-seat to first class on this flight, China Eastern charges “only” 30,000 yuan (about $4,350).  The amount to upgrade was the same regardless of the amount paid for the ticket or if the ticket was a frequent flyer award.  In fact, if memory serves, this is the same amount a coach passenger would pay to upgrade to first class.

After quickly concluding that upgrading to first class was not worth the asking price (although next time I should see if this price is negotiable), I settled in to enjoy the experience in business class.

This was the wine list:


Mixed drinks and liquor:20170509_184216_resized20170509_184400_resized

Other beverages:20170509_184552_resized (1)


The dining section of the IFE system displays some of the entrees that are available on various flights. 20170511_183912_resized20170511_184804_resized20170511_184602_resized


First Meal Service

Actual service began 40 minutes after takeoff at 17:50.  I had a 12-year-old Chivas.20170511_184934_resized (1)


At 18:00 the FAs served the appetizer.  There seemed to be a discrepancy between what was on the printed menu, the IFE menu, and what was served.  Or perhaps I was confused by which month I was looking at on the menu.  In any event this is what was served. 20170509_204212_resized

Salad with seared tuna and tomato soup was served at 18:05 pm
Warm bread was served at 18:13

The beef fillet entree followed at 18:26.

Steak, candied garlic and veggies and Penfolds shiraz cabernet

The food tasted good and the steak was prepared medium, which is about the most one can hope for in business class on most airlines.  The service was professional and courteous.  I liked that all courses were served on linen and not fake wood trays as used to be the case on China Eastern’s SkyTeam partner, Delta.

The FAs then brought a cart with dessert options. 20170509_204721_resized

As usual, I tried a little bit of everything.

The FA prepared from the cart a nice dessert of fruit and cheese

There was no porto so I had a glass of Mouton Cadet bordeaux blend.

After the dessert cart, ice cream was offered in a small container with a plastic spoon. 20170411_185607_resized

After dinner I watched the Accountant and then was able to nap for a couple of hours on the stiff cushioning.  Flying above the Arctic Ocean north of Barrow, AK, a FA woke me for “breakfast.”

Breakfast and light meal menus:


This is what the FA brought.20170411_233753_resized

This must be the worst excuse for a business class meal or snack ever.

WTF!  I had to pinch myself to ensure I was awake.  Two grapes, a biscuit, a tiny piece of cheese and a bit of melon.  No beverage was offered.  Clearly this was not breakfast as the FA claimed.  It also clearly was not one of the light meal options.  The english skills of the crew were so bad that they could not (or would not) explain what was going on.

I’ve observed that a lack of english skills and a seeming lack of desire to help is a problem generally with China Eastern although primarily in its ground staff.  With this crew it appeared that there was only one FA in business class that had had more than a few english lessons and she was off duty.

After “breakfast” I asked for chivas on the rocks, and was told they had no more.  Instead I enjoyed a couple of glasses of cognac while brushing up on my thai and learning a little mandarin on the Berlitz Word Traveler language system on the IFE.

Berlitz system on China Eastern IFE

This was probably the best part of the flight.  Not many airlines have this system on their IFE.  Delta, China Eastern, KLM, Singapore Airlines and a couple of others are the only airlines I know of that carry it.   Write down a few phrases and keywords for use after landing.  It is amazing how knowing only three or four things in the local language makes a positive impression.

A real breakfast was served with two hours and 17 minutes to PVG.  This was the only meal that was as stated on the menu.

Scrambled eggs, sausage and bacon, fruit, yogurt and cereal

It also came with a french pastry and choice of juice.  Breakfast was very good.


During the flight I visited the business class bathrooms that are immediately forward of the second boarding door.


The bathrooms were always clean.  The only amenities were Goji hand wash and body lotion.

Arrival at PVG

After breakfast there was plenty of time to stow personal items and prepare for landing.  The approach to PVG deviated around the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK or North Korea).  Not even Chinese aircraft enter that airspace.20170511_192302_resized

We flew past PVG and made the final approach from the south.  We landed at 19:38 local time, about 15 minutes later than scheduled and 42 minutes later than the projected time at takeoff.  The total flight distance was 7,799 miles.

We deplaned at a remote stand and were bused to Terminal 1.

China Eastern 777-300 at PVG remote stand.


Overall Impression

Given the discrepancy between dinner and the menus, the absurd mid-flight meal, running out of scotch halfway through the flight, and a very hard cushion on the seat, not to mention the problems communicating with the crew, I was disappointed with this flight.  Those flying a Chinese airline probably should speak a little bit of chinese, but, in turn, a crew on a SkyTeam airline needs to have a better command of english.

I am extremely happy that Delta chose Korean Air rather that China Eastern as its joint venture partner across the Pacific.  China Eastern would get one more opportunity to impress on the next flight from PVG to BKK.

UPDATE:  In early 2018, I had several flights on China Eastern trans pacific and intra Asia.   Those trips were much better experiences and changed my evaluation of China Eastern.  Posts coming.