Why I Flew Business Class On China Eastern

To reach elite status in their frequent flyer programs, some major airlines, including Delta, now have spend requirements in addition to flying a certain number of miles.  For Delta this requirement is called Medallion Qualification Miles (MQDs).  MQDs are the cost of the ticket minus government taxes and fees.

Thanks to an abundance of rollover Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs), to maintain my Delta Diamond status for the next several years, I need only worry about hitting the MQD requirement.  Qualifying for Diamond status, the top tier of the program, requires at least 15,000 MQDs each year.

For most folks like me who pay for their own tickets, that’s a lot of money.  As I reported previously, one way to retain my status while minimizing the hit on my wallet is by flying cheap long-distance flights in business class on certain Delta partners.

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China Eastern 777-300ER at PVG

Delta calculates MQDs for business class flights on some SkyTeam partners including China Eastern as 40% of the distance flown.    

Early in 2018, China Eastern had cheap business class fares of under $1,200 round trip from Cebu, Philippines (CEB) to PVG (1,438 miles) to LAX (6,485 miles).  I bought two tickets back to back.  Flights between CEB and PVG were on 737-800s.  With class of service and status bonuses, each trip yielded $6,338 MQDs, 25,208 MQMs and 50,708 redeemable SkyMiles.  For just over $2,000 out of pocket I nearly satisfied the $15,000 MQD requirement for Diamond status!

The flights between PVG and LAX are over 12 hours but afford some interesting sights – weather permitting.

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Downwind in the right-hand landing pattern for LAX Runway 24R (Two Four Right).  Interestingly, the LAX runways are parallel to each other.  They have different designations, e.g. 25 or 24, because the system for naming runways allows at most three runways (R, C, and L) on the same heading.  The same situation applies for the four parallel runways at PVG.
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Traffic for Runway 34L at PVG
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San Francisco, Alcatraz Island, the Golden Gate, and The Presidio National Park and golf course
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Sea of Okhotsk coast near Magadan, Russia

China Eastern 777-300 Business Class

I flew business class on China Eastern on its 777-300 last year.  The flight from New York JFK to PVG was one of my worst ever business-class flights.  The flight from PVG to Bangkok, Thailand (BKK) was better but had issues.  These flights were different, much different.

Business Class Cabin

The 777-300 has 52 business-class seats arranged 1-2-1 in two cabins.  The best cabin is just aft of first class and forward of the second boarding door.  This cabin has only eight seats.   Despite proximity to bathrooms and the galley, the privacy and peacefulness of this cabin is superb.  The larger cabin is just aft of the galley.  It has 44 seats in 11 rows.

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Aft cabin
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Aft cabin seat
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Seat 9L

Ventilation is centrally controlled.

Business Class Seat

Seats are 23 inches wide and have 75 inches of pitch according to SeatGuru.  China Eastern only claims 43 inches of pitch and 20.6 inches of seat width between armrests.

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Forward cabin seat

I also like the forward cabin because all four window seats have a flat shelf in front or in back that are convenient for place thins like bedding or personal items in flight.

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Seats in both cabins have plenty of legroom and are not cramped.

Each seat has open storage compartments above and below the console.  Reading light, A/V controller, headphone jack, and electrical ports are clustered at eye level.  The seat cushions are somewhat stiff but overall very comfortable when upright or reclined.  Seat controls are straightforward.

The console is wide enough to hold your personal items in flight.  The vents by the widows give these seats more room to put things than in the center section.  The reverse-herringbone arrangement avoids the cramped feeling of many business-class seats that face straight forward.

China Eastern advertises on-board upgrades to first class for about $4,300 at today’s exchange rate.  The cost is the same no matter the fare class of ticket purchased.  This price is somewhat negotiable.

Amenities

China Eastern supplies a good assortment of amenities including an amenity kit, slippers, bottled water, a pillow and blanket, headphones  and pajamas.  Ask for the pjs if they are not offered.  A mattress would be a nice addition.  The headphones are substandard for business class.  Bring your own if you have them.

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China Eastern amenity kit

China Eastern has WiFi on the 777-300s.  To get it to work well entails a complex sign-up process on-line before boarding.

Service

My biggest complaint from last year’s flight was the service.  Only one FA in business class could answer questions in English.  Communication was never a problem on any of these flights.

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Each flight starts with a pre-departure beverage and moist towels.

Food and Beverages

These were the menus from the flights:

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Breakfast:

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Mid-Flight Meal:20180810_180928

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Beverages

Liquor:20180817_010626

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Wine:

The Champagne was Monmarthe.

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China Eastern also serves a Penfolds Koonunga Hill Shiraz/Cabernet.

Other beverages:20180817_01040720180817_010509

The food was good but not outstanding for business class.  Here are some of the dishes.

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Drinks are served 30 – 40 minutes after takeoff along with packaged nuts. The appetizer and canapes follow.
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Canapes

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Bresaola, grilled scallops, red onions and poached pears and Frisee lettuce and wild mushroom soup

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Chilean Sea Bass entree with cabbage and corn succotash
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Romaine lettuce light meal appetizer
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Roasted duck breast entree
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Mid-flight snack
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Black cherry tart and fresh fruit
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Ice cream but with a real spoon
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fruit and cheese
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Light meal Caesar Salad
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Fired fish light meal entree
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Sauteed prawn light meal entree and saffron fettuccine tossed with arugula

Lavatories

There are two lavatories between the galley and the forward business-class cabin.  They did not create noise or commotion for passengers in the froward cabin.  There are two more at the rear of the aft cabin.  These bathrooms are often used by economy passengers.

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Bathrooms are good sized and always clean.
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Liquid soap and hand lotion are the amenities.

Overall Impression

China Eastern redeemed itself with these flights.  There was no problem communicating with the cabin crew.  Meals matched the menus.  Cockpit announcements were in English and Chinese.   All in all, these flights were a completely different, much-improved experiences compared to the horrible China Eastern flight in business class last year from JFK to PVG.  The low fares China Eastern offers from time to time offer real value especially for Delta elites in need of a MQD fix.

 

 

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