Friday, January 25, 2013

China Eastern Airlines

My flight from New York JFK to Bangkok was on China Eastern Airlines.  It was the cheapest airfare available at the time of booking and as far as I am concerned there is not much difference between airlines when it comes to getting you to your destination.  I have friends who vehemently disagree with me, but they fly more than I do and often use business class and notice the differences between airlines.  They know which airline serves the best food, has the best service, best seating alignment, and on-time record.  Most of these things don't matter to me, although I always like a good in-flight meal.

As I read through traveler's comments about this airline I was prepared for a grueling 20 hours endurance marathon.  People complained of almost every aspect of this airline, but I was committed to the best price and would suffer if I had to.

The beginning of the process was somewhat unsettling as I looked at several airline pricing search engines and when I found China Eastern I tried to go directly to the airline website to book as I usually do.  I feel more confident and comfortable knowing I am dealing directly with the company.  As it turns out booking directly is only available to residents of China.  My only other option was to book through a second party booking agent, Orbitz.  Not my ideal method of booking since I have been burned by using a second party booking site before, which was way inconvenient.  (Airline says the booking agent is responsible, booking agent says the airline is responsible).

Ok, I booked through Orbitz.  You only get the choice of "isle", "center", or "window" seat when booking and they put you where their computer puts you and that's it.  Can't change seating assignment.  I requested isle seats and for the long JFK - BKK 15 hour flight I would be very near the toilet.  Thought I would have to "grin and bear it".

Upon check-in I asked if my seat could be moved and the very pleasant desk agent gave me 4 different options!  I chose the exit row over the wing, hurrah.  Maybe this wouldn't be so bad after all.
Boarding was straight forward, everybody in a line, no row call-outs to fill the back of the plane first.  It was exceptionally fast and seemed to me more efficient.

This aircraft was an Airbus something or other and seemed as new as any other airline's equipment.  It did not have seat back entertainment, which I don't usually use anyway.  There were drop-down screens - one movie at a time.  Suited me since I rarely watch the movie anyway.  We got a wet towel before food service and drinks came first.  I had water and a red wine.  Dinner choice was "chicken rice" or "fish noodle".  I had the most delicious baked white fish with Chinese spiced noodles and vegetables.  I can't remember the second meal, but it was good as well.  Service was very good as when I asked for hot tea, which was not on the service cart, the FA brought it as soon as she could get back to the galley.

The second leg of the flight from Shanghai to Bangkok was similarly pleasant although my seat was not an exit row seat I was comfortable for the slightly less then 5 hour flight in the same type of aircraft.

I won't give China Eastern an A+, but I won't discount them for future travel either.

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