Earlier this week, I got to experience a relatively quick flight in Air China’s Forbidden Pavilion First Class on a flight between Shanghai’s Pudong International Airport and Tokyo’s Narita International Airport. This 2.5 hour flight was booked as part of my around the world trip using US Airways miles.
Compared to my flight in THAI Royal First Class and ANA First Class, I was extremely underwhelmed with my experience with Air China. I’d even prefer United’s GlobalFirst Class over this, simply because the hard product (the seat) just doesn’t compare. Don’t get me wrong — any flight in an international first class cabin is a privilege, but I’m just comparing apples to apples here.
On this flight, we flew an aged B747-400 aircraft, and I was seated in seat 2A, as the only passenger in first class.
Interestingly enough, the first class cabin on this plane was not located in the nose of the 747, but instead was between the first and second sets of doors in an area typically designated for business class. This first class cabin was incredibly dated, but it did feature a full lie-flat bed, and is very similar in design to the old first class seats on American’s international fleet. Air China is eventually phasing these 747s out of their fleet, and that was pretty obvious, as the interior of this plane clearly hadn’t been refreshed in quite some time.
Though this was a short flight, I was offered a full, multi-course lunch service. The food was actually pretty decent, and the entrée — though more of a business class-style meal — was actually quite good. I ordered the steak and received a petite tenderloin that was cooked to a perfect medium — always a nice surprise onboard any flight.
The in flight entertainment consisted of an old, flip-out screen, with very little programming. It certainly wouldn’t be adequate for a longer flight, but on this short flight I kept the in-flight map up the whole time. I passed time after the meal by snoozing and looking out the window as we flew parallel to the eastern coast of Japan on our approach to Narita.
I’ll post a full review of the flight later, but I did want to post my initial impressions of the flight. Though I realize Air China is offering a newer product on its newest airplanes on routes to North America, this short sample of its Forbidden Pavilion First Class certainly did not leave me anxious to experience it on a longer, Trans-Pacific flight!