I keep an overall good impression on this Amsterdam – Bangkok flight (and the return two days later) in the business class of an A340. There were a few negatives and some great positives, and also good ideas that certain airlines could benefit from being inspired by.
Firstly, the flight departed from Amsterdam, with access to the KLM/Skyteam lounge. The lounge is always pleasing, well designed, nice-looking, and functional, with a large choice of food: a soup, a salad, a hot dish, and a dessert that changes regularly. There’s also the certainty of finding some Gouda to get ready for a “Dutch pistol” (the Belgian will understand). It began well even before the flight began.
Next, China Airlines is an Asian airline (Taiwanese). The crew had then a great sense of service, symbolized by a bowing salute in the beginning and end of the flight. Smiling, discrete, and efficient, they always called you by your name. And the cabin chief came to talk to each passenger in the beginning as well as the end of the flight. However (and this is my first complaint), the cabin crew disappeared from the cabin when meals (dinner and breakfast) were not being served. Knowing the Taiwanese competitor EVA, the different is stark. Of course, you can get a glass of water, a sandwich, or a refreshing towelette while you are sleeping, but it’s always reassuring and practical to have crew members who regularly pass by the cabin.
Second negative point: the seats. They were of the no-shell, limited-reclination generation. It gave a somewhat cheap and not-very-intimate impression. However, the base remained horizontal, which is more practical than a perfectly flat but inclined toboggan off which you are permanently sliding. To make up for that, China Airlines gave very high quality accessories: a sufficiently large blanket, an also large and comfortable pillow, slippers (and not socks like the Western airlines), a travel kit… The headphones, whose KLM-blue didn't really go with the cabin’s pink/violet, produced a good quality sound and had incredible noise compensation. There was a large touchscreen on the armrest (avoiding the inconveniences of shell seats that have a reduced armrest and a screen that is too far to be controlled without you having to bend, but still being less practical that seats in staggered rows) with a large choice of movies (including films in French, but none in Dutch). And above all they served a quality meal, with an aperitif before take-off (a drink and accompanying snack), an appetizer, a starter dish, a choice of main dish, fruits, a dessert, a liqueur (I included the picture of my favorite liqueur… by Napoleon). All of this was after they had taken your orders (even if there are not really many dishes to choose from) and individually served you at the time you desired. This is what makes it a business service, wouldn't you say? Yes, it's true, but other airlines have reduced their serviced to such an extent that this seemed almost exceptional.
Breakfast was equally generous and served with care. They had the good idea (that was always evident to me, but not always followed by many airlines) of first serving the drink (orange juice and coffee) to all business passengers, than the meal trays, instead of the other way around or both at the same time. Because, personally, I start with the orange juice and I hate to watch an omelet get cold while the crew serves the whole cabin before me, and I hate it even more when they turn on the lights, wake me up, and make me wait for 20 minutes before having breakfast while they slowly serve everything to everyone in every row. The tea/coffee was served with silver tableware and are prepared by the flight attendant who asked you how much sugar you wanted and offered you a second cup while you were having your meal. But unfortunately, the orange juice was synthetic…
Anyway, because it’s the most important, the flight took off and arrived on time (my bag came too), with some turbulence (but limited announcements, as to not uselessly disturb the passengers in their sleep) and a “PREMIUM LANE” coupon that let you pass more quickly by customs. So, here’s an airline for which replacing the seats would make it perfect or almost so, since the rest was perfect already.
Also for the return trip, I booked a seat on the first row. You don’t feel the lack of a shell. According to the menu, the meal would served “super very shortly after take-off” (to let us rest as soon as possible on this flight that took off in the middle of the night) and they kept their promise: appetizer, main dish, dessert, tea/coffee served in record time. But without sacrificing the quality (the beef with sauce was reheated and served in a paper pan to keep it from getting mixed with the puree and the vegetables: you void the unidentifiable goo of sauce-based French dishes). But even better: the travel kit was different to keep you from getting bored (and the headphones were gray this time)… This is just a detail, but that’s how airlines make the difference!
In short, China Airlines had a good service. It’s no doubt better than European airlines, but still not the best Asian one.
PS: for the fans of “flickr reports,” but also to greet the new feature that lets you add a caption, I added many pictures. If you don’t like it… don’t go see them!
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