Introduction: Visiting Pandas In China

Filed Under: Uncategorized

Welcome to my next trip report, covering flights in Xiamen Air business class, a couple of Starwood properties in China, and a really fun time getting up close to Pandas.

Planning the trip

My friend Andrew and I try to take trips together whenever we can. For those of you who have been long time readers, you may remember that Andrew won a blog contest back in 2013 that had us going to Helsinki together, and we’ve been friends ever since. Andrew has accompanied me on some fun trips over the years, so when we saw some good fares to China on Xiamen Air, it seemed like a great opportunity to take another trip.

Booking flights

The flights were what motived this trip initially. In June Xiamen Air had some fantastic business class fares out of Los Angeles, given that this is a new route for them. The great fares were available to destinations all over China, so we tried to decide which city to go to (Andrew even asked you guys where we should go). In the end we decided that Chengdu would be the most fun destination, given that the Sichuan province has a large percentage of the world’s panda population, so we were hoping to see some of them.

Since Xiamen Air’s hub is in Xiamen, we even managed to book a one night stopover in Xiamen on the return. In the end we booked the following itinerary in business class the whole way for ~$1,850:

09/29 MF830 Los Angeles to Xiamen departing 12:15AM arriving 5:30AM
09/30 MF8401 Xiamen to Chengdu departing 7:35AM arriving 10:25AM

10/02 MF8442 Chengdu to Xiamen departing 3:15PM arriving 5:55PM
10/03 MF829 Xiamen to Los Angeles departing 8:05PM arriving 6:00PM

Some of you may recall that I flew Xiamen Air last year from Seattle to Shenzhen when they first launched that route (it was their first to the US). However, this review should be a bit different. That route was operated by a 787-8, which features Xiamen Air’s old business class and first class.

On their 787-9s, Xiamen Air decided to introduce a new business class product, and the plane doesn’t have first class, so it’s a significantly different product.

Originally there wasn’t even a specific mileage motivation with this trip, though since we had this booked, both Andrew and I decided to start a Delta Platinum status challenge. While I’m used to the generous mileage earning rates available on partner airlines through AAdvantage, Delta’s mileage earning rates on non-preferred partners are shockingly bad. For example, my discounted business class ticket earned me just 75% elite qualifying miles. Hey, it’s still better than nothing, I guess, since we would have taken the trip either way.

Booking hotels

For this trip we had two nights in Chengdu and one night in Xiamen. Both Hyatt and Starwood have a presence in both cities, and we decided to book Starwood, in this case.

For Chengdu we booked the St. Regis. I love the St. Regis brand, and this one was ~$150 per night, which seemed tough to beat.

Then in Xiamen we booked the Le Meridien, which was also ~$150 per night.

Both hotels looked great online, so stay tuned for our experiences.

Bottom line

Both Chengdu and Xiamen very pleasantly surprised me as destinations. Andrew will also be writing about his experience flying with Xiamen, as well as the panda volunteer program we did in Chengdu, which seemed like the best way to get pretty close to the animals.

Much like my last trip with them, Xiamen Air impressed me. Actually, what impressed me most weren’t the longhaul flights as such, but rather the excellent experience we had flying with Xiamen Air domestically, from the onboard service to the lounges to the transfers to planes at remote stands.

Along with Hainan, I continue to think that Xiamen is one of China’s best airlines.

Thanks for reading!

  1. Review: Panda Volunteer Program At Dujiangyan Base
    Review: Xiamen Airport Domestic Lounge
    Review: Xiamen Air Business Class 737 Chengdu To Xiamen

    Is the “Xiamen Airport Domestic Lounge” installment meant to be titled “Chengdu Airport Domestic Lounge”?

  2. In addition, the last installment should be more like “Review: Xiamen Air 787-9 Business Class Xiamen to Los Angeles” instead of “Review: Xiamen Air 787-9 Business Class Los Angeles To Xiamen”

  3. Next time stay in Conrad in Xiamen, I’ve stayed there one night for transit between Melbourne and Shanghai. The suite (upgraded), service and status recognition was over the top, and it’s only AU$230 ($180) per night.

  4. Why go through all these trouble when there is a direct flight from SFO to CTU on United? And it’s also on B787. same thing

  5. It’s high time Xiamen Air got a tag of its own: such a professional airline ought not to be classed under ‘other airlines’.

  6. Sergei

    Perhaps because it was a) a cheap fare and b) reviewing different airlines is what he does

  7. @Sergei Because both the hard product and soft product is different between the airlines. On the 789, XiamenAir has reverse herringbone seats in a 1-2-1 configuration whereas United has 2-2-2 BE Aerospace Diamond seats. Additionally, someone loyal to SkyTeam would choose Xiamen over United

  8. @Herbertgzb
    I bet it was the Le Meridien Xiamen. “full “spa service is especially popular there.

  9. so aside from doing status match, what is the best to credit this to. i’ve looked at the link and still having trouble with strategy. Korean since they are transferrable with all credit card currencies? Flying Blue is devaluing…

  10. Disappointed you guys didn’t stay in the Conrad in Xiamen. It is truly stunning, and this comes from somebody who has stayed in most Park Hyatt’s in Asia. Sometimes you just have to let go of your primary program(s), especially given how cheap the Conrad is using points and cash – though I’m guessing it was affected by massive Hilton devaluation of points and cash bookings.

  11. “Along with Hainan, I continue to think that Xiamen is one of China’s best airlines.”

    I disagree. I continue to think that along with Hainan, Xiamen is (merely) one of MAINLAND China’s best airline. If we do not restrict ourselves to the mainland, but consider the whole of China instead, EVA Air (based in Taipei, China) and Cathay Pacific (based in Hong Kong, China) are two of China’s best airlines, surpassing both Hainan and Xiamen Air.

    Surely you will exclude Hawaiian Airlines and Alaska Airlines when considering CONTIGUOUS United States’ best airlines, but will include them both when considering the whole of United States’ best airlines. No?

  12. I really can not understand how a person who spit bad words in the back about a country could want to pay a visit to that country and even put this on a blog.

    There are several phrases I can think of: professional, money talks, soft bone or schizophrenia

  13. Lmao ‘full’ spa service…
    In China we call it ‘da bao jian’ (大保健), literally speaking ‘grand healthcare’. Actually, I just don’t know whether there is indeed such kind of service provided, but in terms of Xiamen’s regulation I don’t think this kind of practices should exist

Leave a Reply

If you'd like to participate in the discussion, please adhere to our commenting guidelines. Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *