China Eastern’s Strange New 737 Business Class Seats

Filed Under: China Eastern

It’s always nice to see airlines invest in better premium seats on narrow body aircraft, though China Eastern’s new seats are leaving me a bit conflicted…

China Eastern’s new 737 business class

Twitter user @talkairlines reports how China Eastern has installed new business class seats on one of their 737-800s. Previously the airline had “standard” narrow body premium seats within China, which would be similar to what you’d find in domestic first class within the US.

China Southern’s A320 business class

China Eastern has installed angled seats on the 737-800 with the registration code B-7591. These new seats are manufactured by AVIC Hubei Ali Jiatai, which is a Chinese seat manufacturer.

There are two things that stand out:

  • While I suppose angled seats are a bit better than your standard domestic premium seats, in reality they’re quite uncomfortable, and it’s sad to see an airline introduce these in any capacity in 2020
  • Those inflight entertainment screens are tiny

It’s one thing if the airline were simply reusing seats from old wide bodies and putting them on 737s, but it’s my understanding that these are actually new seats.

It’s not yet known how many 737s will get these seats, and for what it’s worth, this plane seems to almost exclusively operate domestic flights.

The better seat they should have gone with

For the most part fully flat seats take up more space than angled seats, so they were probably trying to find a happy medium, offering a more comfortable seat without wasting too much space.

In those situations, logically they should have gone with the Collins Aerospace Diamond seat. This is a fully flat seat that’s space efficient, because the footwell for a particular seat is to the side of the seat in front, so the pitch is similar to an angled seat. Lots of airlines have this, including La Compagnie on their all business class A321neos.

Collins Aerospace Diamond seats


Collins Aerospace Diamond seats

Then again, I suspect this deal came down to them wanting to buy seats from a Chinese manufacturer rather than a foreign one. At least that’s my only explanation, because I can’t imagine any other reason you’d select this seat.

Innovative seats on other Chinese airlines

China Eastern won’t be the first Chinese airline to have premium seats on narrow body planes. For example, Xiamen Air’s 757s have three cabin configurations, with angled seats in first class and recliner seats in business class.

Xiamen Air 757 first class


Xiamen Air 757 business class

It’s my understanding that Shenzhen Airlines also has angled business class seats on their 737-800s and A320s, and fully flat seats on their 737-900s.

Maybe there are some other Chinese airlines I’m missing that also have angled seats on narrow bodies?

Bottom line

While I guess this business class seat represents an improvement over the old product, I can’t think of any other airline in the world installing angled seats on planes in 2020. These seats are simply so uncomfortable, and there are more comfortable and space efficient options out there.

It will be interesting to see how many 737s get these seats.

What do you make of China Eastern installing angled seats on their 737s?

(Featured image courtesy of Aero Icarus)

Comments
  1. I never wished to be colour blind, but after having seen the terrifying palette on board of Xiamen air planes in these last two photos… now I do.

  2. Maybe the aerospace diamond seats are less efficient when in a one row Configuration, given that the galley is in front of where the footwell is.

  3. @Speedbird better to have flat-bed seat on short haul then recliners. I love to fly with Qatar because they have also flat-beds on A320 used on Gulf Routes (2-4 h flight time).

  4. I am sure over time we’ll see more and more Chinese manufactured seats installed in Chinese operated planes. Also if it’s for short flights I don’t think it matters.

  5. Chinese businesses, large or small, have a lot of extra things to consider than the counterparts here. It’s not just what’s the best for bottom line of the business. This reflects on the difference on individualism between the two countries.

  6. Jiatai and Thompson are owned by the same company -AVIC so why not go with Thompson seats, as used on newer widebody fleet? – this is definitely more of a desire for Chinese products to be installed. Appreciate the common design language though. Also IFE will definitely have been specified by airline rather than seat manufacturer/designer.

  7. It is going to be used in domestic flight. Most of Chinese domestic flights are between 2 to 3 hours. Like the distance between New York to Chicago or New York to Houston.

  8. Certification of other seats is probably an issue.
    There are many airlines flying flatbed seats on A320 and Boeing 757s. If you bought an off the shelf seat that someone else has already certified great.

    Boeing 737s are more rare to be found in a lie-flat config, and the options you listed probably aren’t available.

    I’d take an angled lie flat over a standard recliner. Sure, a fully flat, seat is better, but you are most likely going to relax or nap rather than sleep on a 737 domestic flight.

    For regional routes, it really depends on what you are comparing against. In the US – this seems very similar to the AA business class on 767s up until the recent change, and is a big step from up from domestic first on 737-800s. In Europe, try to compare this to what counts as Clue Europe on BA on similar length routes. In Asia, JAL, Korean and Asiana use these angled lie-flats on regional routes. Cathay Pacific has a really uncomfortable regional product.

  9. Can confirm that Shenzhen has recliners on their 737s that lean very far back (seemed comparable to the ones on Silk Air to me)

  10. Well, from a European perspective these are really problems that make us envious … Of course, both the previous seat and the angled flat one are vastly superior to the European “block middle seat” offering. Comparing the traditional first/business class seat and the angled flat option, I would definitely prefer the angled flat one.

  11. As someone who works in the Chinese Aerospace industry, it’s likely this was just a nationalism move, to get more Chinese products on their planes. AVIC is government owned as well as most of the major Chinese airlines. This is fairly common practice to choose a Chinese product solely because it is “Made in China”, regardless of cost, comfort, etc. Probably shouldn’t think too much about this one. The airlines and AVIC (basically the parent company of all Chinese Aerospace) are more closely tied than one would think.

  12. I think this is a massive step ahead of the business products across Europe lucky, where a business class cabin is essentially an economy section with a middle seat left free. The soft product across Europe is good, with lounge access, fast track and more but the hard product isn’t anything like this. And to be fair, for 2/3 hours that’s not such an issue! 🙂

  13. Personally a much bigger fan of recliner seats on short haul than angle flat. On Sub-3 hour flights I rarely want to sleep and otherwise recliner seats are much more comfortable than angle-flat and I’d argue more comfortable even when sleeping. Obviously lie-flat is above both these however.

  14. Aside from the comical tiny screens, I don’t see anything wrong with these seats for a 737! My personal favorite would be the Xiamen 757 F type (same as old AA F 757). Loved these seats as they raised AND cradled so so comfortable, better than any angled seats.

    Therein is my point… It’s comes down to taste and I’m glad they are not doing what everyone else is. It gets boring, and believe it or not, people have different tastes!

    Lastly, there is something very soothing for the mind and eye to be parallel. The angles, no matter the privacy, can be disconcerting for many.

  15. Ben you’re right to call this out as nationalism, but did it occur to you that the strange seats you encountered in Japan were also by a domestic Japanese manufacturer? I’m no DJT fan but even a stopped clock is right twice a day. Other countries haven’t been playing by fair trade rules for decades.

    Those MU seats look like the ones installed in premium cabins on Chinese trains. Lots of room, but strangely uncomfortable.

  16. These seats are produced by AVIC Hubei Ali Jiatai and clearly are AVIC’s attempt to get in the seat business. This is subsidized by the chinese government forcing their state run airlines to purchase the seats. Id be curious how operable these seats are in the next year or so.

  17. Lucky, if something in China doesn’t make sense, it has a reason.

    This screams bribery to me, somebody/people at MU got paid by Jiatai to get this approved…

  18. The are actually quiet comfortable and also great for kids that wants to slide during their flight.

  19. btw – there *are* lie flat seats certified for 737 (MAX)s – Copa has some. Although obviously Copa is flying far longer routes with those 737s than China Eastern is planning to, and yes, the angled seat is still an upgrade over the recliner.

  20. “For example, Xiamen Air’s 757s have three cabin configurations, with angled seats in first class and recliner seats in business class.”

    Correction:

    For example, Xiamen Air’s 757s had three cabin configurations, with angled seats in first class and recliner seats in business class.

    Reason:

    Xiamen Air has retired all of their B757s.

  21. Would these seats be adequately safe during emergencies – that is my biggest concern with these “Made in China” seats. Are these certified by EASA/FAA or is it Chinese move “hey FAA approve this seat then we approve 737 MAX for you” bargain?

  22. @lucky
    these are the exact same seat that Shanghai Airline got for their 767, as they all got retired, I think this is the source of the seat

  23. @Mark4
    From the perspective of the western readers of this blog, expats who live and work in China??? ::eyeroll::

  24. I believe this equipment, based in KMG Kunming (not China Eastern’s primary hub Shanghai), will be used on longer SE Asia routes like MLE, which is about 6 hours. An angle-flat seat for such flight is really needed imo. There’s also a good chance to see this 737 flying domestically out of Kunming.

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