Review: China Southern Business Class A380 Los Angeles To Guangzhou

Filed Under: China Southern

I arrived at LAX as late as possible for my flight to Guangzhou. China Southern uses the Korean Air Lounge for their passengers at LAX, which I find to be a less pleasant place to sit than the terminal (that’s not an exaggeration — obviously it’s better if you want to eat or drink for free, but otherwise the lounge is so overcrowded that I just skip it and sit in a quiet gate).

The check-in experience was quick, and the only noteworthy thing was the funny animated instructions they had.

China Southern check-in instructions

China Southern check-in instructions

China Southern check-in instructions

China Southern pretty consistently uses gate 148 at Tom Bradley International Terminal, which is the most convenient gate possible, as it’s just past the security checkpoint and to the left.

China Southern departure gate LAX

China Southern departure gate LAX

China Southern A380 LAX

My boarding pass indicated that boarding was scheduled to start at 9:20PM, a full hour before departure. I got to the gate at around 9PM, and about 10 minutes later they started setting people up in all kinds of different queues. While I don’t mind them trying to be organized, the issue is that the terminal really doesn’t have the space for 400 people to be unnecessarily queuing in the main terminal passage, as it adds even further to the congestion in the terminal.

At 9:30PM boarding began, starting with those who needed extra time, and followed by first and business class.

China Southern departure gate LAX

China Southern 328
Los Angeles (LAX) – Guangzhou (CAN)
Tuesday, January 30
Depart: 10:20PM
Arrive: 5:40AM (+2 days)
Duration: 15hr20min
Aircraft: Airbus A380
Seat: 24A (Business Class)

I boarded through the forward upper deck door, where I was greeted by several cabin crew and pointed right towards my seat. China Southern’s A380 has a total of 70 business class seats, all of which are on the upper deck (first class is on the lower deck). In addition to business class, there are 76 economy seats at the back of the upper deck.

China Southern’s A380 business class is in a staggered configuration, so each row has a total of four fully flat seats with direct aisle access. The forward cabin has 20 seats, while the rear cabin (where I was seated) has 50 seats.

China Southern A380 business class cabin

China Southern business class cabin A380

China Southern business class cabin A380

The window seats alternate between being closer to the aisle and closer to the window. I had reserved seat 24A, which was one of the seats closer to the window (which I’d highly recommend).

China Southern business class seat A380

The benefit of this seat is that you’re closest to the window (so it’s easiest to look outside), and also that you have the most privacy.

China Southern business class seat A380

China Southern business class seat A380

The other type of window seat is much closer to the aisle, and you almost feel like you’re in the aisle in these seats, in my opinion. It can also be tough to look out the window from these seats (in fairness, this flight had zero daylight, so that was less of a factor than usual).

China Southern business class seat A380

China Southern business class seat A380

Perhaps the one advantage is that when you recline your seat into bed mode, your knees won’t be quite as restricted, since you can bend them a bit since you’re right next to the aisle. That also increases your chances of being bumped as people walk by, though.

China Southern business class seat A380

In the center section, every other row has “honeymoon seats,” which are close together. Some couples traveling together love these. Even if I’m traveling with Ford I don’t like these, because I find that they’re just too close.

China Southern business class honeymoon seats

Then every other row in the center section has two seats that are much further apart and closer to the aisle. These are similar to the window seats that are further from the windows, except you don’t have much of a view.

China Southern business class center seat A380

So the moral of the story is that you’ll want a “true” window seat if possible. Once back at my seat I started to explore the features a bit. One thing I love is that China Southern has lockers on the side of the upper deck of the A380. This is due to the curvature of the fuselage, and is such an awesome feature, especially since these staggered seats otherwise lack storage. Having access to this much storage space is awesome (and is another advantage of selecting a window seat).

China Southern business class storage lockers

Speaking of storage, the overhead bins on the upper deck of the A380 are pretty snug, so you’ll just barely be able to fit a full size carry-on in them.

China Southern A380 overhead bins

Next to my seat was a console, which had an area you could place drinks, a full tray table, a power outlet, and a place you could put a bottle of water. This is also where the seat controls were.

China Southern business class seat side table

The tray table was easy to use — it slid right out, and could be folded in half if you just wanted a smaller tray.

China Southern business class tray table

There was already a bottle of water at my seat on boarding.

China Southern business class seat bottled water

The personal television was above the footwell, and was a good size.

China Southern business class personal television

Underneath the TV was the entertainment controller, the headphone jack, and a USB outlet. I found the placement of this to be a bit odd, especially for the headphone jack. The cord for the headphones wasn’t especially long, and if you watched a movie while eating, the cord just sort of dangled over your food.

China Southern business class entertainment controllers

Sometimes these staggered configurations just have tiny footwells that make it tough to sleep, but that wasn’t a problem here.

China Southern business class legroom

Waiting at my seat on boarding were two pillows, which is pretty rare in business class (I find that most airlines offer just one). The pillows were thin, though, so even when I stacked both of them they didn’t quite provide as much support as I like.

China Southern business class pillows

Waiting in the footwell were a mattress pad and duvet.

China Southern business class mattress pad & duvet

The duvet was thick, which generally I’d consider to be good, though it also felt quite warm, which isn’t ideal on an airline that tends to keep temperatures in the cabin high, and doesn’t offer individual air nozzles.

China Southern business class duvet

There was also a thin mattress sheet. I imagine this was more intended for sanitary purposes rather than to add comfort, since I didn’t feel like it made the seat any softer.

China Southern business class mattress pad

Also waiting at my seat on boarding were a pair of headphones, which were quite good.

China Southern business class headphones

Then there were slippers, a shoehorn, and a shoe bag.

China Southern business class slippers

There was also an amenity kit, which was alright. It had eyeshades, a comb, a toothbrush and toothpaste, earplugs, Q-tips, lip balm, and moisturizer.

China Southern business class amenity kit

Within a minute of settling in, one of the flight attendants presented me with a hot towel, which was really wet.

China Southern business class warm towel

Five minutes later I was offered a pre-departure beverage, with the choice between orange juice or apple juice. I chose the latter.

China Southern business class pre-departure drink

About 20 minutes after settling in, one of the flight attendants came through the cabin to inform each passenger of the flight time of 15hr10min, and then he took meal orders. He asked if I wanted both meals, and if I wanted to be woken if I were sleeping for either meal.

The strange thing is that he had a menu in his hand and his English wasn’t good at all, but rather than just showing me the menu (which would have made both of our lives easier) he proceeded to describe the options to me. “Do you want seafood, fish, or beef?” Then for breakfast he said the options were between “an omelet, a Chinese snack, or Chinese noodle.”

With such limited descriptions I asked if I could see the menu. He obliged, though only let me keep it for about five seconds (I wanted to grab a picture of it, so told him I had allergies and wanted to make sure I remembered what everything was, and therefore was taking a picture).

The further issue was that this seemed to be the flight attendant who spoke the best English. There were a lot of Americans in business class (mostly senior couples, which I guess makes sense given China Southern’s reasonable paid business class fares to points throughout Asia), and so every time they couldn’t understand what the crew was saying, they sent over this guy… but they couldn’t understand him either. I get it’s a Chinese airlines, but it seems like they could do a better job with crewing cabin crew for their flagship route — as a point of comparison, the flight attendant on my Guangzhou to Singapore flight spoke much better English.

At 10:10PM the cabin doors closed, with business class about two thirds full. At that point the series of announcements started. Chinese airlines have announcements from a “security officer,” which is clearly just a recording. I’ve always found it strange, though, based on how they phrase it — “hello, I am your security officer on today’s flight.” The first time I heard this I looked around the cabin to see if there was some random American dude on the plane wearing a TSA lookalike uniform.

At 10:15PM we began our pushback, and at the same time the safety video was screened. At 10:25PM we began our taxi, and just five minutes later we were cleared for takeoff on runway 24L. Our climb out was smooth but gradual.

To start off the flight I decided to browse the entertainment selection. The choices was quite good, with over 100 movies to choose from.

China Southern business class entertainment system

China Southern business class entertainment selection

China Southern business class entertainment selection

While the movie selection was good, the TV show selection was much more limited.

China Southern business class entertainment selection

China Southern business class entertainment selection

I also checked out the airshow. I like the system that China Southern uses, as you can customize what kind of a view you want of the route.

China Southern airshow

China Southern airshow

I decided to watch the movie “Victoria & Abdul.” I had seen this movie on a previous flight, but had missed the beginning. I enjoyed it just as much the second time.

The inflight service started about 35 minutes after takeoff. The dinner menu read as follows:

Service began with tablecloths and mixed nuts being distributed. Then about 10 minutes later a cart was rolled down the aisle with drinks. I ordered champagne, though they didn’t have any on the cart (despite having almost everything else), so the flight attendant had to run back to the galley to get it. I was impressed that they serve Taittinger champagne in business class, which is way better than the Duc De Paris that they served in first class several years ago when I flew with them.

China Southern business class dinner service — nuts and champagne

There was another flight attendant with a cart who served the appetizer 30 seconds after I was served the drink. I appreciate the quick service, though it’s a bit odd to serve nuts and drinks and then immediately service the appetizer.

The appetizer consisted of one shrimp, one scallop, and one crab leg, and was served with melon. It wasn’t bad.

China Southern business class dinner service — appetizer

Five minutes later a flight attendant passed through the cabin with a tray that had soup on it, which was a clam chowder with bacon curls.

China Southern business class dinner service — soup

The main course was served about 75 minutes after takeoff. I had ordered the stir fried Maine lobster in ginger garlic sauce, with seasonal vegetables and steamed rice. It was relatively good, though not amazing — the lobster tasted fairly low quality and chewy. Still, for a business class meal it was flavorful.

China Southern business class dinner service — main course

The service flow was just so strange, though. Plates were never cleared, but rather they just kept bringing things out without removing empty plates. At one point I asked if they could remove the plates, to which a flight attendant responded “I’ll come back.” I guess that’s technically true, because they did come back and clear plates at the very end of the meal.

No plates cleared in China Southern business class

Next up was an excellent fruit plate with an impressive variety of fruit.

China Southern business class dinner service — fruit plate

Lastly was the choice of dessert or cheese. I selected the blueberry cheesecake (which didn’t match the description on the menu, but was good).

China Southern business class dinner service — dessert

The entire meal was cleared about 1hr40min after takeoff. On the plus side, the meal was filling, the quality was fairly good, and they finished the service relatively quickly. However, the service flow was just so strange, in my opinion. The service was like an assembly line (which is the case on many airlines). The problem was that the assembly line wasn’t efficiently organized. They never cleared plates, never offered drink refills, and never specifically offered water to begin with. Ultimately this isn’t a huge deal, but their soft product just doesn’t compare to some other Chinese carriers, like Hainan or Xiamen.

After the meal I decided to check out the lavatory situation in business class, which was strange as well. There’s a single lavatory right at the front of the upper deck, past the mini-business class cabin.

China Southern A380 forward business class cabin

That lavatory was large, though wasn’t kept clean throughout the flight. With the exception of the first time I visited, it was disgusting.

China Southern business class lavatory A380

The amenities in the lavatory were limited to a big bottle of mouthwash and some hand lotion.

China Southern business class lavatory amenities

This lavatory was right next to the staircase leading down to the lower deck.

A380 staircase

What’s strange to me is that China Southern doesn’t do anything with the forward part of the cabin. Some airlines at least offer two big lavatories or a couch or something, but instead one side of the forward section just has closets that the crew don’t even seem to use.

China Southern A380

Eventually they set up a small drink selection in this area.

China Southern A380 drink bar

There was also a small display with some liquor, whole fruit, and chocolate.

China Southern A380 drink bar

The other lavatories for business class are at the very back of the cabin — there are none mid-cabin. There are four lavatories in the back, though they’re shared with economy. I’m not sure if it’s supposed to be that way, but that’s how it worked in practice.

A380 cabin after dinner

Once back at my seat it had been about two hours since takeoff, and I decided to get some sleep.

Airshow enroute to Guangzhou

Airshow enroute to Guangzhou

I put the seat into bed mode, and was extremely comfortable. I loved the privacy and the amount of personal space the seat afforded. I also grabbed an extra pillow from a vacant seat to get even more comfortable.

China Southern business class bed

I managed to get about 5.5 hours of sleep, and woke up over Russia, as we were reaching the halfway point of our flight. My sleep was mostly very good, though we hit some significant turbulence in the middle of the night, which woke me up for a bit. It stopped for a while, and then it started up again, at which point I decided to just stay up.

Really what woke me up was the pilot announcements every time. The pilots would never turn off the seatbelt sign, but rather would just do a double chime when there was turbulence. Once they did it three times in a row (like within a few seconds). I’m not sure if that was intentional, but it caused the crew to make the announcement three times in a row.

“We are experiencing some turbulence, lavatory cannot be used at this time. We are experiencing some turbulence, lavatory cannot be used at this time. We are experiencing some turbulence, lavatory cannot be used at this time.”

Airshow enroute to Guangzhou

Airshow enroute to Guangzhou

At this point I figured I’d check out the snack selection. The galley only had packaged cookies and some tiny sandwiches. I asked if they had any sort of ramen or anything as a snack, though they said they didn’t, and just pointed at the sandwiches and cookies. I feel like they should do better than that on a 15+ hour flight.

I grabbed a sandwich and some cookies for a picture, and was also given a cup of water.

China Southern business class snacks

I decided to work for a bit, and about an hour later ordered a coffee with milk. I was given coffee and a carton of milk. I guess that’s quite a literal interpretation of my order.

China Southern business class coffee

2hr30min before landing the cabin lights were turned on and warm towels were distributed. It was another 20 minutes until there was any more service. The breakfast menu read as follows:

Next up tablecloths being distributed and drinks being served. I ordered a black tea. The only options were black tea, green tea, or Chinese tea, and I feel like they could have a better selection than that.

China Southern breakfast service — tea

About 20 minutes later a tray was served with Raisin Bran, yogurt, and fresh fruit. There was also a bowl with milk. I was never offered a spoon. I asked twice for one, and both times was told to “wait a moment,” though I never received it, so I ate my cereal with a fork (as one does).

China Southern breakfast service — fruit plate, yogurt, and cereal

Then there was a breadbasket with all kinds of sweets in it.

China Southern breakfast service

Once again, rather than clearing anything, I was brought out the main course, and the flight attendant looked confused about where she should place it.

China Southern breakfast 

The omelet with asparagus and potato cake was excellent.

China Southern breakfast — omelet

The pilots never made any announcements, though about an hour before landing the purser announced that we’d be landing at 5:25AM. The cabin already had to be prepared for arrival 45 minutes out, which meant seats had to be upright, personal belongings stowed, etc.

Airshow enroute to Guangzhou

Sure enough, we landed right at 5:25AM.

Final approach to Guangzhou

From there we had about a 10 minute taxi to our arrival gate. Unfortunately we weren’t free to deplane yet. The police met the flight, and they arrested someone seated in the back of business class (I’m not sure what exactly he did, but he was physically removed from the plane.

China Southern A380 business class bottom line

On the plus side, China Southern’s A380 business class features staggered seats that are spacious, and I love the lockers that are next to the window seats. The A380 is a joy to fly, given how quiet and smooth it is.

The food, entertainment, and amenities on the flight were decent enough, so I don’t have any major issues there. The service was also well intentioned.

Where China Southern is subpar is with their service execution. The flow of the meal service was poorly thought out, getting drink refills was tough, and I repeatedly requested things that I never received. This isn’t a cultural difference, as I’ve had fantastic service experiences on Chinese carriers like Hainan and Xiamen. It’s just a lack of training.

All that being said, China Southern is so much better than when I flew them a few years ago in first class, so they deserve credit for that.

If you’ve flown China Southern business class, what was your experience like?

  1. “… I guess that’s quite a literal interpretation of my order” Reading this made me laugh for half a minute

  2. Flown them from yvr. Perhaps it’s the location, but since yvr has the best fare deals to Asia I’d only ever consider flying a Chinese airline for $1400 usd or less (RT business). Service is always sub par, the bathrooms are almost always filthy (huge negative), and the food is just terrible. Not a fan of Mainland Chinese airlines at all.

  3. Hi Lucky
    How long before your flight could you do seat selection? I booked through expedia for a flight in May. Expedia refer everything to the airline and the airline refer you back to the ‘channel where you purchased the ticket’. I just called Expedia and they said you can only reserve seats from 24 hrs before flight? Did you encounter the same thing?

  4. I’d sooner fly this, warts and all in respect of service, than the abysmal, miserable, woefully pathetic J on the Lufthansa 380 the other night ( the meanest seat in the sky, BA included…narrow, angled sideways making it impossible to turn in sleep, so close to the neighbour it is gross in unwanted intimacy, no bedding at all on a 13 hour flight).
    Give me Chinese airlines any day over those pseudo-stylish, wannabes. They need to focus more on the cabin than the ludicrous livery issue.
    With the Chinese what you see is what you bet: it’s better that way.

  5. Excellent review! You really do work your arse off, especially at the beginning of the flight. It’s much appreciated!

  6. I have enjoyed reading your comments on China Southern Lucky. You literally have me laughing out loud while reading passages to my husband!

  7. China Southern does usually offer quite attractive offers. I agree with that. Their service is very basic with nothing extraordinary. I actually think China Eastern has come along a long way and they have been much better in terms of service and food.

    @Lucky if you think Hainan is so good, you should try them on domestic flights. They are not that great and they are also very robotic. I had much better food and service on Shenzhen Airlines and China Eastern Airlines in first class.

  8. I guess they expect you to stack up empty plates so they only need to clear them at the end.
    IMO Xiamen Airlines is the best mainland Chinese airline both domestic and international. They recognize alliance status consistently and service is usually the best. The funny thing is that China Southern owns 55% of Xiamen Airline. Same applied to Shenzhen Airlines and Air China. Never understand the logic.

  9. I flew JFK-CAN J on a paid fare in 2016. The hard product was solid and I slept more than I usually do on flights. The service was fairly good, but there’s definitely a communication barrier. I definitely prefer CZ J to Hainan J. Either way, it’s a luxury not to be in the back on such a long flight. Clearing customs/immigration in CAN was the most uncomfortable part.

  10. For some reason Chinese airlines like to recycle menus- i.e. distribute it on numerous flights, even in First Class. That’s my impression of why they are so keen on taking back the menus.

  11. Thanks for finally getting this series started. I hope it’s not going to be 12 days between each post going forward. Unless of course this needs to last until Christmas.

  12. What exactly is “snow fungus”? Is it just bad translation or do they serve unappetizing Chinese food with strange names on planes? I have never flown a Chinese airline (have no wish to start) and noticed that @Lucky really never orders the Chinese options other than the occasional stir fried seafood. This is completely opposite where when he flies Air India, Emirates, or Qatar he would order the ethnic meals in a heart beat.

  13. @Sara

    If you’re eligible, consider applying for an APEC Business Travel Card (ABTC). Getting through passport control with the ABTC is a snap. While I haven’t flown internationally to CAN in a long time, it’s worked like a charm at many other ports of entry, both airports and land crossings. And of course, it’s works in other APEC countries too.

    That still leaves customs and their x-ray checks, but it’s a big help.

  14. @Lucky, can you please advise how the big bottle of Listerine is used in the bathroom? Do they re-stock if a passenger takes the whole thing or do some passengers take a wee nip each? If so, how?

  15. @Bill they probably should translate as “white wood ear” . The term “Wood ear” has been widely used so should not confuse.

    You are right that Lucky is not fun of chinese food I guess. For example, Sichuan Airlines ‘s only bright spot is their chinese food offering however he choose western style and got really disgusted.

  16. @CM

    Those bottles of Listerine had me thinking the same thing. Actually the only thing that stood out. I wouldn’t touch them! A dispenser or those mini bottles would be ideal, but not the big bottles.

  17. @lucky, Thanks for the review! Seems worth mentioning that it’s basically Emirates A380 hard product without the wood paneling.

  18. Lobsters that are not fresh are frozened lobsters. Definitely not premium quality for business or first class. Glad to know about the champagne upgrade.

  19. @Stanley

    Yes, but since this review is about business class, I think we should keep things formal 😉

    I’m also glad Lucky toned down his rant about the plates. It wouldn’t have hurt him to stack them. In his preview post his acid tongue came across as entitled and snobby.

  20. Cynthia – you are a dimwit. Stack your own plates? I guess he can take them back to the galleys too.

  21. Correct me if I’m wrong but isn’t this the same seat as the Emirates A380 J class, without the bells and whistles?

  22. Cynthia: I’m already irritated by your comments (or should I say “all ready,” awkwardly?) because Lucky’s an altogether (or should I say “all together,” incorrectly?) fine writer who realizes, unlike you, that language changes and that’s alright.


  23. Lucky ordered right, based on my experience with ANA and KAL J out of LHR. Let the western flight kitchens cook your outbound western menu meals and have the Asian food, cooked by natives in Japan, Korea or, in this case, China, homeward-bound. I learned that the hard way last time I had a Korea prepared western entree that was inedible…

    Sure, execution, as Lucky put it, was a little lacking on this flight but good intention seems also to have been present. Not a bad menu choice or presentation. Lack of English ability amongst flight crew has also been a small problem on ANA and KAL; last KAL flight I simply could not understand what the attendant working my aisle was saying but smiles and pointing to the menu got the desired results.

    Looking forward to the rest of this review series.

  24. @Cynthia – why not ask for a white coffee? Reminds me of a time when in NJ and my wife asked for a white coffee in a Dunkin Donuts and the complete bemusement of the staff. His response? ‘But coffee is black. In the end my wife was rescued by our friends who explained that we were British. The point though is if people in the US do not know what a white coffee is then I think we can give Chinese airlines some leeway!

  25. Hey Cindy-Lou…

    Girl, you’re funny. I’m imagining you snobbishly correcting everyone’s English with a smug little grin on your face, all the while sitting in front of stacks of dirty dishes as if you just went to town on the buffet at Golden Corral.

  26. Was that you or other blogger who wrote about the $5 ‘Champagne’ in CZ first class several years ago? It was such a viral post in the Chinese frequent flier community that the management of CZ actually noticed it, and they changed and also improved quite a few premium services shortly after.

  27. Was there an amenity kit?

    In regard to the milk with coffee, the packet that Lucky was the expensive one, it is sold for US$1 per small packet in supermarkets in China, which is a much better product than the coffee mate or those small milk cup we were thinking. But, me, being an overseas Chinese, I found that amusing too.

    As for Snow Fungus, I had to read the Chinese to know what that is, and I don’t have a better translation than that. It is more like a cheap version of Swallow Nest, it should give a clear, subtle taste with traditional dessert.

  28. HNA on domestic flights is quite basic,a lot of unskilled young people .,good enough for china public but not enough to pretend a 5 star airline in general>The long haul is better but it depends for great deal on the type of cabincrew they give on that flight,

  29. @jp thank you for pointing that out. Like I said before, Lucky keeps praising them. They may seem great in international long haul, but I cannot say the same when it is domestic. Not bad, but not to the standard that Lucky prescribes. Okay service, but terrible food.

  30. I’ve flown LAX-CAN on China Southern J several times in the past two years and Lucky’s review is spot on (nice hard product, quirky service) aside from one issue – the bathrooms have always been clean and well maintained on my flights. Weird.

  31. My experience matches Brian’s…clean lavatories…and cleaned several times during the flight. Quirky is probably a good description of the service. I think it’s very good…but it’s not Western style service….hardly surprising since they are not a Western airline. I enjoy flying with them, and value for money is outstanding compared with other long haul options.

  32. Nice review Lucky.
    I still wonder, why most Asian airlines keep their cabin so warm?

  33. Two adults traveling with girls (9 and 12). Should we (adults) sit honeymoon? And where should the girls sit? In the middle either in front or behind, or to our side?

    Or should we all sit in one row (even row) so we all get the maximum space and privacy with two true window seats and distanced (is that a word?) center seats?

  34. I booked a business class reservation for my elderly parents using their telephone number as their contact number. I called to request wheelchair service and put in their FF miles number and after waiting for 15 min a representative came on to ask for ticket numbers and verify passenger information. After verifying everything, she told me I needed to use my parent’s phone to call so they can be sure it’s them wishing to add the passenger service request. I told her I am not asking for anything that violates their privacy and for me to go to my parent’s house and then to call them back and be on hold again, that is just too impractical. She said I should call them back during their morning and that their number in America just transfers to China (no US staff).

    Lesson learned that I should either not take them or book with a travel agent next time. The rigidness of these China based airlines in doing business is just mind blowing. Their customer service mantra is “how can I not get into trouble today” and not “how can I help our customers”

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