China Southern Emailed Me!

Last week I flew China Southern in first class from Los Angeles to Guangzhou and then from Guangzhou to Tokyo Narita. My experience was rather unique, to put it mildly. So I was actually really impressed when I received the following email out of the blue from China Southern yesterday:


First of all, thank you for having been flying with China Southern Airlines. We noticed that you have published valuable comments towards several China Southern flights you took. I would like to express our sincerest appreciations and apology to you.

On reviewing your comments, the company management put heavy emphasis and asked the service dept. to conduct an immediate and thorough survey towards what you have pointed out. And internal discussion has been made on how to improve our premium passenger service and international flight services especially on software, e.g. catering service, cabin supplies and service staff in a short term.

For sure your comments will motivate us to further improve the service of China Southern Airlines. We sincerely invite you put continuous attention to us and share with us your comments and advices through Services and Products Management department’s email address: [email protected] We will improve accordingly. Thank you again.

We wish you all the best!

Sincerely yours,
Assistant President,Airline Products & Services Management Division,China Southern Airlines

Anyway, I’m really impressed that they emailed me to at least acknowledge the issues. I’m not sure what impact it will have in practice, though. I mean, if next week they go from serving Duc de Paris to Krug, I’ll gladly take credit for that. 😉 Or if next time the number of passengers booked in first class is the same as the number of passengers actually seated in first class. Or if the toilet doesn’t look like a Mississippi mudslide for all 15 hours, I’ll… okay, I won’t take credit for that….

But kudos to China Southern!

Filed Under: China Southern
  1. Lucky, I m glad they email you but to put their words in truth, do another flight review sometime this year and see if there are actual change. I would be very disappointed if their words are just for show and no actual implementation.

  2. Doesn’t most email come “out of the blue?” What sort of warning do you get before other emails arrive? Also, how is this message any different than any other form letter about vague references to future improvements? Does anyone really think China Southern was just were not aware that $5 champagne and random in-air upgrades to international first class were not typical on other carriers? This letter was anything BUT impressive.

  3. @Dax, the warning is usually the fact that you e-mailed that person first, or you have some kind of relationship then.

  4. @Dax, I think he meant the email came out of the blue in that he hadn’t initiated any correspondence with the airline, e.g. a formal complaint or inquiry.

    @David, I’m a native English speaker and I had no problem understanding the message within this email. Shall we take a crack at your Mandarin?

  5. @David I was assume that English is not the person first language, though some of the wording is odd, it is acceptable.

  6. @Pavel Do I run an airline with service to Mandarin speaking countries? If you look at lucky’s first TR, China Southern’s customer service left a comment and people pointed out the peculiar wording and grammar. Lucky also mentioned that language was a barrier in-flight. I’m not taking a crack at non-native speakers.. we’re discussing how a company conducts their business.

  7. @david the letter may not be an example of perfectly, grammatically written English letter, but it seems like the writer of this letter is sufficiently proficient in English IMHO. Saved for a few prepositions it didn’t come across as a poorly written letter.

  8. I have interacted with people of the world of different cultures and major religions and everything in between. It is unsettling to hear and read from people who claim to travel around the world but are quite ignorant of what the major objectives of traveling are all about. What is the percentage of English native speakers who are bilingual, trilingual or possibly multilingual? Excluding those who learn foreign language(s) at home. They visit foreign countries and expect the citizens to be English proficient to serve them well??? The King of Jordan is not fluent in Arabic because he was educated in Britain’s private elite schools. How can he be effective when he is not Arabic proficient or knowledgeable about his country? India has many dialects that Indians communicate with each other in English, though it is not a national language. Many foreign head leaders understand English but won’t speak it, such as Chou En Lai and especially French Presidents. Be open minded and learn geography, cultures and religions of countries that you visit.

  9. I liked their email and understood their English writing just fine…jeez people..Lighten up on that. It is a global economy for crying out loud and perfect English is not a requirement.

    Are you planning to email them back, Lucky? I certainly would to drive home the message these are pretty minor changes that China Southern can make fairly fast that would make a very big impact to their Western passengers. Offer to fly them again in the near future (at your own expense with $$ or miles) as a follow up since you would love to update your blog readers of their willingness to improve based on customer feedback.

    They would be foolish to overlook your comments with all your experience flying in first or biz class with so many airlines!

  10. @David

    I thought that email was perfectly clear. If you have difficulties understanding it, let me know and I can translate that for you to Mandarin.

  11. @JD No I’m good, thanks! But you’d be a real life-saver on China Southern flights operating between LAX-CAN.

  12. How many here would now give China Southern a shot after that “reassuring” letter? Not me, not in any class, my miles are too darn hard earned to waste, well, that’s just me.

  13. My office building in LA is actually where their US headquarters are located. I just saw a shipment of 100 cases of Gloria Ferrer Sparkling Wine being wheeled through the lobby.

    (I do work in their office building. I was kidding about the Gloria Ferrer. It was actually Barefoot Bubbly.)

    (Just kidding again.)

  14. @David Nobody said the letter’s English is perfect, but everyone understands what it means. And nobody is arguing with you about the proficiency in-flight. But you seem to stick to your point of lumping the corporate letter with the in-flight service and just issued a sweeping critique about “english proficiency” in *both*. Don’t you see this?

  15. I’ve seen native english speakers with poorer grammar.

    The email wasn’t bad in my opinion. At least there was no ‘engrish’ in it.

  16. Smile said,

    “How many here would now give China Southern a shot after that ‘reassuring’ letter? Not me, not in any class, my miles are too darn hard earned to waste, well, that’s just me.”

    ^ This.

    Sometimes I wish Lucky would stop rating everything from the perspective of “OMG it’s great for el cheapo first class!” and start rating it like he spent serious money on it. I wonder what sort of reviews we’d get if he compared the services rendered to the actual asking price instead of using his massive points slush fund as the basis for value.

  17. Because it was translated into Chinese and published on the website of the Chinese union of flight carries or something like that……which arouse a lot of attention from the Chinese frequent fliers.

  18. @jon

    I do. I was overly critical of the letter because my impression of the airline is so poor. But look at the flurry of apologists that I attracted with what I said. One comment heavily implies that I’m a bigot, while another points out that since I’m no good at Mandarin, I have no right to dish it. I think they’re both missing the point. China Southern has a sub-standard soft product in first class, and my gut tells me that this lack of quality is pervasive throughout the company. I guess we’ll see.

  19. Lucky, Rather than getting bogged down in the minutiae, I think this represents a wonderful opportunity for you and China Southern. What it really means is that people pay attention to your blog and make decisions based on that. So they have an opportunity to improve their product and some tangible ways to do it based on what I would call an expert opinion. We will find out over time if they do it. One bad review from you means a hell of a lot.

  20. @David
    Most crew members in UA, AA and Delta who serve China – US cannot speak Mandarin at all even though most passengers are Chinese.

  21. @Yangyang
    The difference is that there is at least one crewmember who speaks (at a minimum) enough conversational Mandarin to handle potential problems. The more salient detail here is that Lucky was in an empty first class cabin. I think people would agree when I say that there is a heightened expectation of exceptional service in first class. And since basic communication skills are the cornerstone of good service, China Southern fell far short of that expectation.

  22. China Southern had taken an internal investigation for several days, and on Feb 12 the CEO himself held a meeting to review the results.

    Your blog has been translated, and triggered lots of discussions on Weibo (Chinese version of Twitter) and other online forums in China.

  23. @zz – interesting info. What sort of discussions? Anti-US, anti-CS, or any other generalizations to be made?

  24. Cool how do you know all the commentators are from the United States? If you let go of your cultural biases you might realize that the citizens of many other countries speak English. For example, Canada and England, and Lucky undoubtedly has many followers from those two countries. They could have been the ones making the “arrogant” comments you refer to.

  25. @HF – I sure don’t understand your attacking tone. My question, which still stands, is to zz’s comment above and has to do with what the tone of the China “twitterish” reaction to Lucky’s post is. I’m curious about the “sides” taken.

    I was surprised to read that it had reached a critical mass or discussion on Chinese boards. What’s your point that I’ve missed in your rude comment?

  26. @David
    “The difference is that there is at least one crewmember who speaks (at a minimum) enough conversational Mandarin to handle potential problems.”

    I don’t think there is at least one FA who speaks Mandarin. And if there is one, does she/he really speak Mandarin? As a Mandarin/Cantonese bilingual speaker, I highly doubt so. United is slightly better, American and Delta su*ks.

    And, this is a Chinese airlines. If you travel to China or doing some business, you have to, or need to learn some simple Mandarin/Cantonese words to communicate with local people. This shows some respects, shows your heart. Otherwise, why not bother flying CZ?

  27. @colleen

    Sorry that I misunderstand your words..

    The info posted on Weibo (sort of twitter) has been a hot topic among Chinese frequent flyer community. The OP him(or her)self was very shame on CZ, while some commenters don’t care about it. Anti-US? Seriously? I don’t see any comments associated with that. Lucky doesn’t equal to Uncle Same. lol

  28. @HF, thanks for the clarification.

    I guess my question was, to put it more bluntly, whether the Weibo discussions were quite defensive of CZ or whether they tended to agree with Lucky’s more critical view. The US-based crowd is often very critical of the airline industry, but I wondered if the Chinese agreed with the criticism or resented a “perceived attack” on the local airline.

  29. @colleen

    We get used to such service for a long time…haha

    So the main and intense discussion, which in my opinion, is that whether take Lucky’s comments seriously, or not. Some think it’s a shame and kind of lose face and CZ should improve, while others just don’t care so much on Lucky’s report. I don’t expect too much enhance towards their service. Think about United, American, and Delta. You guys, US-based flyers, cannot change too much towards them neither. So you guys try to avoid them on int’l routes.

    Same thing applies for some ‘elite’ Chinese flyers, who are richer than common Chinese people, speak good foreign language, and have better sense in miles games. That crowd tend to pick up foreign carriers, such as CX and SG for int’l routes. But, as I said, no one can change CA, CZ or MU. Like no one can change AA, DL or UA, on soft products, though you guys are ‘often very critical of the airline industry’. lol

    I would hope that, if you fly any foreign airlines, be prepared to such problems. And, as a gesture of respect, smile, and goodwill, learn some local language, even very simple ones. You will expect more smiles, feel more warm hearts, and see more friendly eyes. I understand that Chinese languages, either Mandarin or Cantonese, might be the most difficult ones to learn in the world. But, try some. This is a complicated world, and not everyone speaks English…

  30. Thanks so much for your insights, @HF.

    I would love if one of our bloggers worked with you on a guest post to inform the rest of us about FF in China,and what interests and opportunities exist. We see posts/bloggers from Europe and Australia as well as US, but an additional perspective would be appreciated. The biggest difference seems to be about credit card mega-bonuses.

    Thanks again for your response.

  31. Your post was translated to mandarin and was widely discussed on Weibo here in China among some freq travelers

  32. When I was a teen I thought it would be cool to work as a SAS flight attendant and enquired about the qualifications; one was fluency in 5 languages! I was incredulous but was assured “it’s quite common in Europe”. Well too bad for the Yanks.

    Later I was pleased to learn English is the international aviation language. Good for us!

    I just hope that on my future China Southern flights the pilots and the flight mechanics have English communication and instructions down pat.

    A re-read of your posts scares me, having me doubt there will be any China Southern flights in my future.

  33. OMG! Lucky is now an international celebrity 🙂 And not just because of his awesome clothes!

    In all seriousness, I am not sure why some people complain about the letter. It’s fine and, hopefully, will improve service in a long term.

    @ HF – thank you for your input and information. It’s sad that American carriers don’t have at least a couple of flight attendants that speak Mandarin/Cantonese well on every flight. I am going over to HKG this year so we’ll see how much I can learn before that 🙂 I guess, I will get a good opportunity to compare different airlines as I’m departing on CA and returning on CX.

  34. @colleen

    I will say 80% of people on weibo took Luck’s side and thought it was quite a shame on CZ’s part. Honestly, CZ(applies to CA, MU and virtually all Chinese airlines) has been known for its awful service for decades 🙁 … As far as I can tell, CA is actually getting better but CZ&MU just DON’t bother to do anything… I think the lack of English proficiency has something to do with our huge domestic market share. Let’s put it this way: CZ’s primary customers are CHINESE(I believe Chinese speaking passengers on SYD-CAN is like 90% and I would assume it’s a similar story on LAX-CAN). I don’t think that’s an excuse for them not to speak English, but that just might be why crew members are not good at it. Just my 2 cents.

  35. Perhaps CZ’s management simply did not know what was happening on the airplanes, and Lucky’s description of what he experienced aboard was an eye-opener. I’m sure when CZ management travels the employees are on their best behavior. But when there’s no management they do as they please. Lucky was like a mystery shopper, and it’s good to see management responding.

  36. @HF

    If I’m flying intra-China this is exactly what I would tell myself. But on a long-haul flight to/from Los Angeles I find it laughably incompetent that a first class FA doesn’t know what a napkin is. In a global world such as ours, your suggestion that Lucky’s lack of Mandarin skills is a sign of disinterest or disrespect is an antiquated notion belonging in another era.

    As for American carriers, we’ve put those airlines under the microscope time after time and many of us do not like what we see. Many of us avoid them, if possible. Is that the fate you propose for CZ? Because if that’s the case CZ will never get my business. Money and miles don’t come cheaply for me. I won’t waste it on CZ if I have better options.

  37. @HF
    Most of Chinese airlines (Air China, China Airlines, China Southern …., Not CX/Eva) are among the worst. My family and I have tried them all. Foods are mostly bad, even worse than my flown United/AA/Delta flights. The flight attendants’ attitudes are most often seen as rude, impolite. English speaking skills are below standard. Why do I care to learn some basic Chinese to get foods on the flights I paid for? If they serve on international routes and take my paid money for flights, it is their job to train their flight attendants to speak a better English? If the service is bad, just admit that it is bad, there is no way to defend that no matter who you are or where you are from. I do not care whether or not you are Chinese. They serve a cheap $5 bottle of wine in first class —> What the heck they think about their customers? THEY ARE TOO CHEAP in my opinion. These are my thoughts and experience with them. In every chance, if I can avoid any airlines from China, I would do at all cost for a better safety, foods, service. Feel free to defend your points against my experience with them.

  38. No one here has anything to say about of China Southern’s letter to Lucky, really? Their lack of conviction and concrete steps to try to convince Lucky, his army of fans and others who have read Lucky’s first report that those issues will be fixed or they are one off (Lucky was just… UNlucky, etc.). If I were the CEO of CZ, I’d certainly include something like, “Effective immediately, mystery shoppers will be flying on ALL three classes of our airline till our service is on par with the likes of Singapore Air, Cathay Pacific…..”

    I guess they prefer a standard reply from one of their templates.

    @Dax (comment #21 on February 14th, 2014 at 12:51 pm), you mean to say if someone on that flight used cash instead of miles for a ticket, magically, service would be different than what Lucky had experienced? [Dax, do NOT bother to reply, I’d rather die than read another word from your [email protected] brain!]

  39. Last May I had the opportunity to fly F on CA PEK-LAX. It was an interesting experience. I was the only Westerner and am female. The FA I interacted with exclusively was pleasant and had adequate English. The service was comparable to most international C class service on e.g. LX or LH. What stunned me however, was to wake from a good sleep mid-flight to smell cigarette smoke coming from somewhere forward to where I was located. I can only surmise it was cabin crew and/or pilot(s)smoking.

  40. Hey, if you’re grunting about this email fellow commenters, be grateful (for Lucky) that CZ actually managed to go on the internet!

  41. @ Xavier — Wow, seriously? Fascinating! Any chance you (or someone else with access to the memo) could forward it to me? Promise not to post it or pass on who sent it. Email is onemileatatime -at- hotmail -dot- com.

  42. @lucky
    The internal memo (or at least part of it) appears to be leaked to Weibo (Chinese equivalent of Twitter). Basically the Chief Purser of the flight, the pursers in the first class and other responsible persons were all reprimanded. The Chief Purser was demoted to Y cabin purser.

  43. @ Jerry — OMG! Any chance you have a link to the Weibo post that you could share? I can get it translated from there, but can’t seem to find the link itself. Thanks very much for the heads up!

  44. @ Jerry – thanks!

    @ Lucky – perhaps we need a report/review of every flight you take on an American carrier to see if it results in any actions…. Oh, who am I kidding! 🙁

  45. @lucky
    Unfortunately you have to have a Weibo account to view the exact content. So far Weibo is the only source I could find regarding the memo.

  46. @ ZR — Thanks SO MUCH! Any chance you could email that to me at [email protected] in a word document or something? The issue is that since it’s a JPG I can’t run it through a translator. REALLY appreciate it, thanks again!

  47. learn some Chinese if you travel on a CHINESE carrier. Learn some ENGLISH if you travel on an English dominant country carrier. And, Ben and Jimbraski’s ice cream was a misprint.

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