Review: Shanghai Airlines Economy Class A330 Shanghai To Hong Kong

Filed Under: China Eastern, Other Airlines

China Eastern owns Shanghai Airlines, hence both earn miles with SkyTeam airlines. They were serving the Shanghai to Hong Kong routes with A320/A321s and A330s respectively, so I chose the latter, and luckily it was priced at the same cheap $64 one way as the rest of China Eastern’s flights. This way I could try a more regional airline and still credit my miles to Delta.

I was excited that my flight departed from Hongqiao, the secondary airport in Shanghai. Our friends said I should count on an hour to the airport from their home in central Pudong, but to my surprise the ride took a mere 28 minutes.

Just like Pudong Airport, and most other means of transport in Shanghai based on my experience, there was a security check at the door. They quickly scanned my bags and I entered the check-in area, which was relatively nice and appeared to contain a Chinese celebrity (judging by the fact that everyone was photographing her). It’s worth noting that since my flight was international, it departed from the much smaller terminal 2, which is not used by the majority of flights out of Hongqiao.

After clearing security and passport control in only 5 minutes, I had time to kill. I ended up doing what any travel blogger without lounge access would do (not that there were any good lounges to use) and wandered around the entire terminal. It was dirty and had virtually no good restaurants, which was unexpected since the entrance check-in hall gave such a good impression.

Eventually, I proceeded to my gate on the lower floor. This area was even dirtier than upstairs, but I decided to stay because of the great view of the tarmac.

Shanghai Airlines 1

I asked the gate attendant if I could change seats and she gladly let me come around to the computer and pick it myself. I found the rest of the ground staff to be equally friendly.

Shanghai Airlines Flight 837
Shanghai (SHA) to Hong Kong (HKG)
October 7, 2016
Depart: 3:20PM
Arrive: 5:40PM 
Duration: 2hr20min
Aircraft: Airbus A330-300
Seat: 32L (Economy)

Once boarding commenced, we were put on a bus and driven less than 50 meters to where the aircraft was parked. My first thought when I saw our A330, which is usually such a stunning aircraft, was how they could possibly have made it look any uglier. The livery looks beyond dated and the aircraft was filthy.

Shanghai Airlines 2 Shanghai Airlines 3 Shanghai Airlines 4 Shanghai Airlines 5 Shanghai Airlines 6 Shanghai Airlines 7

I proceeded up the stairs where I was greeted by the crew, who were alright considering the language barrier.

Shanghai Airlines 8 Shanghai Airlines 9

Before heading for my seat, I took a quick peek into business class, which looked pretty nice for a two hour flight. There’s certainly novelty to flying an A330 on a flight this short.

Shanghai Airlines Business class Shanghai Airlines Business class 2

The economy cabin itself looked decent and the seat was fine. No one was seated next to me, which made the flight a lot more comfortable, but overall the legroom and seat width were alright. The cabin was around 50% full.

Shanghai Airlines economy class Shanghai Airlines economy class 3 Shanghai Airlines economy class 4

I liked the drink holder ;)
I liked the drink holder 😉
The tray table.
The tray table.

Once the safety video started playing I realized the video screen in front of me didn’t work. The crew walked past it several times during the screening and didn’t raise an eyebrow.

The screen remained black the entire flight.
The screen remained black the entire flight.

Meanwhile, boarding had been completed 20 minutes prior to our scheduled departure. We ended up waiting for 40 minutes before we pushed back and took off almost an hour behind schedule. Even while we were at the gate I got told off for using any electronic device – and as I was reminded, phones are strictly forbidden in flight mode as well. I could hardly see, never mind take pictures, through all the dirt on my window anyway.

Shanghai Airlines A330 wing view Shanghai Airlines A330 wing view 2 Shanghai Airlines A330 wing view 3 Shanghai Airlines A330 wing view 4

Clean window…

Once in the air, the man in front of me reclined his seat. Wow – the recline was ridiculously generous in these seats. That’s clearly positive or negative depending on who is the one reclining.

Look at how close the seat gets to the armrest!
Look at how close the seat gets to the armrest behind!

Just a few minutes later the crew served a hot dinner. There was a choice between pork with noodles or seafood rice. With some hesitation, I chose the latter. It was served with a bread roll and butter, “mustard silk,” a mystery meat potato salad, melon, Biscoff cookies and water.

Shanghai Airlines meal

So, what to say… The rice was completely inedible (I could borderline taste the flavor of food poisoning) and the top right starter was equally bad.

Shanghai Airlines meal 2 Shanghai Airlines meal 3

Thankfully, the fruit was fresh and the Biscoff cookies were good.

Shanghai Airlines meal 4

I also liked that the meal came with a wipe.

Shanghai Airlines meal 5

This so called “mustard silk” was an adventure – and not a very enjoyable one sadly.

Shanghai Airlines meal 6

The white bread was as pale and nutrition-less as they come – I loved it! The crew brought me more when I asked, which I appreciated.

After enduring the oversized mess of a meal, I got some work done. Shanghai Airlines offers wifi, though it had to be preordered, which I hadn’t remembered despite Ben having mentioned that in the past as well.

Shanghai Airlines wifi

The login screen for the Wi-Fi required a pre-ordered verification code.
The login screen for the Wi-Fi required a pre-ordered verification code.

Every time I looked up there was something amusing to see. At one point, the man in front of me with the reclined seat was using his phone. Without a word a male attendant suddenly rushed over, grabbed the phone out of the man’s hand and turned it off. OK…

Before landing I also saw one of the female flight attendants cutting her nails on the counter in the galley.

She found a great spot to pamper herself mid-flight!
She found a great spot to pamper herself mid-flight!

Soon enough we started our descent into Hong Kong and the seatbelt sign was turned on. I quite enjoyed the views as we flew in, especially with the wing view I had managed to get.

Approaching HKG 1

Views on approach were stunning!
Views on approach were stunning!

Approaching HKG 3

We touched down 20 minutes behind schedule and had a quick taxi to the gate.

While disembarking I managed to snap a few pictures of the business class cabin again.

Shanghai Airlines business class 3 Shanghai Airlines business class 4

Bottom Line 

I had an entertaining first flight on a Chinese airline. The crew were fine to me, though I know Chinese people often have a different way of communicating with each other. I’m not sure if the flight attendant snatching the phone would be considered acceptable, or the flight attendant cutting her nails on the counter in front of passengers, but I found that lack of traditional service mindedness a little shocking. The food could also have been influenced by my preference for western-friendly food. The rice tasted like food poisoning waiting to happen, so I wasn’t going to risk anything. Overall though, I’d have a hard time refusing to fly Shanghai Airlines again given the price, especially when the second cheapest option was $250+. I’ll see it as cheap entertainment next time around.

Would you fly Shanghai Airlines if the price was right?

  1. Hey Daniel
    Good to read a different perspective and I was pleasantly surprised when I opened the blog to see ‘Shanghai Airlines ‘
    As a foreigner who lived in SH for 5 years and travelled a lot (usually via HK), I have to share some info around the route.
    SH to HK is a dense route and quite a few airlines fly wide body. For example, CX and KA fly 777 and 330 respectively and KA was my first choice. You’ll be surprised to hear that food and service in Economy was consistently better in KA than CX! With the recent re-branding at KA, not sure how much has changed but I miss the crew’s warmth and the Haagen Dazs ice cream at KA

  2. Nice review, Daniel!
    I flew Shanghai Airlines SIN-PVG and back last year and both times the crew were borderline hostile. Far as I remember the food was inedible. But the flight was half the price of Singapore Airlines!

  3. Not sure why all of my comment didn’t get updated in previous, so continuing here.
    The other airline that I remember consistently flew 330 was HongKong Airlines. They were quite nice as well but not in league of KA and CX but better than Chinese carriers.
    Food and service wise, the Hong Kong based carriers are way ahead compared to Chinese carriers. And when you are a vegetarian, food becomes really important on these flights. But KA and CX always delivered, especially KA! Miss flying.
    Hope you get to enjoy KA in their new avatar as Cathay Dragon and may it be as good as before if not better.
    Enjoy HK and have fun

  4. Flying in China requires an incredible amount of patience. Flight delays of 1 -2 hours are common place and go on with little to no information from crew. The remainder of the experience is no better. The upside is the major airport infrastructure in China is spacious and modern although nothing is done to cater (dining, retail) to non Chinese travelers.

  5. Flights to Hong Kong depart from T1 of SHA not T2. T2 is the larger terminal primarily used for domestic flights.

  6. I’m scratching my head over some elements of the review, such as “I could hardly see, never mind take pictures, through all the dirt on my window anyway” — which is then followed by crystal clear photos out the window. In addition, claiming that the in-flight meal was tainted and would have sickened you without offering any evidence is a serious charge.

    Perhaps a bit less hyperbole next time?

  7. Yay! Another chance to bash China!

    Everyone should fly totally fly the hallmark of amazingness, American Airlines instead.

  8. Sorry but this review is crap and should not be posted here. I read most articles and saw the hate in comments for articles from Daniel, which are often unfounded but now I feel urged to write my first comment here.

    You rant about the terminal without a single picture, why? If it is so bad shouldn’t be too hard to get at least one picture to show us.

    Why is the plane ugly? They even use the same colours as your beloved norwegian…

    In general, even though you do have some points (screen not working, delays…) I find it weird that everything is described in the most negative way possible.

    As for the food, just because you don’t like non-western food it doesn’t give you food poisoning. Just say you don’t like it and get over with it instead of such a drama.

    On a side note: if you want to stick around here and get accepted by us readers it wouldn’t hurt to address some feedback in comments once in a while. No one expects you to discuss with haters but I personally would appreciate to see that you are actually trying to take feedback, after all you write here for us to read and I do not think you want most readers to start skipping your articles right away.

  9. Prior to merging with China Eastern, Shanghai Airlines (FM) was a very proud Star Alliance member (every announcement on the PA system ended with “….a Star Alliance member!). I flew with them in 2011 on this very SHA-HKG route on a *A award ticket, but not before I mistakenly first went to PVG, realized my error and turned around and took a taxi to SHA in a horrendous downpour. The PVG-SHA taxi ride took about 1 hr and I missed my flight, but they had another flight just about an hour later and I was booked on it without a fuss. I do not remember much else about the flight itself, however…

  10. Would you get a meal served on a 2hr flight on Norwegian or on American for free? Of course not. What a s.i.s.s.y whiner. Just go and ride a jiba. Look up Jiba in a Chinese dictionary.

  11. I agree with @BenBen Daniel’s posts are always substandard. Lucky, you should teach Daniel how to write a quality review before his next post.

  12. “It’s worth noting that since my flight was international, it departed from the much smaller terminal 2, which is not used by the majority of flights out of Hongqiao.” First, International/ Hong Kong/ Macau/ Taiwan flights depart from Terminal 1 at Hongqiao. Secondly, although you need to go through passport control, strictly speaking SHA-HKG is NOT “international”. C’mon man, if y’all are so obsessed with fussing about Mainland Chinese carriers’ subpar service and lampooning Chinese politics, at least get your details right before you post this subpar and biased review.

  13. What a biased review!
    Let’s see, you purchased a cheap economy ticket and received miles. For a two hour flight, you were able to fly on a widebody with an empty seat next to you, receive a full warm meal and had access to onboard Internet. Finally, the crew was nice to you. This would be heaven in the U.S.

    From your report full of hyperbole, you had shockingly poor service. Maybe you should fly and experience more before critiquing more trips.

  14. Andy is a bigot with tiny hands.

    Oliver: if all the HMT, Korean and Japanese flights depart from one terminal and you need to go through passport control, how is that not the international terminal?

    Good review overall.

  15. So you were staying in pudong but chose to fly out of SHA? Why??
    It’s a grotty airline I would never set foot on.

  16. J:

    Passport control? Check.
    Same as Japan and Korea? Check.
    Only PRC flights from terminal 2? Check.

    Therefore it’s safe to say terminal 1 is the international terminal. Just because there’s one China four policies doesn’t make it a stretch to call it an international terminal or an international flight. Remember flights from Ireland to the U.K. are domestic even if they’re clearly crossing a real border.

  17. @Mark:
    Hongqiao Terminal 1 is also the terminal for the low-cost carrier Spring Airlines whose Hongqiao operation is exclusively domestic. Therefore Terminal 1 is NOT an international terminal. Do your homework please.

  18. What a baised review. You bashed Shanghai Airlines because they provide free food on a 2-hr flight and you don’t like it? Yeah good luck finding something to eat for free on a 10-hr flight to Hawaii.

  19. @ Mark – “Remember flights from Ireland to the U.K. are domestic even if they’re clearly crossing a real border.”

    Sorry, but this is nonsense. Ireland and the UK just happen to have agreed the common travel area (which, actually, still imposes greater checks than flying intra-Schengen). Yes, in practice, you arrive at an airport in a “UK and Ireland” arrivals channel, but it’s still an international flight. Flying UK-Ireland is no less “international” than flying France-Germany.

  20. SHA-HKG is a domestic flight. The reason one has to go through passport control for this flight is Hong Kong’s status as “a special administrative region (SAR) with a high degree of autonomy”, even after it became part of China in 1997, and still has some of its own laws. Notably, e.g., a US citizen does not require a visa to travel to Hong Kong, but must have one for mainland PRC. So, yes, one needs to go through passport control to travel from PRC to HK, but it is a domestic flight.

    Clear now? .

  21. Cant take Daniel seriously. All the guys defending him must be p.e.r.v.s who love his crass leg shots or they are Daniel himself under false names.

  22. @J As a fellow Chinese compatriot your comments made me sick to my stomach. Just because Daniel (or Lucky) is a white foreigner who criticized FM doesn’t mean you have the right to start trolling in the most degenerated way possible. In fact, if the article were written by a Chinese person, I bet you would probably agree with him. I flew FM and MU a few times in the past and they were truly the s****est Chinese airline, and thank god I don’t live anywhere close to a MU base.

    By the way, routes between Hong Kong, Macau and Mainland China are considered international routes because passengers need to go through passport control. Yes, I said passport control because that’s the same place where you get your passport or other travel documents inspected by immigration. Also I travel between Hong Kong and Mainland China 7-8 times a year with only my Chinese passport.

  23. @Andy Maybe you should start by commenting with your real name as it appears on your Chinese Resident ID Card since you’ll be obeying Chinese laws on identity verification for pseudonyms on social or news sites, you troll.

  24. As an expat living in China its quite funny to read all the comments about “unfair” review.

    Yes, it is true. You get food even on short flight. Unfortunately usually food is not tasting good, at least for somebody non-chinese. In previous months i have flown MU and CZ several times, last week Capital Airlines, and on most of the flights food was inedible. Cannot comment about Air China, but Hainan had OK food when flying to Thailand. Try food in business on bullet trains. Suxxx big time.

    Planes condition differs immensily. Last weeks Capital Airways flight was interesting – my seats in both ways were broken, trays dirty, and legroom really small. But one cannot beat the price.

    The phone policy is interesting. It is not allowed to use the phone in the flight mode, it has to be completely shut down. I have experienced situation when steward was standing beside passanger and observing whether the phone is shut down or not. Like it or not, thats the offical policy when flying in China with chinese carrier. On the other hand, tablets are allowed, and nobody checks them if they are wifi or 4g versions. You just cannot use them during liftoff or landing (eg first 15-20 and last 30-40 minutes). Though, i’m usually more annoyed how many of chinese passangers don’t use headphones when watching their electronic device (it happens everywhere, from metro, restaurant to plane – even internationally in business class from PEK to CDG – as the passanger was sleeping, stewardess turned off the device after several complaints)

    But overall all chinese domestic airlines do what they intend to. To move you from A to B.

  25. @Daniel – constructive feedback here would be to “show” as much as you “tell”. If the terminal is filthy, grab a picture! You claim to have had time to do so as well.

    The FA clipping her nails in flight, for example, was a great picture to have snapped and drives that observation well beyond any reasonable doubt.

    Review could have been a touch less hyperbolic, but it’s within the realm of plausibility. A great example of nailing the balance between “strong opinion” and “fair analysis” have to be some of Nick’s posts on the highs and lows of his travels.

    Appreciate that it’s at least off the beaten OMAAT path of hearing how great CX, LH, EK premium products are.

  26. I would agree that FM’s (For that matter any Chinese airlines’ Y class) food are usually not the most desirable food. That being said, just because they served a Chinese style meal, saying “I could borderline taste the flavor of food poisoning” is IMO a bit too dramatic… It’s actually a fairly common dish in China and over a billion people growing up eating that just fine… I honestly had a higher expectation from OMAAT’s trip report… Not that I expect Daniel to be super worldly, but please at least try to step out of your Western bubble next time when you travel…

  27. @J

    Well, bashing China is one of the few things that the left and the right can agree upon in America…

  28. That packet of preserved mustard is delicious, especially with a bowl of noodle soup, but it’s definitely acquired taste.

  29. Daniel’s disdain for Chinese culture is barely disguised in this pathetic excuse of a “review”.

    I agree with multiple other commenters in advising Daniel to step outside his overly critical western mindset and actually appreciate what he got from this flight.

    When it comes to white Laowais and Chinese service/products, the vast majority just can’t overcome their ingrained biases to save their lives.

  30. @TC – you think this is a fair criticism of Shanghai Airlines? Have fly paying $250 for a Dallas to Wichita on a CRJ-200 in economy. I’m sure the food, service, and IFE on that flight will be more to your satisfaction?

  31. @TC I doubt your actually Chinese, you don’t need a Chinese passport to go to Hong Kong, all you need is a 港澳通信正 (don’t know what it’s called in English, and that might also be wrong my Chinese isn’t the best)

  32. Great pictures, but poorly written review. I think you went into a $60 regional airline expecting LH or SQ first class. Other then the screen not working, I do not see any issues you had w/ your experience.

    1/2 of the passengers on the flight ate the well presented food in front of you, and did not have any issues. How can you claim that it’s food-poisoning waiting to happen? I think its you that needs to open your eyes and try different food (think Anthony Bourdain) before commenting on foreign food.

    @OMAAT team, please give Daniel some training!

  33. Daniel is complaining about something? This must not be an advertorial.
    He needs to stop bringing down this blog. Get him out of here. Acknowledge your entitled attitude and apologize for the stealthily deleted post on your line cutting ways. You have no credibility.

  34. I’m just incredibly amused by the great offense taken by someone stating his opinion. Which is what a review is no? Don’t agree? That’s fine just try not to sound like a nationalistic blowhard in the process.

  35. @Adams9802 – no nationalistic offence taken – just calling it for what it is, a fool with an airplane YouTube channel pretending to have any sort of experience in the world

  36. @Andy Aha! So you claim to be Chinese but can’t even get Chinese characters right. The correct characters are 港澳通行证 – Exit-Entry Permit for Travelling to and from Hong Kong and Macau. The reason I don’t use them is because of my hukou is not eligible for individual tours – a mainlander would know what that means – and my status overseas makes me eligible for a multi-entry HKSAR Entry Permit. I mean seriously, why do you claim to be Chinese when you are obviously not? I have yet to met a Chinese person who can’t get the characters 通行证 (permit) right – it’s like an American who can’t even spell the word “passport”. So why don’t you stop smearing the name of my country and my people by simply stop trolling on every article about Chinese airlines, Andy Boy?

    @J – That’s like the worst comparison possible. Shanghai to Hong Kong is as lucrative as SFO-SEA which has flights for as low as $64 one-way. Sure, they obviously don’t serve gross hot meals which may make you shit your pants for the rest of the flight, but I bet you won’t find FAs clipping fingernails back in the galley either.

  37. @TC – because all Chinese airplane food will definitely make you shit your pants, but American flight attendants can never do anything wrong…

    Go back to your trailer in Alabama

  38. @TC First of all, I’m only a kid so I don’t know my Chinese that well since it’s only my second language, and it’s just sad that you would have to justify your reason for omitting the fact that the aforementioned document is required for MOST Chinese people to enter Hong Kong or Macau (hint, hint most people, which, means that when mentioning that entering China requires a passport instead of a 港澳通行证 you should be saying the 通行证 since that is what most Chinese citizens use to enter Hong Kong. I’m sorry, it’s just sad that you just lost an argument to a kid.

  39. this review is seriously biased and hostile…..apparently the reviewer doesn’t like China. Lucky’s reviews are much more objective and readers want only the factors, not your personal preferences.

  40. Grousing are we? At least they don’t drag you out of a seat you bought and paid for!! (UA) I fly this route many times on MU and FM. They do the job, you get hot food, and the flight attendants are usually friendly. If you are elite plus and flying in economy, they will put bottled water and slippers on your seat, awaiting you when you get on. I still say worst day on MU is still better than the best day on any US airline….even factoring in the usual delays at Hongqiao. Sometimes if the delay is too much they will serve you the hot food while the plane is on the tarmac.

  41. Hi, Daniel!
    I am a flight lover in China!
    It is not very frequent for some foreign flyer to try small airlines like Shanghai Airline.
    The delay in Chinese airports is a really big problem.
    And also, another big problem is the service. The aircraft and the seats in it is great but like you saw, the windows are dirty and the television did not work. This is what Chinese airline companies have to improve.
    Thanks for this report, let me know how foreigners view Chinese Aviation!

  42. Another Chinese mass trolling against those who make even smallest bit of criticism to any part of China – I’ve witnessed it when Lucky wrote about China Southern Airline.

    I concur with Daniel on this post.
    I am from Korea, and I have same impression about China Eastern. I remember flying ICN-PVG-ICN in 2007, and had exactly the same impression. (It was either 346 or 333)
    Amazing to see they still serve the same seafood rice – and I actually closed the lid when I smelled it. The odor was appalling, and I’m sure the seafood on it was quite off (probably from all the delays after it was loaded into aircraft?). It has nothing to do with being familiar with Chinese taste – this is just “bad Chinese food”. Try the seafood rice at MU, and then try something similar in any decent restaurant in Shanghai – they are miles apart. Quite unfortunate to have bad food for flight SHA-HKG, when both Shanghai and Hong Kong are renowned for their fine dining experience.
    To add to that, the lavatory was in appalling state – was not cleaned before flight at all.
    Flight was delayed three hours outbound (for 1.5 hour flight!) and one hour inbound. No announcement.

    Amazed to see that MU has not changed at all after one decade of growing up its size!

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