Sichuan Airlines A330 Business Class In 10 Pictures (Hint: It’s Really Bad)

Filed Under: Other Airlines, Travel

Hello from Los Angeles! Yesterday I spent 16 hours in Sichuan Airlines’ A330 business class, and boy, it’s sure nice to be on the ground again. Sichuan Airlines started flying to Los Angeles late last year, and has reasonable business class fares. I booked my one way ticket from Chengdu to Los Angeles for ~$1,000, which is a great deal (at least on the surface, though you get what you pay for).

The route is operated by an A330, so while Sichuan would love to fly nonstop, the plane doesn’t have the range. So instead they operate the route via Jinan and Hangzhou on alternating days.

While I’ll have a full review soon, in this post I wanted to share my initial thoughts.

Given that Chengdu is Sichuan’s hub, I was expecting they might have a nice lounge. Nope, instead they only open check-in two hours before departure (stupidly I arrived earlier than that), and have a special gate for this flight, due to the unique nature of it being both domestic and international. So you can’t access the rest of the terminal, though they do have a little makeshift lounge.

There’s only one problem — the lounge has only 13 seats, while there are 36 business class seats. Below you’ll see the lounge attendant bringing out plastic chairs for people to sit on. The crazy part? The same thing was true in Jinan. The lounge had 14 seats, so most business class passengers had nowhere to sit.

The hard product was exactly what I was expecting. Sichuan Airlines has angled seats on the A330. I knew that going in, though I’d note that they’re one of only a few Chinese airlines not offering flat beds on longhaul flights.

Personally I find angled seats to be incredibly uncomfortable and would prefer a previous generation recliner seat over them. On the plus side, the power ports worked. There wasn’t any wifi, and the entertainment selection was pretty terrible. On the longhaul flight from Jinan to Los Angeles the pillow & blanket were at least plush, but they didn’t smell or look like they had been washed in quite a while (at least I’m guessing based on the long strands of black hair I found in the blanket).

The amenity kit was basic, and had Aigner hand and face cream, mouthwash, a toothbrush and toothpaste, earplugs, and an eye mask.

The crew was well intentioned, so I have nothing but nice things to say about them. They executed the service to the best of their ability, and they exceeded my expectations.

Unfortunately this is where Sichuan business class breaks down. On the Chengdu to Jinan flight there was no choice of meals and no menus. When I asked what certain things on the dish were, the response was “I’m not sure.” There also wasn’t any alcohol, other than beer (oddly on the little drink card they show you as they ask what you want, there’s a picture of a wine glass next to it).

The Jinan to Los Angeles flight left at 11:35PM, and right after takeoff they served breakfast. Huh? Again, there was no choice of meal and no menu.

As far as drinks go, there was no champagne, but instead they had one red and one white. I asked the flight attendant what kind of white wine it was, and she responded “the white kind.” They might as well not have had wine, because what it was possibly the most vile chardonnay I’ve had in my life. I had to find out the brand, which meant I needed to get a second glass (“Could I have another glass of that please? And could you please bring the bottle, because I like it so much and want to see what it is so I can buy it.”).

This was a 12 hour flight, and there were no midflight snacks of any sort. When I asked about eight hours in if they had pretzels or anything as a snack, she offered me the dessert for the second meal.

Finally for the last meal there was a choice of options, and this time I selected the western option. This included nuts and tomato soup, with the latter being mostly tasteless and sour (I almost like it may have just been tomato juice heated up?).

Everyone still got the same Chinese appetizer, which was quite good.

And then I had the western main course, which was pasta. I had really low expectations, like, I was expecting Lean Cuisine levels of quality. What I got was much worse, possibly the worst dish I’ve ever been served on a plane. I don’t even want to say what the sauce looked (and tasted) like, and my only takeaway from the meal was that I felt very bad for what precipitated in the fish’s life for it to taste so bad.

I’m guessing the Chinese main wasn’t good either. While I couldn’t understand what she was saying, the lady next to me ordered that, had one look at it and sent it back, had a conversation with a flight attendant, and she returned a few minutes later with a plastic cup of ramen.

By the way, this is a perfectly normal place to start storing trash halfway through the flight, right?

Bottom line

I’ll have an extensive review soon, but unfortunately Sichuan Airlines is going on my “no fly list.” The airline will get you from point A to point B, and the flight attendants were friendly. However, both the ground and in-flight experience were otherwise pathetic. On the ground, both lounges had half as many seats as passengers.

In the air they had no menus, no alcohol other than beer on the short-haul flight, no choice of meals except the last meals, no snacks, etc.

It’s crazy to think that this airline will soon be getting A350s…

Comments
  1. God, impossible to imagine a Japanese airline leaving bags of overflowing trash in the middle of the cabin. Chinese airline executives should be forced to fly Japanese airlines non-stop back and forth for a week — and keep a notebook of observations.

  2. Holy crap, sometimes I feel like you exaggerate things, but this seems to just be a horrible product! I’ll take a decent Asian airline’s economy, so I’ll at least have saved some money and gotten an ‘o.k’ meal.

  3. “I don’t even want to say what the sauce looked (and tasted) like.” Hopefully it wasn’t catered by the Le Meridien Xiamen …

  4. …and to think I’ve not been a fan of the BA Lounge/Gate at LCY to JFK due to crowding – because the number of seats exactly match the plane’s seat capacity! Silly me…

  5. I don’t think they know what a business class is anyway, and I’ve seen that their economy class is still better than the US3, despite the bad IFE they have in both classes. Well $1,000 for round trip in business from US to China is insanely a good deal, even if you have to put up with the bad stuff onboard, coming from someone who’s never been in business but in Premium Economy on China Southern (Bruh)

  6. @ Philip Hu — ~$1,000 is the one-way price. It’s cheap, but for what it’s worth, Xiamen Air has similar pricing, and their business class is excellent.

  7. I’m glad you posted this

    I’m flying China Eastern Vancouver to Bangkok and am somewhat nervous about cigarette smoke

    After all your first class reviews MU will feel like a dump (even though it will be the nicest long haul flight I’ve ever been on)

    After a few of these reports I can feel happy about my first TPAC J adventure!

  8. @ JRMW — Hopefully you have a great flight! China Eastern has a much better hard product, so hopefully you have a good flight. Interestingly cigarette smoke wasn’t an issue on my Sichuan flight — the pilots were ex-pats.

  9. And who’s complaining about BA business class again? Lol. BA business class is by far not the worst business class in the world. It’s middle of the pack. There are plenty bad ones such as this one or United business class (ie none Polaris seat ones).

  10. I never took Sichuan before but interestingly it was highly regarded by Chinese who fly domestic economy cabin. Mostly because the food they serve is very authentic Sichuan food.
    I suspect the woman who sent back food wasn’t because the food was bad but because it was too spicy for her.

  11. I’m sure all the people who were in coach feel sympathy for you and your plight. One of my worst long haul flights in my life was on a chinese airline going Taiwan to NYC in coach 17 years ago. It was soo bad I stopped going to Asia for many years because I didn’t want to endure a flight of that length again. Now when I go to Asia I always fly in F or maybe J on reputable airlines.

  12. I just read the Chinese review. It said the airline’s business class from LAX to China was really bad. From the comment on the food, I don’t think Lucky’s seatmate sent her food back because it was spicy but I think it was just bad.

  13. We flew them about a year ago and had the same impression, never again. We were in economy because it was an in China flight. It was 3 hours delayed and the the worst flight of our lives. The government owns all of the airlines and there is such a difference between them and Air China!

  14. I think you shouldn’t put the airline on no fly list just yet, as the chengdu airport’s international terminal is like out dated and the new internatinal airport is under construction which is opening by late 2018 or early 2019. The A350 can be a step up from the current situation as those A330s are old anyway.

  15. I just booked the round trip yesterday because its cheap. Wish I read your article earlier. So, question is how bad is the seat when it goes “flat”? Any pictures? I have no experience with these angled seats.

  16. That breakfast picture just put me off my dinner tonight. What is that thing in the middle? It looks like moldy bread with the crusts trimmed off.

    Looking forward to the full report.

  17. @Junse
    The A330 isn’t the problem. It never was. That may be a valid response to if Lucky found the product decent, and that the A350 may be an improvement. The problem is that the service, especially the food, sucks. Putting an A350 on the route is like putting a bowtie on a pig.

  18. Sichuan Airlines is actually quite famous, in China, for its good catering for domestic flights. But their long-haul products are just disappointing. Hope the pressure form Hainan Airlines opening long-haul flights to/from Chengdu (Sichuan Airlines’s hub) can bring future changes, given Hainan has great fares and a five-star Skytrax rating.

  19. Bill:
    Try EVA or China Airline..both have average to above average leg room in coach..both have PE….food in coach is ……mmmmmmm…airline food…FAs are great with good English skills..

  20. ” I don’t even want to say what the sauce looked (and tasted) like, and my only takeaway from the meal was that I felt very bad for what precipitated in the fish’s life for it to taste so bad.”

    Hahahah dying.

  21. I always have the feeling that some Chinese carriers try to emulate western airlines service ( in a very wrong way) as if they have no clue whatsoever of the meaning of knowing the type of wine they serve, politeness, hygiene and presentation.
    It all looks too basic and not well thought.

  22. Thanks for taking one for the team! Though regardless of whether some are better than others, I just would’t choose a Chinese carrier. As an expat in HKG working in a very local environment, when I travel I just want a decent airline free of the “WTF” moments that accompany my daily life here 🙂

  23. @Blm I recommend you Cathay Pacific; It is a very reputable Chinese carrier, based in Hong Kong, China. Alternatively, you can try EVA Air and China Airlines; Both are highly-ranked Chinese carrier, based in Taiwan, China. Or perhaps you are an expat still dreaming of the colonial days of your forefathers? Alas, those days are long gone…. too bad for you 🙂

  24. @John, Cathay Pacific is owned by the Swire Group based in Hong Kong and the United Kingdom. China and Eva are Taiwanese carriers. What BLM is trying to say is to steer clear away of mainland Chinese carriers.

  25. LOL…this is a great report. It balances out all of the great F class flights that you take.
    Horrible experiences like this make is so much easier to enjoy airlines that are a step above Sichuan. 🙂

  26. Out of the Chinese carriers, I find Air China quite decent. Not great, but at least you get the impression that they know what they are doing. Their A330 and 777 business class products are good enough for me not to actively avoid them.

  27. @john get rid of those Maoist/communist propaganda. Only people who believe in Mao/Communist China will think Taiwan belongs to China. Same with Hong Kong.

    Free Tibet! Taiwan no.1! Falun Gong Hao!
    Remember the Tian’anmen massacre!

  28. (Quoting: @Blm I recommend you Cathay Pacific; It is a very reputable Chinese carrier, based in Hong Kong, China. Alternatively, you can try EVA Air and China Airlines; Both are highly-ranked Chinese carrier, based in Taiwan, China. Or perhaps you are an expat still dreaming of the colonial days of your forefathers? Alas, those days are long gone…. too bad for you )

    These kind of extremely offensive communist propaganda really needs to stop. It is extremely offensive to Hong Kong and Taiwanese people, who still practice democracy (although the former is struggling with Chinese communist inteferences) and for the latter, enjoy full sovereignty, free of any communist inteferences. It is equivalent of saying “LOT Polish Airline based in Poland, Russia.” And I am sure most readers here will definitely be offended at this. This kind of comment/propaganda and verbal bullying of non-communist Chinese people really needs to stop. This is the Chinese communist colonism (with objective of making the entire world slaves of communism)being expressed in an extremely offensive manner.

  29. Once took a domestic flight on Sichuan Air from PEK to CKG in economy and it had the tightest legroom I think I’ve ever experienced on a plane. The pitch must have been 27 or 28 inches. Fortunately the bulkhead row was available and there wasn’t a wall in front of it, just a curtain separating the business class cabin which meant I could stretch my legs. Food was also terrible.

  30. You should be awarded a medal for taking this kind of Chinese Airlines, In Hong kong we are all aware of how things are onboard a Chinese flag airlines. What they serve is really a joke, The catering company has no idea of what western cuisines are, they just make it up with their imagination. Not to mention their pilot’s behavior towards safety of the passengers. Most of them don’t speak English and most of the time they don’t understand what ATC says. Better (not good) chinese airlines now hired American/British pilots to be their first officer, though Captains mostly still are Chinese, so when the western pilots rest, I don’t know who is capable of communicating with US ATC.

  31. @Blm I also absolutely find no reason to opt for airlines based in maoist China. Airlines in Hong Kong, or Republic of China (=Taiwan) are much, much better. I find CX miles ahead of MU, CA, etc.

  32. @Jay (not same as one above)

    In fact, Hong Kong belongs to China since July 1997. Also, this blog is not about politics.

  33. This review came at the right time for me. Sichuan airlines has started offering jaw dropping business class fares from Dubai and I was tempted to try it. After this review I would never even dream of contemplating it.

  34. @Jay (not same as one above)
    It’s so funny to see world politics in a travel blog.
    “Maoist/communist propaganda” Seriously? Thats really hilarious. I bet people in mainland China know more Obam and Trump than Mao. lol

    I guess you don’t know Air China has the major share in CX?!
    Owners of CX are Air China and Swire.

    HK is part of China, Like or not, admit or not, just like Purto Rico to the US. No single soul would say India is part of UK. Or US is part of UK.

    And, Tibet is part of China (Both Beijing and Taipei all claim in its map, PRC and ROC) And, it is a fact that Tibet belongs to China. Does not matter PRC or ROC.

    Taiwan is part of China as well, the only argument is who represent China? Mainland government or Taipei administration? Taiwan Has no capability to independent, the most it can do is maintaining status quo. As it says by Ms. Cai aka (Poor English speaking)

    It always blows me away when I see world politics in this very travel blog. Remember Lucy is just reviewing an airline, not a country or a race. “MF is way better airline than some US carriers” So, there are bad apples everywhere…

    Peace out…Lets talk about Miles more.

  35. Still a long way to catch up for Sichuan airlines. Maybe this review will get some of their senior management thinking.

  36. Lol at “john,” “Vince,” and “Zach,” with their generic western names and poor grasp of fundamental aspects of English grammar. It seems there are other state actors than Russia playing the online propaganda game in the comments. I’m curious to know how effective this stuff is when it is so obviously misrepresented.

  37. @BrewerSEA
    Any decently smart person would agree with everything that Vince said. They’re simply facts. Maybe you’re not even capable of reading Wikipedia…
    (and I’m not a bot controlled by “Maoist China.” Proud citizen of the U.S.)

    @Jay (not same as one above)
    Please stop making this blog political. Go comment somewhere else… You’re more of a propagandist than anybody else here (maybe you should consult with a therapist for your disbelief too).

  38. Everyone, please stop making biased comments about food. Everyone has a different taste and it is inappropriate to make a rude judgement as somebody did in the comment. For me, eating rare steak with blood on top makes me feel like I am a wild animal, eating certain raw vegetables(celery and broccoli) makes me feel like I am a rabbit, eating a burger or taco with all the stuff falling out is stupid, most kind of cheese is disgusting to me. However, again, there are certain people who like it. That is good enough. Eating whatever you like or walk way. Simple thing.

  39. I flew on Sichuan Economy from Tokyo to Chengdu to Urumqi to Kashgar and back and found them a true gem. Cabin crew on all flights were friendly, relaxed and genuinly happy to help. Catering was top notch with authentic Sichuan food, accompanied by a variety of drinks and steamed potatoes from the basket. I was actually looking forward to flying long haul or Business Class. Trust me, they ain’t entirely bad.

  40. @BrewerSEA
    ‘Nice Catch!’
    So live in Seattle and Drink Starbucks?

    All I do is present the fact aka common sense.
    You don’t like it, too bad.

  41. Thank you to the wumaos for ‘educating’ us on Xi’s definition of what constitutes China. Doesn’t change the fact that Lucky’s post shows mainland Chinese carriers like Sichuan Airlines are clearly inferior to Cathay (Hong Kong SAR) or Taiwanese (ROC) carriers.
    Try to improve your English grammar and screen names so you don’t stand out as such obvious communist party wumao that you are.

  42. I wouldn’t write off all China carriers. Bought two business class round trip non-stop LAX-CSX on Ben’s advice last year and enjoyed both a very good hard and soft product (except their CSX lounge). The price at the time was more than exceptional and I’ll fly them again when another chance arrises. China Southern’s come through a few times for us even though its business class isn’t wow.

  43. Used to be on this plane from lax to tna. They even served lobster to us. I feel like every meal course is different each time they fly…

  44. Ok, been there, done that. But the author simply doesn’t inform us readers if it was an Airbus A330-200 or Airbus A330-300? Please, don’t take for granted that there are no A33-200 flying long hauls because they do.

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