Review: Xiamen Air Business Class 757 Xiamen To Chengdu

Filed Under: Other Airlines

Xiamen Air 8401
Xiamen (XMN) – Chengdu (CTU)
Saturday, September 30
Depart: 7:35AM
Arrive: 10:25AM
Duration: 2hr50min
Aircraft: Boeing 757-200
Seat: 12A (Business Class)

As I mentioned in the last installment, I was fully expecting our flight to Chengdu to be operated by a 737, so I was surprised when we pulled up to a 757 instead. I’m not sure if the equipment change was because a 737 was out of service, or if the flight was oversold because we were traveling over a Chinese national holiday, and they had the plane available. Regardless, I was excited to have the opportunity to try yet another Xiamen Airlines plane, especially as this is one of a limited number of 757s operated by a Chinese airline.

Xiamen Air 757

Even more exciting was that I had no clue what to expect in terms of the plane’s interior. Usually I study everything I can about a plane before I actually fly it, though I hadn’t done any research on Xiamen Air’s 757s. So I was quite surprised when I boarded and found out that this was a three cabin 757, with first class, business class, and economy class.

In the front of the cabin were two rows of angled flat seats, in a 2-2 configuration. Aside from the finishes, these seats were identical to American’s old business class.

Xiamen Air 757 first class

Xiamen Air 757 first class

Immediately behind first class was two rows of business class, which consisted of eight seats as well. The cabin was in a 2-2 configuration, and was very much in a regional layout.

Xiamen Air 757 business class

I’d say legroom was roughly comparable to what you’d find on a domestic flight within the US.

Xiamen Air 757 business class legroom

We were in the second row of business class, and I couldn’t decide whether the cabin felt intimate or just plain claustrophobic, especially when the curtains between cabins were closed after takeoff.

Xiamen Air 757 business class

Xiamen Air 757 business class cabin

In the far armrest was a tray table that could be folded over in half.

Xiamen Air 757 business class tray table

There were also audio controls underneath the center armrest.

Xiamen Air business class audio controls

I appreciated that these seats had personal air nozzles, which far too many planes don’t have nowadays.

Xiamen Air 757 business class overhead consoles

Waiting in the seatback pocket was a set of slippers, a shoe bag, and a shoehorn. The slippers were a different color than on our longhaul flight, and I sort of liked the contrast between the baby blue and the purple.

Xiamen Airlines business class slippers

Also waiting at my seat was a pillow and blanket. The blanket didn’t smell great, though I guess that shouldn’t come as much of a surprise, given that it wasn’t even wrapped.

Xiamen Airlines business class pillow & blanket

All eight business class passengers were seated within a couple of minutes, and shortly thereafter a flight attendant came through the cabin with warm towels.

Xiamen Airlines business class warm towels

Shortly thereafter we were offered pre-departure beverages, with the choice between tea and hot water. I’m not talking room temperature water, but actually hot water. While I get that’s a thing in China, it’s not something I’ll ever be able to make sense of, personally.

Xiamen Airlines business class warm water

A few minutes later a flight attendant passed through the cabin with a menu to take meal orders. The menu was quite detailed, and also featured pictures of the food, which I appreciated.

All passengers boarded through the forward door, so the boarding process was quite chaotic. By 7:25AM boarding was complete and the door was closed. Interestingly there was one person seated in first class, though she didn’t get any sort of service. I’m not sure if she was an employee, or what, given that the airline hadn’t even sold first class on the flight.

Once the door was closed the crew did their safety demonstration. At 7:35AM we began our pushback, and five minutes later we started to taxi.

Xiamen Air 737

This was my first time flying through Xiamen Airport, and prior to this I guess I didn’t realize just how big of an airline Xiamen Air is, as they had dozens of planes on the ground.

Pushing back Xiamen Airport

Taxiing Xiamen Airport

Taxiing Xiamen Airport

Of course there were plenty of other airlines as well, so the plane spotting opportunities were endless.

Shangdong Airlines 737 Xiamen Airport

As we approached the runway we saw the biggest plane at the airport, a China Airlines Cargo 747.

China Airlines Cargo 747 Xiamen Airport

Our taxi to the departure runway was quick, and by 7:50AM we were cleared for takeoff on runway 5 for our 2hr25min flight.

Taking off Xiamen Airport

We had a powerful takeoff roll (as you’d expect on a 757), and a steep climb out.

Taking off Xiamen Airport

This was also my first time getting views of the city of Xiamen in daylight hours, and I was quite intrigued, and looking forward to our visit on the return portion of our journey.

View after takeoff from Xiamen

View after takeoff from Xiamen

About five minutes after takeoff the seatbelt sign was turned off, at which point the curtains were drawn between cabins.

Curtain closed after takeoff

I had to use the restroom, and discovered one downside to this plane’s configuration. There’s no dedicated business class lavatory, but rather business class passengers have to use the economy restroom that was just behind our row.

Xiamen Air 757 business class lavatory

I’m not quite sure what a tooth mug is…

Say what?

About 20 minutes after takeoff, flight attendants distributed personal entertainment devices, given the lack of built-in personal entertainment. I’m impressed that they offer this on domestic flights. Double kudos to Xiamen Air for having a picture of Shawn Mendes on the home screen — they know the way to my heart.

Xiamen Air 757 personal entertainment

The entertainment selection was reasonably impressive, and had a couple of dozen movies, sitcoms, etc. The selection was similar to what was available on the built-in IFE on the previous flight, though not identical.

Xiamen Air 757 personal entertainment selection

Xiamen Air 757 personal entertainment selection

Xiamen Air 757 personal entertainment selection

Xiamen Air 757 personal entertainment selection

Xiamen Air 757 personal entertainment selection

Xiamen Air 757 personal entertainment selection

Xiamen Air 757 personal entertainment selection

I ended up working for most of the flight, though Andrew watched The Founder, which I enjoyed watching on a recent flight.

Xiamen Air 757 personal entertainment selection

About 30 minutes after takeoff the meal service began. The menu read as follows:

The drink list read as follows:

Service began with tablecloths and warm towels being distributed.

Xiamen Air business class warm towel

I ordered tea to drink, which was brought out just a minute after the tablecloths were.

Xiamen Air business class table setting

The entire meal was served on one tray, and was… very Chinese. As you can see, Xiamen Air had no western option on this flight in business class, and I can’t say I was a huge fan of this selection (though I’m sure other people love it). The fruit plate was decent enough. Personally I didn’t love the marinated egg, or the purple rice meatball, or the corn, or the potato. Fortunately I wasn’t too hungry, and I’m always happy to save my appetite for better food on the ground.

Xiamen Air business class breakfast

The crew on this sector was charming, and seemed very concerned that neither of us finished our meals, and asked if they could get us something else. Even after the meal they were attentive about providing drink refills.

By the time the meal was done we had just over an hour left until our arrival in Chengdu. I spent the rest of the flight working. At 9:40AM the flight attendant came around to each business class passenger to inform them that we would be landing at 10:15AM, and that the outside air temperature was 22.

A few minutes later we began our descent, and the crew prepared the cabin for landing.

While the views on departure were great, unfortunately the weather wasn’t as good arriving in Chengdu, and views were limited.

View approaching Chengdu

View approaching Chengdu

View approaching Chengdu

We had a smooth touchdown in Chengdu at 10:15AM. From there it was a roughly 10 minute taxi to our arrival gate. Chengdu is Sichuan’s hub, so as you’d expect, there were a lot of Sichuan planes on the ground (though also plenty of other airlines, including China Eastern, Shenzhen Airlines, etc.).

Taxiing Chengdu Airport

Sichuan planes at Chengdu Airport

Shenzhen Airlines A320 Chengdu Airport

China Eastern A320 Chengdu Airport

We arrived at our gate at 10:25AM, exactly on schedule.

Taxiing Chengdu Airport

Arrival gate Chengdu Airport

I was happy we were on a domestic flight, so wouldn’t have to clear immigration or anything. We were in the arrivals hall within a few minutes, and got in the hotel car that was waiting to take us to the St. Regis.

Deplaning Chengdu Airport

Xiamen Air 757 business class bottom line

The aircraft swap for this flight was a pleasant surprise, not so much in terms of getting us a better product, but rather in terms of experiencing another plane in Xiamen’s fleet. Overall this was a good flight — the crew was friendly and I appreciated the personal entertainment system.

However, the food wasn’t really up my alley. I wish Xiamen Air offered a western option for their meals on domestic flights. While there’s a lot of Chinese food I like, this dish definitely wasn’t up my alley.

Still, this was a great flight all around.

  1. Reading the Chinese characters, the “tooth mug” is a mug used for rinsing your mouth when brushing teeth. It’s not a literal translation nor I’ve never heard of a tooth mug either. 🙂

  2. Welcome to my hometown. Not the best time to visit tho, October is very cloudy and rainy in Chengdu. Enjoy Panda, food, and sceneries on the west mountain side of Chengdu.

  3. Great review on Xiamen’s domestic flight.
    I’ve flown them from Melbourne to Beijing in their business and ALL FOUR flights were operated by 787-9. Arguably the world’s best business class seat, great food, excellent flight attendants, empty cabin (5 out of 30 on MEL-XMN) and I only paid A$1600.
    The only downside, though, is “I” fare only earns 100% redeemable and 75% MQM on Delta.

  4. Inland flights don’t get many westerners, so I doubt it’s worth it for the airline to have a western food option — no more than a US airline is going to have an asian food option on the domestic segment. I’m glad you’ve had a good experience on xiamen. I think too many Americans lump all the Chinese carriers together. I’ve never been on a China Eastern flight that didn’t smell like an ashtray. I’ve never been on a Xiamen flight that didn’t have good food, service, and a clean atmosphere.

  5. You were traveling on Sept. 30th which is the day before the national day of China which is 10/01. It’s a major holiday and one where people take a vacation, so high volumes of traffic is expected, which makes sense for the upgrade to a 757.

    As for the hot water served, Chinese people traditionally only drink the hot water. It’s partially due to health reasons, hot water disposes of some of germs and bacteria in the water, China wasn’t known for a modern water system. On the other hand, it is customary to drink tea which is piping hot, so it’s natural to drink hot water. Just like westerners cannot get used to warm water, Chinese people are averse of the cold/ice water that is prevalent in the US and Europe, people that have grown up drinking only warm water just aren’t suited to the temperature of cold water, which causes strain on their stomachs.

  6. “ I wish they serve western options on a Chinese domestic flight “ wow I really find this lack of perspective amusing

  7. @Michael I don’t see a place where he says that… I searched the article but I don’t think he actually said that. But if he did, that would be lacking perspective, I agree.

  8. Given that there’s not a plethora of authentic Chinese food on domestic US flights, I can’t really justify your sentiment that domestic Chinese flights should offer Western options.
    In fact, it seems a bit myopic.

  9. A three-class 757 with angled-flat in F and recliner in J – it’s a throwback to United’s old premium transcon configuration!

  10. I’m willing to bet there will be a follow-up where Lucky comments how his desire for more western dishes on intra-Asia flights were misconstrued, but it is hard to defend such a smug comment. Previous commenters are correct; no one blinks an eye at the last of international cuisine on US carriers for domestic first class, so why should we expect the opposite in other countries?

    For all of his millions of miles flown over the years, Lucky still lacks a great deal of cultural awareness. Perhaps actually living in another country for a while might shed some light on his beliefs and put things into perspective. Just because you “pay” for business/first class all over the globe it doesn’t mean you’ve earned the right to demand things that are more aligned with your personal tastes. Exactly what type of food would he expect to be served on a mainland Chinese carrier?

    I know I’m not forced to read this blog and there are countless others that can compensate for giving up OMAAT, but it is becoming increasingly more difficult to overlook Lucky’s one-sided perspective on so many topics. He’s come such a long way from his very humble beginnings which is pretty sad and disappointing.

  11. I have to admit I’m a bit confused about those criticizing me for suggesting that I wish Xiamen Air offered a western option, or at least a second option, on this flight. Every single flight I’ve taken on a Chinese airline has offered both a western and Chinese option. I wanted to make sure I wasn’t going crazy, so I started Googling other reviews of domestic flights within China, and almost all of them had a choice between a Chinese and a western option. My recent Air China flight from Beijing to Ulaanbaatar (not a domestic flight, but roughly the same length) had the choice between a Chinese and western option. Our return flight on Xiamen Air from Chengdu to Xiamen had a western option.

    That’s just the norm. So my expectation wasn’t based on how I think things should be, but rather based on everything I’ve experienced on Chinese airlines ever (and I’ve flown a lot of Chinese airlines).

    For what it’s worth, six of the eight business class passengers were western, and most of the trays went back with a lot of food.

    So maybe it wasn’t right to say that I wish there was a western option, as I would have been happy with another Chinese option as well. I’ve had plenty of great Chinese meals on planes, though since I don’t eat pork, that sometimes makes it tough.

    To those reading into things beyond that, I’m sorry if it came across differently. But I have legitimately never been on a flight within China where there wasn’t at least two options for the meal (the only choice here was between the congee and porridge, which was the side dish).

  12. I know Chinese tend to be extremely superstitious and also every color equals a element ( water, fire, wood, metal, etc), but this seat color scheme is atrocious!

  13. To those criticizing Lucky for his comment about western food option on the flight- GO WASH SOME DISHES or DO SOME LAUNDRY. Gimme a break!!!!!!!!

    Almost every chinese flight EVER has a western option, and Lucky out of everyone else knows that, so its normal that he would question that this specific flight didnt have one.

    People these days get sensitive over anything….sheesh.

  14. I’m really enjoying the china trip report.

    I never cease to be amazed at the comments section full of people who take everything in a negative manner. Even without your explanation, i didn’t read your “i wish they had served something i wanted to eat” in a negative manner. That’s kind of a normal thing to hope for and doesn’t show a lack of perspective or cultural awareness. When southwest is out of cheese crackers, i wish they had them. Shame on me.

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