Review: Xiamen Air Business Class 787-9 Los Angeles To Xiamen

Filed Under: Other Airlines

I met up with Andrew at LAX at around 8:45PM, right as check-in opened for our 12:15AM Xiamen Air flight to Xiamen. The airline only started flying to LAX a few weeks ago, though there was plenty of signage.

One thing that’s interesting about Xiamen Air is that they arrive at Terminal 2 but depart from Tom Bradley International Terminal. I had wondered about the logistics of that, and whether they actually towed the plane between terminals. Based on my experience that doesn’t seem to be the case — instead the plane leaves from a remote stand, so it’s just a function of minimizing congestion at check-in and immigration.

LAX Tom Bradley International Terminal signage

LAX Tom Bradley International Terminal check-in

There were several people ahead of us at check-in, even though we got there right as it opened. Check-in was a bit of a mess, as it took 45 minutes for us to get checked in. The major issue seemed to be that most of the check-in staff didn’t speak any Chinese, while a majority of the passengers didn’t speak any English. So the guy helping us (who seemed to be the only language speaker) kept getting called to other counters to translate.

Xiamen Air check-in LAX

Eventually we had our invitations to the Korean Air Lounge, as well as our boarding passes to Xiamen. The guy who checked us in explained that we’d have to get our connecting boarding passes to Chengdu upon our arrival in China, though said “don’t worry, Xiamen is a very small airport” (which is most definitely not the case).

We briefly headed to the Korean Air Lounge, though it has to be one of my least favorite major lounges in the US. So after being there for a few minutes we left.

Our flight was departing from gate 144. While the rest of Tom Bradley International Terminal is beautiful, this is the part of the terminal that looks like a Costco/Berlin Airport. We arrived there at around 11:15PM, right as our crew was walking through the terminal (you’ll see them in the below picture, in the blue uniforms).

Tom Bradley International Terminal LAX

While boarding was scheduled for 11:15PM, it really only started at 11:35PM.

Xiamen Air departure gate LAX

We all had to get on a crowded bus, which didn’t leave for 15 minutes, as they made sure that every square inch of the bus was full. The ride to the plane took a while, and by midnight we were onboard.

Before I get too deep into this review, this is just a reminder that I reviewed Xiamen Air’s 787-8 business class product last year between Seattle and Shenzhen, for anyone who wants a comparison of the two products.

Xiamen Air 830
Los Angeles (LAX) – Xiamen (XMN)
Friday, September 29
Depart: 12:15AM
Arrive: 5:30AM (+1 day)
Duration: 14hr15min
Aircraft: Boeing 787-9
Seat: 14L (Business Class)

We boarded through door L2, and were pointed left towards the business class cabin. Xiamen Air’s 787-9s have a total of 30 reverse herringbone business class seats. The cabin is bright and spacious, if not a bit sterile in terms of the finishes.

Xiamen Air business class cabin 787-9

Xiamen Air business class cabin 787-9

Xiamen Air has the B/E Aerospace Super Diamond version of the reverse herringbone seat, which is similar to the one offered by many other airlines, though it’s different than the Cirrus reverse herringbone seat you’ll find on airlines like Cathay Pacific.

Xiamen Air business class seat 787-9

Xiamen Air business class seat 787-9

What differentiates this reverse herringbone seat from the other popular one is that the tray table is underneath the entertainment screen, and simply slides forwards and backwards, rather than being folded out from the armrest. Furthermore, the entertainment screen is in a fixed position, rather than having to be latched for takeoff and landing.

Xiamen Air business class seat 787-9

There are also two compartments to the right of the seat. One forward compartment has the entertainment controller, headphone jack, USB outlet, and 110v outlet. You can also use it to store things, like chargers, glasses, etc.

Xiamen Air business class seat seat storage

Behind that is a small and shallow storage compartment, which has a mirror as well. Behind that is a magazine rack and a reading light.

Xiamen Air business class seat seat storage

Underneath those compartments is a small monitor you can use to control the seat functions.

Xiamen Air business class seat seat controls

Then underneath that is another small exposed storage compartment.

Xiamen Air business class seat seat storage

As I mentioned above, underneath the IFE screen is a tray table that can be folded over in half.

Xiamen Air business class tray table

Then underneath that is the footwell, which is a bit on the tight side, but not uncomfortably so.

Xiamen Air business class seat legroom

Already waiting at my seat on boarding were a pair of blue Xiamen Air branded slippers, along with a shoe bag and a shoehorn.

Xiamen Air business class slippers

Then there was a pair of decent enough noise canceling headphones.

Xiamen Air business class headphones

There was also a menu and drink list.

Xiamen Air business class menu & wine list

Within a couple of minutes of settling in, flight attendants came through the cabin to offer a choice of orange juice or “lemon” juice. When they explained what the drinks were I looked at the tray a bit confused, but as it turned out the “lemon” juice was simply water with a very slight hint of lemon taste. I was also offered a thin warm towel.

Xiamen Air business class pre-departure water and towel

A few minutes later the crew came through the cabin with Crabtree & Evelyn amenity kits, which weren’t that memorable, other than the silk iPhone bag and eye mask (which I’d like to see someone actually use on the plane).

Xiamen Air business class amenity kit

The last time I flew Xiamen Air there were also pajamas, which I wasn’t offered this time around. I’m not sure if they’ve discontinued those, or if they’re only available on demand, but I had totally forgotten about that until I went back to read my old review.

There was a pillow waiting at my seat on boarding, but I also asked for a light blanked, which was quickly brought out. This is in addition to the more substantial bedding they have when it’s time to sleep.

Xiamen Air business class pillow & blanket

While boarding finished up, the crew came around and took food and drink orders for the main meal, and asked whether I wanted to be woken up for breakfast in the event that I was sleeping.

By 12:20AM the door closed, at which point the lead flight attendant made her welcome aboard announcement. Xiamen Air flight attendants were stationed down the aisle during this announcement and were incredibly poised as bowed, pointed to the exits, etc.

Xiamen Air business class service

By 12:30AM we began our pushback, and five minutes later we started our taxi. As we taxied out, the crew walked through the cabin with signs indicating that passengers should turn off their electronics. Given how late at night it was, there was limited traffic, and by 12:45AM we were airborne on runway 24L for our 14hr6min flight to Xiamen.

Our climb out was smooth, and I took the opportunity to browse the entertainment selection.

Xiamen Air business class entertainment system

First I checked out the airshow.

Xiamen Air airshow

The airshow has many different settings, so you can choose what kind of a perspective you want to view it with.

Xiamen Air airshow

The entertainment selection itself was okay, but definitely not great. There were a couple of dozen movies.

Xiamen Air entertainment selection

Xiamen Air entertainment selection

Xiamen Air entertainment selection

That was okay, though the sitcom selection was really lacking, as one of the only western show options was “Just For Laughs.”

Xiamen Air entertainment selection

Xiamen Air entertainment selection

I couldn’t help but laugh at some of the entertainment descriptions.

Xiamen Air entertainment selection

The selection was so lame that I ended up watching High School Musical. Or at least the first 20 minutes of it, until I gave up.

Xiamen Air entertainment selection

However, the great thing about Xiamen Air is that they offer complimentary wifi, and it’s fast. You’re supposed to register for this in advance through Xiamen Air’s website, and then get a code. However, if you forget to register, I believe the crew has some extra codes onboard. The good news is that most people don’t seem to figure out how to connect, which leaves more bandwidth for the rest of us.

Xiamen Airlines wifi

Xiamen Airlines wifi

Free and fairly fast wifi? YES PLEASE!

Xiamen Airlines wifi

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

The drink list read as follows:

Service began with the table being set. I ordered a glass of champagne (Xiamen Air serves Perrier-Jouet, which I quite like), along with mixed nuts and a more substantial towel than on boarding.

Xiamen Airlines business class table setting

Literally less than a minute later a tray was brought out with the appetizer and salad. The salad had cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, red onions, and mozzarella. Meanwhile the appetizer had scallops, prosciutto, etc.

Xiamen Airlines business class dinner — salad and appetizer

Once I was done, the crew collected that tray and brought me a new tray with my main course. For the main course I selected the steamed seabass filet with XO sauce, vegetables, and steamed rice. That was served with braised lotus root red date soup with pork spare rib. The seabass was phenomenal.

Xiamen Airlines business class dinner — soup and main course

Meanwhile Andrew ordered the grilled beef with vegetables and braised pumpkin mash, which was served with a roasted tomato soup.

Xiamen Airlines business class dinner — soup and main course

Then that tray was removed, and dessert was brought out, which included a fruit plate, Haagen-Dazs vanilla ice cream, and mango cheesecake.

Xiamen Airlines business class dinner — dessert

The food was solid, though not amazing.

In general Xiamen Air has the most efficient meal service in business class. This is awesome on a late night departure where you want to sleep, as the meal was done 30 minutes after it started. That’s because they use a separate tray for each course, which makes the service easy. So rather than having to clear individual components of a plate, they take the whole tray when you’re done, and then bring out a new tray.

So it’s not the greatest restaurant-style dining experience like you’d get on the ground, but it’s literally the most efficient meal service I’ve had in a premium cabin on any airline.

As far as the service goes, the crew was friendly and attentive, and spoke reasonably good English. They weren’t quite as charming as the previous Xiamen Air crews I had, though they were still great.

After the meal the crew asked if I wanted my bed made, which I agreed to. In the meantime I headed to the lavatory — there are two immediately behind business class.

I find it odd that Xiamen Air doesn’t have paper towels in the bathroom, but rather only tissues. However, as you emerge from the lavatory there’s always a flight attendant there to offer you a towel. It’s just such an odd system.

Xiamen Air business class lavatory

Xiamen Air doesn’t offer a proper turndown service in the sense that there’s not a mattress pad, but they do bring out a comfortable thick blanket, as well as an extra pillow. While a mattress pad would be nice, I found the bed to be extremely comfortable. My only wish is that Xiamen Air had individual air nozzles at the seats. Fortunately they didn’t keep the cabin too hot, though.

Xiamen Airlines business class bed

I managed to get about six hours of sleep, which is much more than I usually get. Not only that, but it felt like “real” sleep and not “airplane” sleep. By the time I woke up we had crossed the international dateline.

Xiamen Airlines airshow enroute to Xiamen

Xiamen Airlines airshow enroute to Xiamen

A few minutes after waking up, a flight attendant appeared to offer me a bottle of water.

Xiamen Airlines business class bottled water

I headed to the lavatory, and noticed there was a small bar setup with a few packaged snacks. It’s a nice display, though not very substantial.

Xiamen Airlines business class snack bar

I wasn’t hungry, though since I was starting my workday thanks to the inflight wifi, I ordered some coffee.

Xiamen Airlines business class coffee

The crew did a good job keeping my coffee topped off, to a fault. They didn’t ask whether I wanted a refill, but just kept bringing more when they noticed my cup was getting empty. That’s great for the second cup, but less great when you’re on your fifth cup. 😉

About four hours before landing a flight attendant came by my seat to ask what I wanted for breakfast. Then about 2hr30min before landing the cabin lights were turned up, and the breakfast service started. The menu read as follows:

Service began with the tablecloth being brought out, along with a drink, mixed nuts (which seems odd for breakfast), and a warm towel.

Xiamen Airlines business class breakfast — coffee and nuts

The entire breakfast was served on one tray, and included raisin bran cereal with milk, a fruit plate with pineapple, kiwi, strawberries, and melon, an omelet with asparagus, potatoes, and ham, two pieces of bread, and an opera cake.

Xiamen Airlines business class breakfast

The breakfast was fine — I only picked at part of it, including the fruit plate and eggs. After the meal was cleared, a flight attendant came up to me and said “I notice you didn’t like your breakfast, can I get you something else?” I appreciated how observant she was, though in reality I just wasn’t that hungry.

About an hour before landing the crew distributed landing cards for China.

Landing card for China

We started our descent way early, as I often find to be the case on flights to China. For example, we were at 23,000 feet an hour before arrival, according to the airshow.

Airshow approaching Xiamen

As is the norm, our flightpath had us avoiding Rocket Man.

Airshow approaching Xiamen

Airshow approaching Xiamen

The crew put on the super funky mood lighting setting as we approached, which was the first time during the flight that they did that.

Xiamen Airlines mood lighting

Airshow approaching Xiamen

We had a smooth touchdown in Xiamen at 5:25AM, and from there just a short taxi to our arrival gate, where we parked next to another Xiamen Air 787.

Arrival in Xiamen

From there it was time to clear immigration and connect to Chengdu.

Xiamen Air 787-9 business class bottom line

All things considered, Xiamen Air offers a solid business class product. I’d argue it’s the most well rounded business class product offered by any airline in mainland China. Between the reverse herringbone seats, free wifi, professional service, and efficient and tasty meal service, they really impress me.

I’d say Hainan might be a little better in terms of their soft product, though they don’t have Wi-Fi on their planes, which is something I really value.

If you have the chance to earn or redeem SkyTeam miles on Xiamen Air, I highly recommend it.

  1. I think you meant blanket not blanked 🙂

    If the food was solid, but the seabass was phenomenal, which is it?

  2. “That was okay, though the sitcom selection was really lacking, as one of the only western show options was “Just For Laughs.” what about Modern Family? And did you need a vpn for the wifi?

  3. Interesting that Chinese airlines will also avoid North Korean airspace. Is this because they are likely to have many foreign passengers, including western ones, on any given flight?

  4. Wait…there’s no vodka listed on the menu.

    That can’t be. Let me look again.

    Oh, dear God, no…

    THERE’S NO VODKA!!! Not even Baijiu!

  5. Regarding the tissues and no paper towels in the lavatory, this is something I’ve experienced on Singapore Airlines too (granted it was in economy).

    I find the tissue is like a “hyrbid” in that if you use it to dry your hands it won’t disintegrate like a regular facial tissue and holds up like a paper towel.

    Must be a cost cutting thing.

  6. Will be curious to hear about the transfer process at XMN, it looks less than ideal … looking forward to flying them next month. great review, thanks!

  7. How could you give up watching High School Musical?! It has Zac Efron!! 😀

    On a more serious note, what did you do at LAX if you only spent a few minutes at the Korean Air lounge? Even with the slow check-in, you must’ve had at least 90 minutes to kill before boarding.

  8. @Jon Nevin – it is a horrible transit process for intl-intl connections: no airside transfer like you have in HKG, ICN, SIN, PVG, etc. etc. You basically have to enter China, go up to check in for your onward flight and go through immigration again. My brother did it, said it was such a tedious process and he almost missed his flight because of it.

  9. ” that looks like a Costco/Berlin Airport”
    Hilarious!!! As a Berliner, couldn’t help but laugh, as we truly have the two worst airports in the first world.

  10. “As is the norm, our flightpath had us avoiding Rocket Man.”- HAHAHAHH I died 🙂

    I was really looking forward to your seabass picture as it would be my second option, where is it????

    Did you use VPN for onboard wifi? Also how was connecting flights/immigration?

    FANTASTIC review Ben! I feel like you recently havent been making as good flight reviews like before, yet this one is certainly on the right track. Keep it up!!!!

  11. I din’t know they grew wine grapes in China. I wonder if it’s any good or just a low-quality knockoff.

  12. Re: hand towels: I suspect that they have problems with first time flyers who would put a hand towel into the toilet plugging it up. For those whom they trust they provide a towel on exit.

    Were there signs saying not to stand on the toilet seat (with pictures)?

    With Pierre Jouet who needs Vodka???????

  13. @Peter Michaelson
    You don’t have to believe me, but my dad has platinum status with China Eastern, and he said that he never smelled cigarette smoke in the cabin…
    Perhaps Lucky smelling cigarette smoke during that MU flight was an isolated case.

  14. Were you stuck behind the great firewall on the WiFi? I just flew China Eastern from HNL->PVG and from the moment WiFi went on I got locked out of alot of sites… Even my VPN want working right…

  15. @marc once the midfield satellite concourse opens with 12 gates I suspect there may be far fewer if any, bus transfers

    I’m wondering whether the small satellites in the western side will be demolished to
    make way for a new American Airlines hanger

    The long term plan is for the MSC to have around 20 gates once the southern portion opens

    Looking at the renderings it’s going to be pretty nice

  16. Though Hainan does have WIFI on their 787-9 now. It’s bit strange cause each passenger only get 150MB for the whole trip, though it’s completely free.

  17. Is there anyway I can get your review of the Panda park early? I am going soon, and would love your insights.

  18. Chinese carriers can spend all the money in the world to have amazing hard products but they just cannot get the soft product right. From “the(grammar) ,errors” in the menus to mixes nuts for breakfast – why don’t they just employ a western executive chef to bring their f&b up to western standards? If they are trying to cater to western pax have they not yet realised they don’t really get what western pax actually want?
    Or are they providing a western menu to Chinese pax and this is what Chinese pax want from a western meal?

  19. the tray table looks cheap…..nothing wrong with the food they provided, but Xiamen probably needs to work to improve the presentation of food

  20. Regarding the above comments on transiting. I was curious about this as well. I recently took advantage of the low cost business fares LAX-SYD (transit in XMN) flying in 2018. My return has a 2 hr layover in XMN. There is not much info about the actual experience of transiting passengers (int to int) with Xiamen Air online. However, their website describes the process and specifies a minimum of 90 minutes for transiting. I am assuming I am good with 2 hrs.

  21. ‘Is there anyway I can get your review of the Panda park early? I am going soon, and would love your insights.” me too!! we leave Nov 2nd on Xiamen

  22. Hainan does offer complimentary wifi in both Business and Economy with fair speed and you only need to register on board.

  23. Hi Lucky,

    What a great airline.
    The photos of your dinner and breakfast look great Lucky.

  24. Great review! Thanks.

    It is possible to do web checking for this flighth?
    I cannot find the option in the web page yet.

  25. Flew this flight this past month in J. Great experience. Perhaps the best bang for your buck for trans pacific flight. Disclaimer, I am indonesian of chinese descent (grandparents from Fujian province – where Xiamen is) grew up in singapore (I (used to) pride SQ) and now live in the US and a delta medallion member. I also speak basic broken mandarin which always helps when dealing with Mainland carrier.

    I originally chose this airline to get Delta miles and it’s low cost. I boarded the flight with mentality of ‘I paid less and hence not expecting the service in the likes of SQ or even US3’. This is also first time flying long haul with Mainland carrier.

    I was completely blown away. From their call agent, lounge crew in xiamen and on-board service. I swapped my first and last name during reservations. I called them (the office in Xiamen not the US-hotline which is a call center in Philippines. They’re nice but have little to no authority) and they were able to change it in a heartbeat with no problem whatsoever.

    The FA definitely seems more robotic than other Asian airlines (which are still robotic compared to the more casual american FA) but not by any mean bad service. They actually warm up once I started speaking my broken Mandarin and had genuine conversation.
    Honestly Xiamen FA pays better attention on certain stuff compared to than other Asian carriers. I felt like if you look and speak Chinese, the service level is different than if you’re not.

    MF catering is also really good. I had the same seabass and they just melt in your mouth. The outbound flight from Xiamen is even better. They have book the cook similar other airlines. Unfortunately you need to be able to READ chinese to do this.

    Lav is always locked whenever I want to use it. They will go and check to make sure it is clean before letting me in. The hot towel after lav is ingenious idea although can be weird because you know that the FA is waiting for you if you’re taking sweet time doing no 2. But still, it is a nice gesture and in fact should be adopted more widespread to save paper towels.

    The only downside is international transfer in Xiamen. You need to go through immigration (make sure to have your Visa just to avoid any problem), pick up your luggage, go through customs, re-enter departure area, check in for your connecting flight go through immigration and security check again. But, if you fly business, you have your own lane for security. For such an early arrival into Xiamen, the airport is empty anyway that it doesn’t matter. I did not mind the less than ideal transfer process at all. If I don’t want the hassle of transferring I’d pay premium, fly direct SQ and quit complaining because I got a great deal with Xiamen. But fret not, hopefully the new Xiamen airport will take care of this problem.

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