Review: Air China First Class Lounge – Shanghai Pudong

We arrived at Shanghai’s Pudong Airport after a quick, 35-minute commute from the Grand Hyatt Shanghai on the metro and the maglev.  First Class check-in was painless and uneventful, as was the short trek through immigration and security.  We made our way directly to the new Air China lounges, located near gate 71 in Shanghai-Pudong’s Terminal 2.

There is one large desk with a ton of Air China agents to direct you to either the First Class or Business Class lounges.  Since I was booked in first class for our short flight to Tokyo-Narita, we had access to the First Class Lounge.

I really hadn’t read a whole lot about this lounge, so I was anxious to see what it was all about.  I must say, my expectations were quite low for this lounge, but I was very pleasantly surprised.

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Review: Air China Forbidden Pavilion First Class Shanghai to Tokyo

We arrived at Shanghai’s Pudong International Airport a couple of hours before our scheduled departure for Toyko-Narita.  Check-in was quick and simple, and I was pointed towards the security line where I was able to skip the line since I was flying First.  I ended up clearing security and immigration only minimally quicker than my friend who was on the flight with me in economy.

After about a half an hour in the Air China First Class Lounge (review forthcoming), we made our way to the gate where we discovered that we would be boarding buses to take us to a remote stand.

Yup, we seriously were going to use a remote stand to board a B747-400.  This was a tad strange to say the least.  I was able to take the private van for first and business class passengers, and after about a ten minute ride, we arrived to our plane — which happened to be the furthest plane away from the terminal.

Boarding our Air China B747-400 from the ramp

Boarding our Air China B747-400 from the ramp

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First Look: Air China Forbidden Pavilion First Class Shanghai to Tokyo

Earlier this week, I got to experience a relatively quick flight in Air China’s Forbidden Pavilion First Class on a flight between Shanghai’s Pudong International Airport and Tokyo’s Narita International Airport.   This 2.5 hour flight was booked as part of my around the world trip using US Airways miles.

Compared to my flight in THAI Royal First Class and ANA First Class, I was extremely underwhelmed with my experience with Air China.  I’d even prefer United’s GlobalFirst Class over this, simply because the hard product (the seat) just doesn’t compare.   Don’t get me wrong — any flight in an international first class cabin is a privilege, but I’m just comparing apples to apples here.

Boarding our Air China B747-400 from the ramp

Boarding our Air China B747-400 from the ramp

On this flight, we flew an aged B747-400 aircraft, and I was seated in seat 2A, as the only passenger in first class.
Interestingly enough, the first class cabin on this plane was not located in the nose of the 747, but instead was between the first and second sets of doors in an area typically designated for business class.  This first class cabin was incredibly dated, but it did feature a full lie-flat bed, and is very similar in design to the old first class seats on American’s international fleet.  Air China is eventually phasing these 747s out of their fleet, and that was pretty obvious, as the interior of this plane clearly hadn’t been refreshed in quite some time.

Air China Forbidden Pavilion First Class - Seat 2A on a B747-400

Air China Forbidden Pavilion First Class – Seat 2A on a B747-400

Though this was a short flight, I was offered a full, multi-course lunch service.  The food was actually pretty decent, and the entrée — though more of a business class-style meal — was actually quite good.  I ordered the steak and received a petite tenderloin that was cooked to a perfect medium — always a nice surprise onboard any flight.

Lunch in Air China First Class -- Beef Tenderloin, mashed potatoes and vegetables

Lunch in Air China First Class — Beef Tenderloin, mashed potatoes and vegetables

The in flight entertainment consisted of an old, flip-out screen, with very little programming.  It certainly wouldn’t be adequate for a longer flight, but on this short flight I kept the in-flight map up the whole time.  I passed time after the meal by snoozing and looking out the window as we flew parallel to the eastern coast of Japan on our approach to Narita.

I’ll post a full review of the flight later, but I did want to post my initial impressions of the flight.  Though I realize Air China is offering a newer product on its newest airplanes on routes to North America, this short sample of its Forbidden Pavilion First Class certainly did not leave me anxious to experience it on a longer, Trans-Pacific flight!

An Around the World Trip — Introduction

As I previously wrote, I will be embarking on a two-week journey around the World starting tonight.  While I’m meeting twelve other friends in Munich, two of them will be joining me for our exploits in Asia.

Though we all have somewhat different flights, we all did manage to get on the same THAI flight from Munich to Bangkok to Shanghai.  And we all managed to do it all with miles.

How exactly did we do it?

I’m so glad you asked…

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Around the World with US Airways Miles

A week from today, I will be embarking on another around the world adventure — this time it will include a stop at one of my favorite places in the World — Munich during Oktoberfest.  The Oktoberfest trip is one that I’ve taken the past four years, so it was a no-brainer to book a fifth straight year at the Weisn.

I will be joining ten other friends in Munich for four days, and at least two days at the tents of Oktoberfest — the world’s largest festival.  We also plan to attend a Bayern Munich match, the famed Hofbrauhaus, and some other various sites in and around Munich.  Last year I was able to experience the closing of Oktoberfest, and it was definitely worth the effort to stay for it on Sunday night, so we will be enjoying the closing ceremonies once again from the Hacker Pschorr tent.

The 2013 Closing Ceremony at the Hacker-Pschorr Tent at Oktoberfest

The 2013 Closing Ceremony at the Hacker-Pschorr Tent at Oktoberfest

When planning this trip last year, I wanted to take advantage of a stash of US Airways miles that I had on hand, as I was uncertain of how the impending US Airways / American merger would affect the very favorable US Airways award chart.  As such, I decided to stretch the value of my miles as far as possible.  I also want to try several Star Alliance first class partners while I could, since one could no longer book US Airways on Star Alliance partners after March 31, 2014.

In order to squeeze that extra value out of my award, I decided to book a trip from the US to North Asia… yes, North Asia. Continue Reading →