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!

6 Thoughts on “First Look: Air China Forbidden Pavilion First Class Shanghai to Tokyo

  1. I actually find this exciting given it’s on a big ‘ol 747! Getting rare nowadays. I flew on a Saudia 747 a few months ago in First Class and nostalgia grew on me. Back in the 90s when I was a kid I always flew economy, though always glanced or took a glimpse of First class. Though your Air China 747 first class looks like it has been retrofitted with a better seat than the original one it had back in the 90s, I still think it’s an exciting experience. Next time you’re on a similar plane with the old-style int’l first class seat, think of yourself travelling back in the 80s & 90s! 😉

  2. Lay flat (sic)? Dumb American. I can write better than you after only 4 years at UCLA.

  3. UCLA does have great academics

  4. CA doesnt have many 747 left anymore, and for sure it is very old and worn! But I’m also sure that the food you had would be the same food that they would prepare for F CLS pax on 747-8 if this aircraft was used between SHA-TYO. I’m not so impressed by the food, though you said it was generally fine food.

    • Yeah, the food was generally fine, though more of a business class meal than first. Given I was the only pax in F that flight, I wouldn’t be surprised if they only catered for business — and that was the meal I got. No worries though — it was a short flight, and the beef I ordered was decent enough.

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