In just over three months’ time, China Eastern will have upgraded its twice-daily flights from Sydney and Melbourne to one of the top 10 Business Class products available to us.
Routesonline reports that the airline’s last A330 flight to Shanghai from Sydney will be on 28 October and from Melbourne on 13 January. After those dates, these routes will be operated by a mix of Boeing 787 Dreamliner and Airbus A350 aircraft.
The only exception to this is that there will be a larger Boeing 777-300ER operating one of the Sydney flights during the busy Chinese New Year travel period. Those dates are 13 January to 29 February 2020.
Read on to learn about the differences in the products and how to book an award flight using Qantas Points.
Who is China Eastern?
Shanghai-based China Eastern Airlines is China’s second-largest airline (behind China Southern). It’s ranked in the top 10 airlines worldwide for passengers carried, distance flown and number of aircraft. It has undergone huge growth over the past decade.
Routes, aircraft and cabins
China Eastern currently flies between its hub at Shanghai Pudong International Airport and Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane. It also has non-daily flights from Sydney to second-tier Chinese cities.
According to Australian Aviation, the airline will trial a 3x weekly A330 service from Perth to Shanghai from 15 January until 17 February 2020, covering the Chinese New Year period.
From the airline’s main hub at Shanghai Pudong, you can fly onwards to:
- Europe: Amsterdam, Frankfurt, London, Madrid, Moscow, Paris, Prague, Rome, Stockholm and St Petersburg
- North America: Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, Toronto and Vancouver
Boeing 787 Dreamliner & Airbus A350 Business Class
China Eastern has two daily flights each from Sydney and Melbourne to Shanghai.
From 14 January 2020, all four flights will be operated by a mix of Boeing 787 Dreamliner and Airbus A350 aircraft. The Business Class seat on these aircraft offers direct aisle access and sliding privacy doors to all passengers.
Departing Australia, there is a midday and an overnight flight to choose from, giving you time to sleep or nap on the 10-hour flight to Pudong. On the way back to Australia, all flights are overnight.
First Class is really just an enhanced Business Class product with more legroom, so isn’t worth the premium pricing in my opinion.
Airbus A330 Business Class
All flights from Sydney to cities other than Shanghai, e.g. Nanjing, as well as Brisbane – Shanghai flights are operated with the updated Airbus A330 Business Class product. This is a reverse-herringbone seat set up in a 1-2-1 configuration.
It remains to be seen if the Perth trial flights get this updated product or the angled-flat A330 version (probably the latter).
Boeing 777-300ER Business & First Class
Sometimes during peak travel periods like Chinese New Year, Sydney and Melbourne get a Boeing 777-300ER. These feature four First Class ‘Suites-style’ seats, with the centre ones convertible into a double bed (like in Singapore Airlines’ Suites Class):
and a reverse-herringbone Business Class seat.
Does China Eastern operate a Premium Economy cabin?
Yes, China Eastern has Premium Economy seats on its Boeing 787 Dreamliner and Airbus A350 aircraft. They are recliner seats with 38 inches of seat pitch, a legrest and footrest, and AC and USB power outlets.
The cabin is set up in a 2-3-2 configuration on the 787 and a tighter 2-4-2 layout on the A350.
China Eastern tends to be generous with releasing award space, including to Qantas Frequent Flyer members. There tend to be more Business Class seats available departing Australia rather than China.
Here is the pricing for a one-way Business Class flight to China from:
|Origin||Qantas Points required|
|Brisbane or Perth||75,000|
|Sydney or Melbourne||90,000|
Taxes departing Australia are $170-180.
Do you need to call to book or can you do it online?
When does award calendar availability open up?
Qantas’ award calendar opens at 353 days (almost one year) before departure.
The only other airline to fly between Australia and Shanghai is Qantas, from Sydney with its Airbus A330 aircraft.
China Eastern doesn’t have the best reputation for its soft product (meaning its customer service and dining options). However, it is investing a lot in its hard product (seats). Australia-based travellers are lucky to be amongst the first to enjoy the updated product.
Given China Eastern is part of the SkyTeam alliance, which is hard to access with points for travellers in Australia, the option to use Qantas Points on these redemptions is very welcome.
Have you flown China Eastern before? What was your experience?
Supplementary images courtesy China Eastern and Airbus.