Shanghai-based China Eastern Airlines is China’s second-largest airline (behind China Southern) and is 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.

The airline is part of the SkyTeam alliance, but also has a bilateral agreement with Qantas, meaning Qantas Points can be used for redemptions on China Eastern.

Routes, aircraft and cabins

China Eastern currently flies between its hub at Shanghai Pudong International Airport and Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane.

According to Routesonline, effective 1 February 2019, one of the two daily flights to/from Melbourne will be served by the new Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner aircraft, featuring direct aisle access and sliding privacy doors for all Business Class passengers.

And effective 31 March 2019, the MU561/562 service to/from Sydney will have its Airbus A330 aircraft replaced by an A350, featuring the same Business Class seat as the 787-9 with sliding doors. In addition, the other current A330 flight will be switched to the Dreamliner from 27 October 2019.

China Eastern 787 Business Class
China Eastern 787 Business Class

With a departure of 11am or 12 noon depending on the season, that will give you an ideal opportunity to enjoy the product (perhaps with an afternoon nap) on the 10-hour flight to Pudong.

China Eastern 787 First Class

First Class is really just an enhanced Business Class product with more legroom, so isn’t worth the premium pricing in my opinion.

China Eastern 787 Frist Class

‘First Class’ on this aircraft is really just Business Class with more space

At the moment, Sydney flights get the updated Airbus A330 Business Class product:

China Eastern A330 Business Class

whilst Brisbanites are stuck with an older A330 seat in a 2-2-2 configuration (not pictured).

Sometimes, Sydney and Melbourne get a Boeing 777-300ER, featuring four First Class ‘Suites-style’ seats, with the centre ones convertible into a double bed (like in Singapore Airlines’ Suites Class):

China Eastern 777-300ER First Class

and a reverse-herringbone Business Class seat:

China Eastern 777-300ER Business Class

There has been talk of the airline launching service to Perth.

Award availability

In its first month of operation, I found at least two Business Class award seats open from Melbourne to Shanghai on the 787 service on the following dates:

  • 3 February 2019
  • 4 February
  • 19 February
  • 25 February
  • 26 February

I found no First Class award availability on these flights, nor any First or Business Class availability on the return departing Shanghai.

Points pricing

Here is the pricing for a one-way Business Class flight to Shanghai from:

OriginUntil 17 September 2019From 18 September 2019
Brisbane65,00075,000
Sydney78,00090,000
Melbourne78,00090,000

Taxes departing Australia are $170-180.

Do you need to call to book or can you do it online?

China Eastern redemptions can be booked online through the Qantas website. For more information, read our guide on where to search for award space.

When does award calendar availability open up?

Qantas’ award calendar opens at 353 days (almost one year) before departure.

Alternatives

Qantas flies between Sydney and Shanghai.

Air China flies to Shanghai from Sydney and Melbourne, but those services are slated to end on 31 March 2019.

Summing up

China Eastern doesn’t have the best reputation for its soft product (meaning its customer service and dining options), but it is investing a lot in its hard product (seats). Australia-based travellers are likely to be amongst the first to enjoy the updated product in years to come.

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.

Melbourne is getting China Eastern’s new Business Class with sliding doors from next month was last modified: July 2nd, 2019 by Matt Moffitt