For some (like me), collecting points and amassing unique flight experiences are underpinned by the goal to catch ’em all. This holds true on my flight from Busan to Taipei with Taiwan-based China Airlines onboard one of the newest aircraft in its fleet, the Airbus A321neo.

This flight ticks a few new experiences off my list. China Airlines Airbus A321neo in Economy – check. Wrapping up my first visit to the city of Busan – check. Flying onboard an aircraft decked out with Pokémon – check.

That’s right. I’m lucky enough to be flying on one of the handful of routes where China Airlines operates its special livery Pikachu Jet. On its own, CI’s A321neo Economy Class – which we’ll shorten to Economy for this review – is a fantastic product. The Pokémon theme is a fun, welcome addition to this flight.

Here’s my full overview, including how you can fly on the Pikachu Jet using Qantas Points. Let’s go!

Welcome aboard China Airlines Airbus A321neo Pikachu Jet!

Check-in and boarding

I arrive at Gimhae International Airport, the main hub of South Korea’s second-largest city, Busan. After spending a week in Japan and South Korea, I’m concerned that the 23kg checked baggage allowance allotted to my Economy ticket isn’t enough to lug my stockpile of shopping back home. But even with two bags, I’m still under the allowance. Great start.

The win-streak continues with no queue at the China Airlines check-in counters. I’m bound for Taipei, with a connecting overnight flight to Melbourne later this evening, so my bags are checked all the way through. Up until this point, there’s nothing out of the ordinary when checking in for this Economy flight.

That is until the check-in agent hands me a colourful boarding pass adorned with the adorable Pikachu.

China Airlines Pokemon Pikachu Jet boarding pass
It’s a bit Farfetch’d to call a boarding pass ‘cute’. But when it looks like this, how can you not?!

I bounce through security like a Spoink with my carry-on bag in tow, now embellished with a Pikachu bag tag. Lounge access isn’t included with my Economy ticket, though a Priority Pass membership (complimentary with credit cards like the Citi Premier Credit Card and Amex Platinum) grants access to select lounges in Busan. But a lounge isn’t where I want to be before this particular flight. I’m more than happy pacing the terminal for a sneak peek of today’s ride.

Boarding commences with ‘Sky Priority’ and elite Dynasty members called first, followed by Economy passengers in zones. To welcome passengers onboard, an image of Pikachu is placed alongside the aircraft door. As another subtle surprise, cabin crew distribute exclusive Pikachu sticker sheets at the door.

China Airlines Airbus A321neo Economy seating

The Airbus A321neo joined China Airlines’ fleet in late 2021. Fresh and modern, the cabin boasts a combination of earthy tones and youthful, light blue hues. The interior is the work of JPA Design, the company behind the cabin interiors of Singapore Airlines A380 Business Class and flydubai Boeing 737-MAX.

Seats are arranged in a 3-3 layout. With a scheduled flight time of just under two-and-a-half hours, I’ve pre-selected a window seat, 46K. Lucky for me, there’s a Jigglypuff hidden on the aircraft engine outside my window.

China Airlines A321neo Economy seats have a width of 18 inches and a pitch of 31 inches. I find the latter to be enough for my 5’4″ frame on a short flight. But if you prefer more legroom or want to stretch out like Hitmonlee, the bulkhead seats at the front of the Economy cabin in row 40 allow for this.

Food and beverage in China Airlines Airbus A321neo Economy

It’s a short flight, but a full lunch is on the cards. Unsurprisingly, the cabin crew are donned in Pikachu-themed aprons. Of the many China Airlines flights I’ve taken, there’s a notable timeliness of the meal service once the plane reaches cruising altitude – and this flight is consistent with that.

I’m drooling like a Gloom over today’s lunch: chicken fried rice with a side salad and apple juice. It’s satiating, and I don’t feel like I need an encore once I land. Of course, I’m on a Pokémon-themed flight, so my meal is sprinkled with small touches.

Inflight entertainment, Wi-Fi and power

Now this is where China Airlines Airbus A321neo Economy really stands out from every other Economy flight I’ve taken. The modernity of the aircraft extends to its overall entertainment experience – which, all things considered, is actually quite spectacular.

China Airlines emphasises a ‘contactless experience’ onboard its A321neo – a byproduct of a pandemic era. At the helm is the 4K 13.3-inch touchscreen, a substantial evolution from the 6.5-inch touchscreen on China Airlines’ Airbus A330s that service similar regional routes. You can pair your personal device to the IFE via Bluetooth and use it as a remote control. With all the IFE on my phone, I literally don’t need to lift a finger to browse the comprehensive selection of movies, TV shows and music. There’s even the ability to pair your personal Bluetooth headphones to the IFE.

When flying, I enjoy the opportunity to discover new music and dig up old favourites on the IFE. I’m thoroughly impressed by the ability to filter the music by multiple genres. Can’t decide between Easy Listening or Pop? Select both and see what tickles your fancy from the results. It’s far easier than choosing an Eeveelution!

And just when I think the tech on this flight can’t get any cooler, my keen eye spies an icon of a moon with two Z’s at the top of my screen. Tapping this brings up the options ‘let me sleep’, ‘wake for meals’ and ‘wake for shopping’. I press ‘let me sleep’, and my screen immediately turns black, with an enlarged moon and Z’s to allow for my full restore. Handy!

Wi-Fi is available on this flight, with the following options:

  • Free chat (no uploading or downloading photos)
  • 50MB – USD$8
  • 100MB – USD$10
  • 300MB – USD$20

Individual USB-A ports are located beneath each screen. There are no universal power sockets in Economy, though for such a short flight, this isn’t a necessity.

How to book this flight using Qantas Points

China Airlines is part of the SkyTeam alliance. But thanks to its partnership with Qantas, you can redeem Qantas Points for China Airlines flights.

At the time of publication, China Airlines does not use its Pokémon jets on the Busan-Taipei route, but this is set to return from late October to late December 2024. However, you can still book this route using Qantas Points and even connect onwards from Taipei to Melbourne, Sydney, or Brisbane.

China Airlines operates two flights daily from Busan to Taipei, with the earlier flight on its newer A321neo and the evening flight on a Boeing 737.

An Economy Classic Reward seat between Busan and Taipei with China Airlines will set you back 14,000 Qantas Points + 54,300 Korean Won (~AUD$60), one-way.

Busan-Taipei Qantas Classic Rewards booking
Fly between Busan and Taipei with China Airlines using Qantas Points.

How to book the Pokémon plane using Qantas Points

If you want to fly on the Pokémon plane specifically, you’ll need to check China Airlines’ dedicated website for the latest schedule of its themed aircraft, as the routes and flight numbers change every few months. At the time of writing, China Airlines’ Pikachu Jet flies between Taipei and two destinations in Japan: Kumamoto and Takamatsu. Flights between Gimhae International Airport (Busan) and Taipei on the Pokémon plane are scheduled to resume from 27 October to 31 December 2024.

Here’s how to fly China Airlines’ Pokémon plane for cheap with points:

  1. Visit China Airlines’ Pikachu Jet website and scroll down to ‘Flight Information’ to view the routes that the Pokémon plane is scheduled to fly. Take note of the dates and CI flight numbers.
  2. Search for Classic Reward seats on the Qantas website for your desired route, ensuring your date is within the themed plane’s schedule. Make sure the flight number matches the one listed on China Airlines Pikachu Jet website for the best chance to fly on a Pokémon-themed plane!
Booking China Airlines' Pokemon plane using Qantas Points
Luckily, you don’t need to be a Mind Reader to know when China Airlines operates its Pikachu Jet – it’s all on the website.

Boost your Qantas Points balance with a credit card sign up offer!

Summing up

The modern fittings of China Airlines Airbus A321neo easily place it among the most enjoyable Economy flights I’ve experienced. Even without the ‘themed’ aspect, it’s difficult to fault the hard product. A fresh, contemporary interior and clean, comfortable seats – the Pokémon accents are simply a bonus on top of what is undoubtedly a solid Economy offering.

Only a handful of airlines operate direct flights between Busan and Taipei, with the majority being budget carriers. The ~$60 co-payment when using Qantas Points is great value for this flight, considering China Airlines A321neo Economy Class includes all the trimmings—checked baggage, a substantial meal, and innovative inflight entertainment.

Sure, there are other options on this route, and perhaps when flying to or from Taipei in general. But once you’ve flown on China Airlines A321neo, you’ll be itching to be blasting off again. I certainly am.

China Airlines A321neo Pokemon livery jet
Fly high on the Pikachu Jet – and extend your reach to the stars above.

Also read: China Airlines A350 Premium Economy (Melbourne – Taipei)

Photography by Victoria Kyriakopoulos, who travelled as a guest of China Airlines.

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China Airlines Airbus A321neo Economy (Busan – Taipei) was last modified: June 11th, 2024 by Victoria Kyriakopoulos