[Airline Review] – China Airlines (CI752) / (CI751) – Economy Class, SIN-TPE, (6 Aug 15) / TPE-SIN (11 Aug 15)

China Airlines A330 plying between Singapore and Taipei

On The Ground

Singapore Changi Airport

China Airlines shifted from Terminal 1 to Terminal 3 in Singapore Changi Airport since July 2015. The check-in counter for China Airlines is located at the far end of the terminal, located at counter 11. The airlines shared the check-in row with Sri Lanka Airlines, taking the half that is closer to the entrance to the terminal. As my friends and I arrived at the airport 3 hours prior to the scheduled flight, there was barely any queue. Having previously checked in on China Airlines website, we proceeded to the “Internet Check-in” counter. The check-in took a little longer than it should as we found out that our original seating arrangements were being messed up. The staff at the counter does not seemed to have the authority to change our seating and was trying to get her supervisor to authorise the seat change. After around 10 mins, she managed to get us our original seats and checked in our luggage, handed over our boarding passes and gave us the standard instructions such as the gate and time for us to head over to the gate.
Changi International Airport
Row 11 – Check-in counter for China Airlines
An empty check-in counter
Check-in counters at row 11

Pass the immigration, Terminal 3 of Changi Airport is a shopper’s paradise. There are no lack of shops range from branded boutiques to duty free tobacco and spirits for passengers to spend their time. There are also other faculties in the airport terminal such as activities area for kids, movie theatre and even a butterfly garden in the airport. Our flight is docked at gate B8 which is located along the link bridge between Terminal 3 and Terminal 1. When we arrived at the gate, it seemed most of the passengers have already passed the check point at the gate. Passed the check point, the waiting room seem to be empty. It appears passengers were boarded early.

 

Shopping at airside in Terminal 3
Shopping at airside in Terminal 3
Butterfly garden in Terminal 3
Butterfly garden in Terminal 3
Heading towards our gate for boarding
CI 752 boards in gate B8
An empty waiting area. It seemed boarding has commenced early
CI uses A330 for SIN-TPE route

Taipei Taoyuan Airport

China Airlines is located in Terminal 1 in Taipei Taoyuan International Airport. The airlines occupies a few rows in the terminal, for our flight back to Singapore, we were checked in at row 10. The queue at row 10 was very long for both the regular check in and internet check in. The row seem to be checking in at least 3 different flights, with all flights seem full or near full capacity. The queue for internet check-in snaked around row 10 and spilled over to row 9. We waited for nearly 40 mins on the internet check-in queue for the staff to check-in our luggage. There are staffs deployed n scene to manage the queues and direct those who have not done internet check-in to the right queue. Once at the counter, the friendly staff processed our luggage with a warmth smile, despite probably being overworked given the situation at the airport. She quickly checked-in our luggage and reminded us to remove prohibited items from our check-in luggage at the same time. She handed over our boarding passes and gave instructions on which gate is our flight and the time we had to be there. Before allowing us to leave the counter, the staff told us to wait by the end of the counter for our luggage to be scanned through the X-ray machine before heading towards immigration. Despite the long queue, the staff at the check-in counter processed our luggage efficiently and did not forget a smile.
Heading towards Terminal 1
CI has a few rows in the airport terminal. Our flight check-in is at row 10
This is the queue for passengers who have done on-line check in. It snakes around row 10 and spilled into row 9
There are a few flights that used row 10 for check-in. It seemed that all the flights are near full capacity
Part of the queue at row 10 for passengers who have not done on-line check-in
Check-in counter at row 10
List of prohibited items for checked baggage, CI is very strict in its implementation
There are some shops that sells souvenirs and local produce before the immigration area. This is where we spent some time doing last minute shopping. Most of the shops here have roughly the same product offerings, of the shops, the one in the centre (opposite entrance to the immigration area) is the biggest of all and have more merchandise than the others on the side of the terminal. Passing the immigration, there are a couple of shops selling duty free products such as cosmetics, tobacco and spirits. There is a cafe and a bookstore near Gate A5, where our flight docks at. As the flight is full, there does not seem to be sufficient seating at the waiting room.
Line to enter the immigration area
Shops in the terminal just before immigration
Shops selling local produce
Duty free shops at airside
Duty free shops at airside
View of Taoyuan International Airport
Our flight boards at Gate A5
At the waiting area. Seem like a full flight
Waiting area of Gate A5
Entrance for Economy Class passengers
The bird that is flying us back to SIN

The Cabin

China Airlines uses the A330-300 for the SIN-TPE route. The 2-cabin class aircraft is configured to take up to 313 passengers, with 36 up in Business Cabin and 227 in the Economy class section. The Economy Class cabin is segregated into 2 sections, both being configured in 2-4-2 seating. The Economy Class cabin is decked out in white colour bulk heads and light purple upholstery, which gives a clean feel. However, I find the light purple upholstery looked a little dated.
At the rear of the cabin
Light purple upholstery used in Economy Class cabin
Brightly lighted cabin
Economy Class cabin
No Aircon vent above the bulkhead
Peeking into Business Class Cabin
Business Class seats

The lavatory onboard is very cramp and despite being sufficient for one to do one’s business in, one would find it difficult to turn around. There are no other amenities such as toothbrushes other than hand lotion and hand soap. The lavatory is well-lited with make-up room lightings mounted on the mirror. 

Basin
Only hand soap and toothbrush are available in the lavatory
Toilet bowl
Toilet bowl
Vanity mirror

The Seat

The seats in CI’s Economy Class is decked out in light purple fabric upholstery. Measuring 31″ in pitch and 19″ wide, the seat is rather comfortable for a near 5 hour flight. The seat does not feel too cramp and provided me with sufficient leg room, however when the front passengers recline their seat, getting in and out of the seat can be a problem. As with most Economy Class products offered on the other airlines, the recline button of the seat is located at the side of the armrest. The seats comes with a dual pocket feature, a larger one where all the inflight magazines, aircraft safety card and air sickness bag are located, and a smaller one where one can fit passport or mobile phones. There is a small vanity mirror, located to the left of the IFE. However due to the age of the aircraft, I had difficulty keeping the cover of the mirror stay open on its own. Underneath the mirror, one can find a hangar button, however I find it too small for me to hang my jacket. To the right of the IFE is another small storage area. This storage area does not seem to serve any purpose as it is too narrow to fit any passports and too shallow to fit a mobile phone. Other than a small compact camera, this grove does not even fit a cup. Due to the age of the aircraft, I had difficulty stowing my tray table on both legs of the flight.
Seat in Economy Class
Decent Legroom
Recliner button
Vanity mirror and a coat hangar
The cover to the mirror just wouldn’t stay open
Small storage area, not too sure what can be fitted in here
Aircraft Safety card
Contents in the seat pocket
Some amount of wear and tear, signs of an aging aircraft
Ledge to pull down the tray table
As with most airlines, the headrest can be adjusted for passengers to adjust according to their height. Pillow and blanket, as well as headphones are already placed on the seat prior to boarding.
Adjustable headrest
Pillow and blanket placed on the seat
Headphones

In-Flight Entertainment

The personal entertainment screen onboard both CI752 and CI751 is rather small, measuring 6.5″. I am quite surprise to learnt that the screen in Economy Class is touch-screen and it is very responsive. The entertainment system has the usual Movie selection, featuring some of the latest Hollywood blockbuster such as Avengers 2: Age of Ultron, Tomorrowland. It also has games, TV series, and destination videos other than movie selection. The movies comes in 3 main languages – English, Mandarin and Japanese, for passengers to choose from. The controller is stowed on the left armrest and looks as if it has seen better days. Having said that, it still functions very well.
6.5″ touch screen personal TV screen
IFE controller
There is a fair bit of wear and tear on the controller as well. However it still functions well
Back side of the controller
Different types of IFE controllers used onboard China Airlines

Meal Service

CI752

Meal service started to run about 45 minutes into the flight. Each passengers were given a packet of snacks consisting of rice crackers and some nuts. The second (main) meal service comes about 2 hours into the flight. No menus are distributed on this flight in Economy Class, the pursuers came around informing passengers of their choice. For this flight, Fried Chicken with noodles and Stir Fried Beef with rice were the options. I opted for the beef meal. The beef meal tasted a little too salty for my liking and the gravy is a little too thick. The beef is a little tough as well. My friend had the fried chicken. The chicken tasted soggy and tough, while the noodle tasted blend. There are the usual sides such as salad, fruits and a loaf of bread. The dessert is a small slice of raspberry cake, which I find too sour for my liking.
Snack run
Meal service
My friend had the chicken and noodle option
I took the beef and rice option

CI751

As with my previous flight, first run of snack service comes around 45 minutes into the flight. A packet of rice crackers and nuts were distributed together with drinks. Again, no menus were distributed in this leg of the flight. The main meals came around 2 hours into the flight. On this leg of the flight, Fish with noodles and Chicken with rice were offered. I took the fish with noodles and I find it very tasty. The noodles are not dried up and the fish is well seasoned and not too soggy. I also find the gravy on the fish to be very tasty. My friend opted for the chicken with rice. The spice used to cook the chicken is too overpowering and the gravy is too thick. Ice cream wrapped around 2 biscuits were distributed after the meal service.
Fish and noodle option for me
My friend took the chicken and rice option

Service

Being the Taiwanese national carrier, most of the flight attendants are Taiwanese. The Taiwanese are famed for their warmth and friendly nature. This trait is being carried over to China Airlines. The pursuers are warmth and welcoming and always serviced with a smile. The warmth service can be felt the moment one steps onboard the aircraft. Friendly pursuers are seen greeting passengers at the door. I requested for a can of coke on my outbound flight to Taipei, the pursuer was responsive to the call attendant signal and came back momentarily with my drink. When clearing my drink, she even asked if I would want another can. I popped by the galley at the rear of the aircraft to ask the pursuers for a deck of playing cards, despite having their meal, they dropped whatever they are doing and got me a deck with a smile on their face.
Flight attendants preparing for meal run
Snack and drinks run (note: that is not the attendant who was rude, in fact this attendant is a very nice lady whom provided great service)
However there was an isolated incident that somewhat affected my impression of service onboard China Airlines. The flight delayed for around 30 mins for take off at Taipei Airport, I requested for a drink when the seat belt sign was turned off. A stewardess answered to my call and brushed my request off, stating that they will soon begin their snack service. However this wait was a good 1 hour before drinks are being served. When the stewardess came to my seat during snack service, pulling a long face and told my friend to tell me to put my seat upright. I was shocked by her attitude, does she need to relay through my friend to get my seat put in an upright position? Moreover it is just snack service and not even meal service. She was also seen rude to other passengers seating around my area. I highlighted this to the flight manager, who came by and find out more about the incident. The manager listened attentively and empathetically. He personally popped by, bringing desserts from the Business Class section to express his apologies. There is some form of service recovery displayed by the flight manager, and he also assured me that my feedback will be taken.
Overall, passengers traveling on China Airlines can be assured of the hospitality and the warmth that the Taiwanese are famed for.

Overall

Despite aging hardware, the flight onboard China Airlines is comfortable. The entertainment system is great to make the flight less mundane. For a short to medium haul flight, China Airlines is acceptable, however I am not too sure if it would be so for long-haul flights in Economy Class. The service, less the isolated incident, is great. One can be assured of receiving great service onboard China Airlines. More could have done to elevate the situation in Taipei Taoyuan Airport, the airlines should take into consideration the load of the various flights and spread out the check-in instead of having a few flights checking in at the same row for flights with full or near full capacity.