TESTED BY Lark Gould
PLANE TYPE 777-300ER
SEAT CONFIGURATION 1-2-1
SEAT PITCH 75 in/190.5cm
SEAT WIDTH 23.6-27 in/60-68.58cm
SEAT RECLINE Lie flat, 180 degrees
PRICE Online round-trip fares between Los Angeles International and Shanghai Pudong in May were available for around $4,141.
CHECK-IN: China Eastern runs its departures out of Tom Bradley International Terminal (TBIT) at LAX and uses the sizeable (14,200-square-foot) Korean Air SkyTeam Lounge for upper class passengers. Check-in was uneventful, although security at LAX is unpredictable.
Once through, the lounge offers plenty of comfortable seating with all sorts of nooks and crannies within a generous open setting. Hours run from 7:30 AM to midnight daily and Priority Pass members are welcomed.
BOARDING: The flight left from the far end of the concourse and was expectedly full. The Business Class cabin offers 52 reverse herringbone seats in a 1-2-1 configuration. This meant privacy for me, as I was on the aisle, plus easier mobility and a comfortable view. My seat had ample storage all around. Libations, including Champagne, and hot towels were offered before take-off. Wheels up and it was a slight snooze until packaged mixed nuts and a glass of chilled Tsingtao.
THE SEAT: The China Eastern Business Class Kingbed seat measures an impressive 27 inches wide with armrests lowered, and more than six feet long in lie-flat mode. A shelf between the seat and window, or between seats in the middle row, provides plenty of extra arm and item space, as does an added shelf above the seat console. There is ample working space with both AC power and USB outlets. WiFi was sluggish when it was available. I opted to use the on-demand entertainment system instead and caught up on films on the 16-inch touch screen.
THE FLIGHT: The flight time from LAX to PVG is under 14 hours, which provides plenty of time to do it all: sleep, work, dine, watch a movie and catch up on reading materials. And while the flight is easy, some may find ordering dinner not so. Passengers are given a color-coded menu that is good for the year and thus offers pre-planned entrees in red, orange, purple and green. I referred to the orange tabbed page appropo of my month of travel and found lunch and dinner choices came as both Chinese and Western. The Chinese option featured an entrée choice of winter melon with shrimp in abalone sauce or Chinese roasted duck with sweet and sour sauce.
The Western menu offered entrée choices of pan-fried rib-eye steak with baked potato or pan-friend cod with herb tomato sauce and couscous. Breakfast choices started with congee or dim sum or even air-dried eel with jellyfish and five-spicy egg. The less adventurous can opt for the tomato and cheese omelet with cranberry muffin.
Rolling out the bed was a simple affair. All seems to fit smoothly on this flight, from pad to light duvet to room needed to stretch, turn and get comfortable. Trips to the restroom are just steps away and the facility is reasonably spacious and kept clean.
ARRIVAL: Pudong International Airport is located in the Pudong New District, less than 20 miles from downtown Shanghai. It’s a modern facility which translates to clean, with timely baggage arrival and some cafes and restaurants available in the arrivals hall. For those in transit, China Eastern arrivals at PVG can take advantage of a 144-hour visa policy that allows transit passengers with a US or Canadian passport (or passports from 49 additional countries) to spend six days in Shanghai and Eastern China.
VERDICT: China, with its traffic, smog and unexpected glitches, can be a tough trip for even the most seasoned business traveler. China Eastern’s Business Class competes handily on the US to China run and my flight from LAX was a no-hassle period of peace before the race got started.