TESTED BY Kathryn B. Creedy
PLANE TYPE Airbus A380
SEAT CONFIGURATION 1-2-1 staggered
SEAT PITCH 77 in/195.6 cm
SEAT WIDTH 24 in/61 cm
SEAT RECLINE 180 degrees
PRICE Internet fares for Business Class $3,404 roundtrip
VERDICT: Would I fly China Southern again? Definitely. The price is more than competitive and, while the service may need a little tweaking, China Southern certainly deserves a chance and even a second look when considering Asian gateways and beyond.
BACKGROUND: China Southern offers the only nonstop US-Guangzhou service from New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles markets. Furthermore, it’s building out its home base at Guangzhou as an alternative hub to traditional Asian gateways carrying passengers to beyond markets throughout Asia.
Besides the fact it shaves between two and four hours off the travel time compared to one-hop flights, perhaps equally attractive is the fact China Southern Airlines, part of the Delta/SkyTeam alliance, is reasonably priced and highly competitive.
CHECK-IN: China Southern is one of 34 carriers that call the new Tom Bradley International Terminal home in LA; fortunately thanks to a schedule that circles the planet, their check-in times vary throughout the day depending on flight times. In my case the CZ desk was open in plenty of time for our 10:20 PM departure.
BOARDING: I enjoy flying non-US airlines for the experience. The greetings were gracious and included a welcoming beverage, although it turned out to be only juice or water with a slice of lemon in lieu of a pre-departure cocktail. From the outset, it was clear one flight attendant was as uncomfortable with her English as I am with my Chinese, but our hand gestures provided a charming alternative sign language and got the job done.
THE SEAT: The 70 business class seats occupy much of the upper deck of the mammoth Airbus A380. The staggered seating allows for aisle access from every seat and an overall premium feel to the cabin. The 180-degree lie-flat seat was comfortable with plush furnishings such as pillows and duvet. Controls were easy and intuitive and inflight entertainment offerings were plentiful. Amenities included noise-canceling headphones, in-seat power, bottled water and a Ferragamo-branded amenity kit.
THE FLIGHT: The Airbus A380 flight was quieter than any other aircraft I’ve ever flown, making me a huge fan of this giant aircraft. The food and service, offering both Cantonese and Western choices, were very good, especially the peach soup which ranked at the top of the delicious scale; however the after-dinner cheese offering was forgotten – but not really missed. The service includes what has become popular on long-haul flights, a snack bar with fruit, chocolates and liquor for those who take a mid-flight stretch.
ARRIVAL: The 14-plus-hour flight was surprisingly close to on-time but its arrival coincided with a couple of other international flights, so Baiyun International Airport immigration lines were crowded and long. Nothing to do but to wrap oneself in patience.
China Southern is one of the fastest growing airlines in the world, which perhaps accounts for the uneven service, but it is clear that it is well on its way to becoming a world-class airline. At the end of the flight, the purser asked us for our observations on how they can improve, and took our suggestions in the spirit in which they were offered. After all, we are all in this together.