Flight Reviews

FLIGHT REVIEW :: MNL-PEK onboard Air China


Last April, during the family summer holidays, I took CA180 from Manila to Beijing. Air China is the flag carrier of the People’s Republic of China and I specifically chose this airline in order to get a more “Chinese welcome” for my holidays. The only other airline that serves this route direct is Philippine Airlines which more or less departs on the same time.

Air China 180 departs at around 0630hrs and it takes 4 hours and a half of flight to Beijing. Meanwhile PR358 leaves at 0700hrs On this flight, the aircraft used was a Boeing 737-800 and as a tall person (I always emphasize this), seat pitch is my issue always. I would say that this aircraft is not that bad. I am seated at somewhere aft starboard side with an aisle seat. Of course I would love a generous legroom but on this flight, the seat pitch is just about right.


Wings of China is the inflight magazine of Air China. The cover story for the month of April is the eternal city of Rome. Scanning through the pages, I am impressed that the magazine is not just about travel and destinations. I also touches varied subjects such as politics which I enjoyed reading.


Most of the passengers in this flight are flying somewhere else. The couple seated right next to me were heading for Chicago. One row ahead, a family was heading for London. I also noticed this on the flight going back to Manila. I would say that 75% of the passengers were just transiting through Beijing. As a member of Star Alliance, Air China taps some of the passengers of fellow member airlines like United Airlines. Since United Airlines fly to Manila via Guam with some restrictions, it has exercised the option of bringing Manila bound passengers from the continental USA via Beijing. United Airlines fly direct to Beijing from Chicago, Washington, San Francisco and Newark – cities where there is a sizable amount of traffic going to Manila.


I was a bit disappointed that the entertainment system onboard consists of overhead screens instead of personal screens. To be fair, rival airline Philippine Airlines is offering the same. Also, since it is just a quick flight and we woke up quite early, I decided that it is way better to sleep than to watch the inflight movie.


Food on CA180 is obviously for breakfast. Two choices – a standard Western style breakfast with sausage and eggs or a Chinese one which consists of a rather bland congee. The only consolation when it comes to food is the perfect Chinese green tea being served.


Flight attendants are okay-ish. They can speak passable English but have some trouble in communicating at times. It’s quite difficult to request something if they have trouble understanding you. They don’t smile that much and at one time, I saw one of the flight attendants visibly tired and irritated.

The Air China uniforms consists of scarlet long sleeved blazer with a matching neckerchief. It is not that stylish but it gives a formal look and it matches with the red phoenix logo of the airline.



In overall, Air China is just your regular airline. I would say, a three star airline. I expected more quality on food and in the inflight entertainment system. The flight went smoothly except for the turbulence just before landing. Air China calls the new Terminal 3 of the Beijing Capital Airport as its home. Surprisingly, in both occasions, flights to and from Manila never get a chance to use the airbridge. We always took the bus which is quite a hassle for old people.

Will, I fly Air China again? Not, if there are better airlines available. Air China is a passable airline but certainly there is a lot of room for further improvements.


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