I’ve flown China Southern before and have written a review of my economy class experience. However this year I had an opportunity to experience China Southern Airlines Business Class on a couple of domestic flights. It was a chance to find out if there was a decent step up from the rather poor showing in coach.
I actually experienced China Southern Business on two flights in a row. I was returning to Shanghai from a weekend trip to southern China. I’d saved a fair bit of money by redeeming some frequent flyer miles with my KLM frequent flyer scheme, Flying Blue. This meant that I had the luxury of Business Class for a small Euro charge to cover taxes etc. The only immediate downside was that there was only one direct flight to Shanghai from Guangzhou that day and the flight was already full. As a result I had to fly there in a roundabout way with a connection.
Like most things in China, hit a busy period and you will be stuck for hours. Thankfully with my flying on a Sunday it wasn’t too bad at the airport. Being able to use the Sky Priority and Business Class check in lanes also meant it was a breeze.
The only downside was that I was reminded of the reason why I dislike getting domestic connecting flights in China. Instead of checking all the way through you have to recheck in at your transit airport so lots of changeover time is needed. As it turned out I had plenty of time since my second flight was delayed due to bad weather.
On both of my flights very few people were flying business class on China Southern. So boarding was a doddle since I had priority by being a premium passenger.
My first impression of the cabin was that the seats were very large and wide. Good elbow and legroom.
I did soon find out though that the seats were not all that comfy. I found them very firm, too firm in fact. They felt lumpy too and there seemed to be a ridge which was constantly pushing into my back along the length of my spine. The seat didn’t recline very far either. Maybe 45 degrees. I’m glad I wasn’t looking for a full night’s sleep on the plane.
The China Southern air stewardess’ were very prompt in their service although it felt very much like they were following a script rather than flexibly adjusting to passenger needs.
On sitting down I was offered a juice to drink and a cold wet towel. On the longer flight the stewardess unwrapped some airline slippers and placed them by my feet before I’d even fully settled into the seat.
I was presented with some English language newspapers. They were Chinese published papers but they were two of the most popular ones.
Aside from newspapers there was an entertainment system which slid out from the armrest. The screen was not a significant size and this made it a little more difficult to read any writing on the screen. I suppose that makes it a positive that I couldn’t get the in-built e-reader to work, no idea why.
The entertainment selection in English was maybe less than a dozen films but there were a few TV shows to watch too. I ended up with Two and a Half Men since that was about the only one which appealed to my personal taste.
The complimentary headphones looked quite cheap and were very plastic. They were not noise isolating, however with the volume turned up high I could hear the entertainment system broadcast quite clearly.
With regard to hearing things I did notice something which I found a little strange. When we were coming into land I am used to a tannoy announcement with regards to our time to landing and the temperature on the ground. (Admittedly it is not something I am keen to know but most airlines seem to do this.) However with China Southern Airlines Business Class this wasn’t tannoyed at all. Instead one of the stewardess’ came over and told me this information in person. I found this to be quite weird since it is something I am not used to. The information was not even that engaging as the flight attendant just seemed to recite a script rather than politely tell me.
Departing view of flying business class with China Southern Airlines
Admittedly my flights were short haul so I can’t say if the long haul experience is any better than this. In general I found the seating area to be quite spacious but the seat wasn’t overly comfortable and didn’t recline far enough.
The entertainment service worked, in most respects but I’d be inclined to bring my own earphones. Selection was limited. I found the flight attendants to be almost robotic in the carrying out of their duties but they did do everything that you would expect as a Business Class service.
I can’t comment on the food offering. My first flight was so short that I was just given a drink and a plate of nuts. My second flight was delayed by 3 hours so I’d already eaten at the airport and just wanted to rest since it was late.
I would say that the China Southern Business Class experience is tolerable but far from world class.