When I looked online for a China Southern Airlines review I’d often find very negative reviews. Yet my previous memory of the southern China airline was fairly average. It seemed only fair that I give them another go and see if it is really that bad?
The flights used for my China Southern Airlines Review
This review is not typical of my flight reviews, this is not a business class flight review. This is an economy class flight review of my China Southern airlines flight to Guangzhou from Shanghai. I took the flight in November 2014.
This was also a reward booking flight. China Southern airlines are a partner of Skyteam. As explained in my book I have accumulated a lot of miles by flying with such as KLM Royal Dutch Airlines , so redeeming miles is easy. It cost me 25,000 miles and €41.34 of taxes and surcharges for the return trip.
(If you are not fortunate enough to have enough air miles then make sure you use a discounted flight search tool to find the best flights options for a domestic flight.)
After a previous nightmare experience with connections on this route I opted to take direct flights only. Taking a domestic flight connection in China is no fun at all.
China Southern Airlines have the airline code of CZ so my flights were CZ380 (outbound) and CZ379 (returning to Shanghai). My flights were from Shanghai Pu Dong Airport (PVG) Terminal 2 to Guangzhou Baiyun (CAN).
As always I arrived in plenty of time at the airport. There was quite a long queue at check-in. China Southern Airlines use a number of check in desks for all of their flights. However, since I was Sky Priority with Skyteam I was able to use a priority lane and skip the queue. Nice to have my loyalty appreciated.
However since I was flying economy I didn’t have any lounge access, even with my high membership status.
My boarding ticket advised that they would begin letting people onto the plane 40 minutes before the scheduled departure time. This is exactly what happened.
The boarding process appeared as efficient as can be expected for an airline. In fact most people were sat in their seats 30 minutes before the planned departure time.
Seating plan on a China Southern Airlines Airbus A320
On boarding the aircraft it appeared to have 3 classes of seats. There were a few business class seats at the front, premium economy then economy seats.
However what really struck me was the seat numbering system. The seats at the front began at row 1 then worked down to row 12. Then the very next numbered row was 31! This was quite a jump. What happened to rows 13-30?
I was in seat 46A (window seat) so it wasn’t quite as far a walk down the plane as I was expecting.
Other China Southern Airlines reviews may be quite critical yet for me, to be honest the legroom was reasonable for economy class. I had enough room to sit without discomfort for my 5′ 11” frame.
I was also fortunate enough that the middle seat in the row of three was unoccupied. I suspect it would still have been comfortable if not.
Everyone was boarded on time and we expected a prompt take off but it wasn’t to be. We ended up being sat at the gate for ages. It was close to 40 minutes after our planned departure time before leaving the gate area.
To be fair this was not a fault of China Southern Airlines. This delay was down to the airport not the airline. Anyone who has flown from Shanghai Pu Dong airport in recent years is likely to have experienced this type of delay. It did however mean that I heard a phrase over the tannoy which I’m far too familiar with in China, that is “Wait a moment”.
Pre and post take-off entertainment
Whilst we were waiting to take off the overhead tv monitors appeared and started to show some film entertainment. I was not sat in a great position since my row was the one with a screen directly above the back of our seats. This meant we had the longest viewing range to the nearest watchable screen.
Of course the screen was quite small.
They began to show a Planet of the Apes film. I can’t say exactly which one because I couldn’t read the credits since it was so far away.
The viewing was even more difficult since I couldn’t read the subtitles either. (There were some English subtitles for the apes talking to each other plus Chinese subtitles since the film wasn’t dubbed.)
There was also a problem with the sound, I could hardly hear the film! The sound was broadcast at a fairly low volume over the tannoy system. With the sound of people talking, snorting and engine noise it was difficult to hear.
I tried to remedy the situation by plugging in my favourite earphones to the ear socket. I quickly discovered that either the film sound was not broadcast through here or the system wasn’t working properly.
Then as we taxied the film was paused whilst the China Southern Airlines safety video was shown.
The film then resumed mid-flight.
How did it end?
That is a serious question, how did the film end? The film was still being broadcast when they announced that we were beginning our descent to Guangzhou. So they turned off the film and asked everyone to switch off electronic devices. We then flew for another half an hour.
I must question the logic of China Southern Airlines on their entertainment. Why show a film which is so long that you can’t broadcast it in it’s entirety for a flight of more than two and a half hours?
Service and Food
On China Southern Airlines English is spoken by most of the cabin crew from what I could tell. One struggled when trying to explain the food selection but we got by.
Also all tannoy announcements were in both Chinese and English.
I found the cabin crew to be very professional and courteous.
The food and drink service was a bit of a mixed experience.
At first the drinks trolley offered a range of soft drinks. I asked for coffee and was a little surprised. They quickly poured the coffee out of a jug. It was already made with milk and sugar added. So if you don’t like milk or (like me) sugar in your coffee then tough. That’s the way it comes. This did speed up the service a fair bit but still it doesn’t cater for people’s preferences.
When the food came around I opted for the chicken curry. There was an alternative option but I didn’t quite understand what the flight attendant said it was.
The meal was average. Although I was pleasantly surprised to see some fruit, bread and extras to come with the meal. None of this bare minimum allowance of food you get with the US based carriers.
Once we arrived the unboarding process was relatively painless. My only frustration was that we parked a fair way from the gate and had to be shuttled by bus to the terminal. Since the flight was already so late this was not what I needed. I was looking to catch a bus from the airport so more delays didn’t help me. However like the departure delay this maybe more at the airport’s discretion than the airline’s, unless they deliberately chose not to pay to use a ramp at the gate.
Final impression of my China Southern Airlines review
I accept that my flights were economy class and not comparable to some of the best business class and first class flights I’ve had.
Dare I say it, due to this in my China Southern review I’m maybe more tolerant of the failings of this flight experience.
In general the seating was as comfortable as anyone could expect for an economy class ticket. The service was certainly polite and respectful.
I was disappointed with the way coffee was served and the whole entertainment system was a big area for improvement. I’m just thankful it was a flight of around two and half hours. If it was longer and I was without my kindle or iPod then I would have found the experience very dull.
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