Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Air China business class Sapporo to Beijing

Air China business class Sapporo to Beijing
Singapore Airlines business class Beijing to Singapore
Singapore Airlines business class Singapore to Hong Kong
Thai Airways A380 business class Hong Kong to Bangkok
Thai Airways Bangkok to Sapporo

As the grand finale to my summer vacation, I decided to journey to southeast Asia with my United award miles.  This redemption was a steal at 45k miles, though the final returning segment would have to be in economy.  This would be my first time flying internationally out of my home airport: Sapporo (CTS).  During the summer months, Air China operates 4x weekly between CTS and Beijing with their short-haul B738 aircraft.

CTS international terminal

Having grown accustomed to CTS efficient and speedy domestic process, I expected nothing less out of their int'l services.  I was in for a big surprise as the check-in and security lines spanned the entire length of the small terminal.

Air China's token check-in line for their 4x weekly flight.  This is when your elite status shines golden with priority lane.

If I didn't have access to priority check-in lane, check-in alone would have taken an hour.  Unfortunately, there was no priority security lane, which took nearly an hour.

The one place in Sapporo where the foreigners outnumber the denizens.

CTS Super Lounge

After security, I immediately headed for the token lounge.  For obvious reasons, none of the 3 airline alliances deem it necessary to operate an int'l lounge out of CTS.  The resulting factor is a 3rd party consolidated lounge.  I was right to keep my expectations low.

The lounge was far from full, which was surprising given the fact that the terminal was like London's rush hour.  Based on passenger attire, it's safe to assume that most CTS int'l passengers are leisure travelers, which is contrary to CTS domestic travelers.

Alcohol selection: not bad for a consolidated 3rd party lounge

Food offerings consisted of onigiri, soup, and instant ramen.  Were you really expecting more?

After getting a drink and grabbing a couple of onigiris, I headed off to the gate for boarding.

Sleeper seats with curtains: the flagship lounge offering.  Too bad nobody connects with overnight layovers at CTS.

Air China business class

As a second-tier route, CTS-PEK is operated by an old B738 with 8 biz recliner seats.  No personal AVOD is offered, and the seats are reminiscent of domestic first class seats offered in the U.S.

Pre-flight beverage

The biz cabin was mostly empty, not surprising as the leisure travelers all settled for economy, which was nearly full.  For this route, biz award space is always open, whereas it's always a challenge to snatch an economy award seat.

Shortly after takeoff, lunch was served.  I had the option between fish and chicken, and I opted for the fish meal.

The fish was as dry as bread.
The meal was basic, though the presentation was acceptable.  You just can't expect the same food on intra-Asia premium travel as you get in transpacific premium travel.

Bottom line

Air China doesn't even try to hide their meager premium class services on this route.  With sleeping flight attendants and crappy seats, this flight brought back memories of United Airlines.  I can't see how anyone would ever redeem miles solely for this flight, let alone pay for these seats.  Fortunately, this flight would be shadowed by Singapore Airlines biz class.

Next: Singapore Airlines business class Beijing to Singapore

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