China Airlines Airbus A350 business class, Brisbane-Taipei-London

Review: China Airlines Airbus A350 business class, Brisbane-Taipei-London

Airline:
CI (China Airlines)
Cabin Class:
Business
Aircraft Type:
Airbus A350-900
Seat:
16A + 18K + 12A + 14K

service:

meals:

seating:

overall:

What's Hot

  • Fully-flat beds, direct aisle access at every seat
  • Currently, free Inflight WiFi
  • Competitive business class fares

What's Not

  • Seat is rock hard in bed mode with no mattress topper for comfort

X-Factor

  • An incredibly stylish aircraft cabin, without being too 'blingy'

Introduction

Now running Airbus A350s on all flights between Taipei and Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, Taiwan's flag carrier China Airlines isn't to be confused with Mainland China's Air China, which also flies to Australia.

Aboard China Airlines' flights, you'll now find fully-flat beds in business class, direct aisle access at every seat, inflight WiFi and more for your journey between Australia and Taiwan, and onward to destinations like London, where China Airlines also sends its A350s.

Australian Business Traveller hopped aboard China Airlines' Airbus A350 on a return business class trip from Brisbane to London's Gatwick Airport to bring you this in-depth review, with travellers from Sydney and Melbourne enjoying a similar experience.

Check-in

  • Frequent flyer program: China Airlines Dynasty, SkyTeam. Qantas Frequent Flyer members can also earn Qantas Points and status credits by booking China Airlines codeshare flights between Australia and Taiwan under a QF flight number, although this isn't possible onward to London.
  • Checked baggage allowance: 40kg across any number of bags, increased to 50kg for China Airlines' Gold frequent flyers and SkyTeam Elite members, and 60kg for China Airlines' Emerald and Paragon members and SkyTeam Elite Plus cardholders.
  • Carry-on baggage allowance: One 115cm bag of up to 7kg, plus one personal item such as a handbag, laptop or laptop bag or camera bag, plus a non-rigid garment bag up to 20cm in depth after folding.
  • Airport fast-track: Access to the usual Express Path facilities in Australia, the Premium Gatwick channel on departure from London, and priority check-in, boarding and baggage delivery at all airports. However, there's unfortunately no business class fast lane at security or passport control in Taipei, nor does the airline offer access to Premium Gatwick on arrival in London.

Lounge

In Brisbane, the journey begins with access to the Plaza Premium Lounge, divided into dining, working and relaxation zones with a respectable buffet spread and seasonal dishes cooked to order (such as Pad Thai).

If you're starting your flight in Sydney, you'll instead be directed to the SkyTeam Lounge; in Melbourne, to the Qantas business class lounge; and in Auckland, to the Strata Lounge.

At China Airlines' Taipei hub, flights to London depart from Terminal 1, where a revamped China Airlines Lounge stands ready...

... while in London, China Airlines uses the No1 Lounge at Gatwick Airport's South Terminal, offering an open bar and a la carte dining...

... and back in Taipei, flights to Australia depart from Terminal 2, where China Airlines again operates its own lounges, with the largest being located near Gate D4...

... which we're told will be renovated soon to look more like the newer T1 lounge, but in the meantime, the lounge still offers the basic amenities travellers expect, including shower facilities before those overnight flights to Australia.

Flight

China Airlines now uses its Airbus A350s on all flights to Australia, including 10-14 times per week to Sydney (CI51/52/55/56), daily to Brisbane (CI53/54) and three times per week to Melbourne (CI57/58).

By extension, the airline's Brisbane-Auckland-Brisbane services (CI53/54) also use the next-gen jet, covering passengers darting only across the Tasman, or taking the longer trek between Auckland and Taipei via Brisbane.

Onward to London, China Airlines flies to Gatwick Airport six times a week, with flights every day except Thursdays.

China Airlines is the only airline directly linking Taipei and London, as its major competitor and Star Alliance member EVA Air detours its Taipei-London flights via Bangkok.

Being a modern Airbus A350 aircraft, a higher cabin pressure means more humidity and a lower 'cabin altitude', which can help reduce the effects of jet lag and make for a more comfortable journey – as can the aircraft's mood lights, which are capable of displaying 16.7 million colours, whether that's softer hues during relaxation stages of the flight...

... or brighter, more intense colours to simulate a sunrise when it's time to wake up:

Larger windows also provide better views than older-generation planes, and in business class, there are no central overhead lockers which gives the cabin a more spacious feel, while still offering ample storage space in the side bins.

Seat

Business class aboard China Airlines' Airbus A350s comes in a 1-2-1 layout with 32 seats spread across eight rows, giving every passenger direct and uninterrupted aisle access.

Design-wise, this is a beautiful cabin, with almost everything you see customised to bring a more refined feel to the journey, whether that's on the cabin walls, the carpets, the seating shells...

... or at your seat itself, where the side panels adopt hints of the same design without being too 'blingy':

With the cabin lights on plain white mode during boarding, you may not even notice many of the finer touches until you've settled in...

... but once the journey takes wing, there's plenty to like, whether you're flying solo at the windows, or sitting in a centre pair of seats.

 (You'll find the 'A' and 'K' seats by the windows, and the 'D' and 'G' seats in the middle. Even though China Airlines no longer offers first class service on any route or aircraft, seats on this flight begin at row 10.)

One of the first things you'll spot at each suite is a side lamp – a feature typically seen only in first class on other airlines – which has again been designed with style, in patterned glass (tricky to photograph) and an artistic base resembling a bird claw rather than a normal lamp stand...

... next to the textured cabin wall and side shelf...

... where the compartments open to reveal two storage spaces: one being a smaller nook suitable for phones, passports, pens and landing cards, and the other initially housing your noise-cancelling headphones...

... and once taken out, you'll be able to access international AC power and a high-powered USB port for tablet charging, plus a touchscreen remote control for the inflight entertainment system if desired...

... and an additional USB port better-suited to charging smaller devices such as smartphones, plus the headphone outlet. While the supplied headphones were an acceptable quality, I was pleased that the airline adaptor for my own Bose QC35s fit easily into the same plug without any cables being squashed.

Speaking of cables, you don't need to leave the 'roof' open for cable access to those ports: there's plenty of space for these to pass through once the shelf on top has been secured closed, again without squashing those cables – useful if you're using your phone when charging, or watching a movie with headphones connected to the aircraft:

The larger of the two side panels also doubles as an inflight mirror when opened up:

Just below that, a touchscreen controller for the seat itself, where you can activate or dim your side lamp, switch on the overhead light, and tweak the seat to your exact preferred position. The 'power' button allows you to instantly turn the screen off – useful if heading to sleep – while shortcut keys are available to the side both to save time during common stages of the flight such as relaxing, sleeping and landing, but which also provide a backup should the screen be proving difficult:

For example, on my flight from Taipei to London, this control screen was plain white upon boarding and wouldn't do anything. The crew were able to remotely reset the seat for me to fix the problem, but the side keys allowed me to adjust the chair in the meantime, avoiding the need to sit bolt upright while waiting for the software to reboot.

There's another light to your side built into the seat's shell, which pops out and swivels forward or backward to line up perfectly with your reading material (or inflight meal)...

... and down near your feet sits a small storage nook useful for things like slippers (which China Airlines supplies), shoes, belts, and other bits...

... while the armrest on the aisle-side of your seat houses a bottle of water and your amenity kit – but it's also large enough for things like headphones if you want to repurpose the space:

That armrest goes flat for take-off and landing, or if you're in bed mode and want a little extra elbow space...

... but slides up for added comfort when desired. The height can be tailored to any position in between these two extremes as well, and firmly remains in the place you left it.

More storage is available underneath this fixed shelf, such as for your shoes, while the floor also tilts upwards here, allowing you to use the edge as a footrest before your seat is reclined, as the 'shelf' above isn't easily reachable until you've begun to lean back:

There's a coat hook for your jacket, although the crew will hang these for your in the closet during the flight...

... and for meal times, or when working on a laptop, the tray table folds open with a design to match the rest of the cabin...

... and slides towards you, while also dropping slightly in height, which is more comfortable for typing and dining – but having the tray higher and further away from you is indeed useful for extra space when you're merely snacking or enjoying a drink:

When it's time to turn in, the seat itself transforms into a 198cm (78-inch) fully-flat bed, measuring at 71cm (28 inches) wide...

... but with every other detail of the seat so refined and finessed, this is where the product needs some improvement. For starters, the seat feels rock hard as a bed, and China Airlines provides no mattress cover to place on top to soften this.

My usual trick is to use the blanket as a fill-in mattress, but this made little difference – nor did tweaking the lumbar setting on the seat's control pad – and I found it tricky to get comfortable whether lying on my back or side:

I also needed to use the seat's manual controls to tilt the upper section forward just a tad, as my head was ever-so-slightly below the level of my feet.

(Most business class seats these days recognise that aircraft don't fly parallel to the ground – they do so at a slightly elevated angle – so the 'default' seating positions are adjusted to offset this, making the traveller truly flat, but this hasn't been done here.)

That said, with most flights between Australia and Taipei running overnight, I got a solid sleep in both directions: eating on the ground and skipping the inflight meal service in favour of extra nap time, and was able to sleep when desired between Taipei and London, despite the tricky time differences: so sleep isn't difficult to achieve, it'd just be easier with a mattress pad on the seat to soften the surface.

Pyjamas, however, are BYO.

Meal

As the bulk of China Airlines' flights between Taipei and Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane run overnight, most passengers won't get to experience the inflight meal service if intent on sleeping – but if you'd rather stay awake, there's a full menu and wine list to peruse:

In any case, all journeys begin with a drink before take-off: typically only juice or water (alcohol isn't served until airborne), joined by a small snack bag:

Then on these overnight flights from Australia, there's a five-course dinner if you'd care to indulge, but having already eaten on the ground as most travellers would for a nine-hour flight departing near-midnight, I skipped this entirely on my Brisbane-Taipei leg, although the meal sequence was as follows:

  • Starter: Peking duck slice with prawns and jellyfish
  • Salad: Garden salad with balsamic vinaigrette
  • Soup: Cream of mushroom soup with cheese straw
  • Main: Braised pork belly, or Chinese salt-baked chicken thigh, or slow roasted beef cheek
  • Dessert: Fruit and cheese plate, or caramel cake with raspberry coulis, or Serendipity ice cream

I awoke in time for breakfast, where travellers could choose either a Chinese or Western breakfast:

  • Chinese: Plain congee with assortments: egg omelette with Chinese sausage, stir-fried chicken and bean curd with XO Sauce, marinated black fungus, shredded kale with enoki mushroom, pickles. Seasonal fresh fruit.
  • Western: Mushroom omelette with Hollandaise sauce and potato Lyonnaise, plus bacon, spinach, cherry tomato, Bircher muesli, seasonal fresh fruit.

When flying with overseas-based airlines, I always enjoy trying their local food rather than the more familiar 'Western' dishes, and while not everything on the plate was to my personal taste, it was all very fresh:

I also ordered up a quite acceptable latte, which the crew made using a Nespresso machine...

... and went for a wander to the rear galley for a look at the 'Sky Bar', shown here in this airline publicity shot as a refined space for grabbing drinks and snacks:

What awaited was less impressive, however, and more closely resembled a galley bench rather than an inflight bar – not just on this leg, but all other flights in this journey:

The bar did feature various Nespresso capsule types, however, so if you're a fussy Nespresso drinker or you'd prefer a decaf latte, the crew can certainly make this happen.

On the longer 14-hour flight from Taipei to London which runs entirely during the day, I had a better chance to sample the inflight dining, so my meal on this leg began with a glass of Pol Roger 2006 Vintage Rosé Champagne – a significant step up from the non-vintage Charles de Cazanove Brut poured on Australian routes:

That continued with a mid-morning Chinese breakfast of prawn and minced pork in mushroom sauce over noodles with a pork slice, pak choi, fruit and Bircher muesli, which was a nice start to the day – the Western option being a spinach cheese quiche with breakfast vegetables and the same sides.

Afterwards, my usual latte, served this time in a glass and with much less froth...

... and having also eaten in the China Airlines lounge before this flight, I was set until later – but if I'd been hungry, I could have ordered some Taiwanese braised pork with rice as a mid-flight snack, with fresh fruit, chocolates and instant noodles also available outside the usual meal times.

To prepare for the time zone differences with the late afternoon arrival in London, a multi-course lunch is served around half way through the flight, starting with a little bite in the Italian-style sausage and vegetable tart...

... continuing with a small garden salad with balsamic vinaigrette, and a starter of scallop and baby abalone with a smoked turkey apple roll, which was surprisingly tasty...

... progressing to a small cup of flavourful mushroom soup with an olive grissini...

... and then with a choice of main course:

  • Mushroom-stuffed Taiwan free range chicken in soy sauce with steamed Dauho rice, plus braised eggplant with pumpkin, pak choi and carrot
  • Braised Panama beef cheek in brown sauce with steamed rice, mixed quinoa and barley, plus tofu in oyster sauce, kale a carrot
  • Pan-seared white fish and cuttlefish ring with linguine spinach cream sauce and broccoli

I chose the beef, which had taken a long journey from Central America to Asia and then onward to London on this flight, so I was expecting it to be a little tough, but found it rather succulent.

For dessert, a fruit and cheese plate with cheddar, brie and asiago, and a 'sweet duo' of raspberry cheese cake (yum) and a mixed berry white wine jelly (not-so-yum, unfortunately):

Items from the snack menu remain available for the rest of the flight if you get hungry – such as the pork rice – but eating earlier in the flight rather than closer to landing meant I was ready for dinner at around 8pm local time in London, helping adjust to the new time zone.

Fast-forward to the journey home from London to Taipei: CI70 departs mid-evening from Gatwick, so a late dinner is served onboard, beginning with a beetroot-cured smoked salmon rose with quinoa salad which was again fresh and tasty, with mixed leaves on the side...

... followed by a smoked tomato soup with crostini...

... and then a choice of main course:

  • Braised chicken and chestnut with egg fried rice, plus kale, carrot and red peppers
  • Stewed pork belly in bean curd sauce with steamed rice, pak choi, mushroom and carrot
  • Grilled beef fillet in Madeira truffle sauce with roasted new potatoes, vine cherry tomatoes and creamed spinach

Having tried other pork and beef dishes this trip, I went for the chicken and wasn't disappointed with it or the rice, although the sides were a bit predictable:

Similar cheese plates and desserts were offered as on the earlier flights, so I diverted to a simple serve of strawberries and cream Haagen-Dazs to finish off:

Unlike on the Taipei-London leg where the second meal is served half way through the flight, from London to Taipei, breakfast is instead served around two hours before landing, allowing you get some solid sleep on what is a night-time leg, despite the 6pm arrival into Taiwan.

This time, the Chinese breakfast offered a choice between plain congee or char siu pork with stir-fried egg noodles – I chose the latter and quite enjoyed it, and although the salty egg on the side is quite a simple option, found that a nice bite, too.

The Western option offered a mushroom omelette instead – similar, but not identical to the Western breakfast dish on my Brisbane-Taipei flight, so if you'd rather stick to Western foods on these flights, you won't have much variety.

Most flights onward from Taipei to Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane depart around midnight in Taiwan (2am AEST), so I again chose to eat before the flight and skip the inflight service entirely in favour of sleep.

If you're spending the day in Taipei before heading to the airport and want to maximise your rest (while also skipping yet another inflight meal), I'd recommend checking out Hawker Chan in the Taipei 101 food hall instead: the world's first Michelin-starred hawker stand, where its signature soya sauce chicken dish – which earned that star – can be enjoyed for just A$5.35.

If you'd rather eat on board, the Taipei-Brisbane menu was as follows for dinner:

  • Starter: Smoked duck breast and blanched prawns with okra and purple sweet potatoes
  • Salad: Garden salad with balsamic vinaigrette
  • Soup: Mushroom soup with olive grissini
  • Main: Stewed chicken thigh and steamed liver sausage, or stewed pork in red fermented bean paste with jade rice, or pan-seared white fish and cuttlefish ring with linguine spinach cream sauce
  • Dessert: Fruit and cheese plate, or sweet duo (cheesecake and jelly), or ice cream

Breakfast is served three hours before landing in Brisbane – not great if the lights wake you up – and these options were:

  • Chinese: Plain congee with assorted accompaniments
  • Western: Cheese and mushroom omelette and smoked pork loin with pan-fried Polenta cake

I chose to sleep through until half an hour before landing, which gave me enough time to get dressed and enjoy a latte before having a meal at home.

Entertainment & Service

On the entertainment front, each business class seat offers an 18-inch personal HD touchscreen, loaded with movies, music, games and TV shows:

I found the broader selections rather slim – the absence of a 'comedy' category was odd, too – although there were plenty of new release movies and this collection grew before the journey home from London, which kicked off after the start of a new month:

My personal pick from the bunch would be The Greatest Showman, which I ended up watching several times because the songs were so catchy...

... while the 'moving map' on these aircraft is much more sophisticated than on many other planes, including a CGI 'cockpit mode' where you can see what the pilots are seeing, including a heads-up display – although the instruments were delayed from real-time, and there was no access to the A350's external aircraft cameras:

There's inflight Internet access too, but a source of entertainment also came when flying over far north Russia on the Taipei-London leg, where I happened to open my window at the perfect moment:

Service-wise, all crew members could speak English and cabin announcements were made in English, but a few things were lost in translation: such as when ordering the "red wine" from the menu, and receiving this instead, albeit still a nice drop:

Overall though, the experience with China Airlines was better than I'd expected in most ways, with a modern aircraft, stylish cabin, reasonable inflight dining and vintage Champagne on London flights, but could be improved in other areas.

For example, the inflight menus on each leg weren't particularly different to the flight before it, with many of the same dishes appearing multiple times throughout the journey.

The range of entertainment content could also be expanded, and of course, a mattress pad or topper for the seat wouldn't go astray.

Yet, with China Airlines often selling return business class fares between Australia and London for just $4,000-5,000 (compared to $6,000-$12,000 with most other airlines), this is a great-value choice for your next long-haul trip – or even your next trans-Tasman journey, with daily A350 flights now running between Brisbane and Auckland, too.

Chris Chamberlin travelled to London as a guest of China Airlines.

Chris Chamberlin
Chris Chamberlin is a senior journalist with Australian Business Traveller and lives by the motto that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, a great latte, a theatre ticket and a glass of wine!
 

47 comments

  • Stefan Kane

    DrSK

    9 May, 2018 06:22 am

    Superbly detailed review, Chris - great photos. The seat would seem to be a heavily (and tastefully) customised version of the B/E Aerospace Super Diamond, as used by VA, AC and AA (inter alia) - would you say the CI version is appreciably firmer than other iterations? I may be an outlier, but I've come to prefer this seat over the Vantage XL (QF Business Suite) and Zodiac Cirrus (CX) - I find it offers good privacy without inducing claustrophobia, and the storage spaces are perhaps more functional.
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  • Chris Chamberlin

    ChrisCh

    9 May, 2018 08:36 am

    Yes, it's a customised version of the same seat as Virgin Australia's The Business is drawn from, etc - and yes, to answer your question, it's a much firmer version of that seat: it's more than fine when sitting upright, but in bed mode it's not as ideal.
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  • Stm Aus

    stmaus

    9 May, 2018 09:04 am

    On this seat, I found the most comfortable position to be about 90% of the way to full flat instead of full flat. Also using the doonah as a mattress pad (like Chris did) and then asking for a thin economy blanket as the blanket. Which is better anyway as it gets a bit warm under the J doonah.
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  • Stm Aus

    stmaus

    9 May, 2018 09:11 am

    Flew SYD/TPE/SYD recently and it's a fantastic J product. The TPE T1 lounge is great. T2 lounge is run down (although the showers are really nice and clean, and the noodle bar - yum), but it is only about 15 min walk between terminals so if you have a a bit of time it's worth going to the T1 lounge. Also with noodle bar and a wider selection of other food.

    PE looks pretty good too, and even Y is not half bad as its the A350 with nine across.

    The food is great, especially the Chinese breakfast! I also could not resist the five course dinner (even after having eaten a bit in the lounge) and worth sacrificing some sleep. Very good selection of wines, and the Taiwanese Kavalan whiskey is excellent also. Definitely worth a try, neat.
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  • kiwiwings

    kiwiwings

    9 May, 2018 08:20 am

    What’s the verdict on WiFi speed etc? Useable?

    These guys have some beaut PE fares as well.

    Haven’t flown EVA or the Chinese carriers but the Taiwan based carriers look👌 Happy to fly those!
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  • Chris Chamberlin

    ChrisCh

    9 May, 2018 08:38 am

    Usable: yes, and also free on at least one flight if you register for the China Airlines WiFi promotion we reported on the other week. We'll have more details on the WiFi service when we publish our WiFi review.
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    kiwiwings

  • Kian Liew

    Desm1999

    9 May, 2018 10:00 am

    'Frequent flyer program: China Airlines Dynasty, SkyTeam. Qantas Frequent Flyer members can also earn Qantas Points and status credits by booking China Airlines codeshare flights between Australia and Taiwan under a QF flight number, although this isn't possible onward to London.'

    Hi Chris, just wondering how would you adding Qantas FF memebership for flgiht between AUS and Taiwan if you book through China Airles wesbite?
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  • Chris Chamberlin

    ChrisCh

    9 May, 2018 10:19 am

    You wouldn't: you'd need to book via the Qantas website (or a travel agent) to book onto the QF flight number, which is what makes you eligible to earn Qantas Points and status credits. Book direct through China Airlines on CI flight numbers and you'd only be able to earn SkyTeam miles and status instead.

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  • Satoshi Takayama

    Michael Kao

    9 May, 2018 09:06 am

    Unfortunately EVA BNE-TPE still use old A330 with angled lie-flat in 2-2-2 configuration. Time for an upgrade.
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  • Satoshi Takayama

    Michael Kao

    9 May, 2018 08:43 am

    I agree this product is real bang for the buck. At around $4000-5000, which is just a bit more than what other airlines would charge for premium economy, yet you get one of the best business class product.

    Unfortunately the name China Airlines is a bit of confusion, as people often mix it up with Air China, China Eastern or China Southern which IMO they are not in the same league. I have friends saying they simply won't fly anything with the word "China" on it. What a shame.
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  • kiwiwings

    kiwiwings

    9 May, 2018 09:13 am

    Show them the airline ratings, price, reviews. Should set them straight! Happy to fly Taiwan based carriers.
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  • johnaboxall

    johnaboxall

    9 May, 2018 09:07 am

    Excellent review, thank you. Incredible value at that price point as well.
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  • sgb

    sgb

    9 May, 2018 09:47 am

    All the photographed food looks fantastic, my mouth is watering.
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  • watson374

    watson374

    9 May, 2018 10:17 am

    The Chinese food looks especially good, and things like noodles and congee work beautifully in the air--and for passengers of East and Southeast Asian background, these dishes are wonderfully comforting.
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  • RTWFF

    RTWFF

    9 May, 2018 10:49 am

    Stopovers in Taipei in both directions possible on this fare?
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  • Chris Chamberlin

    ChrisCh

    9 May, 2018 11:07 am

    We don't provide advice on fare rules and restrictions as part of flight reviews, but as always, you can use the airline's website or contact a travel agent to get specific pricing for your intended travel plans.
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  • Traveller14

    Traveller14

    9 May, 2018 12:24 pm

    RTWFF, try to find a Taiwanese travel agent who sells a lot of fares on CI as it may well have very good prices.
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  • sgb

    sgb

    9 May, 2018 11:01 am

    The Business Class interior is very mellow, probably one of the nicest I have seen.
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  • Traveller14

    Traveller14

    9 May, 2018 12:22 pm

    Chris, you wouldn't have had time as you have to keep the content pumping out but may I just mention, having been to Taiwan more than once and also recently that it's a surprisingly enjoyable nation for a holiday?

     
    Has some good scenery, excellent trains, food and trendy accommodation if you're after the latter (though often windowless at lower price points) and people who don't push and shove.
     
    Taipei Taoyuan Airport check in is not exactly filled with natural light - I thought it's drab - but it has a new railway (above ground metro) connecting cheaply and efficiently to Taipei's CBD and huge station.
     
    The lamps in J seats are especially classy.
     
    Your photos, as usual, were first class but slightly disappointing that you skipped the main meal on one sector.
     
    Were most passengers Taiwanese or did you encounter a few Caucasians or other Asian nationalities in J?
     
    Like a few other hitherto unnoticed Asian airlines, it has pretty good fares on offer. A shame it no longer flies much across the Tasman but like many I didn't bother travelling on it from MEL across there and now it's ceased.
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  • Chris Chamberlin

    ChrisCh

    9 May, 2018 12:45 pm

    The main meals skipped were only the five-course dinners served at odd times (at or after midnight) on quick overnight flights. I've never seen the need to eat inflight food just because "it's there" unless I'm actually hungry, and realistically, most serious business travellers would do the same to maximise their sleep, minimise jet lag and keep calories under control when sitting for long periods (why stay awake for hours eating a big meal at 2am when you've already eaten dinner on the ground, wouldn't do the same at home and can eat breakfast later in the flight or after landing?). Different for those who rarely fly overseas and want to stay awake to enjoy it all, of course!

    Re: passengers, as with any international flights there's always a mix, but it's not something we pay much attention to, other than to say that China Airlines is Taiwan's largest airline, so naturally, it's a popular option with Taiwanese travellers.

    I had the chance to break the journey in Taipei in each direction and would agree that Taiwan is worth visiting on holidays (no visa required with an Australian passport), and its proximity to Hong Kong makes it easy to visit both on the one trip for travellers wanting to explore more than one destination.

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  • Traveller14

    Traveller14

    9 May, 2018 12:58 pm

    Great reply Chris: I like your food photos so much that it's always A1 when you have any meal, but I've also skipped same at times. The 'no visa' makes Taiwan easier to get into than Vietnam, and it's also close to Philippines that has quite a few flights to Taipei daily, but not as many as HKG.
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  • Chris Chamberlin

    ChrisCh

    9 May, 2018 01:04 pm

    Yes, I just wish Taiwan would allow foreign citizens to register for the eGate (in the way that Australians can register for Hong Kong's eChannel without living in Hong Kong) to save time for frequent visitors, as the non-citizen passport lines can sometimes be lengthy (45 minutes in one case on this trip).
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  • Traveller14

    Traveller14

    9 May, 2018 04:30 pm

    Chris, there is hope because the relatively new Taiwanese President has been extremely keen to encourage visitors from Asian/Australasian countries to mitigate what had been a downturn in visitors from mainland China.

    I haven't checked for a couple of months but the strategy had been fairly successful, with previously visa-restricted southeast Asians flooding in.

    My most recent mid arvo arrival saw me wait about 35 minutes, not the worst in the world (locally, Bangkok is one that seems far worse) but not as good as some terminals at Manila, or the absolute star, Singapore.
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  • aviator

    aviator

    9 May, 2018 02:28 pm

    There's still a daily flight between BNE-AKL, and a seasonal MEL-CHC, with a broadening of the current codeshare with QF to include Trans Tasman in the works
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  • 747sp

    747sp

    9 May, 2018 02:52 pm

    I just flew on CI this week and agree with the review and wanted to add some points .

    Business shares the toilets with PE . So expect a queue at peak times. The flight from Sydney to Taipei is 9 hours and it takes an hour to hour and half for the meal and they wake you with two and half hours to go. So plan on a maximum of 6 hours sleep.

    The flights tend to be early as we arrived almost an hour early into Sydney.

    I am 194 cm tall and had plenty of room (well I still had to bend the knees to fit :-)) .

    We also found a good little shop outside the customs exit, in Taipei ,that will rent modems for a few Aussie dollars a day. It was much better value than a sim's card if you are there only for a day or so.

    The Lounge near D4 in Taipei Airport has really nice dumplings.

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  • FRANKLIN LOO

    Mdm Milton

    9 May, 2018 03:46 pm

    A superb business class. Nice touches. Give ithe 5 star airlines a run for their money. I do hope China Airlines (Taiwan) will provide foldable mattress since this reviewer said this Lie flat bed is rock hard for sleeping.
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  • GoYouBlues

    GoYouBlues

    9 May, 2018 04:21 pm

    A month ago I flew MEL - TPE - SFO return on the A350 and B777 in J. Saved about $1500 on normal Pacific flights to the west coast of the USA. Both aircraft are excellent products, especially the A350.
    Only two criticisms:
    1. All flights leave late at night. Too late actually e.g 11.30pm. SFO - TPE was worse. It departed at 1.40am. I was too tired to enjoy the amenities.
    2. Layovers in TPE are far too long (17 hours) so I checked into the Novotel at TPE airport and explored Taipei after freshening up at the hotel. That would get tedious if I had to do it regularly.
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  • Agfox

    Agfox

    9 May, 2018 06:15 pm

    Informative & interesting review, thanks, Chris. What were the loadings like on your flights?
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  • quick_dry

    quick_dry

    9 May, 2018 07:39 pm

    I just flew SYD-TPE (sitting in the T1 lounge as I type) and it was about 60% full in J.
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    Agfox

  • Agfox

    Agfox

    9 May, 2018 08:38 pm

    Thanks, quick_dry, much appreciated
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  • Chris Chamberlin

    ChrisCh

    10 May, 2018 09:42 am

    Agfox: The flight from Taipei to London was completely full in business class (which was also on a Friday, with Thursday being the day they don't run the flight, so could have had some passengers on board who may have travelled earlier if given the option), while the other flights all had a few seats spare in business.
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  • Agfox

    Agfox

    10 May, 2018 12:20 pm

    Thanks, Chris, much appreciated
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  • DB

    aussieboyaussie

    9 May, 2018 06:24 pm

    I booked 3 business class flights from Melb to Rome via Taipei with this airline late last year. They were a good price (approx $4300 each from memory). After continued schedule changes, around 4 in total, each adding significant delays in Taiwan, I decided to cancel my flights. I managed to receive my refund over 12 weeks later. I won’t be doing that again.
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  • Traveller14

    Traveller14

    9 May, 2018 08:51 pm

    Chris, having re-read this review, the items covered means it may qualify as one of your - and the site's - best efforts.Because of the limited room, and other passengers plus crew constantly moving about, aircraft interiors are hard subjects to photograph.. Lighting may not be ideal for photography.

    Do you use a DSLR or just a smartphone?
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  • Chris Chamberlin

    ChrisCh

    10 May, 2018 09:46 am

    Yes, I use a DSLR: I primarily shoot with a lightweight Canon EOS 1200D, although do take the odd photo on my iPhone as needed. I prefer the DSLR because it's better in low-light situations (such as aircraft interiors), particularly when I'm not using a flash (I leave it off to avoid disturbing or waking up other passengers, and just use the fixed aircraft and at-seat lights instead).
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  • LongWayAround

    LongWayAround

    9 May, 2018 09:48 pm

    Thank you for this very useful review. A couple of months ago I booked a return SYD-AMS with them in SEP for a really good price in business class (3800). Last week they sent me an email that my very last leg TPE-SYD has now been cancelled, and rebooked me on the same flight the following day, making the connection from 1hr 40min to 25hr 40min. No word on hotels, meal vouchers, alternative options etc.

    I called their customer support number in Taiwan, and spoke to a very nice guy, however he didn't seem to be well trained. I explained to him that, as my flight was scheduled to land in Sydney on Thursday night and I needed to be at work on Friday, the rebooked flight will not work. After being put on hold for over 10 minutes, he said that he found an alternative arrangement via HKG with Cathay, however I had to point out to him that the flight suggested is scheduled to leave TPE at the exact same time I was scheduled to land in TPE from my first leg... He apologised and asked to call me back after he speaks with his supervisors.

    A couple of hours later, I receive an email from them offering to re-route me via HKG with Cathay (so, AMS-TPE-HKG-SYD), with long layovers (5-6 hours each), meaning landing in Sydney at 6:15am on Friday and go straight into the office. Thankfully I can sleep for 2 days straight over the weekend...
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  • Johnny Tung

    jtLondon

    10 May, 2018 12:02 am

    Great report!

    I flew long haul CI in J class 3-4 times a year between London and Taipei as it is the only career that provides direct connection. Occasionally I also fly EVA.

    I have to say CI has far superior hard product. The A350 is quiet, new and comfortable. Interior of CI A350 is also superior. However in terms of soft product I much prefer EVA. The service is more attentive and refined and food and drink superior. EVA's 777 also has more toilet than CI's 350 (which from my memory there is only one in the front and two at the back - often used by the PY passengers). And the bar on A350 isn't being utilised which is a shame.
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  • Tristan

    tris06

    10 May, 2018 01:26 pm

    People must remember that only London flights to and from Australia are timed well. London is by far the biggest market to and from Australia and it only is just big enough that CI thinks it might be worth catching some of the market share.

    If you are flying to any other European or North American destination you will be disappointed with the wait times.

    Why? Because CI is not a huge airline and it is more focused on catering to Taiwanese needs for flight times. Most fares with transferring passengers are quite low yield and even on the Australia-London route there are many competitors. It is already brave of them to try and take some of this market share for these 2 markets when the yields are not that great. However CI uses the passengers on the kangaroo route to fill the plane up mostly to cover the costs. It makes most of its money from Taiwanese who want direct flights to London and people in the UK who want direct flights to Taiwan. Most European routes as well as North American routes can only support 1 daily flight (and even this is sometimes too much) using an A350 or B777 so they have to choose who they will cater to. Larger operators like CX can cater with multiple daily flights so they are able to satisfy those starting locally and those transferring at many times of the day.
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  • Richard Robertson

    iM

    12 May, 2018 04:09 am

    I'm booked SYD-TPE-LAX return in three weeks and had a major schedule change both ways, necessitating about an 18 hr layover in TPE. I booked online via a Skyscanner recommended agent and got them to chase CA for accommodation, which they've managed to do both ways. What promised to be an easy through-connection and great value J class journey has deteriorated into a marathon I'm not looking forward to. I'm also booked SYD-TPE-LGW return with CA in August/September and hope its connections will still go through smoothly. Fingers crossed...
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  • Tristan

    tris06

    12 May, 2018 02:52 pm

    When CI (not CA) announced double daily from Sydney I knew it was overkill. Taipei is not a business destination and 1 daily to 2 daily plus a slight capacity increase from A330 to A350 was a huge increase of seats. We Have booked to NewYork and both ways Have relatively long stop overs . However being leisure trip and use of the lounges and Novotel it actually works out Well for us. For business travellers it Would not be ideal but then most business travellers get the company to pay and time is the only issue. If the money spent comes from you then long stop overs both ways for saving up to 2000 AUD is also a consideration. Expect SYD will go back to a mostly 1 daily flight and that will be very stable scedule. Peak season might offer the extra flights per week.
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  • Chris Chamberlin

    ChrisCh

    12 May, 2018 03:33 pm

    Taipei may not be a business destination for you or the industry you work in, but it is for others: particularly those working in the electronics, manufacturing and tech industries. When last I checked, Asus, HTC and Acer were all headquartered in Taipei, along with companies which manufacture parts for Apple iPhones, Microsoft hardware, Amazon devices etc. :)
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  • Tristan

    tris06

    13 May, 2018 04:08 pm

    That is true but it still nothing like Hong Kong business wise. Sydney would also be a larger destination. Flying from Australia to Taiwan is not a big issue but connecting flights could be.
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  • Tristan

    tris06

    13 May, 2018 04:04 pm

    That lounge renovation In T2 is starting.

    To enhance our service and provide more comfortable,elegant circumstances, China Airlines Lounge at Taoyuan International Airport Terminal 2 ( near Gate D4) is scheduled for renovation from 16 May 2018 and is expected to reopen on 10 September 2018. China Airlines will arrange other alternative services for passengers. We sincerely apologize any inconvenience caused and appreciate your understanding.

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  • Prahran

    Prahran

    21 Jun, 2018 10:44 am

    A very comrehensive and informative review. Thank you.
    Will certainly consider CA for my next trip to London.
    A bit worried about the hard bed though.
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  • Richard Robertson

    iM

    21 Jun, 2018 11:20 am

    Just got back from SYD-LAX return via TPE on China Airlines and very impressed. A350 Syd-Tpe then B777 TPE-LAX. All sectors on time or early, polite service, excellent food, nice business class suite and the bed more comfy than I was excepting. The only downsides were the LAX lounge (KAL and disappointing in terms of food and drink) and TPE lounge (their own but a smaller lounge while bigger one closed for renovations until Sept). The big disappointment was an 18 hr connection in TPE each way after they cancelled the morning flight out of Sydney. However, they put me up at the airport Novotel with breakfast and it has excellent wifi (got quite a lot of work done and it was actually good to break the journey). Booked again for Aug-Sep SYD-LGW return, with through connection in TPE and looking forward to it. Overall, highly recommended and near unbeatable value as a bonus.
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  • Tony OBERON

    obi

    20 Aug, 2018 07:05 am

    As a result of this story, I cancelled my SYD/LHR return with Qatar in business class to fly on CI - and still saved a bundle despite the steep QR cancellation fee. I'm happy to report that I was not disappointed with CI in any way. The cabin and seating are great (I did not find it uncomfortable to sleep) and the A350 on both legs to LGW is superbly comfortable. I arrived feeling almost normal after such a long flight.
    I found the food is slightly better than Cathay J class - which probably isn't too hard these days. We flew an amazing route, east to Japan, then north to avoid China, and then way over the top and down the west coast of Norway and all in a tad over 13.5 hours. The FAs were kind and the WiFi worked well for most of the from TPE/LGW. I really couldn't fault them in any way. I'm actually looking forward to the flight back in mid-September on that great little A350. So kudos to China Airlines.
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  • Richard Robertson

    iM

    20 Aug, 2018 09:07 am

    Good to hear obi. I’m flying Syd-Lgw tomorrow night (see comment above yours) and looking forward to my second CI experience. I think this is one of the best kept secrets and here’s hoping CI keeps its fares low so we can afford to keep enjoying it! The other cheap way to London if you want to go with Qatar is out of Jakarta. I find Skyscanner.com.au finds the best prices and you can also collect good QF status credits because those sectors are done on mileage, not dumbed-down QF calculations (like Kul-Lhr with Malaysian).
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20 Oct, 2018 07:34 am

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