Flight Review: Boeing 787 Dreamliner
Itinerary: San Francico (SFO) – Guangzhou (CAN)
Friday, December 11
Departure Time: 11:10AM
Arrival Time: 5:25PM (+1 Day)
Flight Duration: 14hr15min
Aircraft Model: Boeing 787 Dreamliner
Seat: 12D (Business Class)
Recently I had the pleasure of flying China Southern’s (CZ) new Boeing 787 Dreamliner en route from San Francisco to Manila (via Guangzhou). I was particularly excited for this journey as it was my first time flying on the 787. This aircraft remains one of the newest being flown commercially today since its launch was only back in 2011. Today many airlines are still waiting to take delivery of their first Boeing 787’s with Qantas to name but a few. Needless to say, I was very happy to be able to take this ride with China Southern being gracious hosts.
China Southern's check-in counter is located at aisle 6, SFO international terminal. You will find the common touches and trimmings for premium class once you arrive for check in such as the red carper rolled out (literally) and a short to no line. Here at SFO, CZ shares the airport lounge with Air France since they both operate under the Skyteam loyalty designation. The lounge food was okay however they had a high-tech cappuccino machine that rivals your neighborhood barista.
CZ’s 787 business class cabin consists of a 2-2-2 seating configuration and was split into 2 sections with the galley in between. In total there are 24 seats in business class, all with lie flat seating at 180 degrees. In total there are 228 seats, 4 in First Class and 200 in Economy. A nice touch that I first noticed upon boarding which paid dividends later on was the down comforter provided to each passenger. I've been on few other business class flights in which you are only given a small thin blanket.
Upon taking my seat I was offered the customary warm towel and a choice of pre-takeoff beverage. Each business class seat has an ottoman/foot rest that also doubles as storage for your blanket, pillow and shoes (assuming you are wearing the provided slippers). The extra storage space I love. Normally you are at odds trying to find a place to keep your pillow and blanket when you don’t need it, so this is a big help.
Hors d’oeuvre – Marinated Shrimp, Scallops, and Cuttlefish with Chinese Dressing. (I opted for the FoieGras, sadly they did not have it in stock)
Soup – Oven Butternut Squash Soup
Entrée – Hot Pot Rice with Chicken and Chinese Sausage (The overwhelming favorite choice was the stir fried (whole) lobster tail. Call me crazy but whenever I get a chance to eat Chinese sausage. I jump at it. Also during my last visit to Guangzhou, we ended up eating at a local food court which I ended up choosing this same hot pot dish)
Personal AVOD (Audio Visual On Demand) is available not only in every business and first class seat, but also in economy. Nowadays, however, this is more so a standard than a bragging right. The business class screen boasts a 15 inch presence with both touch screen and remote control functions and has a choice of 127 movies and 258 television programs. The Chinese seem to be huge fans of the 'Fast and Furious' franchise.
The lavatory is something you expect to be different, if not noticeably clean since this is a new aircraft. Space-wise, it felt just a tad larger since I was able to change into my customary comfortable flight clothes with ease, without bumping into the wall too often. The lavatory is fitted with technology refinements to boot, since both the faucet and flush are sensor operated. Boeing uses new technology to aid with in flight safety, which can be rather annoying – If you are in the lavatory and the fasten seat belt sign turns on, the light in the lavatory will revert to ambient lighting prompting you to hurry up and finish your business. In other words the light turns off leaving you in very low light. A lot of travelers may not be fans of this new feature.
Whenever I fly the transpacific route, an evening flight is always what I prefer since you are able to sleep easily with a dimly lit cabin. If you take a morning flight like a lot of carriers offer out of SFO (Cathay Pacific, Korean, China Eastern), they strictly keep all window shades down for a majority of the flight since flying westward means you are chasing the sun the entire time.
The new Boeing Dreamliner addresses this problem with pure art and perfection, the likes of which rival refinements found on the Starship Enterprise of Star Trek fame. The window has a touch knob that lets you adjust the tint on the window as needed so you can comfortably daydream as you watch the clouds float by whilst avoiding being the annoying passenger with the window shade down. There are five settings that let you dim/ adjust the amount of light that is allowed through the window.
China Southern does transit right and easy. On a long journey, a stopover is something one avoids at all costs. However, CZ helps with this growing pain. After you disembark the plane, the China Southern Transit Counter is the first thing you see. They have friendly ground staff who are extremely helpful, pointing you in the right direction if you feel a little lost. I would also like to mention that anyone with an overnight layover will receive a free hotel accommodation and breakfast. Many major airlines do not offer this.
The China Southern Business Class lounge at Baiyun Airport is world class. When you enter, you first notice there are two levels: the ground level where the main food and beverage area are and the balcony level providing a bird’s eye view of the terminal with ample comfortable seating.
What sets this lounge apart from the others I've visited are complimentary shower units and even beds to sleep in. While I did not have the time to shower or sleep, I did however make use of their soup station. Yes, there was a chef preparing different types of soup on demand such as won ton and beef noodle soup. After a long journey, a hot bowl of noodle soup will surely power you through the rest of you’re your journey
My final destination on this journey was Manila. Would I fly China Southern again to Manila? Absolutely. Before we go into the flight experience itself, taking China Southern to Manila from San Francisco makes so much sense specifically because the connecting time is so short (less than 2 hours in each direction) and the flight from Guangzhou to Manila and back is only about 2 hours. Travel time always plays a huge role and the total travel time is the shortest you can get without flying non-stop.
Considering my total time spent in Manila was less than 48 hours, the flight time actually played a bigger role in this journey. The 787 cabin is pressurized to 6,000 feet, roughly 2,000 feet lower than standard long haul flights. This improves the absorption of oxygen into the blood which reduced fatigue especially on the long journeys. Did this help fight jet lag? I honestly can't say since my total travel time was so short that my body was not given enough time to adjust to the visiting time zone.
Whether business or leisure, travel is all about the experience and the memories. The extra large, electronically controlled windows are things I will never forget. In fact, I wish all airlines had this option. I recall it being like flying with the perfect twilight sunset that lasted over 10 hours. I hope to see this sight again very soon.
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