I was not expecting much from Air China business class, which is why I am surprised that they still failed to satisfy my expectations.
We were flying on a United Global First itinerary, from Taipei to Dulles, with a stop over in Beijing.
We arrived at the Taipei airport and quickly checked in at the Air China business class and first class line. I kept joking that I could not remember the difference between Air China and China Airlines. The desk agent was wearing a China Airlines uniform, our boarding pass was printed on an Air China ticket, and our lounge pass was printed on China Airlines paper. Perhaps I was not the only one who was confused.
Immediately upon clearing immigration, we found our way to the China Airlines lounge, but were told we needed to use the lounge near gate D4. We bypassed the Star Alliance affiliated Eva Lounges and followed our lounge pass to a dungeon of an airport lounge. The United lounge in Minneapolis was nicer than this. The food was decent, but there was no view of the run way, no windows, no ambiance. We were disappointed, but waited our 3 hours to board.
The Air China A330-200 was dated, to say the least. We do not fly business class a lot, considering most of our flights now are on Air Asia, so when we do, we want to make the most of experience.
The seats were worn around the edges. The yellow and white pillow, matched with red blanket, red slippers, and blue and grey seats were not too pleasing on the eyes. The orange juice before take off was warm.
Shortly after take off we were served a dinner. Choices were chicken or pork. We both chose the pork with rice. And, having been missing wine and champagne immensely during the prior six moths in Bali, I ordered a champagne, which was sweet and warm. I wondered whether it was Great Wall champagne, a Chinese brand of wine that even when free I can’t stomach.
I returned it and asked for a Scotch, which was okay, although served warm with very little ice. Eric’s was loaded with ice. I had to ask for some specially. I wanted to watch a little TV while eating, but had trouble figuring the entertainment system out. The menu was in Chinese, and I could not find a button to switch it to English. I struggled to tell what was what, found an episode of Glee, and called it a day. It was at least in English.
I have not been served food this bad on any flight in a long time. The meals on Air Asia are way more edible. The bread was somewhat warm, but overcooked and crusty. The salad included a cucumber, some lettuce, a questionable looking shrimp, and some mayonnaise laced imitation crab salad. If that were not bad enough, the pork was a strange consistency, loaded with fat and weirdness, and was covered in a creamy, almost cheese-based sauce, and tasted over run with scallion and onion.
Essentially, I ate some of my roll, I pushed the pork away to eat some of the rice, I had a few bites of lettuce, and the 4 slices of fruit. I wished I had finished the almonds they served before the meal, and was thankful that I had two plates of dumplings at the Air China Business Class Lounge in Tapei.
My expectations for non-American airlines are always set higher than the American legacy carriers, but I knew nothing about Air China before the flight. I was not expecting a Cathay Pacific or Singapore Air style business class experience. As I said, my expectations were low, but I was at least expecting an edible meal. On all counts Air China Business Class disappointed.
Amber Hoffman, food and travel writer behind With Husband In Tow, is a recovering attorney and professional eater, with a passion for finding new food and drink destinations. She lives with her husband, Eric, in Girona, Catalonia, Spain. Together they have traveled to over 70 countries.