Review: China Airlines Business Class A350 (TPE-CGK)

Jyaga unsure (3/5)

China Airlines flight details

Airline : China Airlines
Flight No : CI 761
Departure City : Taiwan Taoyuan (TPE)
Arrival City : Jakarta – Soekarno-Hatta (CGK)
Equipment : Airbus A350-900 (B-18910)
Blocked Time : 3h50m
Seat No: 11K

After a prolonged 15-hour layover at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport, it was finally time to head back to Jakarta! I have explained a bit about China Airlines and the booking process in the previous installment, which you can read here! Annoyingly, most South East Asia departures from China Airlines and EVA Air are timed to connect with North America arrivals. This makes it inconvenient for connections from any other destination (including Tokyo), often leading to absurdly lengthy layovers.

China Airlines Meal Preorder

About a week before my flight, I received an email from China Airlines inviting me to prebook my meal. Whilst such a system is becoming increasingly common between airlines, what caught my eye was a special, online-only plant-based meal option. Specifically, the email wrote, ‘Travelers departing from Taiwan can make reservation [sic] online in advance to enjoy the classic plant-based gourmet menu’.

Email from China Airlines

I decided to preselect a meal for this flight out of Taipei since the airline offers a couple of extra options exclusively available online. I found the preorder system to be easy enough to use, and there was even an option to see the full menu for the flight. Due to my curiosity, I really liked being able to see the menu in advance and wish more airlines did this! Note that these mains come with a preset appetiser and dessert, so it wasn’t possible to customise the menu.

China Airlines meal preorder service

Since the airline appeared to advertise its collaboration with Yang Ming Spring a lot, I decided to bite the bullet and get that as my meal. I more so thought that such a meal would be appropriate flying out of Taipei!


China Airlines operates four lounges in Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport for its Business Class passengers. During my 15-hour layover, I had the chance to visit the biggest two lounges, which were also the only ones open during my visit. I’ve reviewed the Terminal 2 China Airlines Lounge D and the Terminal 1 China Airlines Lounge A, in previous installments.

China Airlines Lounge A at Taoyuan International Airport


Having been bored of spending time in the China Airlines Lounge A, I decided to head to the gate rather early at 08.10. This was way in advance of the scheduled boarding time of 08.35, although I’d want to maximise my chance of getting more cabin pictures! Oh, the sacrifices I have to make for this blog! 😉

Our gate at Taiwan Taoyuan Airport (with a screen that says Jetstar hmmm)
B-18910, the A350-900 taking us to Jakarta
A gorgeous Starlux A330-900 parked at the gate next to us

Unsurprisingly, the boarding process was delayed due to a ground operations delay involving the cleaning of the cabin. At 08.46, the gate staff approached passengers requiring special assistance and quietly boarded them into the plane. It was only two minutes later, did the gate staff make an announcement about the delayed boarding time of 09.00 just as the cleaning crew gets off the aircraft.

Our gate at Taiwan Taoyuan Airport

At 09.01, an automated boarding sequence announcement was played and the gate staff had those in Economy Zone 1 to queue in a line. Boarding finally started five minutes later, with Business Class passengers explicitly requested to board first. Interestingly, other SkyPriority passengers (i.e. non-Business Class passengers) had to wait after Business Class. Airline boarding processes are sure interesting, eh?

China Airlines Airbus A350-900 cabin

Our flight today is operated by B-18910, an Airbus A350-900 delivered new to China Airlines in 2017. When I finally got to the door of the aircraft, I was greeted and shown to my seat by a flight attendant. She also offered to introduce the seat features, which was such an unexpectedly polished touch from China Airlines! 

China Airlines A350 Cabin

On the Airbus A350-900, Premium Business Class consists of 32 reverse herringbone seats spread between eight rows. Unlike the Boeing 777-300ER on my flight to Taipei, Business Class only occupies a single cabin between Doors 1 and 2. I was honestly very impressed upon boarding, seeing all the lit table lamps and the warm colours penetrating the cabin.

Premium Business Class cabin
Premium Business Class cabin

Furthermore, the cabin looked very spacious and airy thanks to the omission of overhead storage lockers above the centre seat. Even so, having been complemented by the warm colour palette of the seats and the lighting, the cabin felt very cozy and inviting. Well done, China Airlines!

Premium Business Class cabin
Premium Business Class cabin

Upon first glimpse, the cabin looked pretty much identical to the seats available on the Boeing 777-300ER. After all, the seats share the same Collins Aerospace Super Diamond seating – although there are several minor design changes made by designer Ray Chen.

Premium Business Class cabin
Premium Business Class cabin

In particular, the A350-900 cabin was said to have been designed to focus overwhelmingly on Asian aesthetics. Apparently, the carpet patterns are inspired by the Persimmon, which is said to be ‘symbolic to good wishes’. Whilst it did look impressive, the airline even had this to say about the cabin, ‘China Airlines has had a glorious history, but is always seeking to outdo itself.’ 😛

Seat Design

On this flight, I was seated at 12K in the third row of the Premium Business Class cabin. Already waiting on the seat was the same kind of velvety pillow and a soft and thick blanket as on my last flight. Compared to the seat finishes on the Boeing 777-300ER, this one looked slightly simpler, featuring less dark tones in favour of a warm, greyish palette. Unlike the Boeing 777 seat, this one also does not feature an adjustable headrest.

China Airlines Premium Business Class seat

The most noticeable difference, however, is the table lamps. On the A350, the lamps feature a claw foot, supposedly as a nod to the significance of dragons in Chinese culture. Apart from that, this seat is pretty much identical to those on their flagship Boeing 777-300ER.

China Airlines A350-900 table lamp

Seat Design

To rehash from my previous review, the side table surface opens up to reveal two shallow storage cabinets. The first cabinet stores the entertainment remote controller and features a power outlet, and two USB-B plugs. Nicely enough, the cabinet lid has a mirror under it, which is a thoughtful touch unavailable on the Boeing 777-300ER. The cabinet could also easily store a novel and a pair of glasses, in addition to the airline’s headphones. The second compartment, however, could only fit a phone, a passport, or a very thin book.

Enclosed table storage

Across from the seat is a high-definition, touchscreen 18” television, which I found to be quite responsive. Likewise, the tray table is pulled and folded out from under the screen, to unveil a sturdy, persimmon-wood patterned table surface.

Personal television screen
Tray table

There are also two additional storage cabinets to the side of the seat. In the aisle-facing armrest is a cabinet big enough to fit a water bottle and a toiletry bag. The armrest can also be raised up in flight and function as a ‘shield’ from the aisle.

Armrest storage cabinet

And under the side table is a small exposed compartment, also just big enough to fit a regular airline amenity kit pouch.

Under table storage

Finally, the space under the ottoman can also be used to store a pair of shoes or a small bag. But again, do bear in mind that this opening cannot be used to store bags during takeoff or landing.

Other Observations

Like the reverse herringbone seats found on Cathay Pacific, there is a significantly-sized shield to the side of the seat, which offers a good bit of privacy. As such, it isn’t possible to easily see the faces of your neighbours while seated.

Business Class aisle

For reference, there is no difference in terms of storage or amenities on the bulkhead seat. As such, I wouldn’t recommend choosing that seat solely due to the noise from the galley which will be a bit more audible.

Bulkhead Premium Business Class seat

Pre-departure Service

As the Business Class cabin filled up, the flight attendants came around to offer the same mixed juice I had on my flight to Taiwan. Likewise, the supposed mango and pineapple mix juice tasted refreshing and high-quality! After the distribution of the beverage, the flight attendants went on a hot towel run, although they missed my seat as I was in the lavatory. When the came back to collect the towels, the flight attendant noticed I didn’t have one and promptly me handed one.

Predeparture beverage

Soon after, the flight attendant personally welcomed us on board, addressing each passenger by their personal name. But even so, attention to detail is honestly not great as she had to read over the passenger list and take a long pause before her greeting. To have someone come up to you and pause just felt like an awkward interaction in my books! Regardless, she handed us the inflight menu, mentioned our 4h45m flight time, and wished us a pleasant flight.

Inflight menu

After the greetings, she went back to take our meal and beverage orders. When she came to me, she was quite surprised when I mentioned that I preordered a meal. Whilst she wasn’t initially aware of it, she ended up going to the galley to check if it was loaded and confirmed that it was. Just like that, she took away my menu, which didn’t seem necessary as I had yet to consult the beverage list. This flight also didn’t have champagne, but I overheard that a choice of Australian and French red wines was loaded.

Traffic at Taiwan Taoyuan Airport
Traffic at Taiwan Taoyuan Airport – Hi Pokemon A321neo!

Departure from Taipei

At 09.32 the doors closed but we won’t start pushback until a bit later due to ‘ground operations’. Business Class ended up being less than half full, with only 15 passengers spread between the 32 seats. I also noticed there were several operational upgrades since Economy Class was completely oversold.

Safety video

We pushed back at 09.35, 20 minutes past our scheduled departure time. Purser made her welcome announcement in Mandarin, Hokkien, and English. An automated Indonesian announcement was also made. As we taxied to the runway, the safety video was played.

Rainy weather before departure

After pushback, we had a long and slow taxi to the other side of the airport, taking about 15 minutes to reach the runway. We took off at 09.52 from Runway 23R near the Evergreen Hangar and ascended into grey and rainy skies.

View on takeoff from TPE

Inflight Entertainment

This flight featured an identical FantasySky inflight entertainment system as my last flight. To rehash, there were a total of 120 movies, most of which were in English and Chinese. Whilst 120 movies are quite impressive, only 14 were new releases. Having seen the sole movie that interested me on the last flight, I mostly stuck to watching the inflight map. In addition, whilst the entertainment screen was very responsive and intuitive, the headphones were of merely mediocre quality.

Inflight map
Literature pocket contents

Likewise, there were still no inflight magazines provided on this flight, with two shopping catalogues in their place. Has China Airlines completely done away with inflight magazines or…? WiFi was also available on this flight and had reasonable pricing ranging from USD3.25 for a messaging plan to a USD21.95 24-hour plan.

WiFi onboard China Airlines

Meal Service

The seatbelt signs were only turned off at 10.05, a full 13 minutes after takeoff due to the turbulence-ridden air we flew past. By this time, the crew came around the cabin to close all window shades and turned on the bold orange mood lighting.

Cabin inflight

Around 20 minutes later, the crew started going through the cabin to pass around the mandatory snack mix and an amuse-bouche before the main meal was served. I wasn’t sure what the amuse-bouche was, but it tasted like bamboo shoots served with a sort of terrine and a sesame sauce. It was alright.

China Airlines amuse-bouche

15 minutes after the amuse-bouche was served, the flight attendants came around again to serve the main meal. I didn’t have a menu since I preordered a special online meal, but for reference, the regular menu read as the following.

Inflight menu on China Airlines

Yang Ming Spring special meal

As previously mentioned, the meal I preordered was developed with Yang Ming Spring, a vegetarian Michelin Green Starred-restaurant in Taipei. Without a menu, I wasn’t sure what everything was, but the main was described as Three Cups King Oyster Mushroom X Fragrant Longan Rice. The meal was served on a tray with two cold and unappetising bread rolls.

Yang Ming Spring inflight meal

The meal featured an appetiser of a salad featuring a colourful array of vegetables. Amongst those included were wood-ear mushrooms, walnut, baby corn, radish, and a few pickles. Whilst it looked stunningly radiant, it didn’t taste like anything more than a bunch of vegetables in a bowl. Honestly, quite a disappointing start for something so hyped up by the airline!

Yang Ming Spring – salad appetiser

Next to the salad bowl was a bowl of cut fruit. I mistakenly thought this was the sole dessert of the meal, which initially disappointed me a bit. The fruit bowl featured pineapple, cantaloupe, melon, water guava, and a single grape. Again, nothing more than a bowl of mixed cut fruits.

Yang Ming Spring – cut fruits

Three Cups King Oyster Mushroom X Fragrant Longan Rice

After the two slightly underwhelming starters, I was really looking forward to the main dish. Three Cups King Oyster Mushroom X Fragrant Longan Rice seems to be a vegetarian take on Three Cup Chicken, which I’ve coincidentally never had before. The dish consisted of glutinous rice served with mushrooms, longan, chestnuts, bamboo shoots, and asparagus. Additionally, the three cylinders in the bottom had the texture and taste of tempeh, although I wasn’t precisely sure what it was.

Yang Ming Spring – main dish

For one, the main dish reminded me of the Oriental Treasure Rice I had on Scoot, which I even thought was nicer than this. The dish was served lukewarm and objectively tasted merely mediocre. Whilst it was nice that this dish is fully plant-based, it just didn’t taste like anything special. I liked that the different components gave different textures, but the flavours just didn’t come together, in my opinion. In a sense, I felt that my disappointment stemmed more from the high expectations I had developed based on the incredible meal I had from Tokyo and due to all the fuss made by the airline about this collaboration meal.


After seeing my empty tray, the flight attendant on my aisle took it away and offered me another drink. I was surprised to see that she didn’t take the tablecloth, prompting me to fold it nicely and put it on the side table for when she comes back. Unbeknownst to me, she came back with a dessert plate, telling me the meal isn’t done, and brusquely instructed me to put the tablecloth back on the table. Hmm…

Yang Ming Spring – dessert

Anyway, the dessert consisted of three jelly squares, which after my research appeared to be Osmanthus Jelly. I really liked its floral scent and found the presentation to be beautiful… but I sadly didn’t find myself liking the dish very much.

Yang Ming Spring – dessert


As usual, I went to the lavatory to freshen up, after the disappointing meal. There are three lavatories in Business Class, with one in the forward section and two behind the cabin. The two lavatory at the back seemed to also be shared with Premium Economy passengers, however. As was the case on my previous flight, they lavatories were kept spotlessly clean throughout the flight. I also liked that soft jazz is played in the background inside the lavatory. Cute!

China Airlines A350-900 Lavatory
China Airlines A350-900 Lavatory

Bed mode

Having had next to no sleep on my rough night in the terminal, I was quick to convert the seat into bed mode straight after the meal. The seat can be reclined the an intuitive touchscreen control panel by the armrest, which also controls the table lamp. In bed mode, the seat has an unnoticeable slight angle and was mostly comfortable thanks to the great padding.

Seat in bed mode
Seat control panel

Whilst the footwell is still wide enough to sleep on one’s side, it definitely felt a bit more constrained compared to the wide seat on the Boeing 777. There is also the identical problem of a slight lump on the padding in the waist section of the bed, which made the bed a bit less comfortable.

Seat in bed mode
Seat in bed mode


Mirroring my experience on CI101, the cabin crew didn’t seem to have a good grasp of English, leaving them to be rather distant and cold. However, I did feel that the crew on this flight wasn’t as attentive to detail and it felt more like they were simply going through the motions. Whilst they were definitely not rude, they didn’t come across as especially friendly either. All in all, I just felt the service on this flight was again, mediocre and nothing special.

Arrival in Jakarta

Around 30 minutes before our estimated arrival time, the captain announced the commencement of the descent. He had a Spanish accent, which I was quite surprised about since I’ve always though that China Airlines mostly hired Taiwanese pilots. Anyhoo, he announced that we will be landing at 13.40 local time, which is five minutes past our scheduled arrival time.

View on approach to Jakarta

The seatbelt signs were turned on 13 minutes before landing, by which time the cabin was prepared for our arrival. As I opened the window shades, I was pleased to see that the weather in Jakarta was bright and sunny – quite a change from all the cloudy skies on my three previous flights!

View on approach to Jakarta
Fields and industrial areas near the airport

After approaching from the northeast, we finally had a smooth touchdown in Jakarta’s Soekarno-Hatta International Airport at 13.41. As we taxied to Terminal 3, the cabin manager thanked us for flying China Airlines in three languages (Mandarin Chinese, English, and Taiwanese Hokkien), before being followed by an automated announcement in Indonesian.

Lion Air Boeing 737s at Terminal 2
Soekarno-Hatta International Airports sign
Vietnam Airlines and China Southern in Jakarta

At 13.47, we finally pulled into a gate at Terminal 3 and parked next to an Oman Air Boeing 787-8. The doors opened five minutes later, by which time I thanked the crew and got on my way to immigration.

Oman Air Boeing 787-8 in Jakarta
Soekarno-Hatta International Airport arrivals
Soekarno-Hatta International Airport baggage claim


Overall, I came off this flight feeling rather underwhelmed, especially in contrast with my great flight from Narita. Whilst I was happy to be back home, something about the inflight service throughout just felt amateurish and very mediocre. I don’t have anything but good things to say about the seat and the beautiful design of the cabins, although I feel the disappointing food and passable service truly left me with mixed feelings about China Airlines Business Class.

And just like that, the SkyTeam SakuraTiming trip report is a wrap! Despite the disappointing end to this trip, I’d like to thank you so much for your continuous support for JakartaPotato. In case you missed anything please click the link below to see more reviews from this trip. Thank you again, and please stay tuned for our next trip report coming real soon!

Read more from this trip here!

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