Review: China Eastern Business Class A330 (CGK-PVG)

Jyaga likes (4/5)

China Eastern flight details

Airline : China Eastern Airlines
Flight No : MU5070
Departure City : Jakarta – Soekarno-Hata (CGK)
Arrival City : Shanghai – Pudong (PVG)
Equipment : Airbus A330-200 (B-5952)
Blocked Time : 6h30m
Seat No: 7L

China Eastern Airlines is one of the three major carriers of mainland China, alongside China Southern and Air China. With a fleet of over 600 aircraft, it was also Asia’s second-largest airline. Founded in 1988, the airline has since become part of SkyTeam and the alliance’s transpacific joint venture. Coming into this flight I had a mixed feeling of excitement and fear. Excitement because this was the first time I’d flown on a Chinese carrier and fear due to the airline’s poor reputation in airline reviews. But was it as bad as people make it out to be?

Booking China Eastern Airlines

Given the lack of an Indonesian web channel, I booked my flight on China Eastern through an online travel agency. For my itinerary between Jakarta and Tokyo, I paid a total of IDR21,300,000 or about USD1360 or GBP1110. This was roughly 10% lower than the next cheapest flights in Business Class on China Airlines and EVA Air. Although I was tempted to fly China Airlines again to try their A321neo, I felt that it would be more interesting to choose China Eastern.

China Eastern seat reservation

Unbeknownst to me, booking via an OTA spurred a barrage of issues when viewing my booking online. First, I can’t easily view my reservation online, since it wasn’t issued straight by the airline. That meant that I couldn’t add a frequent flyer programme to my booking. Although the airline has a complicated ticket verification platform, it took a while to figure out the arrangement of my name on my eTicket. Once I got that settled, I tried to select my seats only to find that most seats were blocked off by the airline. Later, I tried to find a local office to call only to find that China Eastern does not have a branch in Jakarta. Say what???


Several hours before my flight, the airline texted me a long message in Chinese about my flight. Having zero knowledge of the language, I Google Translated it to find out that the flight had been delayed due to the late departure of the aircraft from Shanghai. It also had a link that redirected me to a page allowing me to rebook my flight… which didn’t work. Regardless, I did appreciate the message, since at least I wouldn’t find out and be stuck in the airport.

Delay notice from China Eastern Airlines

I made my way to Terminal 3 two hours before the retimed departure at 01.10. China Eastern’s check-in desks are located on Island C close to Door 2. Since there was nobody in line for the counters, I was helped almost immediately. Interestingly, our agent appeared to be new since she had to call her supervisor to verify our documents. As we were being checked in, she also requested us for our phone numbers… which is a first for me.

China Eastern check-in counters at Soekarno-Hatta Airport

She tagged no less than four baggage tags onto our checked luggage, which is perhaps the most I’ve had on any airline! In particular, there was an international connections tag, a SkyPriority tag, a Business Class tag, and an interline luggage tag. We also had to fill in our details on the international connections tag, in case our bags were to get lost. Hmm…

China Eastern check-in counters at Soekarno-Hatta Airport

After we dealt with all that, the agent handed us our boarding passes and reminded us to fill in the China Health Declaration Form, claiming that we’d be prevented from boarding without filling it out first. Interesting!

Soekarno-Hatta Airport Terminal 3


At Soekarno-Hatta International Airport, China Eastern uses the Garuda Indonesia Lounge. This is expected since both airlines belong to the SkyTeam alliance. I’ve reviewed the Garuda Indonesia Lounge recently, so I won’t be reviewing it again. Regardless, I found that it was a mediocre lounge compared to the Saphire Plaza Premium Lounge nearby. Before my flight, the lounge was exceptionally crowded, which I hadn’t expected. That frankly made the lounge a lot less desirable than it already is. I also ate what there was to eat at the lounge, anticipating that a post-takeoff meal wouldn’t be served onboard.

Garuda Indonesia Lounge in Soekarno-Hatta Airport Terminal 3

Curiously, the Garuda Indonesia First Class Lounge was operational on this visit, which is sure a rare sight to see! Since the door between the Business Class section and the First Class section, I quickly took a picture of the First Class Lounge to check it out. Surprisingly (or perhaps not really), it looked very mediocre?

Garuda Indonesia First Class Lounge


After getting bored by the chaos that is the Garuda Indonesia Lounge that night, I decided to head to the gate about 20 minutes before the printed boarding time. Our flight today departs from Gate 2C, which is located at the far end wing of the terminal. As I made my way there, I was surprised to see that the airport had installed a ‘Game Station’, which was deserted. Although this seemed like a nice addition, it doesn’t solve the myriad of issues this airport has.

Soekarno-Hatta Airport Terminal 3
Gates 1-4 at Soekarno-Hatta Airport Terminal 3
Game Station at Terminal 3

Despite our revised boarding time of 00.30, I found out at the gate that boarding had been further delayed to 00.45 since the aircraft arrived later than expected. With most seats by the gate already occupied, I chose to wander around and check out the various planes parked at the terminal that night. Curiously, there was a Wamos Air A330-300, which has been temporarily operating in lieu of Etihad Airways’ services to Jakarta. Talk about a change!

Gate 2A-2D at Terminal 3
Saudia Boeing 777-300ER at Soekarno-Hatta Airport
Wamos Air Airbus A330-300 at Soekarno-Hatta Airport


Suddenly, at 00.35 everybody started to swarm the gate area. Not knowing what was going on, I decided to join the queues. Surprise, surprise, preboarding suddenly started a minute later, as the athletes for the Hangzhou Asian Paralympic Games were invited to board. This was followed by general boarding for Business Class passengers at 00.38, without much announcement. What a mess!

Boarding Gate 2A-2D

The letter-suffixed gates are amongst the worst in the airport since the jetbridge isn’t immediately past the entrance. Since we boarded from a shared entrance for Gate 2A-2D, this meant that we had to go on another long walk to get to the aircraft. As I headed towards the jetbridge for Gate 2C, I was surprised to see an ANA Boeing 767-300ER. I didn’t think the airline would send their outdated 767s this far anymore!

Walkway to Gate 2C
ANA Boeing 767-300ER at Soekarno-Hatta Airport

Near the end of the walkway, I found myself waiting in another line, as preboarding had yet to be completed. It was here that I saw for the first time, the humble-looking A330 taking us to Shanghai. Tonight’s flight is operated by B-5952, an Airbus A330-200 delivered new to China Eastern in 2014. Soon after all wheelchair passengers were boarded, the China Eastern station manager cleared the ground staff to allow us to board.

B-5952 at Soekarno-Hatta Airport
Boarding our flight

At the door, I was greeted in English by an elegant-looking crew. After checking my boarding pass, I was walked to my seat by the flight attendant, who also offered to introduce the seat features. Wow, wow, wow! I definitely was not expecting this from China Eastern!

China Eastern 33H Cabin

Being the backbone of the fleet, China Eastern has a myriad of seat configurations for their Airbus A330s. Tonight’s flight features the airline’s 33H configuration, which is equipped with reverse herringbone seats in Business Class. Specifically, the airline uses the basic version of the Cirrus herringbone seat, which you’d also find on Cathay Pacific and Vietnam Airlines. Unlike Cathay Pacific’s version, the design of these seats is off-the-shelf and features no customisation apart from the dark blue upholstery.

Business Class cabin
Business Class cabin
Cirrus reverse herringbone seat
Cirrus reverse herringbone seat

In total, there are 30 seats in Business Class in a 1-2-1 configuration, spread between eight rows in two cabins. These seats are completely uncustomised and are most similar to those you’ll find on Delta A330-300s. Regardless, the seat thankfully features direct-aisle access, meaning that you won’t have to jump over someone whenever you need to get out of your seat. As such, the window seats are preferred when travelling alone, since the centre seats do not have a privacy shield of any kind.

Business Class cabin
Business Class cabin
Window seats
Cirrus reverse herringbone seat

Notably, there is no benefit to the bulkhead seats, since the footwells in those seats are the same size. The proximity of these seats to the galley also makes them less attractive, given the high likelihood of noise from the inflight service preparation.

Bulkhead seats
Bulkhead seats
Business Class cabin

Seat Details

On this flight, I was seated at 7L, the window seat on the second row on the right-hand side. The seat is decked in blue-coloured cloth upholstery that features a round floral pattern in the centre. Despite the old-fashioned look, I was quite surprised to see that the padding was great!

My seat, 7L
Business Class seat

In front of the seat is the 15-inch touch-screen LCD entertainment screen, which pops out with the push of the button on the side. Installed is China Eastern’s Sky Entertainment system, which I’ll be expanding on in a bit. Under the television is the footwell, equipped with a padded ottoman, which I didn’t find constricting.

Stowed entertainment screen
Unstowed entertainment screen

To the side of the seat is a side table, from under which the tray table pops out. Behind the side table is a remote control for the entertainment screen, alongside the seat’s recline control buttons, a universal power outlet, and a USB-B charger. Additionally, there is also a reading light which was inoperable in my seat.

Business Class seat
Tray table
Control buttons and reading light

Annoyingly, the seat does not have any sort of enclosed storage space. Instead, right under the side table is a storage pouch for the headphones. Opposite that, to the aisle-facing side of the seat is an extendable armrest/privacy shield that I found convenient to use in bed mode. Finally, there is also a literature pocket on the seatback wall across from the armrest. Interestingly, the literature pocket’s plastic cover a few times during the flight. This caught the attention of the cabin crew, who were very apologetic.

Extendable armrest
In-seat literature pocket
Broken literature pocket


Already waiting on the seat was a large pillow, which I found to be great for this overnight flight. Alongside this is a thick modacrylic blanket, which isn’t as good as a duvet but moderately better than the run-of-the-mill airline blankets. In addition, there was a pair of slippers and headphones in the literature pocket and side pocket, respectively. The fluffy slippers came in a nice-looking non-woven bag that makes it easy to bring home. Given the short nature of this flight, an amenity kit was expectedly not offered.

China Eastern slippers

The headphones, however, were quite terrible. They were small and quite flimsy, being marginally better than the ones you get in Economy. Worst yet, they weren’t comfortable to use. So be sure to bring your headphones if you’re gonna use the inflight entertainment system (more on that later).


Departure from Jakarta

During the boarding sequence, the cabin crew played the airline’s boarding music of easygoing piano covers of Chinese songs. Shortly after settling in my seat, the flight attendant on my aisle (who I sadly didn’t catch the name of) came by with a tray of drinks. Specifically, there was a choice between water and orange juice. I settled for a glass of water, which was fine. Shortly after, she came back with a hot towel that was placed on a ceramic plate. Wow!

Pre-departure beverage of water
Hot towel

After finishing my drink, the flight attendant came back to take my breakfast meal order. As she explained the options, she kneeled slightly so that she spoke at eye level. After quickly consulting the provided beverage leaflet, she also noted my choice of drinks. Despite the lack of a food menu, I was very impressed by how polished the service is so far!

Hello Garuda Indonesia Boeing 737-800!

The doors were closed at 01.03, about 25 minutes after boarding started. Since the flight was oversold in Economy Class, there were a couple of passengers who were seated in Business Class at the very last minute. At this time, the purser went on the intercom to welcome us on board this flight for Shanghai Pudong Airport. She noted our flight time of five hours and forty minutes along some slightly choppy weather along the way. A couple of minutes later, the safety video was played, first in Mandarin Chinese, followed by another in English.

China Eastern safety video
China Eastern safety video

Departure and takeoff

We pushed back at 01.11, one minute past our retimed departure time. As the safety video concluded, there was an automated security announcement and warning about unruly behaviour. Interesting… After that, the purser curiously went back on the intercom to offer paid upgrades to Business Class, on account of the handful of empty seats.

Japan Airlines Boeing 787-8

We passed by a Japan Airlines Boeing 787-8, as we taxied to the runway, which I have reviewed in Business Class. At this time, the cabin lights were dimmed as we made our way to Runway 25R by Terminal 3. We finally took off at 01.23 and were finally on our way to Shanghai. How exciting!!

Traffic at Soekarno-Hatta Airport
Takeoff from Soekarno-Hatta Airport

After Takeoff Drinks

As we gained altitude, there were a lot of dings coming from the flight deck. This appeared to confuse a couple of passengers, who stood up to use the lavatory. Fortunately, the crew were quick to motion that it wasn’t yet safe to unbuckle the seatbelts. In the end, the seatbelt signs were switched off 20 minutes after takeoff, which was probably the longest I’ve seen on any airline.

Orange juice

After 12 minutes, the crew went up the aisle with a beverage trolley. Despite the beverage menu, there wasn’t a complete choice of drinks available. In the spur of the moment, I decided to get a glass of orange juice over anything else. Although this came out of a bottle, it was infinitely better than the artificial orange drinks offered at the lounges in Soekarno-Hatta Airport! This was served with a packet of mixed nuts and raisins.


Eager to sleep, I quickly gulped my drink and went to the lavatory to refresh myself before going to sleep. There are two lavatories reserved for Business Class, one being at the front of the cabin by the flight deck and the other between the cabins. Of the two, the aft lavatory does feel a lot smaller by design of the aircraft’s curvature. As such, the inter-cabin lavatory by the galley is more comfortable to use.

China Eastern Business Class lavatory
China Eastern Business Class lavatory

Inside, toothbrushes and disposable cups were provided, along with airsickness bags and a China Eastern-branded hand sanitiser and body lotion. To my surprise, the provided toothbrushes were wooden, which is surely a nice touch! Throughout the flight, the crew did a very good job keeping the lavatories nice and spotless. More impressively, the crew would proactively open the lavatory door as you walk down the aisle. Well done!

Lavatory amenities

Bed mode

Since the cabin lights had been dimmed since takeoff, the conditions were right for sleep. As such, I reclined my seat into flat mode and prepared it for bed. Like most reverse herringbone seats, the seat back has a slight angle when fully flat. Thankfully this wasn’t too noticeable, since the aircraft flies at an angle after all. And since the footwell wasn’t tight, it wasn’t hard to sleep on one’s side. The cabin was also kept relatively colder than on Japanese airlines, which helped me fall asleep faster. In the end, I managed to cram in close to four hours of sleep, which is as much as I could expect from a short redeye!

Seat in bed mode
Footwell in bed mode
Pillow and blanket

Inflight Entertainment

After sleeping for nearly four hours, I woke up about two hours before landing. Since the meal service has yet to begin, I took the time to browse the airline’s inflight entertainment system, Sky Entertainment. The selection was admittedly meagre, featuring a limited selection of Western, Asian, and Chinese titles. In total, I counted just 16 Hollywood movies, in addition to 33 Chinese movies, three Asian movies, and three European ones. At the very least, there were a couple of recent releases like Fast X and the Super Mario Bros Movie.

Sky Entertainment
Film selection
TV Series selection

Since I wasn’t interested in any of the available movies, I stuck to watching the flight map instead. The map was one of the older kinds, which is unsurprising given the age of the system. In any case, I did appreciate that the monitor was responsive despite being a bit low-definition.

Flight map

In addition to the Sky Entertainment system, an onboard WiFi service was also advertised by the crew. Despite that, there weren’t any pamphlets explaining this offering or how to connect. Whilst I was able to find the network, I couldn’t figure out a way for the log-in page to load. Finally, there was also an inflight magazine available in the literature pocket. Titled ‘Connections’ the content of the magazine was nearly completely in Chinese.

Literature pocket contents


About one hour and forty minutes before landing, the cabin lights were turned on for the breakfast service. At this time, the crew went around the cabin to distribute hot towels, again on a ceramic plate. For breakfast, there was a choice of either a Western breakfast of omelette or a Chinese breakfast consisting of dim sum. Sadly, there wasn’t a dining menu with details of each set. Since I wasn’t interested in the prospects of a bland omelette, I decided to get the Chinese set. When in Rome Shanghai, right? 😉

Breakfast hot towel service

There was, however, a beverage menu, which proved to be a bit meaningless. Since I was keen to try new drinks, I tried to order the ‘Bright Future’, which along with the other original drinks were ironically not available. Then, I tried to get the ‘Plum Drink’, which wasn’t available either. In the end, I settled for hot tea.

Beverage selection

Five minutes after the hot towels were distributed, the flight attendant came back to set up my tray table. I was surprised to see that China Eastern uses these disposable tissue-like tablecloths, which seemed a bit cheap. Anyway, my pre-requested drink of hot tea was brought out shortly after.

Tablecloth and tea

Around ten minutes after the drinks were brought out, breakfast was finally served. On this flight, the Chinese breakfast set consisted of five different elements served on a single tray. In addition to the normal cutlery, this also came with a pair of metal chopsticks, which I thought looked pretty cool!

Breakfast on China Eastern
Breakfast on China Eastern

Chinese Breakfast

As described, the main dish was a selection of four kinds of dim sum, which included Beef shumai, Shanghainese sticky rice shumai, a chicken jiaozi dumpling, and a fried leavened custard-filled bun. I’ve had dim sum inflight a couple of times on Cathay Pacific and I’d have to admit that these ones were really good! Each dumpling was flavourful and light and complements each other.

Main dish of dim sum

The main dish was served with a side of rice congee. Initially, I thought the orange bits were fish roe, although I then found out that it was sliced-up carrots. The congee was itself served with an accompaniment of savoury side dishes. This included marinated tofu, fish cakes, and pickled mustard greens. Although I wouldn’t say I’m especially familiar with Chinese food, I found these flavours to pair very well with the congee! The pickled mustard greens tasted quite similar to the Japanese version (高菜漬け), which I love. As such, this made for a very satisfying meal.

Carrot congee
Savoury side dishes for the congee

In addition, the meal was served with a bowl of cut fruits and a croissant on the side. I liked the variety of fruits served, which included watermelon, pineapple, papaya, melon, and grapes. This I think rounded the meal very well. The croissant, however, was quite bad. It was hard and doughy and tasted stale, so I left it alone after one bite.

Croissant and fruits

Post meal

During the meal, I appreciated that the crew frequently passed by to offer drink top-ups. I might have had two or three glasses of tea for that reason. After my tray was cleared, the wonderful flight attendant servicing my aisle still asked if I’d like more tea. Having decided that I’d had enough caffeine in me, I asked for some water instead. Sure enough, she came back with a bottle of water, which I appreciated!

Post meal bottle of water


This being my first experience flying on China Eastern, I was very impressed by the level of service provided by the crew. As I’ve alluded to in various points within this review, I found the crew to be polished and refined. For one, I was impressed by how every crew member managed to communicate and memorise the language preferences of each passenger. From the beginning, I was spoken to in good English, which I appreciated! Furthermore, I noticed that the crew worked fast and proactively, especially in offering drink top-ups and clearing trays. In fact, the service was nearly to the level of Singapore Airlines, which I think says a lot! Two thumbs up for China Eastern!

Arrival in Shanghai

About 50 minutes before landing, the purser announced the details of our arrival with an expected arrival time in Shanghai at 08.10. This prompted the seatbelt signs to be lit and the cabin to be prepared for landing. In any case, I thought this was very inconveniently early for the seats to be put back upright! Curiously, however, the lavatories still can be used for another 15 minutes after this announcement. Sure enough, the toilets were locked 35 minutes before landing, along with an announcement from the captain that we had commenced our descent.

On approach to Pudong Airport

Approach and arrival

As we made our approach to Shanghai Pudong International Airport, we were treated to some very good views of the Yangtze River Delta. Given how great the weather was at the time, I couldn’t help but marvel at all the trade activities going on as we passed by the Port of Shanghai. Better yet, the towering skyline of the Pudong District of Shanghai was visible in the background.

Flying past the Port of Shanghai
Flying past the Port of Shanghai

At 08.05 China Time, we landed smoothly on Pudong International Airport’s Runway 16L. Our touchdown was quickly followed by an announcement in Chinese and English from the purser welcoming us to Shanghai. Since we landed on a parallel runway, we had to wait for a few planes to clear before we could cross over to the Satellite Terminal.

Landing at Pudong International Airport
Traffic at Pudong International Airport

As we taxied to our gate, we passed a few interesting planes, including a Spring Airlines A321, an OTT Airlines Comac ARJ21, and a Shanghai Airlines Boeing 737 Max 8. In the end, we ended up parking next to a couple of Shanghai Airlines Boeing 737-800s in the Terminal 1 Satellite.

Traffic at Pudong International Airport
Traffic at Pudong International Airport
Shanghai Airlines Boeing 737s in Shanghai
Our arrival gate at Pudong Airport

We finally arrived at our final parking position at 08.22, about 17 minutes after landing. The doors were opened seven minutes later and I thanked the crew for the flight as I exited from Door 1L. Well, I guess this is finally time for my 8-hour layover adventure at Pudong Airport!

Arrivals at Pudong Airport
China Eastern’s sexy A350-900 in Shanghai


Having gone with zero expectations about China Eastern, I was very impressed with this flight. Despite the ageing seat and meagre entertainment system, I found the product to be comfortable for an overnight flight like this. Furthermore, I thought that the food offering was pretty great despite the limited number of drinks. What most impressed me was the excellent service I received on board. I wasn’t sure if I lucked out with a stellar crew but I definitely didn’t expect this level of service from China Eastern. Sure, there are still a few kinks to solve with their website and whatnot, but I felt like they’ve redeemed themselves with this great flight.

Read more from this trip here!

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