Needing to make a quick trip to Bali last minute, I was able to book a premium economy/business ticket through American Express’ International Airline program. Business class on China Airlines was for the Taiwan(TPE) to Bali(DPS) leg on an Airbus A330-300. Having never flown this configuration, airline, or plane, I was excited for what was in store.
While trying to find flights out of SFO to Bali on premium economy, I stumbled upon a golden ticket. Booked through the American Express travel portal, I was able to secure a premium economy from from SFO to Taiwan and then business class from Taiwan to Bali on China Airlines at the cheapest premium economy rate I could find. The one caveat, was that my flight was scheduled to leave San Franciso as 1:40 A.M. on a Sunday.
Having a flight at 1:40 AM is not very fun, but on the bright side I arrived in Taiwan 6 AM. This left me with about 3-4 hours to explore the airport and try out a few lounges. Being booked on a business class ticket meant that I could access the China Airlines Business lounge for a couple of hours. The China Airlines lounge was relatively easy to find and I was able to use a lounge pass that was printed with my boarding pass back in San Francisco. The lounge was well designed and but extremely crowded. At 7 in the morning, I struggled for 10-15 minutes to find a good spot. It was difficult to get comfortable with all the commotion, noise, and bustling traffic.
The food at this lounge was solid, highlighted by a made to order noodle bar. With my poor Mandarin, I was able to order the Taiwanese specialty of Braise Beef Noodle Soup. I also snagged some scrambled eggs along the way. The noodles were delicious and far better than what I expected from lounge food. Asian airlines are doing their lounges right.
After spending several hours at the lounge, it was time for me to make my way to Gate C3. The gate was nearby and a short 5 minute walk. Boarding was a bit unorganized as economy passengers formed a long line 25 minutes before takeoff. Luckily for me, I was able to use the priority boarding lane and was the first on the plane.
China Airlines has two different seats on the A330-300. While both are in a 2-2-2 configuration, one seat is an angle flat seat, while the other is an extra reclining seat. I had seat 1K with the extra reclining seat. Seated in the first row, I had a tremendous amount of leg room and because the flight was not very full I had both seats to myself. The seat had little storage space but was comfy.
China Airlines had a decent selection of wines. Since I do not drink wine on a regular basis I asked the flight attendant for some recommendations. In the end I went with a fruity German wine. I also had a small bag of mixed crackers prior to takeoff.
Once in the air the flight attendants quickly came to take my order. There was a chicken noodle stir fry option or a seafood pasta option. I opted for the seafood option. The meal started with canapes of a puff pastry with smoke salmon and a skewer with watermelon and cheese. While they looked strange, they were quite tasty.
For my main course, I had the seafood pasta with sliced smoke duck on the side. The duck was rather delicious and the pasta well, as good as airplane pasta could be. The pasta was a bit soggy but manageable. Being on an emptier flight, I opted for both desert options and was presented with fresh fruit, a matcha cake, and ice cream. The cake was interesting and the fruit was a bit on the sour side.
While China Airlines might not have the best seats or off the chart meals, their staff makes up for it in every way. The flight attendants were warm and welcoming and did everything to make this an enjoyable flight. From making wine recommendations to even helping me take a picture, the flight attendant were willing to accommodate every request. I think I asked for 3 or 4 refills of my coffee and to my surprise when I pressed the call button someone came immediately. The staff really set the tone for a wonderful and enjoyable flight on an otherwise dated plane. Not only did they do everything right, they went above and beyond to create a wonderful atmosphere for their guests.