China Airlines A350 Economy Class Review: Sydney To Taipei

Unless you are onboard Qantas’ highly successful Perth to London flight, heading to or from Australia to Europe involves a stopover. With a plethora of Middle Eastern and Asian carriers, as well as British Airways and Qantas, competition is fierce. A left-field option is traveling with Taiwanese flag carrier China Airlines, so is it an experience to forget or remember?

China airlines
The China Airlines A350. Photo: ltdccba via Wikimedia

The lowdown

China Airlines has a daily service from Sydney to Taiwan leaving just before curfew at 22:10, arriving in Taipei early the next morning. From their hub at Taipei Taoyuan Airport, you can then transit to destinations across Europe and Asia.

The aircraft

Serving this route is one of several Airbus A350-900s in the China Airlines fleet. First impressions were good, the fit-out is a subdued beige but arguably durable and stylish. In the inevitable Boeing 787 / Airbus A350 comparison, the A350 has my vote. It surpasses the 787 for comfort and quiet, even if it does miss out on the magic electro-chromatic windows.

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Airbus A350 at the gate in China Airlines Livery
China Airlines operates the sublime Airbus A350-900 on the Sydney to Taipei route. Photo: Simple Flying

Accommodation

First tip, choose the window seat on an Airbus A350. If you are on an overnight flight, that little extra room and strategically placed seat support (read footrest) make all the difference. My seat in the 3-3-3 economy cabin was comfortable with plenty of leg and knee room. With both a USB and full-size socket your power needs are covered, and I arrived in Taipei on full charge.

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Economy class leg room on board China Airlines Airbus A350
Economy class leg room on-board China Airlines Airbus A350 is in a word, generous. Observe the full sized power socket in the bottom right. Photo: Joachim Cohen

Entertainment

Entertainment options are reasonable with a good selection of both Western and Taiwanese content.

In-flight entertainment screen on board China Airlines Airbus A350
In-flight entertainment was delivered via a crisp and responsive infotainment touch screen. Photo: Joachim Cohen

It is worth highlighting the logical simplicity of the supplied in-ear headphones, they perform well and leave the seat pocket clutter-free. I was, however, left yearning for the tail camera real world view, something I was expecting after Simple Flying’s recent Air France A350 review.

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China Airlines magazine and headphones laid out on the tray table
China Airlines’ in-flight entertainment extends to the informative ‘Dynasty’ magazine as well as the super-efficient and space-saving in-ear headphones. Photo: Joachim Cohen

WiFi

It should be noted this plane was WiFi-equipped, but economy passengers do need to pay for this service. Given the late evening departure, sleep was on my flight plan, so I chose to save my dollars for another time. With a daytime flight scheduled on my return, stay tuned.

Meal service

This is my favorite part of any fight and with a nine-hour duration both dinner and breakfast were on the menu.

Part one – dinner

Following a juice service just after take-off, dinner choices were pork in sweet pepper goulash or braised chicken. I chose the chicken and was rewarded. The meat was succulent and flavorsome, and the rice had no sign of the dreaded glug. A minuscule potato salad and a piping hot roll with real butter rounded out a main to remember.

Dinner service aboard China Airlines
Dinner is served. Note the Tim-Tam dessert, a signal of the Australian origin of the flight and a sweet end to a top meal. Photo: Joachim Cohen

Part two – breakfast

Two hours from Taipei, and cabin lights broke the internal dawn. Pork or chicken are once again on the agenda, with a frittata or braised pork mince on offer. The mince had it by a nose…literally. The meat was spicy, hot and quickly devoured. The noodles, however, were hard and swerve worthy. My palate was cleansed with some fruit and yogurt.

Breakfast meal service aboard China Airlines
Breakfast is served, the pork mince had an aroma worth flying for. Photo: Joachim Cohen

Summing up the gastronomy is easy…delicious! Are you an in-flight meal geek? Make sure you check out the recent Simple Flying feature on the history of in-flight dining.

Amenities

Now I know this is often an area of taboo, but I ventured to the bathroom near the close of my trip and was pleasantly surprised. Clean, pleasantly fragrant and of a reasonable size. Nothing stood out, but let’s face it, if the facilities are serviceable and clean, they hit the mark.

Service

Overall the service on this flight was impeccable. Yes, it lacked the personality and friendliness of the American and Australian carriers, but it was a lesson in courtesy, efficiency and routine. An aspect worth calling out are the awesome meal choice cards that make selection easy… choosing the chicken or the pork is as simple as point and eat.

Meal cards on board China Airlines
Point to select meal cards are an example of the operational efficiency of China Airlines’ in-flight service. Photo: Joachim Cohen

Taipei Taoyuan International Airport

Many travelers will be simply transiting Taipei on their way to a final destination. So what is the airport like? From gaming zones, cultural exhibits and children’s playgrounds, to great WiFi and free charging cabinets, all bases are covered.

Gaming Lounge at Taipei Taoyuan International Airport
Have a couple of hours to kill? The gaming lounge at Taipei Taoyuan International Airport will help it race by. Photo: Joachim Cohen

 

Free secure charging cabinets at Taipei Taoyuan International Airport
The free secure charging cabinets are a sign of the many thoughtful touches at Taipei Taoyuan International Airport. Photo: Joachim Cohen

Additionally, if you time your connection right you can secure a day of exploring in Taipei. The airport metro providing easy access to the city and sights.

The final countdown

Food 9/10 – Worth flying for, but the hard breakfast noodles saw it miss the perfect ten!

Service 8/10 – Awesome but lacking old school personality and charm.

Comfort 9/10 – Take the window seat on a China Airlines A350 and content you will be.

Entertainment 7/10 – Good, but nothing exceptional.

Overall 8.5/10 – An experience to remember and yes, China Airlines is a viable option to globe-trot between Europe, America, Asia and Oceania.

Have you traveled to or from Australia on a connecting or direct flight? How does your experience compare? Have you had a different encounter on-board China Airlines? Make sure you add your thoughts to the comments section below.

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eolosbcn

I was months ago flying Taipei – Shanghai with China Airlines. A merely 2h flight with A330. We had hot full luch. I was very surprised. Same impressions as the article. I strongly recommend China Airlines

Gary

Kind of strange though that Taiwan wants nothing to do with China.
But they name there airline after mainland China.
Or wouldn’t it sell fares on aircraft if it was called Taiwan Airlines instead.
Doesn’t EVA Air come from Taiwan as well.

Erik

Taiwan is officially called The Republic of China, so it makes sense they are named China Airlines.

Erik

I flew AMS-TPE-SYD in September in their business class and had a very similar experience. The A350 is a fantastic aircraft and I loved the ambiance in the cabin. The food was great and the crew tried to deliver a personal service (they persistently tried to pronounce my full name upon service).

I will fly them most likely again on the AMS-SYD route in June. They are the cheapest option for business class, saving me a huge amount of money and I don’t have to compromise on service.

5 stars – Highly recommended 😉

David

Have flown several times with China Airlines from YVR-TPE-BKK return in PE class on their Airbus 350-900. They have recently joined other airlines in charging for seat selection on basic fares I notice. Will likely split up my next trip with Economy and PE seats in April. Other option is use was EVA, but they will be operating a 787 from YVR in the spring to TPE with no PE class, and from what I understand are uncomfortable Y class seats. Agree, that the airport in Taipei is great for exploring if you have a long layover.