In this review, we will take a China Airlines flight in economy class from Taipei, Taiwan to Rome, Italy on the Airbus A350.
Long flight home
Fourteen hours and 40 minutes to travel from Asia back to Europe – and that all in economy class. I was really not looking forward to this trip, even though there was a tiny bit of excitement deep inside me as this flight would mark my first time on board an Airbus A350.
How would China Airlines’ seat and service be all the way back in coach on this plane? Is it survivable enough on such a long intercontinental flight? Let’s find out!
Taipei (TPE) to Rome Fiumicino (FCO) on China Airlines
Flight CI 75 – Airbus A350-900 – Economy class, seat 50A
Departure: 11.40pm – Arrival: 7:20am (+1)
Flight time: 14h40m – Distance: 5,980 miles
Costs: 280 EUR for MNL-TPE-FCO one-way
Having spent some time in China Airlines’ excellent business lounge, I slowly made my way to the gate, where screens announced a slight delay in boarding “due to ground handling”.
After a short wait we were allowed to board, with the gate agents strictly observing priority boarding. Business class passengers and Sky Team elites were allowed to board first, with business class passengers being directed to the jet bridge connected to the front door of the aeroplane while premium economy and economy passengers had to take adjacent jet bridge towards the second set of doors.
China Airlines A350 economy class cabin
I was the first to board the plane, which gave me a good opportunity to quickly snap some pictures of both the premium economy and economy cabins.
The interior of the plane was sparkling clean and felt completely new. I loved the faux-wood divider walls as well as the A350’s big windows, which made the aircraft feel bright and airy. The seating configuration was 2-3-2 in premium economy, while economy class seats were in a 3-3-3 layout.
China Airlines A350 economy class seat
On each seat in economy class a clean pillow and blanket was already put down by the crew prior to boarding. One of the first things I noticed besides the big windows of the A350 was the large IFE (in-flight entertainment) screen in the back of each seat.
I found the seat itself to be perfectly acceptable and comfortable. At night I even managed to get a solid five to six hours of sleep, something which I rarely manage on a fully-packed economy class flight. This is however also in big part due to the excellent quality of the Airbus A350 – which is noticeably more quiet than other planes.
Right after I arrived at my place, with the rest of the economy cabin still being almost completely empty, a crew member came over to welcome me on board and asked if I might perhaps want a glass of water while I settled down in my seat.
I am not sure why she asked – is it because I was just one of the first to board, or is it because I hold Sky Team elite status and she checked the passenger manifest? – but I found it a nice touch.
In general the service on the flight turned out to be very good. The native-Taiwanese crew was fluent in English, eager to serve, and kept the cabin and toilets tidy during the flight.
The flight to Rome turned out to be almost completely packed in economy class, with also the two seats next to me being taken. Take-off from Taipei was more than half an hour late – although we managed to undo the delay once airborne, eventually arriving on time in Rome.
Economy class amenity kit
Once at cruising altitude, amenity kits were being distributed by the crew. The kit – which was branded with a China Airlines logo – included an eye mask, slippers, ear plugs as well as a toothbrush and toothpaste.
Combined with the blanket and pillow it is basically an great set of items to make your flight in economy class as comfortable as it can be.
About 40 minutes into the flight, the crew jumped into action and started the first meal service. No printed menus were being distributed, which is a slight negative as many other airliners do hand out these even in economy class.
The crew member serving my aisle was instead asking the good-old “chicken or beef” question to all passengers – or in this case, the question was “chicken or meatballs”. I went for the meatball option, which tasted rather bland – even for the low standards of an economy class meal. It was a decidedly average meal – at best.
China Airlines does offer alcohol on board in economy class, and I had a Japanese Sapporo beer to wash away my meal.
Small bottles of water were also distributed during the meal, something which I appreciate a lot as you can keep it for later during the flight. The meal service was concluded with coffee and tea service.
As I wrote before, I did like the big entertainment screens in each seat, which had responsive controls making them easy to operate. It would turn out to be a pleasant way to kill some time during the flight, although I did find the selection of movies, series, music and other shows to be average.
During the flight I watched the film ‘The Iron Lady’, which tells the story of a certain English shopkeeper’s daughter binging on whiskey soda while looking back on her life.
WiFi is available on board China Airlines’ A350 planes. There are several packages which you can purchase when flying economy class. A 15MB package costs 3.75 American dollar, while a 24-hour flight pass with unlimited data costs 21 USD.
As it was an overnight flight in which I wanted to try to sleep as much as possible I did not test out the WiFi so I cannot comment on the quality. That said, I do think the WiFi was certainly well-priced when comparing it to some other airlines, especially considering that there are no data caps.
Our unusual flight route
I was already wondering at the start of the flight why it would take almost 15 hours to fly from Taiwan to Rome. After all, a comparable flight from the Chinese seaboard opposite Taiwan (such as Xiamen to Amsterdam) takes a full three hours less.
Two hours into the flight it became quickly clear why the flight would last this long – we had to take quite a detour! The following picture shows the fastest flight path possible from Taipei to Rome – a straight line as the crow flies.
Our actual flight path did however look like this. Instead of taking the short northerly route over China, Kazakhstan and Russia, we were first flying south. Once we reached Vietnamese airspace, we finally turned westwards over India, Iran and the Caucasus.
The reason of this detour became instantly clear to me: politics. Due to the conflict between Taiwan and the People’s Republic of China, China Airlines (as a Taiwanese airline) apparently does not have overflight rights over China apart from the routes which have their final destination on mainland China!
This is why the flights to Europe have to bypass Chinese airspace and cannot make use of the most direct route.
When I woke up, we were about two hours out of Rome. Breakfast choices were an omelette or porridge – as I’m not a fan of the latter I opted for the eggs.
The breakfast meal was definitely a low-light of the flight, as everything except for the three pieces of fruit and cup of yoghurt was nearly inedible.
Views over the Tyrrhenian Sea and the Italian coastline on arrival did however made up for the bad meal. We landed safe and sound (and on time) in Rome, which is after all the most important aspect of each flight.
The flight went by much faster than I expected, which is always a good sign when flying long-haul in economy. I was surprised by the comfort of the economy class seat, as well as the state and fresh look of the plane.
Also the friendliness and professionalism of the China Airlines cabin crew was a positive factor. Add a good amenity kit, decent in-flight entertainment and cheap WiFi internet, and China Airlines easily ticks off the most important aspects for a long-haul economy flight.
That said, there were certainly some negatives too. I found the food to be quite underwhelming. When compared to many other airlines in economy class, I found the meals lacking in both quality and quantity and certainly well below average.
Overall I would however not hesitate to fly China Airlines again in economy on their Airbus A350 given the comfort of the ride and overall service levels.
If you have to fly to a destination in Asia beyond Taiwan, it can make sense to choose China Airlines above other airlines, as transiting Taipei airport to change planes is a pleasant and smooth experience.
Trip report index
This article is part of the ‘Journey to Java‘ trip report, which consists of the following chapters:
1. Review: Wizz Air Bucharest to Rome Ciampino (Airbus A321)
2. Half a Day in Rome: A Walk Around the Eternal City
3. Review: Casa Alitalia Lounge ‘Piazza di Spagna’ Rome Fiumicino Airport
4. Review: Saudia Business Class Rome to Riyadh (Airbus A320)
5. Review: Saudia Alfursan Business Lounge Riyadh Airport
6. Review: Saudia Business Class Riyadh to Jakarta (Boeing 777-300)
7. Review: The Hermitage, a Tribute Portfolio Hotel, Jakarta, Indonesia
8. A Day in Jakarta: Exploring Indonesia’s Bustling Capital City
9. Review: Garuda Indonesia Domestic Business Lounge Jakarta Airport
10. Review: Garuda Indonesia Business Class Jakarta to Yogyakarta (Boeing 737-800)
11. Review: The Phoenix Hotel Yogyakarta – Mgallery By Sofitel
12. A Magical Sunrise Visit to Borobudur Temple
13. A Visit to the Great Hindu Temple Complex of Prambanan
14. Review: Indonesian Railways (Kereta Api) train Yogyakarta to Surabaya
15. Review: Majapahit Hotel, Surabaya
16. Visiting the city of Surabaya
17. Review: Concordia Premier Lounge, Surabaya Airport
18: Review: Singapore Airlines business class Surabaya to Singapore (Airbus A330-300)
19. A quick Singapore stopover
20. Review: Silverkris Lounge Singapore Changi Airport
21. Review: Singapore Airlines business class Singapore to Manila (Boeing 787-10)
22. Review: PAGSS Lounge Manila Airport Terminal 1 Gate 2
23. Review: China Airlines Economy Class Manila to Taipei (Airbus A330-300)
24. Review: China Airlines Business Lounge Taipei Airport Terminal 1
25. Review: China Airlines Economy Class (Airbus A350) Taipei to Rome (current chapter)
26. Review: TAROM economy class Rome to Bucharest (Boeing 737-700)