I’ve visited Asia several times, including China. Generally, I like to fly with a Chinese airline as opposed to a non-Asian carrier when going to China. In my experience, it’s better when the airline fully understands how things operate in their origin country. When I flew with Air China to Beijing, the flight staff was able to assist me with the process of getting my visa once I arrived at the airport. It really put me at ease. I’ve had my fair share of experiences with Chinese airlines, and I’ve come up with a list of the best airlines to fly to China.
Below are just a few Asian air carriers that stand out to me more than the rest. So, if you’re curious to learn about my favorites, just keep reading.
My Favorite Chinese Airline
Overall, I really like Hainan Airlines. The good customer service gets me every time. Not to mention, their prices are sometimes more affordable than Air China. They have a good amount of route options available, and they’re a 5-star airline. For me, they’re a close contender with Air China, and I’ll explain more in the next section as to why they take the top spot.
My Top Two Picks at a Glance
When flying to China, Hainan Airlines and Air China are at the top of my list. I live in the United States, and they offer numerous route options from North America. Furthermore, I’ve been able to catch fantastic deals with both of them, allowing me to fly round trip for less than $1,000. Plus, both airlines serve good food, which is a big deal to me. When I’m stuck on a plane for 13 hours, and the hunger kicks in, the last thing I want is a subpar meal.
I must say, Air China does not have smooth landings. But of course, I always reached my destinations unharmed. However, they deliver in every other area, which is they still make the top of my list. But their rocky landings are the reason why they fall second to Hainan Airlines.
A Little Advice for Flying to China
China isn’t the only country that uses military time. But you could get really confused if you don’t pay close attention. Plus, depending on where you fly from, there’s a huge time zone difference. If you’re from the USA, I suggest using a time converter and writing down departure times in the 12-hour format.
I’ve almost missed my flight a couple of times because of the format differences. I remember having a layover in Beijing and almost missing my flight home. I went to explore the airport to kill some time while I waited. Well, when I came back, they were going through the boarding process! I thought we were leaving much later. Thankfully, I came back in time! With that said, make sure you know the exact time of departure.
Pack a Carry On
If you’re flying to China, chances are, you’re checking luggage. However, lost baggage happens sometimes. When I flew with China Southern, my bags were misplaced, and it happened to two other passengers on the flight. Luckily, I always check bright luggage so that my bags are easily spotted. Thankfully, my misplaced bags were found fairly quickly. I’m not sure if the same was true for the other passengers.
My advice is to pack a carry-on bag of essentials, just in case something happens. Pack luggage filled with undies, PJs, and a couple of outfits that you can wear. That way, you’ll have something to wear if your checked bags get lost and take a while to get to you.
Plan for the Unexpected
I’m sure you already know this, but flights to China are long! Therefore, you always want to be prepared in case flight operations don’t go as planned—especially when it comes to entertainment. When I flew with Air China, the television didn’t work. Therefore, I was stuck without the ability to watch movies during the flight, and I didn’t have the option to switch seats because the flight was full. The same happened with the outlet on the seat. It didn’t work, and I had no way to charge my electronics. So, I suggest having a portable charger on you and always bringing backup entertainment, like a book.
How I Chose the Airlines on This List
My selection criteria for this list is pretty basic. When I take a long-haul flight, comfort is key. Here’s a closer look at my credentials:
Hospitality: No matter what airline I fly with, good customer service is always at the top of my list. Flights are too expensive to be stuck in the air with rude flight staff. From my experience, the airlines mentioned in this article provide the best service.
Comfy Seats: Again, flights to China are long, so the last thing I need is a stiff seat. Sometimes, I can’t afford to fly business class to Asia, so I need to fly with an airline with nice seats. When I flew with the airlines mentioned in the article, I was able to relax and sleep comfortably.
Good Reputation: Although my personal experience with these airlines was positive, I still look for an airline with a good reputation. It’s important for me that others also have nice things to say about a particular air carrier. I like to fly with airlines that have received many awards. That lets me know that they go above and beyond. Not to mention, if they’re an excellent airline, I can trust that I can fly with them on multiple occasions and have a good experience each time.
My Product Recommendations for Chinese Airlines
Air China is one of the largest airlines in China, and it offers flights to many major cities within the country and internationally. The airline also offers competitive prices and good customer service. I really like the customer service of Air China. Every time I’ve flown with them, the staff was really nice.
Passengers that fly with Air China are allowed to bring one carry-on bag and one personal item on board the aircraft. Carry-on bags must not exceed 45 linear inches (114 cm) in combined length, width, and height, and must weigh no more than 40 pounds (18 kg). Personal items must not exceed 36 linear inches (91 cm) in combined length, width, and height. Checked bags must not exceed 62 linear inches (158 cm) in combined length, width, and height, and must weigh no more than 50 pounds (23 kg). Passengers are allowed to bring two checked bags on board the aircraft.
Air China’s in-flight entertainment system includes a wide range of international and Chinese movies, TV shows, music, and games. The system is designed to appeal to a wide range of tastes and interests, ensuring that all passengers have something to enjoy during their flight.
The meals served on Air China are both healthy and delicious, offering a wide variety of options to suit all dietary needs and preferences. The airline takes pride in using only the freshest and finest ingredients in all of their dishes, ensuring that passengers are getting the best possible food experience.
I really love Air China’s flight deals. When you visit their website, there’s a “special offers” section that highlights their latest deals. I was able to find an affordable flight from Houston to Beijing for $700 using their discounted offers. If you want to fly to Asia for cheap, start with Air China’s low-priced flights.
Virtual Cabin Tours
When I’m flying with an airline for the first time, I want to know what the inside of the aircraft looks like. Unfortunately, this isn’t something that some airlines showcase. However, Air China does. There’s a virtual tour page on their website that shows interior photos of their Boeing family. For me, that’s a big deal because it helps me to decide which area of the plane I want to sit in.
I really enjoyed the food served by Air China. Some people have stated that they don’t care for it. But of course, everyone has different tastes. In my opinion, the meals were flavorful and not bad for airplane food. In most cases, passengers are given Asian-style cuisines that are tasty and filling.
When flying with Air China, you may experience some flight delays. Of course, this isn’t something you’ll always have to worry about, but it happens. The good news is, Air China layovers are generally long, so you don’t have to feel nervous about missing your connecting flight.
One thing I did not like about Air China was the bumpy landings. I’ve taken several flights with them, and each landing was horrible. Thankfully, we landed safely each time, but it was still an uneasy experience.
Air China seats are tight. Although I was comfortable for the most part, I didn’t have much wiggle room. If you’re a petite person, you should be fine. But if you have a bit of size on you, understand that you might feel a bit squished flying on Air China.
Hainan Airlines is another popular choice for flying to China. It started as a domestic airline and quickly grew into an international carrier. The baggage allowance for Hainan depends on the class of travel and the destination. For economy class, the baggage allowance is 20 kg for flights to China and 30 kg for international flights.
This air carrier has in-flight entertainment on most of its flights. You can enjoy an array of movies, TV shows, and music during your flight.
Furthermore, Hainan Airlines offers a variety of Chinese and international cuisine on its flights. You can order à la carte meals or choose from the airline’s special meal options. They serve both Western and Chinese dishes.
Excellent Customer Service
One thing that I noticed about Hainan Airlines is the great customer service. When I flew with them, I remember feeling at ease.
Received Numerous Awards
To piggyback on the last pro, Hainan Airlines has received many awards. In 2020, they were awarded a 5-star rating for the 10th consecutive year! That’s saying a lot and explains why I had such a good experience with them.
Good On-time Record
Nothing spoils a trip like a delayed flight! Luckily, Hainan has a good track record of being on time! Sometimes delays can’t be avoided—in instances of bad weather and other uncontrollable issues. But unless something major happens, you can count on Hainan Airlines to be on time!
Fewer Flight Destinations
Hainan Airlines does not fly to as many destinations as some other airlines, so your choice of destinations may be limited. However, domestic and international flight destinations are still numerous. Chances are, you’ll likely find the route you’re looking for through Hainan.
XiamenAir is a Chinese airline that flies to many destinations within China and several international destinations. Xiamen isn’t as popular as some of the others on the list, but they’re a well-operating airline that’s highly awarded.
For Economy Class passengers, each passenger is allowed to bring one piece of carry-on baggage and one checked baggage with a maximum weight of 20 kg. For First Class and Business Class passengers, each passenger is allowed to bring two pieces of carry-on baggage and two checked baggage with a maximum weight of 30 kg. In addition, all passengers are allowed to bring one personal item on board, such as a purse, laptop, or camera. The personal item must fit under the seat in front of you.
XiamenAir’s in-flight entertainment includes a variety of movies and TV shows that cater to all tastes. For those who prefer to relax with a good book, there is also a selection of reading material available. Also, for those who want to stay connected, XiamenAir offers in-flight Wi-Fi service on select flights.
Their food service options are both Chinese and Western dishes. And for those who want to enjoy a drink or two, there is a selection of alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages available.
One thing that I noticed about XiamenAir is that they offer competitive prices. If you’re flying out from a city where Xiamen operates, you may find a better deal with them compared to their competitors.
As much as I fly, you’d think that I’m super comfortable with it by now. Not so! I’m always looking for airlines that strive to put safety first. Thankfully, XiamenAir has been awarded the ‘Three-Star Flight Safety Award by the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC). That’s always a plus for me!
Good Customer Service
Xiamen has great customer service. It’s one of the things that I like about them. If I don’t have a good experience with an airline’s staff, I won’t fly with them anymore. Traveling is costly and exhausting, so it’s important for me to only fly with airlines that have excellent customer service.
Good On-Tine Record
XiamenAir is known for being on time! This is a biggie for me. Of course, I’m all about safety, so if there’s a safety concern, I’m all for delays. However, lots of unexplained delays or cancellations are not okay. So, depending on where I’m flying and my schedule, I’ll opt to fly with XiamenAir because I trust that they’ll get me to my destination on time.
I’ll start by saying that the food served on XiamenAir isn’t bad at all. I actually enjoyed my meals when I flew with them. However, I noticed a slight difference between their cuisine and other airlines. Depending on your taste buds and preferences, you may or may not like their meals.
China Southern Airlines
China Southern is a popular choice for air travel, and it is one of the most trusted airlines in China. In recent years, China Southern has been investing heavily in domestic and international expansion, and it’s consistently ranked as one of the best airlines in Asia.
China Southern’s baggage allowance for international flights for First and Business Class passengers is two pieces of baggage not exceeding 32kg each. Economy Class passengers (excluding infants) are entitled to one piece of baggage not exceeding 23kg. For flights to/from North America, passengers are entitled to two pieces of baggage not exceeding 23kg each. The baggage allowance slightly changes depending on route and fare class.
This airline’s entertainment system is top-notch. It includes an array of movies, music, television shows, and games to keep passengers entertained throughout their flight.
For meals, passengers enjoy a great selection of western and eastern cuisine, as well as vegetarian options. There are also special meals available upon request.
China Southern has some of the best aircraft. Their fleet is extensive, and it includes the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, B777, and B737. Not to mention, China Southern was one of the first airlines to put the A380 superjumbo into operation. I flew business class with China Southern and really liked the seats. They were spacious and included electronic controls for reclining. Plus, there were sufficient outlets for me to charge my electronics.
I have to say, China Southern has great hospitality. In comparison to the other airlines on this list, I noticed that they take really good care of their passengers. And it’s not just because I was in business class. I also noticed good hospitality given to those in Economy.
Since I was seated in business class, I had access to free Wi-Fi. Unfortunately, it wasn’t all that great. There were other forms of entertainment, but I was looking forward to scrolling social media and “catching up” during the flight. The slow connection was a bummer for me, and it took away from the perk of the Wi-Fi being free.
China Southern’s food wasn’t that great to me. It was okay. I ate it because I was hungry, and I didn’t have much of an option. While the food wasn’t repulsive, the flavors could’ve been better. Honestly, I usually don’t expect much from airplane food, but theirs was less flavorful in comparison to Air China.
Answer: Air China is one of the leading airlines in China, and it offers a variety of flight options to its passengers. The prices of Air China flights can be expensive, but there are ways to get discounts on the prices. They have economy and business class tickets that are a bit more expensive than other airlines. But if you are traveling on a budget, you can find flight deals on their website.
Answer: I can say that XiamenAir is a safe airline with a good reputation. The airline has a strong focus on safety and security and has been consistently ranked as one of the safest airlines in the world. Additionally, XiamenAir has a good reputation for providing excellent customer service.
Answer: Yes. China Southern flies out of Los Angeles (LAX), New York (JFK), and San Francisco (SFO). There are other North American cities that have flight routes through China Southern as well.
Answer: Hainan Airlines requests that passengers request a special meal at least 48 hours before their flight. Passengers can request a special meal by contacting Hainan Airlines’ customer service.
My Final Thoughts on the Top Chinese Airlines
Overall, you can’t go wrong with any of the airlines that I mentioned in this article. They all have a good reputation, and I’ve personally enjoyed my experiences with them. If you’re planning a trip to China, I say go for one of these air carriers.
Air China and Hainan Airlines are at the top of my list, but you don’t have to stick with them. If you find affordable airfare through XiamenAir or China Southern, go for it!
So, those are my picks. Which of these airlines do you like the most?
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