Air China vs. ANA transpacific?

Apr 26th, 2004, 05:37 PM
  #1  
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Air China vs. ANA transpacific?

Have choice of these airlines on transpacific flight to Beijing. Both about the same cost (significantly below any US carrier, with ANA a little cheaper), but the ANA route is longer, with a 2+ hour stopover in Narita. I've read some negative things about Air China on this board, so I'm wondering: is flying ANA (versus Air China) worth the 4-5 hours extra each way (with about 2-3 hours extra flying time)? Is ANA any (or significantly) better to fly? Does anyone have very recent experience comparing these 2 airlines? Thanks.
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Apr 26th, 2004, 06:34 PM
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If the routes were identical I'd chooses ANA every time. But I'd choose Air China over adding five hours to my travelling time. Take extra reading matter and/or your own source of music as unless things have changed very recently you'll get no contemporary Hollywood films, but perhaps "Murder on th Orient Express" and a Polish detective movie with English subtitles. You won't even get decent Chinese movies but only officially approved ones so clumsily laden with propaganda you'll feel embarrassed. Service is often incompetent, but these days on international flights it's willing and comes with a smile.

The Japanese simply do all this kind of thing much better, but unless you have the idea that long flights are anything other than to be endured, Air China is not by any means so bad that its worth adding several hours to your trip each way.

Peter N-H
http://members.shaw.ca/pnhpublic/China.html
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Apr 26th, 2004, 07:42 PM
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a well traveled friend who lives in honolulu often uses ANA to get to bangkok and other asian places is is well pleased with them...he finds the fares significantly lower than others, as you have pointed out about the major carriers..he likes the stop he gets in formosa...
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Apr 27th, 2004, 03:50 AM
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Airlawgirl
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I just returned yesterday from a trip to China and Tokyo-flew ANA from Wash. Dulles to Narita to Beijing, then ANA from Shanghai to Tokyo (where I spent 3 wonderful days in Asakusa area of Tokyo-no extra charge for layover) then ANA to JFK. I really enjoyed ANA-they have some 5 different classes of seats on board their 747s-but their regular economy class seats were quite comfortable- 34 inch pitch to seats-quite generous in comparison with other carriers- all with individual in-flight entertainment audio/video players-I watched some 4 movies-Master and Commander, Last Samurai, among others, and played video games (blackjack, poker) on my trans-Pacific 13 hour flight over to Narita and 12 hour flight back from Narita. They also have footrests in economy class. Meal services were excellent, 2 full meals and a snack, plus all the liquor/drinks you want, gratis. Very helpful, cheerful flight attendants. I'll take ANA anytime for the longhaul flights.
 
Apr 27th, 2004, 08:28 PM
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Sounds like you had great flights, Airlawgirl, and ANA is sounding better all the time -- except we were really struck by Peter's comments, and we have to agree, that prolonging an already long flight is dreadful. On the other hand, Air China sounds extremely variable in performance. I've searched the Net for reviews, and while some people have had decent experiences, I've now read a number of additional horror stories about awful experiences people have had with Air China.

After reflecting on Peter's message, my family is now thinking we really should fly nonstop, West Coast to Beijing. In order to do so and avoid Air China, it will cost about $300 more for each of the 4 of us to fly United, a not insignificant sum, and any other choices are significantly even more expensive. So, Peter and others -- is United consistently much better transpacific, versus Air China? Flew them to Europe a few times recently and they were okay, no real complaints. Do people think it would be worth extra expense to fly United rather than Air China? Thank you in advance for any further opinions!
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Apr 27th, 2004, 09:57 PM
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I fly the United US-China route once or twice a year, and have always been moderately pleased. The service is fine, the food is fine, the entertainment is fine - no complaints, but no accolades, either.

I am in complete agreement with Peter about Air China, but I wouldn't pay $300 for the "privilege" to fly United, either.

On Air China, which I've flown a few times on long hauls and dozens of times on shorter hops, the service is average, the food and entertainment awful. But personally, a better movie and a (marginally) better meal isn't worth $300. (And much better service and entertainment isn't worth an additional 4 - 5 hours including a layover to fly ANA, for me).

When I have to fly international economy, I just plan that it's not going to be the best 14 hours of my life. I ALWAYS bring my own entertainment and lots of snacks (and even drinks), and then I just grin and bear it. I'd rather just get there as quickly and cheaply as possible. $300 can go a long way in China - I'm sure you'll find much better ways to spend it there!
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Apr 27th, 2004, 10:22 PM
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Entirely agree with Andrea's last paragraph.

But when I flew United to Hong Kong a couple of years ago I swore that I would not willingly ever fly that airline again (a promise to myself I've so far kept). It even made Air Canada look sophisticated and customer-oriented. With the exception of the movies (I had quite reasonable food last time I flew Air China trans-Pacific) I couldn't see much difference between United and Air China. The staff on United are perhaps more competent at customer service, but they hid it well beneath a show of indifference and contempt for passengers. I've yet to discover a halfway decent North American airline, but United was appalling. Perhaps expecting more of United but less of Air China makes for an unfair assessment.

Unless you have the good fortune to fly something like Cathay Pacific First Class, flying long distance is something to be put up with not anticipated with any pleasure. Flying regularly from North America to Hong Kong and the Chinese mainland, I'm willing to pay extra for a direct flight, and a fraction more to fly Air Canada over Air China, but not much more. If the difference is $1200 altogether, I'd take Air China without a second thought. The last time I watched the Agatha Christie movie and the 1970s Polish version of Starsky and Hutch. They passed the time.

Peter N-H
http://members.shaw.ca/pnhpublic/China.html
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Apr 28th, 2004, 05:38 AM
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Definitely would NOT pay US$300 more to fly United, unless you have status with UA and are guaranteed a "Economy +" seat with more legroom.

However, if the departure/arrival time isn't too bad, I'd pick ANA for the same price as Air China. Yes, I generally prefer non-stop, but this may be an exception.

On both ANA or Air China, you can earn 70% UA's Mileage Plus miles with most discount economy fares.
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Apr 28th, 2004, 06:51 AM
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Thank you very much, everyone, for this detailed commentary. You've convinced us to try Air China. Now an associated question: Is it safe to use a Consolidator for the tickets, because I've never done so before?

The great price tickets from Air China are only available from their Consolidator, a travel agency on Powell St. in San Francisco named "Ananda" I believe. My experience may bear out Peter's constant refrain about needing to bargain for everything in China -- for when I called Air China direct, for flight reservations, and I expressed surprise that their initial fares were almost as high as United, the lady immediately said "well, if you want the tickets cheaper you can get them from our Consolidator!" Rather an unusual response from an airline ticket agent, and she did give me Ananda's phone number without hesitation. Has anyone ever dealt with Ananda before, and is a Consolidator generally a safe way to go?

Also, I can't seem to get a straight answer on the phone -- but is it true that they don't preassign seats even on transpacific flights on Air China?

Thanks again.
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Apr 28th, 2004, 08:34 AM
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In years past, consolidators are the only way to get good fares to Asia. It's totally safe. [Some agents may charge a few % extra for credit cards, so ask about that.] Nowadays, many US airlines will put the same cheap fares on their websites, but not all the time. Therefore, nowadays we will use a consolidator at times, airlines direct at other times. In the past, it's consolidators only.

Most Asian airlines do not give out advanced seat assignments, especially for economy. It's first come first serve. If you want good seats, you need get to the airport to check-in early. And if they give you a poor seat, be courteous but insistent. Sometimes, they will give the bulkheads or the 2-by-2 in the back of 747s to those who know and who ask.
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Apr 28th, 2004, 11:16 PM
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Extra hours or no, I'd still take ANA over Air China any day, even if it means a few extra hours. The flights are so long, a few hours really doesn't make that much difference, believe me- on the other hand, if you're spending 13 plus hours on an airline that cares about treating you well, as ANA does, (and Air China does not) then that would tip the balance for me. Perhaps more importantly, if you have a problem with your itinerary/ticket etc., ANA will help you resolve it, (because I d did have one involving my ticket while I was in China) and that becomes very important when you're dealing with non-US carriers. I'm not so sure I'd trust tickets purchased through an Air China "consolidator" to do that. Also, Air China's safety record through the years, like Korean Air's, has not been the best.
 
Apr 28th, 2004, 11:33 PM
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I checked out the ANA web site and the seats do seam great. I never thought much about the airline before reading this poste. but I'd still sticki too the fastest rout. there is just so much a stewardess can do too make me confortibele on that long flight while still keeping her clothes on.
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Apr 28th, 2004, 11:41 PM
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Being Chinese I find the food on Air China much more appetising than those rock like breads and plastic chicken breasts you get on other airlines. But that maybe just cultural.

For cheap tickets, always call a Chinese tourist agency. their prices are generally half that of on line prices. China town is a good place to find these.

Safety records: two accidents in 2001 in its entire history. these days a non american airline maybe safer for other reasons.

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Apr 29th, 2004, 08:33 AM
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Weiwei22, I don't know where you are getting your info. about China Airlines, but it is clearly in error. You need to reference www.crashdatabase.com, and you will find that China Airlines has been involved in no less than 12 crashes since 1969- a dismal record by any aviation measure-and in 2002 lost a B-747 in Taiwan, with all souls on board lost, over 200 fatalities. That followed a 1999 crash involving pure pilot error-which has to do with the training and operation of the flight crews by the company itself, as opp. to a crash due to external forces -(such as air traffic controller negligence, for example).

Orgy7- I like your response, that made me laugh! However, the food and entertainment is quite good on ANA-don't knock it 'til you've tried it- believe it or not, this last Sunday I was on the Narita-JFK run and was thoroughly absorbed in my movies-food-and didn't have time to read the books I brought- the 12 1/2 hours passed really pretty quickly-astonishingly enough- or maybe I'm just getting used to those trans-Pacific kickers!
 
Apr 29th, 2004, 09:22 AM
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Air China, which is being discussed here, is not the same company (or even of the same nationality in effect) as China Airlines, which is not.

Air China, even when its period as the Beijing-based section of CAAC is counted, for all its other drawbacks, has only had one crash in fact, and that was in 2002 not 2001. Not that there's a statistically significant chance of dying even if one flies with the relatively crash-prone China Airlines.

Peter N-H
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Apr 29th, 2004, 01:39 PM
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gb
 
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To Rkkwan I'm going to fly Air Nipon to Shanghai. How do I get the miles posted to my United mileage plus account?
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Apr 29th, 2004, 02:29 PM
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To gb: it's very easy. You just tell the carrier that you would like your mileage for your Air Nipon flight transferred to your UAL frequent flier account- and give them the number of your UAL account. That assumes, of course, that Air Nipon is a member of the Star Alliance (ANA is), and/or code-shares with UAL. I specifically asked ANA, before I flew them to China, what other carriers they code-shared with, in order to see if I could have my ANA mileage transferred to a carrier where I had a frequent flier account. That's when they informed me that I could use UAL, as a co-member of the Star Alliance group of carriers, by giving them my UAL frequent flier number.
 
Apr 29th, 2004, 06:19 PM
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Thanks. I'll try it.
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Apr 30th, 2004, 08:46 PM
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Go to united.com, and look for how to earn miles for Mileage Plus. It has the list of airline partners who you can earn miles from AND the fare classes that will earn your miles. Some are 100%, some 70%, etc... Check that and ask about what fare class your ANA ticket will me.

And always keep the boarding pass and receipt of your ticket until the miles have been posted. That can take many days. If the miles are not showing up, then you need to make a request with United to get them back.
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May 2nd, 2004, 06:52 AM
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Peter N-H- in response to your comments about my posting concerning China Air, you are correct-China Air is the Taiwanese national carrier, and it has had 4 serious crashes since 1989 with over 600 fatalities- a dismal safety record by any international aviation safety standard. Air China is the Beijing-based international air carrier of China. It was formed in 1988 after the CAAC (Civil Aviation Admin. of China) split up into 6 airlines. It has a good safety record-prior to the April 2002 crash of its B-747 in Korea where some 167 persons were killed, it had only two other non-fatal crashes in the 90's. This is due in no small part to the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)-which, in response to a request from the Chinese govt. to provide assistance in establishing and maintaining an aviation regulatory agency along the lines of the FAA, brought in attorneys, inspectors, and other aviation experts to help China set up their aviation safety agency-andthe FAA's and China's efforts in this regard are seen in Air China's very good safety record. China has done a tremendous job in a matter of less than a decade of meeting or exceeding ICAO standards in aviation safety and security. ICAO being the UN organization that is responsible for setting out aviation safety and security standards for its member states, which includes most of the world.

That said, however, China's domestic carriers have had a number of serious crashes through the 90's-the worst being a crash in Xi'an in 1994 that killed 160 persons. It was in 1995, after this crash, that the FAA began providing techical assistance to the Chinese, in response to their request for assistance. The latest crash in Sept. 2002 of a China Northern Airways plane killed some 60 pax. But again, because the Chinese govt. made it a point in the mid-90's to improve the overall safety record of its respective air carriers, and to set up a US Govt.-style regulatory agency that conducts regular inspection/surveillance of its companies, it has come a long way. The US FAA (and TSA in the aviation security arena) both maintain liaisons in the American Embassy in Beijing to work cooperatively through aviation safety and security issues of priority to both nations.
 

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