I am sure everyone who flies a little has been tempted from time to time to try one of the budget airlines to save a few dollars. I travel to Europe regularly and the likes of China Southern always show up cheapest. I will normally consider these for twenty minutes, then a more reputable airline with shorter wait times in better airports will win me over for a couple of hundred extra dollars.
However, a couple of weeks ago I needed to book a flight to Munich from Auckland, and China Southern had a flight which was $450 NZD cheaper than anything else, flight times weren’t too bad , and as it was short notice I hit the buy now button, gave them my credit card details and signed my life away. So how bad was it? Short answer, not bad at all……
I arrived at the airport later than I should have, around 1:45 prior to departure. The staff at the counter were friendly and didn’t scold me on my punctuality as I have experienced in the past. They worked to get me my desired seat and all was well.
Boarding the plane was no different to any other boarding process. The usual travellers who decided at some time in the recent past that they needed to carry on 8 bags, and then didn’t have them organised so they held the rest of the good people up by doing this, as they tried to cram everything into the overhead locker. What are people expecting that they need so much carry on? I can never work this out. However, when I arrived at my seat – with phone and kindle already in hand so as my bag could be placed directly in locker , it’s not difficult! – I was pleasantly surprised.
The plane itself was an Airbus a330-200 , which is the same aircraft you would fly a similar route with most airlines. I had an aisle seat, with generous room for an economy seat. All the amenities were well positioned, I had a USB charging port, and the entertainment unit was simple to operate both via the touch screen and control on the side of the arm rest. If it wasn’t for my neighbour failing to understand the laws of how much over the armrest she could put her elbow, I couldn’t have been happier. ( She moved after a couple of hours, so had two seats to myself, always a bonus! )
The entertainment was as good as any, with a multitude of games, television shows, music, e-books and movies. The latter was of good enough quality to take up the entire 12 hour flight for me.
The food was about as good as any food you will get on an airplane, which is to say not very good at all.If you have ever eaten airline food and thought ‘Gee that was good’ , you’re probably not fuelling your body with the finest of cuisine at the best of times. However, it filled a gap and wasn’t too bad.
The drink selection was great, with everything you could want whilst 40000 feet above the Earth, including a good range of alcoholic drinks. My only qualm here would be that the coffee was pre-made with milk and sugar and was sickly sweet.
Throughout the flight the staff were friendly when encountered and although I didn’t require them, I did notice them dealing with other passengers in a courteous and timely manner when issues arose and around special meal requests.
The biggest downfall was arriving in Guangzhou International Airport, which is generally where you are going to spend a few hours if you fly China Southern to Europe. There would be worse places to spend 7 hours of your life, but there would also certainly be better. The wifi was free but a waste of time ( took about 5 minutes to send a facebook message ) , the food options were limited, and the pricing was all over the show – I paid $14 NZD for a coffee , but $1.50 for a can of coke, I guess milk is expensive there or something as this seemed standard. I was able to get a meal for around $12 NZD but it was pretty bad. I may have lucked out and just ended up in a bad terminal, as there are a few and the map showed far more dining options than what were available to me. If you are intending to spend your time in transit either working or in complete comfort, it would be well worth forking out for a pass to one of the many lounges through a service such as priority pass or similar.
Finding my gate prior to boarding the next flight was straight-forward, and the next flight was effectively the same as the first, although I must say the breakfast coming into Paris was by far the best airline meal I have ever had ( Bacon, eggs and hash browns )
So, all in all, there are better airlines around, but only in the smallest of details. was it worth the $400 saving? Absolutely! And I wouldn’t hesitate to fly with them again.