EVERETT — On a sunny Friday afternoon in Everett, WA China Airlines was celebrating the delivery of the carrier’s first of ten all new Boeing 777-300ER aircraft, which will be the new flagship for the Taiwan based carrier. With an aesthetically unique cabin, this aircraft fits the old adage “It’s what’s on the inside is what counts.”
This is the first new Boeing wide body for China Airlines since they took delivery of the last ever produced passenger 747-400 nine years ago back in April 2005. Coincidentally the 777-300ER’s are going to be used to replace the 747s from China Airlines fleet.
The new aircraft will enter service on October 10th when it departs at 07:25am local time from Taipei as Dynasty 601 operating to Hong Kong and arrive at 09:15am local time where it will spend about an hour on the ground before it turns around to head back to Taipei.
After China Airlines takes delivery of its second 777-300ER in October, the third will come in November. After that they will begin operations twice a day to Los Angeles starting December 1st. It will replace both the carrier’s 747 flights. In 2015, China Airlines plans to upgrade its flights to San Francisco, New York City and Frankfurt.
“The introduction of the Boeing 777-300ER fleet is an important milestone for China Airlines,” said China Airlines Chairman Huang-Hsiang Sun but indeed the cabin has taken center stage. “Over the past two years, China Airlines has taken a broad new approach and philosophy to cabin design. In addition to enhancing safety and fuel efficiency, China Airlines is making a pioneering move in the airline industry to incorporate Taiwan’s cultural creativity into its cabin interior. I am confident that this will leave a lasting impression on passengers and enhance our competitiveness.”
China Airlines will introduce a new, state-of-the-art cabin interior onboard its 777-300ER designed by award winning Taiwanese architect Ray Chen. China Airlines’ new aircraft has a capacity of 358 seats. Business Class (J) boasts 40 seats in across two cabins and in a 1-2-1 direct aisle configuration giving passengers full flat pitch of 78”. The Premium Economy Class (Y+) has 62 seats configured in a 2-4-2 abreast configuration giving passengers a 39” pitch. Economy’s 256 (Y) seats are in the rapidly emerging 77W industry standard 3-4-3 configuration with 32″ seat pitch.
Where the aircraft really stands out is in the unique cabin interior led by Chen. The liberal use of bamboo and wood accents, and even paintings in the lavatories make a strong brand statement for the airline and its home nation. The LED lighting is put to good effect with multi- hued programmable color combinations in the J cabin depending on what holiday it is. For example, if it is Chinese New Year, the cabin sidewalls will be projected with deep red tones while the ceiling will be bathed in gold light. The moon festival would see a blue sidewall and gold ceiling theme and finally for Christmas, a red sidewalls and white ceiling.
Up front, The B/E Aerospace Super Diamond seats feature 180 degree full-flat beds that have ergonomic memory foam cushions. Their reverse herringbone configuration allows for direct aisle access and suite like privacy.
The defining feature of China Airlines 777-300ER aircraft lies in its poetic beauty, inspired by Lu You. The industry’s first high-ceiling Sky Lounge in Premium Business Class thoughtfully integrates Eastern and Western culture. It serves as a relaxing space for passengers and a platform for showcasing Taiwanese culture. The elaborately designed lounge is where teas and coffees of Taiwan are offered along with many tasty desserts. It will feature Lishan Oolong tea along with coffee from Dongshan. They area also has a has a bookshelf with a diverse reading collection of materials to stimulate the mind and enrich life.
The premium economy class seating is in a fixed back shell and front sliding recline so that passengers don’t infringe with those who are sitting behind them. With the extra 6″ of pitch, It also features a expanded personal storage space and a three-position foot rest. Each seat is equipped with a power outlet and USB port.
Unusually much of the innovation is saved for the tight 3-4-3 abreast economy cabin. China AIrlines will be the first in Asia to introduce the Skycouch, which first debuted on Air New Zealand a few years ago. China Airlines licensed the Air New Zealand patented product though they revised it to cater to small families rather then couples. Initially, it will only be available for ten rows between 41 and 51 on the right side of the aircraft.
The IFE is standard top end fare for the 777-300ER. The entire aircraft is equipped with the Panasonic eX3 inflight entertainment system in all three classes with 18″ screen in J, 12.1″ screen in Y+, and Y getting an 11.1″ screen at every seat. Wi-Fi will also be equipped onboard the aircraft with rates starting at $11.95 for one hour, $16.95 for three hours and $21.95 for 24 hours.
Our verdict from a tour is that the overall aesthetic is positively unique. In a sea of rather generic cabins, China Airlines’ product couldn’t be confused with a carrier outside Asia. The idea is to welcome the airlines guests to Taiwan the minute they board and regardless of class, the cabin seems to have done its job.
But all this aesthetic and materials innovation could come at a cost. According to a China Airlines official who asked to remain anonymous, there is concern the aircraft has increased weight which would increase fuel burn. Once the carrier begins its New York route, it may have to make a fuel stop on the way back similar to what Eva Air does on its Taipei-New York route. It currently stops in Anchorage for fuel.