Airline review: China Southern economy, Brisbane to Guangzhou

THE PLANE

Airbus A330-300; the airline has 48 A330s in its fleet, 32 of them the longer range A330-300.

THE ROUTE

Brisbane to Guangzhou

LOYALTY SCHEME

Sky Pearl Club, free to join, lets you earn and redeem points on other Sky Team airlines such as Garuda Indonesia, KLM and Air France. 

CLASS

Economy, aisle seat 62D

DURATION

8 hours, 50 minutes. The doors closed right on time.

FREQUENCY

China Southern flies direct to Guangzhou from Brisbane every day, and twice daily from Sydney and Melbourne.

SEAT

The seats are a calming blue with blue blankets, white pillows and over-ear headsets waiting for us in Economy. As well as the seat pocket there's a handy shelf under the seatback screen for stowing the headset without unplugging it when you leave your seat. The seats are 17.5 inches (44cm) wide with a pitch of 32 inches (81cm) and have adjustable headrests (they move up and down as well as having bendy sides) and USB chargers. 

BAGGAGE

Economy passengers can check in two bags weighing up to 23 kilograms each. The carry-on limit is a rather skimpy five kilograms, but you're allowed to take extra items such as a camera, a handbag and "a reasonable amount of reading materials" (according to csair.com).

COMFORT

The seat configuration is 2-4-2 except up the back where I am: it's 2-3-2 in the last four rows (61-64). That's good and bad: there's a couple sitting next to me in my block of three so I don't have to get up for anyone, but my screen and tray table don't quite align with my seat. It's also noticeably noisier this far back; I have to press the foam headphones onto my ears while watching movies.

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ENTERTAINMENT

The seatback screens are a generous nine inches and true touchscreens (so the person behind won't be jabbing the screen to change channels) and there's gate-to-gate viewing, almost – the flight attendants collect the headsets half an hour before landing (though they don't seem to mind when I keep mine to finish the movie I'm watching). There are only 27 "Hollywood" movies and only 60 movies in total on this flight; the selection is better on the return flight later that month (108 new release and classic "Hollywood" movies). You can bookmark movies to watch later (I love this feature). There are also TV shows, music, games, a children's channel and free Wi-Fi (for use on laptops and tablets only; China Southern requires mobile phones to be turned off during the flight). 

SERVICE

The crew is efficient and pleasant from check-in to disembarkation; some wear little badges declaring the non-Chinese languages they speak. I couldn't check in online for this flight so there was a long wait in line at Brisbane airport, which feels old-fashioned these days. 

FOOD 

It's a two-meal flight and both vegetarian meals I requested are delicious: vegetables with couscous, salad, coconut pudding and a bread roll, and later vegetable patties with watermelon, yoghurt and a bread roll. Between meals the flight attendants patrol the dimly lit aisles (despite this being a daytime flight) offering water. Feeling peckish halfway through the flight I visit the food prep area and am told there are no snacks. Back at my seat a few minutes later, however, the flight attendant I'd spoken to appears with an apple and three chocolates (presumably pinched from Business Class). Now that's service.

ONE MORE THING

A new high-tech terminal opened at Guangzhou earlier this year, designed to handle 100 million passengers a year from 2025.

THE VERDICT

China's largest airline (by fleet size, route network and passenger numbers) offered a more-than-comfortable economy experience on this flight.

OUR RATING OUT OF FIVE

★★★★

Louise Southerden flew as a guest of Intrepid Travel.

See also: 20 things that will shock first-time visitors to China

See also: 145 million and counting: The countries with the most Chinese tourists

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