Route Sydney to Shangri-la via Guangzhou.
Aircraft Airbus A330-300 from Sydney to Guangzhou; Airbus A319 from Guangzhou to Shangri-la.
Class Business, 3A, Sydney to Guangzhou.
Flight time Sydney to Guangzhou takes 9hr 10min on the morning flight (the Boeing night flight takes 35min longer). The Guangzhou-Shangri-la flight takes 2hr 40min.
Flight frequency China Southern operates 35 non-stop flights a week from Australia to Guangzhou; twice daily from Sydney and twice daily from Melbourne (dropping to 10 weekly flights from February 15). The airline started a twice-weekly service from Guangzhou to Shangri-la (the airport is called Diqing) in August; otherwise via Kunming. A business-class fare to Shangri-la from Sydney and Melbourne costs from $3660 return, including tax. Be aware that Shangri-la is 3300 metres above sea level, which is high enough to induce altitude sickness (buy a can of oxygen at the shop near the baggage carousel to inhale if a headache hits).
Seat width and pitch Seats are 64 inches on the A330, the 20-inch-wide recliner seat extends and lowers into a 160-degree incline for sleeping. There are 11 button controls (including a massage function).
Seat configuration 2-2-2 layout for 24 business-class seats.
Luggage 40kg at check-in (30kg in economy) and 7kg of cabin luggage.
Food and beverages Three mains are offered for lunch. I choose the grilled barramundi, with a Penfolds Koonunga Hill chardonnay (the only white wine available). It's delicious but the service is a tad hasty; the five-course meal is finished before we're level with Townsville. Three bad movies later, a light dinner is served before landing. The beef noodle soup is highly slurpable but those trying the pasta appear less pleased. Happiness levels could be enhanced by the addition of champagne to business class (although Kiwi bubbles are served in the Air New Zealand lounge before departure). China Southern is embarking on rapid internationalisation and will deploy the A380 it acquired in October on a long-haul route (it's the first Chinese airline to acquire the super-jumbo). Its wine selection could do with similar expansion.
Entertainment Ditto. The range is relatively small: eight mainstream films, six European art-house films (with almost incomprehensible subtitles) and a bunch of Asian flicks on the 15-inch seatback screen.
Tested by Katrina Lobley, who flew courtesy of China Southern Airlines.