Airbus A330, China Southern has 37 of these aircraft in its fleet
Sydney to Shenzhen
This is a new, three times weekly, flight and the only direct Australia-Shenzhen service. In its first 80 days, 11,584 passengers took the flight. A Melbourne service is planned for later this year.
Sky Pearl Club, linked to Sky Team (includes Air France and Garuda)
Business – aisle seat F4D (4D)
9 hours 24 Minutes. Scheduled 9.5 hour flight.
This is an old plane but there are bonuses including a great, adjustable footrest on the 27.5 inch (70cm) wide seat. At 160 degree recline, the bed's not flat but it's a day flight. Business class is configured 2-2-2 and for those wanting to sleep (which I did for an unbroken seven hours on the return flight) there's a comfy quilt. Economy is the stuff of dreams. Premium economy is empty and further back is sparsely filled with many passengers securing four seats.
The in-seat, 25cm TV screen doesn't work. Pity as there were a few good films listed. The crew hands out small tablets but the selection of TV, music and movies – "action, affectional and fantasy" – is small so I settle for a documentary about Louis VII's landscape designer and creator of the Palace of Versaille's gardens. It's entirely miss-able.
Checked baggage: Two pieces of 23kg. Hand baggage: One piece of 5kg.
I select socks over slippers and the attendant instantly appears with a bag for my shoes and attached shoe horn for easing them back on later. It's a nice touch to service that almost harks back to an earlier age in air travel attentiveness. The amenities bag includes a comb, toothbrush, toothpaste and eye shades.
In a 24-seat cabin, there are six attendants. Before take-off, we're asked to order lunch, drinks and the light meal before landing. Unsure what I'll fancy in eight hours, I baulk at the latter and it's not a problem. Once in the air, the cabin lights are turned off and we eat the meal in twilight. As the dessert and tea trolley arrives, the cabin lights magically come on. It enables us to see the jasmine tea ceremony performance. From a list of seven Chinese teas, I select the rather delicious Pu'er ("good for the stomach," I'm assured). Service is enthusiastic.
The airline reflects its origins in southern China, focusing on Canton dishes. Of the two hors d'oeuvres, two soups and three main courses, I choose sliced soya chicken breast with grilled prawn and mushroom salad; ginseng and chicken soup; sliced pork with braised black mushrooms and ramen noodles. Options include mushroom soup and lamb cutlets. There's champagne and four French wines on offer and Yanjing beer but the eight-year-old Shaoxing rice wine is worth a shot. For the light meal, I choose dim sum with plain congee but there's also a rather good spaghetti carbonara.
China Southern is Asia's largest airline for passenger numbers and ranks third globally with plans to "become a top tier airline". Shenzhen visitors previously travelled through Hong Kong or Guangzhou (then bullet train for fastest connections) to arrive at China's centre of innovation and city of 14 million residents. There's plenty for the tourist, though forward planning is recommended for travel beyond the shopping centres. The airline says it plans putting newer planes on the Sydney route.
Reviewed by Sue Bennett, who flew courtesy of China Southern Airlines.