Air China announced it would increase its flight frequency between Beijing and Los Angeles while introducing brand new Boeing 777-300ER on the route. The new 777-300ER flights will operate as flights CA 987/988 and CA 983/984 beginning June 1st 2012. The move follows Air China accepting the 4 brand new aircraft from Boeing between July and December 2011.
The new schedule will see two daily flights each departing Los Angeles and Beijing. For instance China Air flight 984 would depart Los Angeles at 1:40 am and flight 988 at 1:20 pm arriving in Beijing the next day landing respectively at 05:20am and 5:00 pm (all local time).
Previously flight CA983 eastbound leg originated in Beijing at 9:35 pm every evening while CA987 operated solely on Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday leaving Beijing at 1:50 pm for their 11hr 40min journey. In similar fashion the 12 hr 50 min eastbound return flights from Los Angeles to Beijing operating as flights CA984 departed at 12:40 am everyday while CA988 adhered to 11:50 am departure on Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday.
By increasing its weekly services between Los Angeles and Beijing to 14 flights, Air China is attempting to increase its market share on a highly promising segment. The brand new Boeing 777-300ER gives the emerging global carrier the flexibility and branding that it needs to compete. The 777 twin engines operation brings advantageous operating economics that the aging 747-400 normally assigned to the route can hardly deliver. A streamlined ground and flight operation would translate in generating higher number of flights with sustained passengers density at the carrier’s global hub. The increased flight connections at Air China Beijing hub would consolidate its global gateway status. The added comfort of the state-of-the-art 777-300ER automatically brings the Air China brand on part with other highly recognized Asian 777-300ER operators such as Singapore Airlines, Korean Air, Cathay Pacific, Eva Air, Thai Airways International and others.
Air China Boeing 777-300ER
With its layout of 8 First Class seats, 42 Business Class seats and 263 Economy Class seats, the 313 passengers-capable aircraft is more comfortable than the 747-400 aircraft it is replacing and can challenge existing trans-pacific Asian rivals.
First Class seating
The ‘Forbidden Pavilion First Class’ seat that had been previously introduced as an upgrade to 6 of the carrier’s 14 Boeing 747-400 (the remaining 8 being -400M combi variant have not received the upgrade) seems a natural fit for the 777-300ER. Under the re-designation of Premium First Class seat, it provides a fully enclosed flat bed ‘Suite’ experience. In that segment Air China may now compare favorably with for instance, Singapore Airlines 35-in wide enclosed First Class seat (Singapore Airlines First Class 777-300ER seat is different from the lavishly luxurious Suite offered exclusively aboard SIA Airbus 380). Korean Air top-of-the-line First Class Cosmo suite and Cathay Pacific First Class Suite can also fall be challenged by Air China improved First Class posture. Thai Airways International and Eva Air are other 777-300ER Asian operators with highly competitive First Class products.
The Business and Economy Class seat
The fully reclining 180 degree business class seat aboard Air China 777-300ER provide a marked improvement over the comfort of the 170 degree recline Capital Pavilion Business seat found aboard the 747-400. While it is still difficult to surpass Singapore Airline 34-in wide Business-Class seats, Air China 42 Business Class seats will help attract West Coast-based US business travelers looking for connecting flights in Beijing. Putting forward their 777-300ER, Singapore Airlines, Korean Air, Cathay Pacific, Thai Airways International and Eva Air have proved adept at crafting well-researched Business and Economy Class products that can aggressively woo Asia’s travelers looking for the most convenient flight combination via a major Asian hub.
With 9 passengers seating abreast in 3-3-3, Air China has improved on the 3-4-3 found aboard the 747-400 while adhering to philosophy espoused by the other previously-mentioned Asian Global carriers. However its 135 degree of recline will ensure a very comfortable experience.
The 8/42/263 seats configuration indicating respectively First, Business and Economy class also maintains Air China in line with its rivals. Singapore airline flies a 777-300ER configured in 8/42/228, Cathay Pacific: 6/53/238, Thai Airways International: 8/30/274, Korean Air 8/56/227 and EVA Air 36/71/211. All these carriers having adopted the 3-3-3 standard in Economy Class.
On a previous survey of 777-300ER operation Air France and Emirates appeared at both end of the spectrum. After consolidating its entire First Class offerings to its A380, Air France seemed to have found a way to make money flying high density 777-300ER configured with 42 Flat Bed Business seat in addition to 24 Premium Economy seats and 317 in economy but in 3-4-3 arrangement.
Emirates Airlines, the largest 777-300ER operator, elected to install 8 private suite in First Class cabin as in its A380. In a move reminiscent of Air France, its 777-300ER are now fitted with 42 Business Class seats and 3-4-3 abreast seating in Economy capable of seating 304, 308 or 314 passengers.
By standardizing the 3-3-3 configuration in lieu of 3-4-3, Asian carriers with global ambitions have silently upgraded their Economy Class cabin to Premium Economy. With an order of 15 Boeing 777-300ER outstanding with Boeing and 14 747-400 all delivered before 2000 still flying, Air China is the latest major playing banking on the type to execute a successful business strategy in the 21st century, replacing the more expensive to maintain and operate 747-400.