“WOW! I had no idea we’d be on the ‘double-decker’, isn’t this AMAZING!” my seemingly chatty seat-neighbour said to me as I flashed my boarding pass and pointed, indicating she was in my window seat.
She sighed loudly as she grabbed her bags knowing they’d have to be re-stowed in the overhead locker.
I had purposely chosen an upper deck window seat for a few particular reasons which I’ll get to a little later.
I was flying from Guangzhou (formally known as Canton), China to Sydney, Australia with China Southern Airlines. The airline is China’s and Asia’s largest and I was flying on their, and the worlds, largest passenger aircraft, the Airbus a380.
From its Guangzhou hub to Sydney, China Southern Airlines operates two flights daily, each taking around 9 hours. The day flight, operated by an Airbus a330-200, departs Guangzhou at 8.20am arriving in Sydney that evening. The evening flight, which I was taking, departs at 9.05pm, arriving the following morning and is currently operated by an Airbus a380. China Southern operates five of the large aircraft mostly on domestic routes until recently when Sydney and Los Angeles were added to the a380’s destinations. The Sydney flight however, will revert back to an a330-200 as of the end of February.
I had a 3.5 hour international-international transit at Guangzhou Airport and while I found the airport to be clean, spacious and relatively modern, it lacks the services and amenities afforded to international transit passengers in most world class airports these days that make a transfer comfortable. There is no free wi-fi unless you have a local Chinese sim card, very few power points to recharge phones, tablets or laptops, most places wont take payment by card requiring you to change your currency into local Chinese Yuan at the money exchange for a fee of CNY60 / AUD$11.00 and then prices for food and drinks are quite high – CNY27 / AUD$4.97 for a can of coke! – and worst of all no pay per use Airport lounge! Thankfully time went fast as I did manage to locate a power point (at the rear of a shop!) and settled in a quiet corner and watched a movie on my laptop.
With a large map of the aircraft showing the cabin layout and clear signage indicating which boarding lane passengers should take, China Southern have the boarding procedure down pat. As mentioned, my seat was located on the upper deck, behind the 70 seat Business Class cabin, in the smaller Economy Class cabin of 72 seats. The main deck features 8 First Class Platinum Suites and, behind them, a whopping 356 Economy Class seats.
When boarding commenced it was made through one of three aerobridges that connected the terminal to the upper and lower decks. Two connected the main deck, one forward for the First Class Platinum Suite cabin and a second for Economy Class. A third aerobridge connects to the upper deck for the Business Cabin and smaller rear Economy Class where my seat was located.
One aerobridge connected the gate to the upper deck from the front of the aircraft meaning the rear economy passengers made their way through the Business Class cabin. Just as I reached my Economy Class seat an annoucement was made by the cabin crew that if anybody in Economy wanted to upgrade to please see the crew and all major credit cards were accepted. Obviously, I enquired on how much the upgrade would be and was informed CNY4,700 which I worked out to be around AUD$850. I said I would think about it and sat there for quite a few moments trying to decide what to do. In the end I decided not to take up the offer, even though it was a very good price, but I was settled in my seat and at that time couldnt see much more of a benefit other than the lie flat bed, which was going to cost me around an additional AUD$100 per hour on top of what I had already paid for my economy ticket.
So, back to my economy experience: The upper deck Economy Class cabin, as previously mentioned seats a mere 72 passengers in an 8 abreast, 2-4-2 configuration with a 32″ / 75cms seatpitch. The 8 abreast seating is two less than the economy cabin on the main deck with its 10 abreast seating of a 3-4-3 configuration, so the smaller cabin and from the window seat having only to cross one seat to gain aisle access, were a few of the reasons I requested the upper deck.
The other main reason for wanting a window seat, was the extra storage space. Due to the curvature of the top of the aircraft, there is a storage bin located between the seat and the window. This space perfectly fits a laptop bag, purse or jacket and when closed becomes a wonderful side table perfect to rest magazines or a drink 😉 Perhaps it was this reason and not just the storage my seat-neighbour, who gave that huge sigh when I insisted she move to the aisle seat, wasn’t as chatty throughout the rest of the flight?…..
To be one of the first to find out what happens next when my seat-neighbour didnt want a meal – follow FreakyFlier.com by entering your email address above.
Part 2 coming up!