When booking a 20-hour flight, you want to make sure that you balance the priorities of cost and comfort.
China Southern was the cheapest airline to fly, and I’d never heard of it. I figured, since I was heading to Bali to travel alone, why not up the anty and not only push myself outside of my comfort zone in style of travel (i.e., solo) but method of transport, too!?
I had no idea what to expect; there are few reviews of the airline online in English and the English-version website is not very good at all. (I booked through Kayak, which is probably the only way people who speak English can book on China Southern. Their English language website is basically a marketing landing page!)
I was pretty pleasantly surprised, throughout.
I flew from London to Guangzhou, and from there on to Denpasar. 12 hours to China, another six to Bali.
Leg room on both legs of the flight was awesome.
The entertainment system itself was standard. However, what was cool (although I can imagine some people finding this annoying) is the amount of Chinese movies and television shows. The English language selection was pretty small, and not very good- a few blockbusters from several years ago, all the X Men movies and a few seasons of shows like How I Met Your Mother and the Mentalist. I tried to watch the Chinese shows, but the subtitles were really bad. So I just read. In fact, I finished a whole book on my way to Bali.
None of my flights were particularly full, which was nice. Rarely any lines for the bathroom, and lots of personal attention from the flight attendants if you needed anything.
My outbound flight was an overnight, so each economy passenger got an amenity kit, which again, was pretty standard. I always bring all my own stuff, but it was nice to know this is an option if you forget anything. Since I had a window seat, and an entire row to myself, I slept through most of the flight. I was a pretty happy camper.
The weirder part was the inbound flight back to London, which was during the day. No amenity kits were given. However, after the food service, we flew for about 8 hours with no real interaction from the flight staff. No beverages. No snacks. Very few entertainment options, as I mentioned. I’ve never been happier to see airline food as I was when they served the lunch service two hours before landing. I’ve never been on a long flight where passengers were rootling around in their luggage for snacks (I, stupidly, had not brought any) until this one. It wasn’t very pleasant.
I did like that, on both flights, the windows could be tinted (window seat people have the option to pick the opacity) so you can still see out, even if the plane lights are turned off.
The food was surprisingly good, when you got it, which wasn’t often. There was a Western and Chinese option, too, which I appreciated. I’d definitely recommend taking snacks, though. The food comes very seldom. They also didn’t write down that I was a vegetarian, so I had to pick huge bits of meat out of my food on each flight.
I will admit that I broke my own rule on the outbound flight and had a glass of wine prior to landing, to calm my nerves before setting off on my solo travels. Sadly, since the wine came in a medicine cup, it didn’t really do much for my nerves.
I probably wouldn’t fly Southern China airlines again. The price was right, about 15% less than competitors, but the lack of food and beverage kind of explains why it is so cheap. It made me grumpy and more jet lagged in both directions than I would usually be, which is worth a few extra hundred dollars, in my opinion, on tickets with a better airline.