In early March 2018 my cousin Facebook messaged me asking why I hadn’t RSVP’d for her wedding… long story short I hadn’t received the invitation and needing an answer pronto I said yes and sought about finding flights from Brisbane to Auckland with only a couple weeks notice.
I had heard that China Airlines; Taiwan’s national carrier was about to start service to Auckland with its brand new Airbus A350-900 jet and having flown China Airlines’ old A330 service between Auckland and Brisbane a number of times I was excited to try out their new product.
As luck would have it the flight I ended up booking was the inaugural A350 flight so China Airlines rolled out the red carpet and gave everyone plenty of free extras. I managed to boost my $400 return economy tickets through a combination of miles and sheer luck into a premium economy seat to Auckland and a business class seat on the return leg.
Arriving at Brisbane’s international terminal there was a big poster featuring the A350 and a friendly CI staff member was handing out goodies – I managed to score a China Airlines A350 pen and notepad – not bad. Other than this there was not a lot of fanfare, I headed through security and arrived at the gate to take some snaps of the new aircraft but flight number CI 53 honestly just felt like any other flight from that point.
There was a bit of delay boarding due to the lateness of the aircraft on its way down to Brisbane from Taipei but that didn’t phase me too much. Once onboard and seated the delays kept coming and almost a whole hour passed until the “technical issues” were resolved and the plane was underway. China Airlines offers free wifi to business and premium economy passengers so I made good use of it as we climbed out of Brisbane.
The premium economy seat was a good size, had decent legroom and a big IFE screen so I was definitely catered for. Speaking of catering – the flight attendants began handing out meals not long after take off; I had a chicken pasta dish with veggies as well as a fruit salad and a Kit-Kat – not bad but not the best in-flight meal I’ve had.
The IFE selection was good and I managed to finish a film and watch some TV before we began our approach into Auckland as the sun began to set. The plane landed and while taxiing we received the customary water salute from a couple of AKL’s fire trucks (pretty cool to be honest). Everyone disembarked, and that was it.
Overall I was really impressed, the new aircraft is a substantial upgrade from the old A330 and its super quiet engines and spacious cabin make for a really comfortable flight. The IFE and food were decent but language barriers with the Chinese speaking crew did present a slight challenge (oh well). The delays and problems were to be expected on this first flight and on the return flight (which I’ll cover in a separate post) they were non-existent.
For anybody who is travelling between Brisbane and Auckland I would highly recommend China Airlines and their A350 as a good, cost effective alternative to Air New Zealand or Qantas for crossing the Tasman.