From second-class citizen to Southern belle

A year can be a long time in the competitive world of airline travel and China Southern's business class crew have been honing their craft over the past 12 months.

Australia's favourite food blogger Not Quite Nigella, aka Lorraine Elliott, decides to give China Southern Airlines business class a second shot.

It has been a year since my last flight with China Southern Airlines. The last time I flew with them I recall the experience was a slightly mixed one – while the bed was terrifically comfortable the food wasn’t great and it was with hope, a little trepidation and curiosity that I looked upon the flight from Sydney to Guangzhou. There were rumours of improvements but I wanted to see if this were the case first hand.

The first improvement is at the check in desk. They’re very friendly and there’s good news. The lounge access is code sharing with Qantas business class lounge now (previously it was the Air New Zealand lounge). It’s a late flight departing after 10pm but boarding is smooth and fast and I take my seat 1K which is a window seat in the front row. The plane is an old plane as evidenced by the seats. They have a shell style capsule seating and the configuration is 2x2x2.

Announcements are made in Chinese and English and the flight crew are extremely accommodating, indeed they are some of the friendliest and most eager to please I have encountered. Nothing is too much trouble as they help us with our bags and we are offered orange juice, champagne, apple juice or water. I change into my pyjamas in the bathroom and a flight attendant holds her hands out like a game show hostess guiding my way and tells me “please take care!” Bags for our shoes and slippers are handed out along with an amenity kit. This contains ear plugs, moisturiser, lip gloss (which is so good I’d buy it), comb, toothbrush and toothpaste.

Graph for From second-class citizen to Southern belle

The cabin crew are fast at serving dinner and we are handed a wet towel as the dinner service gets under way immediately, which is great for those of us that are hungry but want to get a decent block of sleep. While they prepare the food, I try to browse through the selection of movies and television, but there appears to be something wrong with my console and it won’t go back to the main menu. After some tussling by the crew it suddenly starts working again and they apologise for the inconvenience. There are some newish releases like Silver Linings Play Book, Les Miserables, Seven Psychopaths (the travel date was May 26th) and the television is better than what we were offered a year ago (where a photo slide show was a feature). There are an inordinate number of ads, mostly for luxury car brands, but you can fast forward through these.

They lay the table with a tablecloth , butter, salt and pepper and cutlery. The first tastes are a black pastry cup with olive, sun dried tomato and baby bocconcini. The pastry cup is a little soggy but the filling isn’t too bad and there’s a lick of pesto at the bottom. The vegetable brochette is a little oily, particularly the eggplant pieces.

There are a few types of bread offered from garlic bread to various types of rolls. I choose a herb bread and the soup comes after it. The cream of mushroom soup is actually very nice with a good mushroom flavour and a thick, creamy texture. There are a lot of croutons on top which I mostly leave behind.

Graph for From second-class citizen to Southern belle

The Cajun lamb, above, comes as three pieces, very lightly spiced with a rather firm prawn and a good mango salsa which adds most of the flavour to the dish...

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