The launch of China Southern’s first A380 service on the Guangzhou-Sydney route earlier this week has been described by regional general manager Henry He as the “final piece” in a major regional expansion strategy.
The daily A380 service between Guangzhou and Sydney replaces its CZ325/326 A330-300 service, and is operated by one of the airline’s five Airbus A380s.
The upgrade a significant part of a major overhaul of its Australian operations which has also seen the airline's latest A330-300 and A330-200 aircraft recently introduced to Melbourne and Sydney routes, following their introduction to the Brisbane and Perth routes earlier this year.
The upgrade is expected to boost annual capacity on the route by 40%, or 162,000 seats, and inject an estimated $100 million into the NSW economy.
We flew from Sydney to Guangzhou aboard the A380 to try it out for ourselves:
China Southern is now making use of the Qantas Business Lounge at Sydney Airport throughout the day, so I’m a happy camper – great coffee, an almost overwhelming selection of breakfast pastries and, for those really up for some indulgence, there’s the gelato bar or a good choice of wine, champagne and beer.
For those with more on their mind than simply pigging out, there is a good WiFi connection, or the views across the runway through the sweeping glass windows can be strangely hypnotic.
However, it can get pretty busy and at 9am I struggle to find a secluded spot.
Business class aboard China Southern’s Airbus A380 features fully flat beds contained within individual pods. They’re comfortable enough for some decent naptime as they are, but add the mattress pads, the doona and the two pillows that are provided and you’ve got one hell of a snooze.
There is also ample storage to the side of the seat, meaning you can stay clutter-free for the duration of the flight. However, pointless but pleasant extras such as massage functions and tablet controls are not to be found here, and getting in and out of the seats can be a little tight.
There’s no champagne on arrival, with orange and apple juice instead the order of the day, but at 11am, that’s probably just about ok. Hot towels are quickly offered and meal orders efficiently taken.
While by no means perfect, the service is quite charmingly delivered with generous doses of enthusiasm and cheer which more than compensates in my book. Drinks are swiftly refilled, meals neatly delivered and cleared away rapidly while the hotel towels keep on coming.
English levels vary widely among the crew but, in case of difficulty, each A380 service on the route has two Aussie cabin crew on board.
Bulgari has its name stamped on the small black amenities kits which feature essentials such as a toothbrush, ear plugs, eye mask along with some eau de cologne and body lotion. Socks, however, are eschewed in favour of slippers which turns out to be a stroke of genius – perfect for night time trips to the toilet.
A shoe bag is provided for you to pack away your footwear in a special compartment. Bottled water is also on hand, as is a set of noise-cancelling headphones.
For those with a curious palate, the inflight menu could be a dream come true. Western options are on offer, but they are interspersed with a range of Canton-inspired dishes such as sea whelk soup or beef balls in broth – although a number of dishes are unavailable when it’s my turn to order. I go for a salmon fillet served with a soy-based sauce and vegetables followed by a plate of fresh tropical fruit which is fine.
The light meal service towards the end of the flight delivers me a hearty bowl of beef noodle soup, accompanied by a colourful selection of condiments and, more surprisingly, a pain au chocolat. But it turns out to be a good enough combo, and I gobble it all down.
There is a decent selection of movies from all around the world, although with an emphasis on Hollywood and Chinese film. The range is bumped up with a decent variety of audio channels, TV shows and there are games for the kids.
The personal screens are well-sized and operated by a standard controller.
Having never flown with China Southern before, I was pleasantly surprised. While there are still a few kinks to be worked out, mainly in the food and service areas, the aircraft itself is more than comfortable and the seats offer a great chance to get some decent sleep.
And with fares priced this competitively, and Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport proving a decent place to kill a few hours, it is certainly an option to consider when transiting via Asia.