China Southern

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We flew to Cambodia from Guangzhou via the much maligned China Southern. It was short haul at 2 hours 20 minutes and for the price we paid the service was mediocre to good.

Check-in

Check-in with China Southern ran the gambit from the sublime to the ridiculous. Their website is clunky and hard to use and didn’t even recognise our reservation code. Even our travel agent couldn’t get it to work. So when it came to online check-in we had to input e-ticket numbers individually and manually group our bookings, and therefore seats, into one block. Not the end of the world, but a bit of an inconvenience when every other airline in the world seems to be able to keep a single booking reference for however many people are travelling in your party.

Checking in at the airport was a different story. Electronic check in machines, helpful staff and a very efficient baggage drop off made it one of the easiest airport check-in experiences we’ve ever had. We scanned our passports, the machine printed boarding passes, there were absolutely no queues. We then joined a small queue, gave a lady our bags and moved on to security. The whole process took about 15 minutes.

Baggage Allowance

From what I can see on their website, China Southern baggage allowance does not vary between short haul and long haul flights in economy class. You get 23kg per seat occupying passenger (I.e. children get the same allowance as adults as long as you’ve paid for a seat for them). This was more than enough for a 7 day break but would stop us using them for our annual 5+ week trip back to the UK.

Aircraft

I could look into the exact aircraft type used for our flight but I’m not really sure how much use that would be to anybody. The thing that hit all of us upon boarding was the smell. Whilst the plane looked clean and was obviously in good shape, the whole thing smelled of feet and blocked drains. I’ve never flown on a smelly aircraft before but this one really took the biscuit. The smell stayed for the entire flight and I imagine on a long haul it would have been unbearable. Combined with the smell of the food once it was heated and served, it really was something special.

Food

We had all eaten in the airport as we weren’t sure food would be served and when it was served we were all full and didn’t intend to eat. However, before we could stop him, our 5 year old had requested a meal and was sat in his seat with a tray full of chicken rice and a big smile on his face.

Served in what can only be described as something akin to an army mess tin, the chicken rice actually looked OK. The rice was glutinous and very wet (think over cooked rice pudding) and the chicken was of the Asian variety that I frequently describe as ‘odds and ends’. But it looked edible and the broccoli and carrots that accompanied it were bright and crisp. It also came with a box containing a bread roll and a tangerine.

Flying with Children

As far as I could see, China Southern make no extra provisions for people flying with children beyond allowing you to board first. They were very good at this; seeking us out in the board line and directing us to the first and business class lane.

Try as I might, I couldn’t find any children’s meal options at any point during the booking process although I’m willing to admit I may just have fallen foul of the clunky website and a Chinese travel agent. 

Things for children to do on board? Beyond playing with the sick bag and tearing the pages from the duty free magazine, there really isn’t anything. Like the glorious days of old, they play a movie on the overhead screens that you can listen to on your headphones (bring your own, there were none provided) but this wasn’t child friendly. Something starring Mike from Breaking Bad?

Conclusion

I’ve heard China Southern described as ‘a budget airline but with a luggage allowance’ and I’d say that was pretty spot on. Sadly, you don’t pay budget prices most of the time but if you can grab a bargain then it’s definitely worthwhile. Have I been persuaded to consider them for our next long haul flight? No. Would I use them again for a holiday locally? Absolutely.

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