15 Hours From Shanghai to New York on China Eastern Airlines

s a passenger, I spent 15 hours from Shanghai to New York on China Eastern Airlines — which is the airline that operated the flight — and that did not include time in the airplane before or after the actual flight itself…

…and that turned out to be the longest flight I have ever taken — without a significant delay, although this airplane did not leave the gate on time. The gate area was rather crowded with passengers awaiting not only this flight; but also a flight to Los Angeles, which departed first. The boarding policy had little rhyme, reason or order to it, which did not help with attempting to have a departure which was on time.

I spent my time waiting at the gate watching men washing the windows of the terminal building at Shanghai Pudong International Airlines. I could not use the free Wi-Fi access to the Internet inside of the terminal building at the airport because it requested a mobile telephone number to send the code needed for Internet access — and my mobile telephone was not set up to work in China; so that idea went out the window which was being cleaned at the time.

15 Hours From Shanghai to New York on China Eastern Airlines

The time had finally arrived to board the airplane.

China Eastern Airlines Shanghai to New York

Photograph ©2014 by Brian Cohen.

This is the interior of the Airbus A340-642 aircraft, looking towards the rear during the boarding of passengers. The airplane wound up being fairly full of passengers for the flight to New York.

China Eastern Airlines Shanghai to New York

Photograph ©2014 by Brian Cohen.

I am ready to get settled in the seat by the window…

China Eastern Airlines Shanghai to New York

Photograph ©2014 by Brian Cohen.

…and yes, there was a blanket wrapped in plastic and a pillow in the seat awaiting my arrival.

China Eastern Airlines Shanghai to New York

Photograph ©2014 by Brian Cohen.

The tray table on the back of the seat in front of me is equipped with a separate cup holder. The seat pitch was ample enough; and the seat itself was as comfortable as the one in which I sat for the flight from Seoul to Shanghai a couple of days earlier — which was the first time I was ever a passenger on an airplane operated by China Eastern Airlines — but that comfort was marginal for such a long flight. If the seat was any less comfortable, the flight might have been potentially unbearable.

China Eastern Airlines Shanghai to New York

Photograph ©2014 by Brian Cohen.

This advertisement for a brokerage firm in China — thank you again to reader Higgins for identifying this for me — appears to be prevalent. To have to stare at this for 15 hours without being able to do much was not my idea of a productive and interesting flight — but I then realized that there was a red dot which seemed to be glowing from underneath the advertisement…

China Eastern Airlines Shanghai to New York

Photograph ©2014 by Brian Cohen.

…and lo and behold, there was an electrical outlet in the unusual position of being square in the middle of the back of the upper part of the seat in front of me. I tested it out; and it was indeed working. Excellent — I can work aboard the airplane on the long flight to New York!

China Eastern Airlines Shanghai to New York

Photograph ©2014 by Brian Cohen.

The view outside of the window at the airport revealed two airplanes operated by Shanghai Airlines, which — although its operations remain separate — is a subsidiary wholly owned by China Eastern Airlines since the acquisition of the airline was completed in February of 2010. As a result of the acquisition, Shanghai Airlines left Star Alliance to become a member of the SkyTeam alliance — but I digress as usual.

China Eastern Airlines Shanghai to New York

Photograph ©2014 by Brian Cohen.

Once again — as has been the theme for many of the flights on my unintentional trip around the world which included this flight operated by Alitalia and this flight operated by China Eastern Airlines — I have a nice view of the wing. I do not know what is the message painted on the wing, however.

China Eastern Airlines Shanghai to New York

Photograph ©2014 by Brian Cohen.

Time to say goodbye to Shanghai Pudong International Airport as the aircraft is pulled away from the gate. I do not think I would want to wash the windows outside of this terminal building — let alone inside of it.

Food Served Aboard the Aircraft

China Eastern Airlines Shanghai to New York

Photograph ©2014 by Brian Cohen.

Before the first meal, I was served a bag of peanuts. They remained unopened, as I generally do not like peanuts.

China Eastern Airlines Shanghai to New York

Photograph ©2014 by Brian Cohen.

When the first meal was served, I skipped on the plain flavored fermented milk — similar to kefir, I suppose — which was in the blue and white cup that remained unopened. I do not drink plain milk or eat plain yogurt; so plain flavored fermented milk did not exactly appeal to me…

China Eastern Airlines Shanghai to New York

Photograph ©2014 by Brian Cohen.

…but I must admit that the meal was tastier than it appeared. The spaghetti with small shrimp and vegetables in a tomato sauce was actually quite good. I also enjoyed the two pieces of smoked fish atop a slaw of some sort with a small fresh tomato. There were also cubes of watermelon; a roll with butter…

Aviation radish China Eastern Airlines Shanghai to New York

Photograph ©2014 by Brian Cohen.

…and an “aviation radish,” which seemed some sort of moist slightly crunchy spicy pickled vegetable of some kind in a pouch on which the only other verbiage — other than the two supposed quality certifications issued by the International Organization for Standardization — printed in English was “Good quality is sure to be good. The best choice for you and me.”

To this day, I have no idea what is an “aviation radish” — but I found it to be strangely good; although it is probably best when mixed in with other food.

China Eastern Airlines Shanghai to New York

Photograph ©2014 by Brian Cohen.

The second meal was served several hours later while it was dark outside. The beef was okay but not great, as there were some fatty and sinewy parts to it; but the gravy was good when I mixed the rice in it. This meal also came with a roll with butter — and that mystery “aviation radish” made an appearance again…

China Eastern Airlines Shanghai to New York

Photograph ©2014 by Brian Cohen.

…but it also came with cubes of watermelon; a cup of Bilin orange juice; and a lone shrimp nestled on top of what appeared to be seaweed — which loosely resembled noodles — with an equally lone small tomato.

China Eastern Airlines Shanghai to New York

Photograph ©2014 by Brian Cohen.

After flying overnight across the International Date Line, dawn broke through the night sky as the sun started to rise off to the east. Flight attendants arrived with a snack service not long after that.

China Eastern Airlines Shanghai to New York

Photograph ©2014 by Brian Cohen.

Passengers were served small cut sandwiches on some sort of white bread. The first sandwich was a slice of some sort of mystery meat with tomato and some type of sauce with a mayonnaise base; while the second sandwich had a thin slathering of tuna in mayonnaise with a slice of lettuce — both sandwiches using what seemed to be white bread of some sort, which I do not like to eat.

China Eastern Airlines Shanghai to New York

Photograph ©2014 by Brian Cohen.

I ate the tuna sandwich only because I was hungry — they do not serve enough food for a flight duration of 15 hours, in my opinion — and I ate the tomato off of the other sandwich.

Views Upon Approach into New York

China Eastern Airlines Shanghai to New York

Photograph ©2014 by Brian Cohen.

On the approach to John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York, I had this view of the southern half of the borough of Queens facing northeast, with the Rockaway peninsula in the foreground. The road in the center of the photograph is Cross Bay Boulevard; while the tracks to the east of the road are part of the subway system of New York on which the A and S subway trains use. On the northern end of Jamaica Bay is the neighborhood known as Howard Beach. The green patch at the top left of the photograph is Forest Park; and on the right side of the photograph is the western portion of John F. Kennedy International Airport.

China Eastern Airlines Shanghai to New York

Photograph ©2014 by Brian Cohen.

It was a hazy day that afternoon; but if you look carefully, you can see the buildings of Manhattan — including the World Trade Center — in the background; while Long Beach on Long Island is in the foreground. The Atlantic Ocean is at the bottom of the photograph. The windows of the airplane were not exactly the cleanest I had ever seen, which did not help matters in the sunlight.

China Eastern Airlines Shanghai to New York Jones Beach

Jones Beach on Long Island. Photograph ©2014 by Brian Cohen.

The airplane flew over Jones Beach State Park on Long Island before starting to turn northward. The highway on the peninsula is Ocean Parkway; the highway in the middle of the photograph on the right side is Wantagh State Parkway crossing the inlets of South Oyster Bay; and the highway at the upper left corner of the photograph is Meadowbrook State Parkway.

China Eastern Airlines Shanghai to New York Sunrise Highway

Sunrise Highway on Long Island. Photograph ©2014 by Brian Cohen.

After bypassing the airport and flying eastbound adjacent to the southern shore of Long Island out over the Atlantic Ocean, the airplane started its turn north over Amityville — the horror! — before again turning west to head back to the airport to land. Sunrise Highway is in the center of the above photograph; with the Massapequa Park station on the tracks which serves the Babylon branch of the Long Island Rail Road. Just beyond that looking west is Massapequa Creek in the wooded area which cuts across the photograph.

Thankfully, the passengers in the immediate vicinity of my seat were all quiet, which made for a pleasant flight. The passenger who sat next to me was a Chinese man who watched Chinese-language movies on his laptop computer for much of the trip. There were no issues at all sitting next to him; and we did not speak to each other during the entire flight — he was gracious to let me out whenever I needed to use the lavatory, which was not often — but I automatically assumed that he was based in China and probably did not speak any English. That assumption was apparently false when I saw him whip out his American passport upon arrival into New York. Welcome home!

Summary

I paid a total airfare of $562.70 — but that included flights from Seoul to Shanghai; Shanghai to Manila — which was postponed by a day at the last minute where I was forced to alter my plans; Manila to Shanghai; and Shanghai to New York — all seated in the economy class cabin. I thought that at the time I purchased that airfare that it was a good price; but you can probably find lower a lower airfare for a similar routing these days.

There was little I can say that was negative about the experience; but it was not exactly exciting, either. The flight attendants were polite and nice enough — but almost in a robotic way. The food and service were good; but not memorable. The aircraft was clean. The in-flight magazine was forgettable. Quite noticeable on a 15-hour flight is the lack of an in-flight entertainment system; but they did show complimentary movies on the overhead screens in the main cabin — although some of them were repeated during the flight — so bring with you whatever entertainment you can fit on your portable electronic devices, as you will need them. Even the safety video at that time — which had since been changed — was extremely boring with an uninspired piano accompaniment; and it was played twice: once in Chinese and once in English.

I would fly as a passenger again on flights operated by China Eastern Airlines in the future — but only if the fares were significantly lower than competing airlines. Had it not been for that working electrical outlet, the flight would have been incredibly boring and unexciting for much of the 15 hours — and that is not including time at the gates in either Shanghai or New York.

All photographs ©2014 by Brian Cohen.

17 thoughts on “15 Hours From Shanghai to New York on China Eastern Airlines”

  1. A C says:

    The message on the wing simply reads “China Eastern Airlines”, ie the airline you flew on!

    1. Brian Cohen says:

      I can always count on a reader of The Gate to volunteer to translate.

      Thank you, A C!

  2. Ben says:

    The Chinese characters on the A340 wing are the name of the airline–China Eastern Airlines.

    The white bread, well, that’s white toast. You never had white toast before? It’s like Wonder Bread but more Asian style (more Japanese style, rather).

    I know this is an OLD report. MU has already been operating brand new B773 on the North American routes (JFK, LAX and soon ORD) with 3-class cabin and personal TVs. Their economy fare to China and the rest of East Asia is still very cheap, just like CS and CA, compared to CI, BR and CX.

    Right now MU has a special biz class offer from JFK or LAX to various Asian cities via PVG for $2731 r/t including taxes and fees. That can earn you 150-200% MQM since DL bought 7% of MU and put MU in its group 1 partner airlines (like KL, AF, AZ, AM). Furthermore, with revenue biz and first class tickets, you get free limo pickup/drop-off in NYC. Same in PVG if your final destination is PVG (not the free stopover).

    Last month (Feb) MU ran an even more attractive promo–buy 1 get 1 free across all 3 classes to China for VDay. So technically you’d be paying $3000 for TWO people in biz class to PVG.

    However, their new website doesn’t really offer biz class booking option, at least I couldn’t figure out how. Fortunately, I met a rep from their NYC office and she told me to just email her for biz class fare inquiries and booking. And I plan to do that for May/June travel to TPE via PVG.

    1. Brian Cohen says:

      Yes, it is an old report, Ben, as indicated on the year in the copyright of each photograph — I am attempting to catch up on my trip reports, which at times can be time-consuming; and I have more to post.

      I did notice some time ago the “upgrade” China Eastern Airlines now has with Delta Air Lines in terms of partner airlines. I meant to write an article on that as it was done rather quietly; but I never got around to it. I take full responsibility for that one as well.

      No, I never did have white toast before. I must admit that it was better overall than white bread — otherwise, I might not have eaten the sandwich.

      Thank you for all of the valuable information you provided, Ben. I appreciate it.

  3. Terence says:

    Maybe I have missed something, but when was this flight taken? MU has been using 777-300ER on PVG-JFK for a while, now all flights PVG-JFK/LAX/YYZ are with 773 instead of 346. Or was it due to a swap?

    1. Brian Cohen says:

      The flight was in October of 2014, Terence — apparently right before the change in equipment to newer airplanes.

      I have not flown as a passenger on China Eastern Airlines since then; but as I said to Ben, I fell behind on my trip reports.

  4. Ben says:

    DL actually sent out an email to SkyMiles members about its partnership with MU. And a print ad of that is in Sky Mag. The photo of the two airline plane tails are also on DL.com home page sometimes.

    On the cover of the latest Sky Mag, a bunch of CEOs of all DL partner / JV airlines are featured:
    KL, AF and VS–yes we already expected them.
    MU–yes, due to the 7% ownership.
    CZ–hmm interesting.
    GOL from Brazil–sure since DL bought some of that airline.
    KE–say what?! Didn’t DL just put KE at the uncool kids’ table 2 yrs ago since KE didn’t want to do a TPAC JV with DL and DL penalized DL medallions by not giving any MQMs when flying KE?
    AM–DL already owns like 13% and will buy 36% more of AM.

    PS: Your article doesn’t mention the date of the flight. I did see the 2014 copyright by the photos. It’s good to reminisce but outdated info doesn’t help readers. I know we can’t all be flying in biz class as frequently as TPG and Lucky, but when the airline already upgraded/switched new aircrafts, an old economy class report is just ____. Anyway, maybe I’ll become a blogger on BoardingArea so I can share JFK/PVG MU J class review before Lucky does? ; p

    1. Brian Cohen says:

      Are you proposing a battle of the Bens, Ben?

      As I mentioned to Terence, the flight was in October of 2014 — apparently right before the change in equipment to newer airplanes.

      I never received that e-mail message to which you referred; and I have been a Medallion member of SkyMiles for years. Strange…

  5. Ben says:

    PS: I applaud you for trying mysterious aviation radish and meat in the sandwich. The meat is just a slice of ham. The aviation radish, well, I think it’s just Chinese pickled radish packaged for flights. It’s like how Americans love pickles (cucumbers) while Chinese prefer pickled radishes and carrots. And Koreans love their kimchi.

  6. Chris R says:

    Very painful to see those pictures (not the NY ones). Gives a good shock to the senses. I suppose if flying to rack of SkyMiles or one needed to make the flight for economic reasons it’s understandable. It’s OK if one is young, can handle such rigors – and have health insurance, but I wouldn’t willingly put myself through the torture (yes, torture to both the body and mind) just for the miles. I only fly now for leisure, mostly in J, rarely F, and, yes, in economy, but only on short flights (2-3 hours). I’ve been to PVG and know of the boarding chaos part. But even flying JAL F out of SFO and NRT the boarding was chaotic – and I let them know it – while ANA F out of SIN and NRT was stellar, organized and totally calm. Shame on any airline that allows a mob style boarding regime. Shame on the passengers though who act as if the plane is leaving without them and push, shove, elbow their way. found from my global travels that this behavior is most evident in third world countries and highly populated countries such as India and China.

  7. Samuel says:

    “The beef was okay but not great, as there were some fatty and sinewy parts to it”

    It’s braised beef brisket, it’s supposed to be like that.

    1. Brian Cohen says:

      Perhaps, Samuel. Some people may like it; but I do not particularly care for it.

      It was not like I purposely placed a special order for it.

      Different strokes for different folks, I suppose…

  8. Ben says:

    Mob boarding happens in #Murica too… Delta at JFK T4 sometimes copies Delta in NRT as the gate agents try to file people into boarding zones and to have them queue up. It’s getting a little better. Was there no SkyPriority boarding for SkyTeam flights in PVG? Or a dedicated line for premium cabin passengers?

    No Battle of the Bens. I’d offer different perspectives, focusing on the destinations than the journey. I actually like to see the places and people I’m visiting, not the 5-star suite or the premium class. Those are nice bonuses to have but not the reasons I travel. Plus, I don’t travel for work or to make money out of traveling (yet). Hence, no miles/status run for me (yet). I don’t mind trying white toast sandwiches with mysterious meat and aviation radish 🙂

    1. Brian Cohen says:

      There was a dedicated SkyPriority line present, Ben; but it was loosely followed. Very loosely…

      …and speaking of that aviation radish, do you know exactly what is that?

  9. Marin says:

    Hey. I knew it is an old report and you do mentioned below the pictures. But I still suggest that you could make a notice on the title. So that all of the readers could realize it is an report for past.

    1. Brian Cohen says:

      That is a good suggestion, Marin. That is something I already do on the occasional older trip report of several years or so.

      I really did not expect such drastic changes to occur with China Eastern Airlines within 17 months, as I had not flown as a passenger on the airline since then.

      Trip reports usually consume more time to create than most other types of articles, according to my experience — and usually generate fewer views. I admittedly was caught off-guard by how many views this article has already received.

      It is great that new airplanes are being flown by that airline. It has me thinking about trying them again sometime in the future — and if I do, I will post an updated trip report.

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