Edited by: Keri Stooksbury
& Kellie Jez
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Shanghai is one of the fastest growing cities in the world. With such attention being drawn to China as the up-and-coming economic powerhouse, there’s a lot of potential for increased tourism and business to take place in Shanghai.
China Eastern, which is the second-largest Chinese airline carrier, is headquartered in Shanghai. Though Chinese airlines do not offer the flashiest awards in the world like Singapore Airlines or Emirates, they are a solid option to fly nonstop to China.
In this guide, we’ll dissect China Eastern’s U.S. route network and get the inside scoop on all things China Eastern.
Update: Due to COVID-19, China Eastern may temporarily suspend routes, frequencies, and/or aircraft flown. Please check with the airline directly for the most current information.
For the second-largest airline in China, China Eastern’s route network to the United States is relatively small. There are a total of 5 routes operated to/from the United States, primarily from huge hub airports.
Check out the chart below for the summary of China Eastern’s route network:
|Route||Flight No.||Aircraft||Cabin Classes||Frequency|
|San Francisco (SFO) – Shanghai (PVG)||MU 590||777-300ER||First, Business, Economy||Daily|
|Los Angeles (LAX) – Shanghai (PVG)||MU 578/586||777-300ER||First, Business, Economy||2x daily|
|Chicago (ORD) – Shanghai (PVG)||MU 718||777-300ER||First, Business, Economy||5x weekly|
|New York City (JFK) – Shanghai (PVG)||MU 298/588||777-300ER||First, Business, Economy||2x daily|
|Honolulu (HNL) – Shanghai (PVG)||MU 572||A330-300||Business, Economy||6x weekly|
Before getting into the inflight products, let’s discuss how you can fly China Eastern with points.
China Eastern is a SkyTeam airline, which means you can earn and redeem miles with other airlines for travel on China Eastern.
Delta SkyMiles has been periodically known to display first class availability on China Eastern, but those instances are relatively rare and may require top-tier elite status with Delta.
Delta SkyMiles is a transfer partner with American Express Membership Rewards and Marriott Bonvoy. Additionally, Delta SkyMiles has a bunch of co-branded credit cards that can help you earn a lot of miles quickly.
You can also leverage non-alliance partners such as Japan Airlines and Qantas. It’s possible to book first class with Japan Airlines, though their only transfer partner is Marriott Bonvoy. You can do the same with Qantas; their 2 transfer partners are Citi ThankYou Rewards and Capital One Miles.
You can also earn China Airlines “Eastern Miles” in lots of ways!
Hot Tip: Don’t forget to check out the ways to redeem China Eastern “Eastern Miles Points”.
China Eastern has a mixed reputation when it comes to their long-haul first class product. You can expect an absolutely cutting-edge hard product, but a soft product that is currently lagging behind the industry standard.
Here, let’s discuss China Eastern’s awesome first class hard product. Some airlines have 8-12 seats in first class, but China Eastern only has 6 first class seats, which is phenomenally private.
There are 2 rows of window seats and 1 row of middle seats, as shown in the following seat map.
As you probably can tell, this is a unique seating plan, with the inflight bar occupying the space in front of the middle seats. The amazing thing is that seats 2D and 2H become a double bed — only a few airlines in the world have double beds in first class, and China Eastern happens to be one of them.
Each of these first class suites features sliding doors that enclose your suite completely. The seats themselves measure 26.5″ wide and 79″ in seat pitch and bed mode; you’ll have plenty of shoulder and legroom to stretch out and relax in your private first class suite. (Direct aisle access and fully lie-flat capabilities are a given!)
If you’re traveling with a significant other, definitely nab the double bed seats at 2D and 2H. If you’re traveling alone, the best seat is 2L, since it’s far from the lavatories on the left side.
You’ll find this first class product used by China Eastern on these flights to/from the United States:
Similar to first class, China Eastern has some of the best business class hard products in their long-haul fleet. We’ll discuss our favorite first — the 777-300ER — before moving on to the A330-300.
We rank the aircraft this way because of the 777-300ER’s nice mini-cabin, in addition to the fact that the A330-300 is only flown to Hawaii (so won’t be useful to very many travelers). Let’s get down to business!
China Eastern’s long-haul fleet consists primarily of 777-300ERs, which is great because they have the airline’s best business class product.
The seats utilize a B/E Aerospace Super Diamond seat, which is an industry-leading reverse herringbone business class seat featuring lie-flat capabilities and direct aisle access from all seats.
These business class seats are incredibly spacious, measuring 23.6″ wide with a 75″ pitch and bed length. Reverse herringbone seats are ordinarily 21″ wide, so this represents a gain of ~12% in seat width.
This aircraft has 52 business class seats arranged in a 1-2-1 configuration across 13 rows as shown here:
Without a doubt, the best business class seats are in row 6. This business class section is divided into 2 mini-cabins, with the smaller front one featuring only 2 rows of seats.
If you reserve a seat in row 6, you’ll feel like you’re in a private jet because of the supreme privacy this mini-cabin affords. There won’t be anyone walking around you, so it’ll truly be a quiet and peaceful business class experience.
The second-best seats would be the row of seats located in the middle of the large business class cabin. After row 6, we think the second-best location is row 15.
This 11-row cabin has 2 sets of lavatories flanking both ends of the section. By selecting the row of seats in the middle, you’ll minimize the chances of travelers walking past you, since the trajectory of the lavatories will always be away from your seat.
You’ll be able to find this exact 777-300ER business class layout on these routes:
Our second and final business class option is on the A330-300, which has 40 lie-flat seats in a reverse herringbone configuration. In fact, these seats are the exact same as the 777-300ER.
This business class cabin is smaller since the A330-300 is a smaller plane, and all of these seats are in the same cabin. The seat map looks like this:
With lavatories on both ends of the business class section, the best seats will be in the middle; try rows 10 or 11. Find this aircraft on this route:
Unfortunately, China Eastern does not offer a premium economy seat on flights to/from the United States.
China Eastern consistently offers some of the cheapest economy class fares on transpacific travel, so it is absolutely worthwhile to consider them for economy flights.
Our top choice here is the A330, which has the most spacious seats and the most favorable seating configuration.
The A330 features economy seats in a 2-4-2 configuration. The seats are 18″ in width and 32″-33″ in pitch, arranged as follows:
The best seats to reserve are the side seats in row 31, which are located at the exit row and galleys. Since there are no lavatories, the only noise you’ll hear is from the galley.
You can find this seating arrangement on the following route:
China Eastern’s 777-300ER has a very dense 3-4-3 seating arrangement, with seats measuring 17″ wide and 32″-33″ in pitch. This makes the 777-300ER economy seats an inch narrower than those on the A330.
There are a total of 258 seats, each with 6″ of recline. The seat map looks as follows:
The best seats are going to be 32B/C or 32J/K due to legroom from the exit row. Passengers should avoid 32A and 32L due to the exit row protrusion, which will severely limit your legroom.
If those seats are already taken, seats in row 61 are solid as well. Specifically, 61B/C and 61J/K are going to the next best seats if you can overlook the proximity of the lavatories.
You’ll find this seat map on China Eastern’s 777-300ER, which is flown on these routes to/from the United States:
All in all, the impressive first and business class seats on China Eastern catch many points and miles enthusiasts off-guard — though they don’t have the glamorous reputation of airlines like Singapore Airlines or Cathay Pacific.
But overlooking China Eastern as a premium cabin option redeemable with points and miles would be a mistake, since it is one of the few airlines that offer a double bed in first class. Furthermore, the business class seats are very competitive.
Even in economy, if you can take advantage of China Eastern’s affordable prices to Asia, you can have a decent experience (if you select the right seats!). Now, you have the inside scoop on China Eastern’s U.S. routes.
In terms of the cheapest price, Japan Airlines is the winner. Their sole transfer partner is Marriott, and they employ a distance-based partner award chart. One-way flights in first class cost 120,000 miles one-way, and round-trip flights from San Francisco and Los Angeles cost 165,000 miles. Round-trip flights from New York City and Chicago cost 190,000 miles.
Another option is Korean Air SKYPASS, but their only transfer partner is Marriott Bonvoy as well. Additionally, you’ll be restricted to round-trip fares, incur more expensive award redemption prices, and pay for fuel surcharges. Korean Air charges 200,000 miles round-trip.
Another option is Qantas, which also uses a distance-based partner award chart. The mileage prices are one-way, which means you’ll need to double the miles for a round-trip flight. One-way flights from Los Angeles and San Francisco cost 134,000 Qantas miles, whereas one-way flights from New York and Chicago cost 152,000 Qantas miles.
Japan Airlines charges 80,000 miles one-way for flights in business class. They charge 110,000 miles for round-trip flights from San Francisco and Los Angeles, as opposed to the 130,000 miles for round-trip flights from New York and Chicago. One-way flights from Honolulu cost 60,000 miles, whereas round-trip costs 85,000 miles!
Other options include Korean Air, which charges 155,000 miles round-trip, or Delta SkyMiles, which charges 85,000 miles one-way. Air France/KLM Flying Blue is an alternative, but is not attractive due to the minimum cost of 115,000 miles one-way.
Qantas is not a great option, costing at least 92,000 miles one-way and up to 104,000 miles one-way.
China Eastern doesn’t offer a premium economy cabin on their flights to/from the United States, unfortunately.
Generally speaking, Delta SkyMiles and Air France will be the best options. Air France can be as low as 34,500 miles one-way, and Delta charges 35,000 miles one-way.
Japan Airlines has the cheapest round-trip prices, ranging from 47,000 miles from Hawaii to 70,000 miles one-way from New York City and Chicago. However, their lack of transfer partners makes this option less attractive.
Korean Air charges 90,000 miles round-trip, whereas Qantas ranges from 42,000 miles (Hawaii) to 56,000 miles (New York City/Chicago) one-way.
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