Date: May 20, 2018
Flight No.: MF806
Route: Vancouver International to Xiamen Gaoqi
Airline: Xiamen Air
Type: Boeing 787-8
While Xiamen Air has been around for more than 30 years, it wasn’t until about three years ago that the airline launched its first intercontinental service connecting its Xiamen base with Amsterdam in the Netherlands.
Since then, using its fleet of Boeing 787-8 and 787-9 aircraft, the airline has expanded its long-haul network to include destinations in Australia, the United States, and Canada. It also plans to launch its second European destination, Paris, at the end of this year.
I had a chance to try the airline flying from Vancouver to Osaka via Xiamen for less than 300 dollars. In this article, I’ll detail the flight economy class flight from Vancouver to Xiamen onboard its 787-8.
Checking-in with Sky Priority
After bidding farewell to Philippe who was staying in Vancouver for a couple more days, I took the SkyTrain to Vancouver airport arriving there just after 10PM. Prior to heading to the check-in counter, I picked up my bag which I left at the luggage storage facility before heading to Nanaimo the day before.
While the economy class check-in queue at Xiamen Air’s counters was fairly long, I was able to use the Sky Priority line thanks to my Delta Gold Medallion status. As such, I had my boarding pass in my hand in no time.
Just as I stepped away from the counter, the staff realized he forgot to give me a lounge invitation, and so he printed one for me – and also reprinted my boarding pass on paper with gold (rather than blue) design.
With the security check deserted and there being no exit immigration in Canada, I was airside in no time. As I still had plenty of time until our delayed boarding time of 1:40AM (the scheduled departure time was 1:20AM), I headed to the Sky Team Lounge.
Boarding Xiamen Air Flight 806
Since at one point, the flight information display said the flight would be on time, I left the lounge at 12:45AM. But, by the time I got to the gate, the departure time reverted back to the delayed 2:30AM and so I went back to the lounge for some more minutes.
I left the lounge again at 1:35AM, and – as initially revised – the boarding started at exactly 1:40AM.
Thanks to Sky Priority, I was one of the first people onboard, and so I had a chance to get some photos of the cabin while it was still empty.
Xiamen Air 787-8s are equipped with 237 seats in three classes including 4 first class seats, 18 flat bed seats, and 215 economy class seats. Unlike the airline’s 787-9 which features reverse herringbone seats, its 787-8s are equipped with seats in a “2-2-2” configuration.
As for the economy class, its split across two cabins and features the 787’s standard “3-3-3” layout. Besides the IFE screens and USB ports, there was also a universal power outlet between each pair of the distinctively blue seats.
I was seated in 63D in the very back of the aircraft, and when I got to my seat, there were a water bottle and a pair of socks in the seat pocket as well as a blanket (not packaged in a bag like with some other airlines) and a fairly nice pillow on the seat. The legroom was decent as well.
Not long after I settled in my seat, one of the cabin attendants approached me saying “excuse me, Sir, you are an elite member so here are slippers and a newspaper for you.” While I did not use the slippers or read the newspaper, I thought it was a nice touch of Xiamen Air to recognize their alliance partners’ elites this way.
Departing Vancouver Onboard a Xiamen Air 787-8
Shortly after 2AM, the cabin manager welcomed us onboard and then, the safety video was played. We were pushed back at 2:11AM – almost an hour behind schedule – and while taxiing to the runway, the cabin crew distributed very low quality earphones.
We took off at 2:29AM, and just after take off, I fell asleep.
Xiamen Air Economy Class Meal Service
I woke up about thirty minutes later, just as the cabin crew was passing through the aisle to start the meal service. While I don’t usually eat at 3AM, I decided to stay awake since it would be a long flight to be hungry on and since I wanted to see what Xiamen Air’s meals are like.
The meal service started with a drink service during which I got Coke Zero. Rather than just giving me a cup of Coke, the friendly attendant handed me the whole can.
As for the main, there was a choice of chicken pasta, fish pasta, or Chinese-style pork with rice. I went with the chicken pasta which came with a side of bean salad, cheese cake, and bread roll with butter.
While the chicken was tasty, there was nowhere near enough sauce. As such, it felt like eating a chicken dish and plain pasta. The salad which came with a spicy dressing as well as the cheese cake were excellent. But, the bread roll was so dry and hard I didn’t even bother opening the package.
The tray was cleaned up around 4:15AM – one hour after the service started – and at the same time a pack of nuts and dried plum was provided.
Xiamen Air’s In-Flight Entertainment System
While waiting for the meal service to reach my row, I spent some time going through Xiamen Air’s in-flight entertainment system. While there was a remote control in the seat back as well, given that the screen was fairly responsive, I used the touchscreen to control the system instead.
In terms of content, there was a decent selection of movies. Just as an example, the Hollywood category had as much as 40 movies in it. There was also plenty of western music. On the other hand, the TV series available were mostly Chinese.
While there was an ad playing before the video content, it was easily skippable with a single touch, and so it was not as annoying as the ads that either cannot be skipped or need to be rewinded through.
Other than that, the IFE system also included several games, as well as the typical airshow and general information about the airline.
Overall, the content was decent and on par with many other airlines. And, certainly way more than one needs on an overnight flight.
More Middle-of-the-Night Food
With the meal service done and IFE system explored, I watched 12 Strong. Then, I fell asleep only to wake up at about 2AM Xiamen time – just when we were flying over Japan and the crew was handing out drinks and sandwiches.
I consider myself lucky to be able to sleep for hours at a time without any issues even in economy class without any travel pillows or sleeping aid.
About thirty minutes later, the lights were switched on and the cabin crew made an announcement that we would be arriving in Xiamen in about three hours and that shortly they would be serving breakfast.
The breakfast service started around 3AM – yes, the same time as the previous meal service except, Xiamen time – and first, a lukewarm towel was handed out. Then, a drink service followed. As the crew ran out of Coke Zero, I went for Sprite.
Finally, the meal itself was handed out. This time, the choices were omelette and Chinese chicken fried noodles. The meal came with some fruits, a cake, a yogurt, and a croissant all of which were fairly tasty.
Landing at Xiamen Gaoqi International Airport
Not long after the breakfast service finished, around 4:45AM, we started our initial descent. Just some minutes later, the crew made an announcement that we would be landing soon and that it was 28 degrees Celsius in Xiamen.
The seatbelt signs were switched back on at 5:22AM, and at 5:35AM we landed at Xiamen Gaoqi International Airport.
The flight came to an end when we reached our parking gate at 5:41AM – half an hour behind schedule. I disembarked the aircraft and headed into the terminal wondering what I would do during my nine-hour-long transit.
Xiamen Airlines 787-8 Economy Class Summary
Given that the ticket was almost half the price of all the other options I had to fly between Vancouver and Japan, there is nothing I can complain about. Xiamen Airlines provided for a standard long-haul economy class flight.
The meals were nothing to write home about but decent enough, the in-flight entertainment options were more than sufficient, and the seats were comfortable enough.
One thing that could use some improvement, though, is the transfer experience at Xiamen. More about that in the next instalment, though.