Flying halfway around the world can be daunting, exasperating and downright agonizing.
However, if you’re willing to fork over extra cash—or extra miles— you can turn that often-tumultuous experience into an exceptional one that will make traveling to your destination something you anticipate, as opposed to something you have to endure.
On a recent trip to Taipei, I opted to put comfort above everything else and indulged by booking a seat in China Airlines’ business class.
Surprisingly, a ticket in their premium cabin from Charlotte, N.C., with a connection through New York’s JFK was only 80,000 miles, a small price to pay for the luxurious experience that awaited me.
Unlike domestic flights, on which business class simply means boarding early, wider seats, a little more legroom and a couple of complimentary alcoholic beverages, business class on an international flight is an opulent voyage filled with splendor and unprecedented service.
When I connected in JFK, I had more than five hours until my flight to Taipei. At this point, most travelers would become agitated, as trying to stay occupied in an airport for that long is nearly impossible. But thanks to my business class ticket, this layover was anything but typical.
Upon touching down, I headed straight to the Delta Sky Club. I was able to gain entry because I used my Delta Skymiles to pay for my ticket, and Delta and China Airlines are both part of the Sky Team, which allows travelers to gain and use miles under one frequent flyer number.
In the lounge I decompressed on the couch and took full advantage of the complimentary Wi-Fi, buffet and bar. Before I knew it, it was 11:10 p.m., and the Delta lounge was closing at midnight. Because I was flying east, my takeoff time wasn’t until almost two in the morning. So, I freshened up in Delta’s clean powder room before heading out into the terminal to find the China Airlines’ lounge.
There isn’t an actual China Airlines lounge at JFK. However, they have provided their premium passengers access to WingTips, a lounge that accommodates executive and platinum flyers from 11 foreign airlines. Although this lounge is not nearly as large or as functionally designed as Delta’s, it still provided a barrier between me and the usual airport chaos that was taking place outside. I used their Wi-Fi connection to continue surfing the web and prepared myself for my adventure by eating typical, yet authentic, Asian cuisine.
Roughly 10 minutes before we were scheduled to board, I headed toward the departure gate. There I noticed the massive Boeing triple-seven parked at the jet bridge and realized that the nearly 300 people waiting around the gate were all planning to board the same flight.
Immediately after the passengers in wheelchairs and the families with young children, the gate agent announced that business class could board.
Walking down the jet bridge, I followed the fork in the tunnel labeled “sky priority.” That entrance took me directly to the business class door, meaning those seated in economy would not even pass through our cabin.
Upon stepping on the plane, I was greeted by a group of friendly and attentive attendants, ready to make the next 15 hours as enjoyable as they possibly could. They directed me to my seat, where I began preparing myself for takeoff.
China Airlines has two business class cabins on a Boeing triple-seven. They each consist of reverse herringbone seats in a 1-2-1 configuration. In between the cabins there is a beautifully constructed self-serve bar and two lavatories that play music and provide deodorizing room spray with a mesmerizing aroma.
As I pulled out my cosmetic bag filled with my in-flight necessities—fuzzy socks, makeup remover and moisturizer, among other things—the captain walked up to introduce himself and personally welcome me on the flight.
I settled myself in my pod and began exploring its features. On the seat sat a plush comforter, long enough to stretch across my entire body, and a small velvet pillow. As I began opening each of the four compartments that provided more than enough room, the flight attendant assigned to my row—there’s one attendant for each row in each cabin—brought me a steaming hot towel to wipe my hands and face, and a platter topped with various juice options all in stemmed glassware.
Inside the storage compartments I found headphones, a remote to control my TV, slippers, a bottle of water and a small gray two-pocket pouch that contained an eye mask, a toothbrush and toothpaste, a hair brush, lip balm, anti-aging face moisturizer and hand lotion all by Acca Kappa, an Italian beauty company.
The pod was quite spacious and aesthetically pleasing. The light faux-wood paneling covering the armrest and the surrounding walls gave a modern twist to an otherwise traditional Chinese interior. The seats were “lay-flat,” which is exactly what one needs when traveling for such a long period of time.
Once I was settled in my seat, my flight attendant brought me two menus: one for dinner and one for drinks. I was extremely impressed by the wine menu once I realized they offered Pol Roger Champagne—the same bubbly served at the Royal Wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton.
Takeoff was smooth. So smooth I didn’t even think about it. Instead, I focused most of my attention on the entertainment selection as I sat back in my seat. About 30 or 45 minutes into the flight, our four-course dinner of choice was served individually on trays. After watching a movie (one I had once said I wanted to see but never actually did), purchasing the reasonably priced Wi-Fi to work on a few future blog posts, doing a version of my nightly facial routine, taking a rejuvenating snooze (expert tip: try to snag an extra pillow), and eating a full Western-style breakfast (with one of the best pastries I’ve had recently), it was time to prepare to land. I also got to experience my first Eastern-hemisphere sunrise, which was breathtakingly beautiful.
I had hardly anything to complain about.
On the way back to the States, the flight was just as great. However, the part of the experience that exceeded my expectations was that Taipei is the home of the China Airlines flagship lounge.
The airline cements its foothold in the Asian luxury travel market with this alluring rest stop that gives travelers the feeling of resting in an ancient Oriental garden under a giant tree. Of course, this tree has a full self-service bar stocked with exceptionally prepared Asian foods and various teas, juices and alcoholic beverages. There are quiet, comfortable rooms—for those who need sleep or a little privacy, modern-style showers that meet the standard of any four-star hotel, and contemporary lounge areas that are made up of beautifully designed,
It’s simple. All trips to Asia from the U.S. should be in business class on China Air!
Megan Pinckney (@shadesofpinck) is a retired beauty queen turned lifestyle blogger who loves exploring the world
and writing about it.