Review: China Southern A320 Economy Class (KMG-LJG)

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Review Overview

Kunming-Lijiang hops don't really vary from airline to airline, though China Southern provided a stress-free experience. I quite enjoyed that this was technically a 3-class aircraft, despite it being a regional A320.


Once through to the departures area, I marveled at the Kunming Airport departures hall, which is beautifully modern, features lots of natural light, and slightly gaudy with the overuse of red and gold finishes.

Kunming Airport Departures Hall

While our gate was on a lower level, we were able to access an upper level with access to more gates and shops.

Kunming Airport Departures Hall

Kunming Airport Departures Hall

I spotted a rather deserted noodle restaurant and ordered a bowl of noodles which was served with scallions and blood pudding, among other ingredients. It was flavourful, though the richness of the blood pudding was a little too much for me.

Kunming Airport Departures Hall Big Pot Rice Noodles

By boarding time, a queue was formed to board our flight to Lijiang, though as a group we were given the opportunity to board first. I was excited to reboard the China Southern A320 and get to Lijiang for some rest.

China Southern Airbus A320 Kunming Airport

China Southern Flight 3451
Saturday, October 21, 2017
Origin: Kunming (KMG) Gate: 23 Dep: 17:20 (17:20)
Destination: Lijiang (LJG) Gate: 61 Arr: 18:15
Duration: 55 min (55 min)
Aircraft: Airbus A320 Reg: B-6813
Seat: 50A (Economy Class)

Once aboard I found myself in the business class cabin, which features recliner seats in a 2-2 configuration.

China Southern Airbus A320 Business Class

I thought the seats looked pretty good for a regional narrowbody business class product, and I loved the look of the plush pillows provided. I probably would enjoy flying this business class product on a 2-3 hour flight.

China Southern Airbus A320 Business Class

Right behind the business class cabin was a four-row extra-legroom economy cabin, which China Southern brands as SkyPearl Economy. I didn’t like the pattern on the seats – I’d expect them on a padded chair at my grandma’s house – though I’m impressed that China Southern offers extra legroom economy on a narrowbody aircraft. The seat pitch stands at 36″, and each person is offered a free pillow and blanket upon boarding.

China Southern Airbus A320 SkyPearl Economy Class

Behind SkyPearl Economy was economy class, where we were seated on this leg of the journey. We were greeted by the same crew – I appreciated that they moved aside during my photos, particularly during my photoshoot of the empty business class cabin.

China Southern Airbus A320 Economy Class

Once again, I was assigned seat 50A, which I stuck to for this leg of the journey (it was a fuller flight than the first leg from Shenzhen).

China Southern Airbus A320 Economy Class Seats 50A, B, C

I reacquainted with the legroom offered, which wasn’t much (seat pitch is 30″). I wasn’t cramped in the back row on the first leg where I had the seat beside me to stretch my legs, though the same can’t be said about this seat.

China Southern Airbus A320 Economy Class Legroom

I was impressed that we were handed a bottle of water, which was also the case on our flight from Kunming to Lijiang on China Eastern (interestingly the Hong Kong to Kunming leg didn’t offer a bottle of free water, nor did the Shenzhen to Kunming leg prior to this flight).

China Southern Airbus A320 Economy Class Water Bottle

Parked next to us was another China Southern A320.

China Southern Airbus A320 Kunming Airport

While the cabin was full, it filled up really quickly, and by 5:20 PM we were ready to leave. My (limited) experience with Chinese carriers has been rather punctual, contrary to my expectations (I guess that’s just because I’ve never flown on a Chinese widebody aircraft).

China Southern Airbus A320 Economy Class Cabin

The captain came on the speaker to explain our flying time of 50 minutes. At this point we started taxiing out to the runway, getting some pretty nice airport views in the process.

Views upon Taxiing Kunming Airport

Views upon Taxiing Kunming Airport

We taxiied past some interesting traffic, including a Hongtu Airlines A321, Juneyao Airlines and Shenzhen Airlines A320s, as well as OKAir and Lucky Air 737s.

Hongtu Airlines Airbus A321 Kunming Airport

Shenzhen Airlines Airbus A320 Kunming Airport

OKAir Boeing 737 Kunming Airport

Juneyao Airlines Airbus A320 and Air China Airbus A319 Kunming Airport

Lucky Air Boeing 737 Kunming Airport

The cabin was then readied for takeoff, where we were asked to put away our mobile phones once again, and told to put our seats upright, etc.

China Southern Airbus A320 Economy Class Upon Takeoff

We lined up along runway 21, and soon rocketed above Kunming Airport on our 200-mile flight to Lijiang.

Taxiing Kunming Airport

Runway Kunming Airport

During our climbout we had awesome views over Kunming Airport – what a stunning terminal!

Takeoff Kunming Airport

Kunming doesn’t have the most attractive skyline, however, so I was looking forward to getting better aerial shots of Lijiang.

Takeoff Kunming Airport

During our cruise time, we were not allowed to close the window shades – the crew explicitly came over 25 minutes into the flight, when the sun was blaring into our window, and asked us to leave our window shades open for “safety purposes”. Okay then…

Cruising Kunming to Lijiang

Soon we began our descent into Lijiang, where we had a beautiful view of the city’s rooftops. It was a cloudy day, which only added to the beauty of the mountaintops, in my opinion.

Cruising Kunming to Lijiang

Landing Lijiang Airport

Landing Lijiang Airport

Landing Lijiang Airport

As we approached, we were able to see more of Lijiang’s infrastructure, consisting of small clusters of settlements connected by one long highway.

Landing Lijiang Airport

Landing Lijiang Airport

Soon we landed at Lijiang Airport, and I was happy to have pretty good views of the airport on the left.

Touchdown at Lijiang Airport

Lijiang Airport has a peculiar shape that somehow mimics the type of housing that you normally see around the area, which I found pretty cute.

Views upon Taxiing Lijiang Airport

We taxied into our gate, where I had a look at the surrounding traffic. Lijiang Airport is quite small so basically all aircraft we saw were narrowbodies. This included a retro-looking Sichuan Airlines A319.

Views upon Taxiing Lijiang Airport

Sichuan Airlines Airbus A319 Lijiang Airport

As we pulled into our gate we had a nice view of a China Eastern 737 pulling back, which brought back memories of my previous experience at Lijiang Airport, where we flew back to Hong Kong on a brand new 737 outfitted with the new Boeing Sky Interior.

China Eastern Boeing 737 Lijiang Airport

As we alighted, we were brought into an open air arrivals hall which led to the baggage reclamation area. I always love a bit of fresh air after flying (even though our flight time for this leg was short, we technically hadn’t been exposed to fresh air for 5-6 hours), so I appreciated the hallway.

Walking to Immigration Lijiang Airport

While fresh air was cool (in fact, it was pretty cold), I was really excited to grab (mostly) unobstructed photos of our beautiful A320 by pointing my camera down from above the glass barrier.

China Southern Airbus A320 Lijiang Airport

China Southern Airbus A320 Lijiang Airport

From there our luggage arrived after around half an hour of waiting. We had a slight conundrum with our luggage tags before we left the baggage reclamation area, which I won’t rehash since I’ve written about it before. However, once that was dealt with we were set on our one-hour bus ride to our hostel for the night.

Bottom Line: China Southern A320 Economy Class

On the Kunming to Lijiang route I can’t really say anything negative about this flight. It was annoying to have the window shades up for the entirety of the 50-minute journey (since we were at cruise altitude with the sun blaring into our faces for most of the journey), but I’m sure the crew have their reasons for that. I was also slightly taken aback by the luggage tag situation, but at least we were let through in the end.

However I was happy to travel on a reasonably new plane on this flight (it was a considerably more pleasant experience than the rickshaw experience we’d had on China Eastern on the same route two years prior, though their newer planes have adjustable headrests, which I’d appreciate), and the crew were well-intentioned, despite being bound by asinine policies.

China Southern and China Eastern are two of the seven airlines that operate the Kunming to Lijiang route, and I can’t see how any of these airlines can be too far above the rest, so I’d book this route based on price. While some of China Eastern’s newer 737s have adjustable headrests in economy, it’s a complete lottery draw with which 737 you get, so I wouldn’t bet on them offering a better experience.

Read more from this trip:

What’s your favourite airline for traveling between Kunming and Lijiang?

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