Flying China Eastern

China Eastern is an airline based out of mainland China with its primary hub in Shanghai. China Eastern operates direct flights from Toronto and Vancouver to Shanghai and can be used to connect to a number of Asian destinations from Canada/US, generally Japan, Korea, China, India and most countries in southeast Asia at an economical price.

China Eastern operates a very new Boeing 777 on its Toronto and Vancouver segments, complete with lie-flat business class seats, in-seat tv entertainment (TV, movies, music, usually with hardcoded Chinese subtitles). China Eastern also operates Shanghai Airlines, a subsidiary with service to specific markets.

Generally, I have no issues with China Eastern. The price is great, attaining elite status with Delta is easy and China Eastern has lots of connections to places I enjoy travelling to in Asia.


China Eastern’s flights to most of Asia and SE Asia are regularly one of the lowest and there are frequent unadvertised price drops to destinations in Southeast Asia and India for <$800 for a return trip.


Generally, it is difficult to select seats for China Eastern flights on the OTA websites. However, it is possible to select seats in advance on the China Eastern (Canada) website, but the website can be difficult to navigate. If you have any dietary restrictions (eg. vegetarian), you must note this more than 24 hours in advance through their website.

Shanghai Hub at Shanghai Pu Dong Airport

China Eastern and the other SkyTeam airlines are located in Terminal 1 at PVG, a very nice and new looking facility. There is free WiFi in the airport that can be accessed by either providing a phone number for SMS confirmation, or by scanning your passport at a kiosk (which are incredibly difficult to locate).

For some reason, every experience I’ve had with China Eastern involved embarking and disembarking in Shanghai onto the tarmac and taking a bus into the terminal, which adds to your connection time. Additionally, the passengers are never too good at queuing, so boarding a plane can be quite interesting. Fortunately, if you’re a premium or SkyPriority passenger, you get bussed in first.

Connecting passengers do have to go through security again so avoid buying alcohol from duty-free at your origin if your final destination is not Shanghai. Also, note that there is a 100Wh restriction on Li-ion batteries and all Li-ion batteries must be in your carry-on and packaged separately (I bag each battery in a ziploc bag).

Transit Visa

Passengers of certain nationalities connecting through Shanghai may qualify for a transit visa, which may allow up to a 144 hour stay in Shanghai. Note that the transit visa can only be used if your onward flight is to a different country than the one you departed from. Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan count as ‘countries’ for the purposes of this visa, despite the obvious political issues calling any of these a country.


Shanghai’s Pu Dong Airport is very well connected to transit - a maglev train that runs at 301 km/h covers most of the distance and connects the airport to Line 2 and 7 of Shanghai’s extensive metro network at Longyang Rd. Station, with the first train departing the airport at 7:02 AM. It’s possible to travel into the city and grab a meal or see some of the city’s sights in a 5-6 hour layover. However, leave extra time as customs and security can take some time to clear when trying to get back airside. At the time of writing, a roundtrip maglev ticket with 24 hour of unlimited metro use is 85 CNY. The maglev train has baggage racks and plenty of seating.

The airport is also connected to the city by Line 2 of the metro, which is the more economical option for getting into the city. 4-car trains run from the airport, and a transfer is required to continue on the rest of Line 2 at Guanglan station.


China Eastern has a very nice private carpeted check-in area at Terminal 1 at Check-In Row E for all passengers who are SkyTeam Elite or higher. This area has snacks, comfortable seating areas and lots of staff to help out. In contrast to other SkyTeam airlines, SkyPriority is extended to SkyTeam Elite members at their hub airport (whereas, other SkyTeam airlines typically only offer SkyPriority to SkyTeam Elite Plus members only). In Toronto, the very short SkyPriority queue had chocolates and small biscuits.


China Eastern’s planes are generally quite new, with a high level of recent investment resulting in a lot of shiny new metal. The seats are comfortable and have a fair bit of recline. On the Boeing 777-300ER used to fly the PVG-YYZ, China Eastern (unfortunately) runs the plane in a 3x4x3 configuration making it a bit tight width-wise. Length-wise, the plane is comfortable enough. If flying solo, an aisle seat is recommended as the middle and window seats have a shared underseat storage area.

On a recent A330 from Delhi, we were pleased to find the cabin in a 2-4-2 configuration, great for travelling couples!

Planes with the in-flight entertainment system also have a powerplug between every seat (eg. 2 power plugs for 3 seats). A USB plug is built into the in-flight entertainment system. It appears that there is some way that the IFE can read from the USB drive, but I have not figured out how it works and it’s currently best used as a USB charger.

The seats are equipped with a reading light, but do not include a nozzle for airflow.

Don’t Damage the Plane!

Every flight is preceded by a prerecorded man’s voice who claims he’s the officer in charge of security and tells everyone in English not to damage the plane or cause a disturbance. I can only assume that the same message is played in Mandarin Chinese.

I once had the honour of sitting in an exit row seat. When I snatch an exit row seat on Delta, typically the flight attendant had pro-actively placed the safety pamphlet on the seat, asked us read it when we board and then asked us if we were willing and able to assist in the event of an emergency. My safety briefing on a recent November 2017 flight (a very unexciting Boeing 737 on Shanghai Airlines) consisted of “Don’t Touch.” despite the fact that the emergency exit already had various parts removed.


Service in English can be limited depending on the route flown and the flight attendants flying the route. Meals are generally described as “chicken or pork” with little description and flight attendants spend much of their time enforcing rules in a rather terse way (eg. “Put your seatbelt on” repeated many times to my sleeping seatmate until he woke up). They also spend a lot of effort and attention in enforcing the Chinese aviation rule that no phones can be powered on in flight.


Most of China Eastern’s flights come with touchscreen in-flight entertainment built into the back of the seat. The entertainment system is controlled by touchscreen and/or the provided remote. The headphone jack is two-prong and China Eastern has provided free earbuds on all flights in my experience. If you prefer to use your own, you could try digging up an old two-prong adapter but I am not sure if it will work.

There is a decent selection of Hollywood and international movies, TV shows and music. There is a more extensive library of Chinese movies and shows available.

On our most recent flight (Dec 2017), the selection included Dunkirk, Baby Driver, Spider-Man: Homecoming, War for the Planet of the Apes, The Oddsockeaters among many others.

The movies and shows include hardcoded Chinese subtitles, with no option for subtitles in other languages. They are prefaced by advertisements, but since the advertisements are in the same video file as the movie, it is possible to simply fastforward or skip the commercials entirely. Like many other airlines, it can be difficult to hear what is being said because of the cheap earbuds provided and the cabin noise from the airplane.

In-Flight WiFi

China Eastern offers free in-flight WiFi on their flights between Shanghai and Canada. While all literature has indicated that this is a trial to provide free Internet service worth 268 yuan, the program has been running for over a year at time of writing.

More detailed instructions on accessing the WiFi can be found in a separate post I will post soon, which may require registration before your flight. There are a limited number of users permitted to access the WiFi on a flight and access requires registration of your seat number and last 4 digits of your ID (generally, your passport).

Note that as China Eastern is a Chinese airline, internet access is restricted by the Great Firewall of China (eg. Google, Facebook are blocked). Bing works if you need a search engine while flying.

Rewards Program

China Eastern’s rewards system is called Eastern Miles which provides tiered earnings starting at 30% for most flights (earnings chart). Generally, it has been difficult to find information online in English about their rewards system. As China Eastern is a member of the SkyTeam airline alliance, miles flown on China Eastern can be accrued on most SkyTeam airlines’ reward programs including Delta SkyMiles.

China Eastern Earnings on Delta

Most China Eastern flights booked in economy are a fare code that provides 100% MQM earnings toward elite status (eg. T). On the connecting flights, sometimes your flight may have a B fare code that provides MQM earnings at 150% of the distance flown. Previously, Skymiles members earned nothing for flying on a Q fare code - this has changed as of Oct 29, 2017. See the earnings chart for full details on earning toward elite status.