Flying within China (within SE Asia) is affordable. My recent round trip from Hangzhou to Xi’an was 1170 yuan ($195 CDN). Each of my flight included a drink service, a meal service then another drink service. This is way better than anything I get when I fly within Canada and United States in economy class.
I have been on 3 major China airliners: Air China, China Eastern and China Southern. All of these airliners are very friendly and professional. The planes I flew were the Airbus’ A319/320/321 narrow body type and each flight lasted about 2 hours.
It’s time to compare these airliners on their domestic inflight food given that other areas like checking in, boarding and so forth are on par with each other. This ranking is only of my experience so it’s bias as my bias taste buds can be
#1 China Southern
The best inflight food I ever had was when I flew from Hangzhou to Shenzhen. I had sweet & sour fish with steam rice and vegetable. The fish was tender and with crispy batter. The sweet and sour sauce was not over powering. The steam rice was hot and moist. There were plenty of drinks to choose but I usually ask for tea and water when I’m flying.
On the flight back from Shenzhen to Hangzhou, the flight was delayed for about an hour due to an issue with the air traffic control (ATC). The airline was kind enough to serve a sandwich, some snacks and drinks while the airplane sat on the tarmac waiting for the ATC to clear it for take off.
#2 Air China
I had breakfast on this airline. The options were a Chinese breakfast or a western breakfast. Since I couldn’t follow the fast Chinese speaking flight attendant, I was given, by default, a Chinese breakfast. I was surprised to get rice porridge (congee), fermented mustard, a hard boiled egg, a bun (doesn’t go with anything) and a tangerine. I like it because that morning was cold and this meal was perfect. As well, it’s kinda of cool to eat rice porridge at 30,000 feet.
My friend Jon, who knows more Chinese than me got a western breakfast. It consisted of scrambled eggs, sausages, bacon and grilled brocoli. Not bad at all.
#3 China Eastern
I have high expectation for this airline and I was hungry on my morning return flight to Hangzhou from Xi’an. What I got was a food box with a mini-bun, a spongy muffin with pink filling that suppose to taste like strawberries, one-gulp size water and a small bag of peanuts. The meal was unexciting and a big let down.