Another airline from China is due to start direct service into Vancouver International Airport and this time it is perhaps from a lesser known airline Xiamen Air. Previously known as Xiamen Airlines with the code MF, the airline has recently renamed itself as Xiamen Air with a new logo and refreshed cabin crew uniform. They even have a Facebook page of their own.
In a brief, the airline is based in the port city of Xiamen which is one of the largest city of Fujian province though Fuzhou is the provincial capital. The airline has direct services to Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and Jakarta due to the traditional immigrant links between overseas Chinese immigrants in Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia. While its fleet use to consist of just single aisle narrow body jets like the 737s, they have a couple of 787s on their fleet and have operated their first long-haul flight to Amsterdam which is a SkyTeam hub in Europe. Starting 25 July, Xiamen Air would fly a direct route between Xiamen and Vancouver, operating the route 3 times weekly on Monday, Thursday and Saturday. The return trip takes place on Tuesday, Friday and Sunday. Coupled with their routes to Singapore and Jakarta, there are some good deals on Business Class especially since the long-haul route will be operated with a 787 that has a full lie-flat seat. The prices starts from around $2,510 for flights from Jakarta and $2,540 from Singapore.
From a sample schedule above, the fare basis of the flight should be in booking class ‘I’ which will earn 130% miles on Air France/KLM Flying Blue. The return flight has a somewhat long layover and that is probably one of the drawbacks. Layovers are even longer if departing out of Jakarta, with more than 7 hour layover on the outbound and up to 12 hours layover on the return. Though these daytime layovers could provide the opportunity for travellers to visit the city of Xiamen which is pretty nice with a few historical sights.
Onboard the regional flights between Singapore/Jakarta and Xiamen, the flights are operated by the 737 so expect the usual regional Business class cabin which is similar to domestic First class in the United States. The long haul flights to Vancouver on the 787 should be fitted with the full lie-flat Business class that China Southern uses on the 787 between Guangzhou and Vancouver.
Later in September, Xiamen Air is expected to fly from Xiamen to Shenzhen to Seattle using the 787. This brings other options for flights to Seattle, though the number of layovers required for this itinerary is a bit brutal. For adventurers, they could be the chance to explore other cities like Fuzhou and Shenzhen along the way and get more miles for the flight. Prices are still similar departing from Singapore/Jakarta and they might be better for travellers who just want to go Seattle and/or Portland without entering Canada.
For a lie-flat seat across the Pacific and additional flights to the Pacific Northwest, Xiamen Air is expanding the number of Business class seats to the US and Canada. They are also cheaper than the competition by at least $800-900, so that certainly makes it pretty good value. Granted they are not premium carriers and the layovers in Xiamen might be long but they do allow for stopovers in China and that could be an opportunity to explore Fujian province, which has some UNESCO sites like the Hakka Tulous about 2 hours from Xiamen.