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China Eastern's busy Sydney-Shanghai route is set for a stunning upgrade as the airline swings its Airbus A350 into Aussie skies.
As of March 31, the SkyTeam member's daily flight MU561/MU562 service will shift from an older Airbus A330 to a factory-fresh A350.
Business travellers will be the big winners, as the A350 spots an impressive business class cabin where sliding privacy doors convert seats into suites – see our original story below for full details.
The seats themselves are exceptionally well-appointed, offering plenty of personal space plus direct aisle access for every passenger – and of course, a fully lie-flat bed for napping on either leg of the 10½ hour trip.
This is the same seating as on China Eastern's Boeing 787 Dreamliners, which will begin flying between Melbourne and Shanghai on February 1.
PREVIOUS | China Eastern is joining the growing number of airlines adding private business class suites to its flagship jets, and its newest suite-equipped Airbus A350 is bound for Sydney in 2019.
The Shanghai-hubbed airline took delivery of the first of 20 new A350s this week, with two more due by year's end and the rest stretching through to 2022 – and China Eastern tells Australian Business Traveller that its Sydney-Shanghai route will feature an Airbus A350 in 2019.
Each of the 40 business class seats are framed by high walls and a sliding privacy door.
The seats themselves are based on the Vantage XL platform from Thompson Aero, which is already flying in various forms as the Qantas Boeing 787 Business Suite and Delta Air Line's A350 Delta One suite, and could also find itself at the pointy end of Delta's forthcoming Airbus A330neo fleet.
For China Eastern's A350, there's an additional business suite twist: four seats at the very front row of the business class cabin adopt the enhanced Vantage First design, similar in some ways to the bespoke version of that seat created for Malaysia Airlines' A350 first class.
China Eastern described these four berths as 'super premium' suites with a mini-bar and 32 inch touchscreen displays, and it's expected they will sell with a suitable premium mark-up.
Additionally, the middle seats in this front row are being marketed as an ‘Air Living Room’ where up to four travellers can share the same space.
No doubt inspired by Qatar Airways' Qsuites 'quads', China Eastern says these primo business class bunks "allow flight crew to reshape the space into a community area that up to four people can comfortably use for a business meeting or family gathering."
Converting the middle seats into an ad-hoc meeting room (also suitable for poker) is achieved by folding out the meal tables of each seat...
... and then lifting them up to bring them together into a single wide surface.
Finally, the top of each suite's ottoman is flipped to turn it into a padded seatbelt-equipped companion bench.
High-tech touches including broadband WiFi, a tap-to-buy NFC panel for inflight shopping with your smartphone or credit card, and Bluetooth headphones.