China Southern promises better meals, more Aussie crew

By David Flynn, October 28 2013
China Southern promises better meals, more Aussie crew

China Southern will upgrade its inflight dining and employ more Australian crew as the airline continues its push into the local market with today’s launch of a daily Airbus A380 service between Sydney and Guangzhou.

China Southern CEO Tan Wangeng said the changes were being made based on feedback which indicated that travellers were “unhappy” with these two core aspects of the airline’s flights.

“We have decided to upgrade our inflight catering and also the wine, based on passenger feedback” Tan told Australian Business Traveller, although he declined to name the old or new catering firms because “it would not be polite.”

China Southern’s level of inflight catering has often been the subject of criticism from Australian passengers, ranging from the quality of the meals to a Chinese preference for beer and wine to be served at room temperature rather than chilled, which Tan described as a “cultural difference.”

Tan said that another critical factor exposed in passenger feedback has been “the communication skills of our flight attendants” in English.

This has led to China Southern recruiting two dozen Australian flight attendants, with two of the Aussie crew assigned to each A380 service on the Sydney-Guangzhou route (one in business class, and one in economy) and one on each A330 flight.

One of the A380's Aussie crew is Caroline Piotrowska, from China Southern's first intake of 13 cabin crew. (But don't let the European looks and Polish surname fool you – thanks to a Chinese mother she’s fluent in Mandarin.)

China Southern plans to hold further recruitment drives to ensure that all flights between Australia and Guangzhou have at least one Australian crew member. 

Up next: Adelaide, Christchurch

The airline also has its eyes on Adelaide as its next Australian destination, as well as Christchurch in New Zealand.

“But our priority right now is to strengthen the market (in current destinations) before we try other destinations” Tan said.

“If we target 20 percent annual growth, our current load factor on Australian routes is 85 percent, so our next step will be to fill up that unsold 15 percent first.”

Tan is also eying expansion into Europe, but sees the airline’s first priority as increasing flights on its current routes, although a second daily flight between Guangzhou and London is on the cards.

“For example, we can also consider double daily flights for Guangzhou-London, one in the morning and one in the evening, to also provide better connections with our flights from Australia.”

More flights means a bigger fleet

To accommodate that growth, while keeping a lid on fuel costs, Tan said he is open to considering more Airbus A380s and Boeing 787s, and would even not rule out the possibility of Airbus A350s joining the fleet.

“We currently have 540 aircraft in our fleet, with an annual growth rate of 10 percent, so we have 50 additional aircraft joining our fleet every year” Tan said.

“We are interested in new aircraft types. After some time operating the A380 and Boeing 787 we have realised that these ‘evolved aircraft’ are game changers.”

China Southern also expects to take delivery of its first Boeing 777-300ER in the middle of next year, with the long-range jet being used to launch a Guangzhou-New York service and flagged for additional routes reaching into North America and Europe.

Read: China Southern tags Boeing 787s, 777-300s for Europe, USA expansion

Australian Business Traveller visited Guangzhou and travelled on China Southern's inaugural A380 service to Sydney as a guest of China Southern.

Follow Australian Business Traveller on Twitter: we're @AusBT


David Flynn is the Editor-in-Chief of Executive Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.

China Southern Airlines - Sky Pearl Club

30 Sep 2013

Total posts 11

This airline's customer relations team has to be one of the worst,I still have not had a reply inregards to a complaint lodged for bad service in 2012. Their team seems to be passing the between Guanzhou and New Delhi with no outcome.I for one would never fly with them on this grounds.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

17 Aug 2012

Total posts 2207

Have you followed up?

China Southern Airlines - Sky Pearl Club

30 Sep 2013

Total posts 11

Yes .but no luck.

Wow, 540 aircraft with 50 added per year. That's huge.

KLM - Flying Blue

30 Oct 2013

Total posts 1

Will fly next week from Amsterdam to Auckland, but the return flght Dec 9, will be with de new A380 from Sydney to Guanghzou and forward back to Amsterdam. Will be wachting the promised improvements.

It's good to see they are listening.

Although there are many Aussies who couldn't give two cents about comfort, food and service as long as the air fare is rock bottom cheap, there are people I know who would pay an extra $300-400 to fly Singapore or Emirates to Europe instead of any of the Chinese airlines because of these factors.

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