Back in October of last year, I was simply surfing the internet searching for new articles to read about aviation, something I do very often in my free time. It was when I stumbled upon an article about the announcement of a new airline coming to the nearest large airport to my house, SeaTac, which happened to be Xiamen Airlines. The carrier announced a new nonstop service between Seattle and Shenzhen, China, a massive economic hub in southern China positioned just north of Hong Kong and right on the South China Sea.

Intrigued by this new service, I went on and searched up the new flights, which I was astonished to find were only $433 round trip during Spring Break, the nearest time in the future a trip to China would be realistic.

Within days, the tickets were purchased, and this year’s Spring Break destination was a unique one: Shenzhen, China.

Flight Information:

Airline: Xiamen Airlines flight 846

Aircraft: Boeing 787-8 registration B-2768

Times: MF846 Seattle 1:25 p.m. departure -> Shenzhen Bao’an 6:15 p.m. arrival (+1) on April 3rd, 2017

Route: Seattle – Tacoma International Airport (SEA/KSEA) to Shenzhen – Bao’an International Airport (SZX/ZGSZ)

Class / Seat: Economy / Seat 44A

The morning of April 3rd, we arrived at SeaTac with about three hours before departure, the recommended check-in time for international flights. There was hardly any line for check-in, so we had boarding passes distributed and were through security in a matter of minutes.

Before the flight, some plane spotting was obviously necessary due to the relatively long (2 1/2 hour) wait before boarding even began. Among the highlights, an All Nippon 787-9, Hainan 787-8, and the Lufthansa 747-400, which are due to leave the fleet this year.

Hainan Airlines Boeing 787-8 sits at the S gates in SeaTac before departing to Beijing later. (Photo: Max Trimm / Layoverhub)
All Nippon Airways 787-9 pulls into the gate area at SeaTac. (Photo: Max Trimm / Layoverhub)

After spotting for all of two hours, it was time to head down to gate A12, the designated departure gate for Xiamen Airlines at SEA. Boarding commenced 2 minutes early, which lead to a departure a minute earlier than scheduled. Quite impressive for a long-haul flight! You can watch the takeoff video below:

About an hour after departure, I spotted a Japan Airlines 787 flying between San Diego and Tokyo. It was awesome to see a plane so close in such a remote part of the world! (Photo: Max Trimm / Layoverhub)

The first impressions of the cabin were very good, unsurprisingly. The cabin had a very nice vibe with traditional Chinese music playing during boarding, kind flight crew, and the bright blue colors of the cabin.

The economy class seat on the 787. Awesome colors! (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Today’s flight was scheduled at 12 hours and 50 minutes, but due to some headwinds over the Pacific the in-flight entertainment flight tracker showed todays’ 6,500-mile journey taking us just over 13 hours. The flight plan took us north over Ketchikan and Anchorage, Alaska, then over the Arctic Circle before turning south over eastern Russia, and Chinese cities like Harbin, Beijing, Tongliao, and Guangzhou.

The actual route MF846 took on my flight. (Photo: FlightAware)

Upon takeoff, the first drinks were served 35 minutes into the flight followed by the first meal service around 10 minutes later, in which I selected the Chicken Fungus / Mixed Bell Pepper / Japanese Rice meal with the Grilled Chicken Slice / Cherry Tomato appetizer and Coconut Passion Cake dessert with a roll on the side. This meal was quite good! The chicken was moist, and everything was warm.

The chicken fungus meal. Despite the name, it was quite tasty!

For the first third of the flight, I was able to catch up on some sleep and watch some movies. The movie selection on Xiamenair was quite small, with only about 15 movies to choose from. I would much prefer to have streaming or more movie choice for such a long flight.

After about 11 hours, we were served our second meal, in this case dinner, in which I selected the Stir Fried Pork / Vegetables / Braised Egg Noodle meal with Tuna Fish Salad, Fresh fruits, and Strawberry chocolate cake on the side with a pretzel roll and yogurt. This was also tasty! The noodles were very good in particular.

The “dinner” meal. Featuring stir fried pork, preserved vegetables, and braised egg noodles, with a side of a pretzel roll, yogurt, strawberry cake, and fish salad. We were fed well!

Around 5:45 p.m. local, we flew over the massive urban sprawl of Guangzhou, carried out some necessary turns for aircraft spacing, and finally touched down 10 minutes early! We had a very smooth touchdown with a surprisingly quite clear sunset.

All in all, it was a great experience for my first B787 flight. Xiamen Airlines is definitely an airline I would fly longhaul with again, and I was very impressed with the professionalism of the cabin crew. The food was tasty, the seats comfortable, and the environment very relaxed. The only negative thing I would have to comment about is the lack of inflight entertainment choices on the PTV’s. For flights that take sometimes over 13 hours, it is good to have selection, and selection definitely lacked on the Xiamenair IFE system.

Shenzhen is an incredible city, with a booming electronics and financial scene. Public transport is incredibly easy and efficient, and the people and cuisine is simply amazing. Despite not being the prime Chinese tourist destination for an American tourist, if you get the chance, check out Shenzhen.