Kim Knight flies China Airlines from Sydney to Taipei.
Class: Premium Economy.
Flight time: It was 9hr 45m, according to the ticket, but I'm pretty sure we made it in nine.
My seat: I was super-excited when I flew the first leg of this trip (Auckland to Sydney) in Air New Zealand's squishy black leather Premium Economy seat, but China Airlines opts for a model that slides and reclines within a fixed moulding. There are foot rests, but the recline shortens your leg room and you just can't get quite as laid back as you'd like.
Fellow passengers: The overhead lockers were stuffed with a mix of duty free bags, briefcases and backpacks, so I'm guessing holidaymakers, business types and seasoned travellers who understand you can fit more long-haul creature comforts in a sensible pack than a fashionable handbag.
How full: The cabin was a two-three-two configuration and although every row contained passengers, we all had a spare seat beside us (unfortunately the armrests are fixed, so there was no stretching out sideways).
Entertainment: Newish releases included Black Panther and I, Tonya, but I wish I'd had the patience for subtitles because there was a large selection of foreign language films (mostly Chinese) available for viewing on the 12-inch screen. The music collection was a bit limited. Radiohead is my go-to zone-out plane band, however I could only find one album (Kid A). The tray table is really big, so if you want to work or take your own device, there is tonnes of room, plus a dedicated light on the side of your headrest.
The service: Hot towels, seaweed and wasabi rice snacks, warm bread rolls — there were moments when Premium Economy felt very premium indeed. I counted only two water and juice top-ups once the lights went out, but staff were happy to provide extras on request. An amenities kit included lip balm, an excellent moisturiser and cinnamon-flavoured toothpaste.
There were no socks, but one-size-fits-all (read: no one) slippers were available.
Food and drink: There was a very fresh salad on every lunch tray, plus a choice of chicken and rice or beef and potatoes. The cutlery was plastic, and pudding was a mini chocolate bar and icecream (salted caramel or mango — a little icy, but refreshing). It was around 8.30pm when we landed and, thus, a little strange to be served omelettes and yoghurt for our second meal. "Did I sleep through my stop?" asked one passenger.
The toilets: Flight staff kept the toilets impeccably clean and, in a first for me on a plane, the hand soap had not been watered down. My T-shirt escaped its usual splattering.
Luggage: One 7kg carry-on and 35kg of checked baggage.
The airport experience: Air New Zealand and China Airlines are both members of the Star Alliance. Although my luggage was checked through from Auckland, I had to pick up my boarding pass for Taipei at the gate in Sydney — about a 20-minute walk from my arrival point. Landing in Taipei was a breeze, with good signage and no crowds to negotiate.
The bottom line: The best "Economy" experience I've had in longhaul. I wasn't completely sold on the slide-and-tilt recline but it was still a far cry from the elbow-encroaching hell of sitting next to a stranger in regular Economy.