Flight Test: China Southern business class

Route Sydney to Guangzhou (then to Beijing).

Aircraft Airbus A330-300 Sydney-Guangzhou, A380 Guangzhou-Beijing.

Class Business

Flight time 9hr 15min. The Guangzhou-Beijing leg takes a little more than two hours. (The flight from Sydney is on time but the A380 service a day later from Guangzhou to Beijing is stuck on the tarmac for two hours because of torrential rain near Beijing. Take note: the domestic flight can take longer because Beijing's main airport is well known for congestion.)

Seat width and pitch The 20-inch seats have a 64-inch pitch, and extend to a 160-degree incline for sleeping.

Seat configuration 2-2-2 for 24 business-class seats; premium economy and economy are 2-4-2.

Service Flight attendants are helpful and speak English, Mandarin and Cantonese. You can expect to see more Australia-based cabin crew on flights in coming months.

Food and beverages The seven-course meal includes canapes, hors d'oeuvre (pastrami and mackerel or trout and squid), soup, salad, main (grilled beef fillet or prawn and mussel stir-fry), cheese and dessert (cheesecake). Light meal served shortly before arrival includes pasta, Cantonese dim sum or beef noodle soup.

Entertainment The in-flight entertainment system is a big disappointment, especially for those accustomed to the touch-screen systems of other airlines. Although there's a large collection of Asian films, Western blockbusters number just seven. Likewise, the music collection is small.

Visa Passengers do not require visas if connecting to international flights to destinations outside China. But those wishing to stop over in Guangzhou need to pay $98 for a one-entry tourist visa, which has to be obtained from a Chinese visa centre, consulate or embassy in Australia before departure.

Baggage One piece of cabin luggage weighing seven kilograms; 40 kilograms of check-in baggage (up to 30 kilograms for economy, although it can be reduced to 20 kilograms if it is a sale fare).

Flight frequency China Southern flies from Sydney and Melbourne to Guangzhou, with connecting flights three times a week to London's Heathrow Airport. From next month that will become a daily service. Business fares to Guangzhou are from about $3840 return including tax; and from $850 for economy. Business-class Fares from Sydney-Melbourne to London return are from $5800; from $1600 economy.

Online flychinasouthern.com.

Tested by Matt O'Sullivan, who flew courtesy of China Southern Airlines.

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