It has been four years since I last flew to China on Air China. The reason, I have to confess, is that the last time I flew the experience was not nearly as good as on British Airways or Virgin. However on my latest trip, as I was a guest of Chinese organisations, they wanted me to travel Air China and, as the experience had certainly not been unsafe, merely a little basic, I agreed.
What a transformation I discovered. There are still some improvements to be made - seats in business class still do not go completely flat, unlike BA or Virgin, but they almost do and it is perfectly possible to sleep. The Air China website is still slightly clunky compared to BA or Virgin but not really difficult to use. The standard of service was however as good as BA or Virgin, and the food, in my opinion, better. I personally would now make the choice entirely based on price and convenience of flight times - those intent on the highest quality of service in business class and first class, rather than convenience of flight time, would choose BA or Virgin but the gap has narrowed very considerably. Certainly for any significant price advantage, in any class, I would now choose Air China.
Rather intrigued by this dramatic improvement I consulted that normally least enthralling piece of reading, the inflight magazine - in this case Wings of China (August 2008). This yielded the following information.