Air China to hold weekend ‘flash sale’ with bargain fares from the West Coast

Air China will be putting economy seats on sale for the weekend of Aug. 12 through 14, with special deals from two of its West Coast gateways.

The carrier, part of the Star Alliance, will be offering a limited number of round-trip tickets from San Francisco International (SFO) to Beijing’s Capital International Airport (PEK), Wuhan Tianhe International Airport (WUH), Xi’an Xianyang International Airport (XIY), Hangzhou International Airport (HGH), Shenyang Changchun Longjia International Airport (CGQ), Yanji Chaoyangchuan Airport (YNJ) or Harbin Taiping International Airport (HRB). Fares will start at US$499, including taxes.

It will also be offering a limited number of seats from San Jose’s Norm Mineta International Airport (SJC) to Shanghai’s Pudong International Airport (PVG) for the same price.

The $499 promotional fares are good for flights between Oct. 16 and Dec. 31, and exclude departures from Dec. 10 through Dec. 24.

In addition, Air China will be offering a 10 percent discount from the U.S. to mainland China, Hong Kong (HKG) or Taiwan. That discount applies to all routes and all classes, according to the airline’s website, but cannot be combined with the $499 promotional fare.

The carrier also has several other active promotions. From the West Coast, round-trip economy seats are on sale for flights from SJC to PVG for $533. Flights must be booked by Aug. 18 for travel from Sept. 1 through Dec. 9.

Several deals are on offer through Aug. 24 for flights from LAX. To Beijing’s Capital International Airport (BJS), economy seats are on sale for $754. Seats to Indira Gandhi International Airport (DEL) in Delhi are on sale for $646, economy passage to Ninoy Aquino International Airport (MNL) in Manila, Philippines is on sale for $607, and travel to Shanghai’s Hongqiao International Airport (SHA) can be obtained for $609. These promotional fares are for travel from Aug. 21 through Dec. 9.

Business-class seats are also on sale from SJC to PVG for $4,514, round trip. Travel must be between Sept. 1 and Dec. 9.

The carrier is also offering special fares from New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) to SHA for $610 and to Guangzhou’s Baiyun International Airport (CAN) for $610. Fares are on sale through Aug. 31 and flights must be completed by Dec. 11.

Like many airlines, foreign and domestic, Air China has adopted the practice of charging passengers for reserving bulkhead or exit row seats. Except for top-tier members of its frequent flier program, passengers traveling between the Americas and China will pay ¥RMB600, or about US$90 at the current exchange rate, for round-trip passage in those seats, which the airline’s website says offer 20 percent more legroom than standard economy seats.

Air China operates a Boeing (NYSE:BA) 747 between SFO and PEK. According to, standard economy class seats are 18 inches wide with between 31 and 33 inches of pitch, which premium economy seats on the 747-8 are between 18.3 and 19.3 inches wide and with 36 to 38 inches of pitch – quite generous when compared to others in the industry.

For comparison, United Airlines’ (NYSE:UAL) Economy Plus seats on its 747-400 are 17 inches wide with pitch of 34 inches. Delta Air Lines’ (NYSE:DAL) Comfort + seats on its 747-400 are 17.2 inches wide with 35 inches of pitch. American Airlines (NASDAQ:AAL) does not operate the Boeing 747 but its Main Cabin Extra seats aboard its 767-300s are 17.2 inches wide with 35 to 37 inches of pitch.

While Air China’s promotional fares are indeed attractive, they may not represent a substantial savings. At this writing, prior to the commencement of the sale, the carrier is offering economy-class round trip fares from SFO to PEK for as low as $546 during the travel period required under the rules of the promotional fare and depending on one’s travel dates. Fares of $566 were readily available on many, if not most, of those travel dates.

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Photos by Carl Dombek
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