China Southern Dreamliner WMKK-ZGGG: Flying Internationally in a Pandemic (and Immigration Procedures)

G’day people!

This is my first flight review on IFC, enjoy it and constructive criticism are welcomed :)

Since I am under quarantine (and have nothing much to do), I have decided to share my experience on flying internationally during the pandemic. This flight took place during mid-October, I am extremely privileged to fly on one of China Southern’s newest Boeing 787-9 aircraft from Kuala Lumpur to Guangzhou, China.

China Southern Airlines

China Southern Airlines (CZ) is a Chinese airline based in Guangzhou, the southern part of China (3 hours drive from Hong Kong). It is Asia’s largest airline in terms of fleet and passengers carried as of 2019, consisting of over 600 aircraft (A320 family, A330, A350, A380, B737NG, 737MAX, 744F, 77W, 77F and 788/9). China Southern Airlines first started using the Dreamliner to operate Guangzhou-Kuala Lumpur within the past few months, where they have consolidated 3 daily A320/B737 flights into 2 789 per week due to declined demand and Chinese policies.

Regional E190 fleet (retiring, to be replaced by Comac’s ARJ21)

All times are based on MYT/SGT (UTC +8)

12:00pm - Entering the Airport

As Malaysia is starting to recover from the pandemic, more passenger flights are available domestically, as well as several repatriation flights. The airport seemed to be fairly busy, compared to the pictures that I have seen online with other airports around the world. Between my arrival at the airport and flight departure, I have seen Pakistan International Airlines, Air India Express, Bamboo Airways, China Airlines, Xiamen Airlines and of course China Southern operating passenger schedules. Check-in took 30 minutes longer than usual, as we are required to fill in a declaration form prior to entering Chinese soil. Thankfully, using the Sky Pearl Membership Status, I am able to use the business class counter, which was very empty at the time of my arrival.

Comparatively, the departure hall is pretty hectic

Immigration and Security Check

Immigration in Malaysia took another 20 minutes, as the Autogates were not in use, and I was “interrogated” by the officer for my purpose of leaving my home country. That, in total, costed me about an hour extra, but fortunately, I arrived at the airport 3.5 hours ahead of departure time, so that simply means less plane-spotting time.

1:30pm - Wandering around the (very) empty terminal

As this is an international flight, my flight is located at the Satellite Terminal. Despite seeing a lot of flights today, some foreign airlines are moved to the Main Terminal Building (something that only happened this year, under normal circumstances all foreign airlines should be located at Satellite), so this terminal seemed to be extremely quiet. Aerotrain was out of service, shops were closed; the tension and atmosphere within this building is totally different to what I have experienced previously (that was January this year, when people were aware of the virus but not a big deal yet).

Most shops, particularly retail and duty-free were closed indefinitely.

Aerotrains that connect between Main Terminal Building and Satellite Terminal were not operating, so shuttle bus was the only option.

Closed area, most likely due to disinfection in progress or was simply not in use.

More closed shops….

3:00pm - Flight CZ350

Today’s flight will be operated by a 1-year-old Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner, registered as B-20AA. This is China Southern’s 3rd youngest Boeing 787, and it should be its first time visiting Malaysia. To my surprise, I have spotted the very same aircraft operating Guangzhou-Beijing Capital last November (Fun fact, China Southern has officially moved all operations from Beijing Capital to Beijing Daxing Airport today!). The previous flight of this aircraft, CZ349 landed at 12:20pm and is scheduled for a short stopover of only 3 hours. Coincidentally, the plane is sitting at gate C3. This aircraft has an occupancy rate of around 90%, mostly Chinese families who are returning home. The flight commenced boarding at 3:00pm (coincidence, again) and I proceeded to board the reasonably-fresh aircraft.

Meet B-20AA, and Xiamen Airlines’ first 787-9 Dreamliner, B-1566 preparing to taxi.

Screenshot of my video, most of the passengers chose to wear some form of PPE (I didn’t, this flight has not reported any positive cases since operation, and it is true that the air circulation in the plane is good enough that the virus won’t be transmitted around the entire aircraft.)

Greeted by cabin crew with fully-equipped PPE.

Today’s seat will be 32K, which is a window seat located at the second row of Economy class (this helps a lot, you’ll see why). I have a very good view of the GEnx-1B and an Etihad Airways Dreamliner sporting “Choose Italy” livery resting at bay C1. Due to slower boarding process (temperature checks, everyone’s bringing bulky luggage etc.) combined with enroute traffic issues, we have used up an hour before we finally started our flight to Guangzhou. At this point, we are approximately 25 minutes behind schedule.

Engine view, and A6-BLH next to us today.

Don’t mind my overexposed picture, but seat 32K with no one next to me (some social distance, better than nothing)!

Pushback, one of the stored MH A350s at the remote bay.

I am not sure if this is a rare occasion, but instead of using the main taxiway, the aircraft taxied to the cargo apron and then towards the runway.

Green line is the “logical” route, whereas black line is the actual route (LCC and Cargo Apron)

We did hold short of H3 to wait for a POS Malaysia, a local postal service company’s sole aircraft to dock in. This 737-400F is registered as 9M-POS.

9M-POS turning off their engines at F24R.

LCC Apron, this terminal was used by Airasia but they moved to the larger KLIA2 few years ago. Unfortunately, it is now used for plane storage. Sad to see these Airbuses stuck here :’(

Waiting for arrival traffic, and here comes Cathay Dragon B-HLM at short final. This is also my very last picture of Cathay Dragon before it ceased operations. :/

Within 2 minutes, B-20AA started racing down Runway 32R, and with a swift rotation, goodbye and see you soon Malaysia!

To minimise interactions with passengers, food (more like snacks) is already packed and is in the seat pocket.

Ferrero Rocher is nice.

Cabin was dimmed for (mostly) sleepy passengers, and there’s me playing around with the flight interaction app. FL320, FL360 and FL390 for the 4-hour flight.

(Sort of) beacon shot just as the night is about to begin.

3.5 hours into the flight, I can finally see vibrant lights from Hong Kong and Shenzhen. Very emotional to be back to my second home after months of being restricted from entering China.

CBD of Guangzhou, next to Pearl River. Loads of memories around this place.

Smooth enough, pilot must’ve buttered it but it was a shaky plane. Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Guangzhou.

Taxied into stand 146, a familiar place since my usual spotting location in Guangzhou includes Bay 144-147 and the taxiway that you can see in the background. Also, spot another 787 in this picture. Which airline does it belong to?

Engines shut down, seatbelts sign off, but the flight isn’t really over yet.

“Ladies and gentlemen, due to ongoing disinfecting procedures at the airbridge, please sit back and wait until further notice.”

10 minutes later, nothing happened. Another 10 minutes passed, one of the cabin crews announced: “Ladies and gentlemen, the disinfecting work is not completed, kindly wait for another 10 minutes.”

People who stood up right after the PA sat back down again.

Some time later, I saw business class passengers disembarking through the curtain gaps, so I stood up and waited. Weirdly, none of the cabin crews updated the passengers, so everyone was slightly confused when the curtains were opened and people around my area were leaving the aircraft. 40 minutes after docking, we are finally off the plane and here comes another bothersome procedure.

8:40pm - Entering China

Each passenger got a sequence number (the faster you leave the plane, the quicker you get the number so the earlier you finish the process. Hence why choose the first two rows.), and were asked to fill in forms and go through a temporary immigration counter by 20 people per batch (No. 1-20, 21-40 and so on). They checked my passport and flight tickets, and went downstairs for another ID verification, followed by a swab test. After that slightly painful process, we were led to the usual immigration counters that we always go through when entering the country. We then reclaimed our check-in baggages, directed to the airport bus station, and was brought to a hotel for quarantine. Voila, it’s 11:59pm when I stepped in my room, ordered McDonalds and sanitised the room, it was not as bad as I expected after all. (Experiences from others said they took 6 hours for the entire process, whereas it took me 3 hours, not including the 40-minute wait. Hotel was decent and clean, I find it survivable for the next two weeks.) Today is Day 9/10, hopefully things will be alright and I am prepared to enjoy the city (and of course, more plane spottings)!

Hope y’all enjoyed this rather special flight, feel free to share your thoughts and most importantly, stay safe and be happy :)

PlaneLife2018
Insta: @g1mmy693

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Awesome report!

I flew on that specific 787-9 in August 2019.

Thanks Ishrion! I’ve personally flown on their 737, hopefully you’ll agree that they’re an extremely warm/welcoming airline.

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Hey 👋 Welcome to China 🇨🇳

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Damn, that’s a really sad sight.

Nice review!

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Yeah, unfortunately domestic demand is not enough, along with the increasing cases in Malaysia.

Thanks a lot!

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