You Should Be Flying Xiamen Airlines!
Over the past decade, the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport has grown by leaps and bounds with traditional carriers like Alaska and Delta leading the charge. In fact, passenger traffic between 2007 and 2017 increased by a whopping 50% leading to construction of a third runway. Recently, the Port of Seattle is building a 450,000 square foot International Arrivals Facility that is scheduled to be completed in 2021.
These expansions have also allowed growth from a wide variety of new carriers to the Pacific Northwest, increasing international destinations and providing more competition (aka frugal fares). The heaviest expansion has been into Asia as Delta has made Seattle a hub. Hainan Airlines began direct service from Seattle to Beijing in 2008 and added Shanghai in 2015. In 2016, Xiamen Airlines added Seattle to it's destinations with direct service from Shenzhen and Xiamen.
Shenzhen, adjacent to Hong Kong, has long been known as the Silicon Valley of The East. Kazue Ishiwata, airline service development director at Seatac, stressed the importance of linking two high tech cities like Shenzhen and Seattle in a recent CNBC article. "Xiamen is not the biggest airline in China. There's Air China, China Eastern, China Southern and Hainan already in Los Angeles, San Francisco and other cities," Ishiwata said. "So it benefits a new entry carrier to begin service in a city where there aren't other airlines to compete with on the route." Another unique thing about Xiamen Airlines: they are the only carrier in China to offer an all Boeing fleet (including the 787 Dreamliner for the Seattle routes).
And their prices? Fantastic! A quick look at the Explore feature on Kayak will show the majority of cheap flights found to Asia in the past 48 hours are on Xiamen. But what's the catch? Ah yes, the routing. Nearly every destination throughout Asia has a two stop itinerary with a grueling 30-40 hours of total time. Enough for even frugal flyer like myself to write them off completely.
Write them off unntil recently, that is. A fellow traveler and good friend of mine decided to give Xiamen Airlines a shot and it's surprising not as grueling as I once thought! Xiamen Airlines provides a variety of additional services free of charge even to the lowest class of coach fares. Depending on the length of your layover, you have three potential transit options.
For layovers of 2-24 hours, Xiamen provides free access to their airport lounge that includes a buffet, free alcohol, free Wi-fi and more.
For layovers of 4-24 hours, Xiamen provides a free sightseeing tour on a hop-on, hop-off bus. You can enter or exit the bus at any number of 20 stops on Xiamen Island.
For layovers of 6-24 hours, Xiamen provides a transit hotel including free breakfast. This is what makes flying Xiamen AIrlines worth while! And the reason you should be too! They provide a free hotel in Fuzhou, Shenzhen or Xiamen. According to the first hand account I received, the hotel was quite nice (around $140USD per night). The only additional cost was cab fare to and from the airport.
There is one interesting caveat to the transit hotel. If you are traveling alone or in a group with an odd number, Xiamen can and will supply you with a SHARED room, with another unrelated passenger of the same gender as you. Elite and premium cabin passengers, however, are entitled to single rooms and higher-end hotels.
I've gained a wealth of my travel knowledge from a friend that writes a travel blog called Seat 31B - The World In Economy Class. He recently wrote an article on Xiamen Airlines and has an upcoming flight to Beijing with them leaving on Saturday. I'm sure he will be updating his blog with more pictures and first hand information shortly after his trip. Give his blog a follow or on Twitter @Seat31b.
A variety of transit options, two free checked bag, and full meals. Hard to believe all of this can be had for as low as $416RT! Frugal flyers should rejoice and start booking trips with Xiamen Airlines today!