Air China photographs used in this post provided by Civil Aviations on blogger.com.
If the Chinese are getting ahead of the world, it certainly is not showing in their airlines nor their airport in Beijing.
Flying to anywhere from Tokyo, you do your best to find the best deals. Getting a flight for less than $1,000 USD is considered a steal. Even flying to S. Korea might cost you four figures and if you look at a world map, you can practically swim to S. Korea from the western most part of Japan. When it comes to finding low cost flights out of Japan on websites like Expedia, Kayak, Travelocity and others, Air China almost always has the lowest airfare.
I’ve avoided them in the past because I was leery about a company that constantly produced the lowest fares. If another carrier was charging within $100 of the Air China price, I’d choose the former. This time, I was flying somewhere two days before New Years Eve, and most carriers were charging $200 or more than Air China for flights from Tokyo (Haneda and Narita airports) to Bangkok. I had to make the smart choice.
Turns out I made the dumb choice.
Nowadays when I fly coach, I expect things like not having enough leg room, shitty food, a crying baby or two and not getting seated next to the pretty girl at the terminal. I’m use to these things and accept them because at least I know that for the duration of my flight, I will have in-flight entertainment options at my finger tips to keep me occupied for hours.
Leave it to Air China to ruin that. As I made my way to my aisle seat, I noticed that none of the seats I was passing had a television attached to the seat in front of it. “What is this?” I thought. “No in-flight entertainment? They didn’t mention this on their website.” It hit me when I got settled in my seat. Eight hours from Tokyo to Bangkok with no in-flight entertainment.
Luckily I had started my bi-annual watching of ‘The Wire’ and recently loaded Season 3 (the best season in my opinion) onto my Itouch. A word of advice- don’t watch ‘The Wire’ when you’re pissed and surrounded by people in a closed space.
Welcome To Beijing
Beijing is the capital of the People’s Republic of China and one of the most populous cities in the world. Beijing Capital International Airport (PEK) is the second busiest airport in the world, trailing only Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. You would think that an airport that busy, based in the city that recently hosted a Summer Olympics, would be a snazzy place (nope), full of restaurant options (nope) and places to wind down and relax between flights (nope).
Beijing’s airport sucks! How did this airport welcome millions of visitors during the 2008 Summer Games? I might be in the minority, but I rate a city’s airport as an introduction to how the city itself will be. Maybe it’s because my plane arrived in the evening that the airport seemed so void of life. There just seemed no liveliness to the place at all. The lighting is dull, it’s quiet, you don’t smell any food or coffee brewing and no one seems happy to be there. To receive and international flight, they only opened two passport and two security checkpoints. It took 90 minutes to go through both. The security personal must like giving body searches because they wanted to search every one even if they didn’t beep when they went through the metal detector.
Since I ate something that I don’t even know what it was while on the plane, I was fairly hungry by the time I got through security. With two hours until my connection flight to Bangkok, I needed something. On the very rare occasion that I craved McDonald’s, there was not one around. How do you call yourself an airport and not have a McDonald’s? My options were a Pizza Hut, a Chinese fast food restaurant, a Malaysian fast food restaurant and Starbucks. Guess where I chose to eat.
The first thing I ate when I arrived in Bangkok? A Big Mac.
The Return flight
Upon spending two weeks in sunny Thailand, I was preparing myself for the cold winter weather that would be greeting me on my return to Japan. Air China decided to help me get acclimated during my return layover from Bangkok.
Arriving on a full flight (luckily my row was empty so I could lay down and sleep) from Bangkok at approximately 0600, I never expected what happened next. I could understand if we flew in a twin engine prop plane. We flew in on a jumbo jet. Explain to me why we couldn’t park next to the terminal like a normal jumbo jet does. Why did we have to exit the plane off the runway like you do when you fly a prop plane? In freezing weather! It was cold as balls in Beijing and the sun wasn’t up yet. To top it off, we had to take a bus to the airport. And since I guess most of the passengers were Chinese and probably use to it, they didn’t move the bus until all the passengers were balls to butt cheeks packed in.
Screw you Air China!
I feel bad talking so bad about the airline because the flight attendants are actually very nice and easy on the eyes. It’s not their fault nor the fault of most Air China employees that their airline refuses to upgrade their fleet of planes (even business class seats do not have in-flight entertainment). They may be a low-cost carrier but it doesn’t mean they have to provide low-class service. If you want people to fly from Asia to Europe, Asia to America and wherever else you fly, you’re going to have to give us some tv monitors that we can watch and decent food.
Until they do, I would avoid flying Air China and any of the three other major Chinese airlines. The reason that they give you the lowest costs is because they spend nothing on their fleet. Take it from me and others I’ve spoken with and spend the extra money flying an airline and going to airports that care about passengers.
What airline and/or airport have you had your worse flight experiences with?