Thursday, October 29, 2009

Air China Review

Not to be confused with China Eastern Airlines, which also provides cheap flights from Asia.

And not China Airlines, which is a carrier from Taiwan.

Air China has its hub in Beijing and it flies all over the world.

I did a little research on the Internet before choosing the carrier and when I search "Airlines" + "China" These images came up...

Of course, most of the pictures were from China Airlines, and so I booked my tickets and decided to try Air China which was a member of Star Alliance which gave me mileage on my United Miles Program.

Flying from Singapore Airport to Beijing was relatively fine, the food as expected is really terrible and the plane had no functioning reading lights. Overall, the seats seemed badly maintained and the food is really inedible. But since it was a midnight flight, I was not bothered much as I was just interested in sleeping throughout my flight.

Beijing Airport looks relatively new and clean, however, I don't understand why even as a transit passenger, I was considered "in China" and my passport was annoyingly chopped and I had to fill in immigrations forms just to be in Transit.

The airport however was pretty interesting and had nice designs which were rather photo worthy.

There are several restaurants to get some food during your transit, and they serve pretty decent food there. I tried the beer in Beijing Yan Jing Beer and it was ok, and cost only US$2.20 per bottle at a restaurant, not too bad at all.

Well having beer for breakfast was not really a good idea, but after the first 4 beers, it did not matter at all, and I had another 4 before getting on the flight to New York. (8 beers in 6 hours)

There are few stores that sell things, and they look awfully marked up. So much that after a few stores, which sold $10 tea for $50 and $20 shirts for $200, I decided not to shop at all!

There was a visit the villages fair and there are some interesting exhibits.

The Stool dancing by the villagers is very interesting, and never been seen outside China. I guess beside being a seat, and a weapon, it can also be used as a dance prop!

I watch the plane getting loaded with luggages and sat at the boarding gate. There were lots of people from China, and they all seemed to bring all their luggage with them onto the plane. All of them seemed to be carrying lots of heavy luggage up the flight, and they were crowding at the gates hours before the gate was open. They were very excited to get on the plane even when the seats were allocated, and there is no advantage on getting in early.

The conversations at the gate was loud and simply annoying. Everyone was on their phones and talking as loud as they could and even when they are all going to New York, they kept complaining about how American Culture was bad and they had a superior culture that will never cause the world's economy to collapse. They also blamed the US for causing climate change.

There was lots of chaos at the boarding gate before the flight and many people had special requests. I was upgraded to Business Class, and then downgraded again and the flight was finally delayed for 1 hour and no explanation was given.

During boarding, I was at the entrance and they asked if I transited. I said yes and stood aside for 30 minutes while everyone boarded, and later they "reconfirmed" my luggage and let me in. I was wondering if my standing there was necessary, and the crew just seemed incompetent as human beings.

On the flight, there was chaos again as the people who forced their way on the flight earlier, were seating randomly in the plane. My seat was taken and the person that took my seat had his seat taken. It was like musical chairs, but not fun at all. Everyone seemed to ignore the stewardess and I got my seat, but the confusion that continued lasted for more than 10 mins. Everyone was on the flight talking loudly on their phones here as well.

The people on board seemed to be flying for the first time and it took another 10 minutes to get them into their seat belts. Then the plane flew and when I thought the nightmare was over, when the immigration forms were given out, there was another outcry of help all over the flight and majority of the passengers needed help with the form.

Reading lights do not work on this flight again. There was generally chaos and randomness going on as passengers seemed to be up and walking about all the time, kids running around, out of control and even several men who attempted to smoke their "electronic cigarette" on the flight.

The food that came was basically awful. The sauce was too salty, and rice a little dry and mushy at the same time. There was no fruits and nothing edible there. I simply just had more beer. I was shocked to see passengers asking for more food and then keeping it in their bags. Then after dinner, as I was sitting at the emergency exit row (to stretch my legs) I just realized that 10% of the people go to the toilet without closing the doors. The men pee with the doors open and the ladies do it too! This was a culture shock to me as I approached them to tell them that the door is "close-able" and "lock-able", but after closing the door, they opened it again and said that it was too small inside!

Then came the kids who were like animals. They ran around, destroying things and pee'ed on the floor of the toilets. Their parents do not seem to mind and said that they were "just kids" and it was ok to litter or pee randomly. "WTF!!!" The whole culture talk that I heard earlier about their superiority in culture just went down the drain as their kids are throwing trash on the ground and peeing on the floor of the toilets!

The whole flight was really annoying and simply bad. Not because the staff was bad, but rather, the passengers were out of control and annoying. I don't even think the crew could do anything when almost everyone was annoying and not obeying the rules.

Finally when the plane was about to land, the crew had to make each of everyone sit down as they were trying to get their luggage before the plane landed. Then after buckling them in, they simply got up once they felt the plane had landed. Many rushed to the doors even before the plane stopped, and there was -- chaos again.

I had a very bad experience, and not entirely from the plane with the non-functional lights and the bad food, but mostly from the other annoying passengers on board!

My advice: the $$ saved... Totally not worth it. Don't fly Air China.

Score: 2 / 10


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