This TR is "part II" of my trip for summer 2010 to China and Hawaii. The previous TR was of TUS-PEK-PVG. Because of the number of pictures for this flight and the unexpected delay it deserves its own trip report.
ETE:1 hr 40 min
After a wonderful stay in Shanghai and an unforgettable day at the World Expo 2010 we departed for Shanghai's Pudong Airport for our flight to Beijing for a tour of the city and to begin our language and culture classes. PVG Terminal 2 departures level mid-afternoon was relatively quiet. The main flights throughout China as well as to North America and Europe had either departed or were just pushing back from their gates. A number of domestic Chinese aircraft were stacking up around the terminal for the evening departures and EK, QR, LH, and TK had just arrived stood idle at their gates awaiting their midnight departures.
Due to the small number of departures there were no lines at the remarkably well-staffed ticket counters (I say remarkably because it seemed to be a lull in traffic for the day). I had done some shopping in Shanghai and was now carrying a duffle bag along with my main suitcase and messenger bag. It was really no hassle for me and I had learned from the previous year to bring my own bag for just such a scenario because Chinese duffle bags could not be trusted. My Chinese teacher checked the small number of us in as a group. The check-in agent was very on-task brisk with us about checking our luggage. He was unable to give me a window seat. Furthermore I could not check two bags for this flight since CA considers their Shanghai-Beijing sector to be a shuttle. With great determination not to lose my place in line I combined my duffle bag into my suitcase in a record time of 24 seconds and checked it.
Following our quick, straightforward check-in we passed through security and walked into the gate area. PVG is a wonderfully comfortable, sleek, modern airport. The carpet is a great touch that gives a more relaxed atomosphere compared to the slight sterility of PEK's terminal 3 and its white marble. We had about two hours to kill before boarding at 16:30.
The afternoon lull
Lady Luck ready to depart to LHR
CO on pushback for EWR
SU A330-200 ready to pushback to SVO
AA772 to ORD
LH 744 to FRA
LH to MUC
AC to YYZ
OZ to ICN
At 16:30 I returned to our gate, C81 to find everyone in a hustle. Apparently our gate was changed. I could’ve guessed this seeing the Lufthansa A340-300 fresh in from FRA sitting there. We gathered our belongings together (one student had his guitar…so cool!) and power-walked across T2, down a flight of stairs to C55. There we waited on the literal ground floor of the Terminal for a fleet of Air China buses to take us to our CA flight which turned out to be on an A340-300. My first time flying on such a plane.
I should have known something was up when I saw the Shanghai Airlines 737G parked at the stand next to us bound for Sanya push back 2hrs after the scheduled time of departure. We boarded our “shuttle” flight which ended up being full. I had been assigned an aisle seat in the middle bulk-head of seats. I was able to snag a vacant window seat in the last row in the back of the plane. My Chinese teacher ended up in the seat next to mine. We were ready for departure and the safety video was shown to us. The flight consisted of Americans and Chinese however the video was in Chinese and German. Our plane had just flown FRA-PVG.
MS going to remote stand
Our glorious plane!
Chinese characters originally written by Deng Xiaoping and copied onto all of CA's planes.
CA Business Class
Shanghai Airlines to Sanya not departed yet
By 19:00 the safety video was finished but our planed did not push back. Our captain stated there were traffic problems with “many airplanes landing”. The entire delay on the ground was 3 hrs. Interesting note: Following the vague message from the captain the Chinese passengers stayed seated through the entire delay. The Americans got up, walked around, one yelled at an FA (not cool), and started talking about how terrible their predicament was so everyone could here. My teacher meanwhile went and basically made friends with the FAs and learned that their delay was a mix of heavy evening traffic (we were 17th for departure) and unruly storms over Henan Province, the direction we were headed. I went back to the galley to get some sprite. I asked for sprite in English and my teacher corrected me (as he should ) “No no no! Say it in Chinese!” This I did without a problem and the FA gave my teacher a hilarious look of that said “who is this crazy man?” I then explained in Chinese he was my teacher and we laughed. But I digress….
The CA FAs served dinner and drinks immediately after hearing the news of our delay. They then took turns throughout the several hours walking through the cabin offering water, sprite, and tea. I was very impressed by this. We knew we would inevitably depart and I thought they handled the situation very well. The food was stirfry/kung pao chicken with vegetables and rice. I thought it tasted quite good and was a good sized portion. I must say the lack of variety in CA’s meals is a little tiresome but at least they taste adequate.
We finally pushed back and made our way to the runway at around 22:00. After take off I fell asleep till the FAs announced our descent into PEK. We touched down at 23:40 to a silent PEK. T2 seemed asleep apart from DL 767 ready to depart to SEA. We were one of the last domestic flights of the day at T3. I thanked the FAs for their extra effort on the flight (in Chinese) proceeded to baggage claim and was ready to take the bus our hotel (Xiyuan).
After flying Air China both transpacific and on a high-density domestic route this summer (as well as the flights in 2009) I would give them a mixed rating. Their cabins are generally comfortable and their service, both on the ground and in the air seems adequate. Catering is nothing exciting but is certainly more than endurable. At the same time the cabins are worn and frayed, even on their new 737Gs. They need to work on upkeep of their planes as well as better IFE systems for their long-haul fleet. I am surprised they haven’t even sprung for PTVs on their A343s as they receive their modern A330 fleet.
Air China is a comfortable and relatively reliable airline but, in terms of service and product offerings, seems accustomed to the state-dominated Chinese aviation industry and the regulations such an environment entails. I am sure they will gradually transform themselves into a more competitive carrier.[Edited 2010-08-23 22:26:08]
[Edited 2010-08-23 22:35:45]