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Adventures Across The Pacific: MU/FM

Wed Jun 06, 2007 10:56 pm

Adventures Across the Pacific: MU/FM

*There are some pictures, but not many, as most of the flights were at night, or early in the day with poor light!

I was looking forward to my family vacation in China more than I had been looking forward to the flights—a rarity for me, but one facilitated by a tour itinerary flanked with 5 flights on China Eastern Airlines. Initially, upon hearing of our travel plans for China, I imagined all the wonderful possibilities of traveling with world-class Asian operators. Singapore Airlines, Japan Airlines, ANA, hell, even China Airlines would have been preferable. However, as soon as the travel agent told me we were flying non-stop from JFK to Shanghai, there was no other airline it could have been than the much-criticized New York newcomer China Eastern.

I zealously read reviews plastered over the internet about all the terrible things China Eastern had done to passengers, their families, dogs, hermit crabs, etc. The normal griping aside, MU seemed to have a trend in canceling their long-haul A340 flights, or denying that a return segment ever existed on a passenger itinerary. As suggested, I clarified (or attempted to clarify) the itinerary with the New York office, which was a comical experience in and of itself thanks to a language barrier stiffer than the Hoover Dam. My Dad’s request for a vegetarian meal was met with confusion, and the agent politely inquired, “Wheelchair?” Let the trip begin, I thought. Let…it…begin.

As the trip grew closer, a call from our travel agent yielded news that was hardly shocking. The return flight on June 4th to New York was canceled. Instead, we had been rebooked on the June 3rd flight. As China Eastern does not fly daily to New York, I suspected (and the agent confirmed) that two half full flights had been condensed into one full flight in each direction. The night before, I bit my nails down to their cores and attempted to regulate my heart rate. Chinese soothing tea from Shop Rite helped, and I thought “it’s a good thing I’m going to China, I’ll be needing this stuff daily!” It was a combination of excitement and downright dread. That is, excitement about visiting China and an increasing fear of never making it there in the first place!

Thursday May 24th, 2007
China Eastern MU588
New York JFK – Shanghai PVG
STD: 01:30am
ATD: 01:06am
STA: 04:50am + 1
ATA: 04:24am + 1
Airbus A340-600 B-6053

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Photo © Montague Smith-WorldWide Aviation Photos

We arrived at JFK’s Terminal 1 at 9:00 so that we could be first in line for check-in when it opened at 9:30. The intention was to snag exit-row seats for the long trek westward, and though met with difficulty and resistance initially, my parents received seats next to door 4R, providing about 8 feet of space in front. My sister and I obliged to the pair of seats behind—2 out of 4 isn’t bad, and the general manager, Mohammed, said that he could not release all the exit seats so early on. He promised, however, to find my sister and I before boarding and allot us better seats if they were available.
Pipe dream, I thought! So, we headed upstairs outside of security and had to settle for Chinese food at Wok & Roll, which cost about $36 for the 4 of us. It was the only thing open at the time, and with the only departures being China Eastern and Korean Air, I wondered why nobody could think of something perhaps a little different on a culinary front? Way to go, Port Authority! You never cease to amaze me. Cue: Baby I’m amazed at the way you looooove me all the time (with your incessant ground delays and holding patterns…. And maybe I’m amazed at the way I love you!

I ate about half my plate and shoved it aside, thinking that if this is what I was going to be exposed to for the next 10 days, with MU as a means to an end, I’d rather stay at JFK for the next week and a half! Of course, we met with friends that were traveling with us, proceeded through security, and passed the time until our aircraft, which arrived late, was ready to turn with a fresh crew of 4 pilots and 14 flight attendants. Mohammed appeared right before boarding commenced with new boarding passes for my sister and I – seats 27A and C, the pair next to the over wing exit. Additionally, he blocked a row of four for two other people traveling with us so that they could stretch during the flight. We all thanked him profusely, and boarded. Asian looking passengers were greeted warmly with a Ni hao while Western looking passengers were given polite, albeit shy Good Mornings.

The flight was almost completely booked, but our load of over 300 boarded in just under 20 minutes, yielding us ready for departure almost 30 minutes ahead of schedule. Seizing the opportunity, we pushed back and I settled into 27C for the 15 hour trek. There was no window in row 27C sans a small window in the door, but I was exhausted, and didn’t need it. At 1:12am, after a small taxi, our captain announced in English, “Prepare for takeoff” – that was the last we’d hear from the flight deck until landing. At exactly 1:15am, our A340-600 thundered into the New York skies and made an exceptionally smooth (as silk—ha! Get it! Silk? China? Thanks I’ll be here all week.) ascent to an initial altitude of 33,000 feet. Almost immediately, the crew began lengthy announcements in Chinese, with clear but abbreviated translations in English.

Service began with the lights being blasted at full-power and window shades drawn about 20 minutes after departure. The crew distributed moist towels first, then a beverage service which had no wine, but plenty of beer. Since the beer was a little warm (a catered-in-PVG pull-tap Bud), the flight attendant asked politely inquired, “Sir, would you care for some icebergs in your cup?” Fishing for a joke that would have gone over her English skills anyway, I instead smiled, nodded and accepted my drink. As soon as the crew finished with drinks, the dinner service started with special meals first. Remarkably, my dad and sister’s vegetarian meals made it on to the plane. As for us normal folk, we were given a choice of Western or Chinese. Not feeling adventurous yet, I selected the Western dinner, which was a breast of chicken in tomato sauce over white rice. This was served with a strange noodle salad, a packaged roll, melon and a slice of cake. Average and edible, albeit a little stingy on the portions, it was no gastronomic feat of brilliance, but it served the purpose. Meal distribution took a whopping 5 minutes for the forward Y cabin and the crew changed their meal carts for drink carts yet again. After this 2nd drink service, the lovely ladies of MU (And I mean that sincerely) offered tea and coffee.

Comfortably full (though had I been hungry beforehand, the quantity could have posed an issue), I went to grab for the winged headrest that had been advertised on the website, and found there wasn’t one. Ok, I’ll just use the advertised adjustable footrest. Oh, wait, there isn’t one of those either! Well, maybe I’ll just ask for the advertised amenity kit and try to get some shut-eye. Wait, there are no amenity kits? That’s ok! I’ll plug my laptop into the 110V power port in every seat and watch a movie—and look! The powerport is actually there! Ooooh, darn, it’s not conducting any electricity.

I’ll stare into space until I fall asleep.

That required no special amenity from MU at all, and it merely took watching the in-flight entertainment without plugging in the double-pronged headphones for sound. A Bugs Life, Harry Potter, Eight Legged Freaks and other weird selections were offered on the drop-down LCDs, but most everyone had opted to sleep. Turning my carry-on bag into my own adjustable footrest (how’s that for resourceful!), I dozed off and surprised myself by sleeping on and off for the next 8 hours. Waking up, the moving map showed us just completing our trans-pacific sector. The cabin was dark, still and quiet. All that could be heard was the sound of air outside and the low, gentle hum of the A346. I decided to open the small blind on the door window shade to glance out, expecting it to be dark outside. WELL HELLO!! It was broad daylight and it blinded me faster than a near-blind person trying to have a conversation with the sun. I immediately shut it, giggled to myself like the crazed, tired and uncomfortable lunatic that I was at that point and listened to my iPod. The flight attendant monitoring the mid-galley noticed my stirring and immediately offered me water and a moist towel, adding that breakfast would be served in a few hours, but that while I was asleep, sandwiches had been served which I was welcome to help myself to at the rear galley. I appreciated the gesture, but declined on the snack, instead sipping the water and dozing in and out of a Moby, Jack’s Mannequin and Ben Folds induced slumber. When I finally got my sleep on again, the lights returned, and passengers were woken for a breakfast service. Again having the Western or Chinese choice and again not wanting congee (because I was certain that’s what the meal would be), I opted for Western. The contents were scrambled egg with chives, bacon (supposedly), a muffin, strawberry yogurt, another roll and a watermelon slice. This meal was actually not bad—everything tasted like what it was supposed to taste like. So while still not achieving excellence in catering, MU had yet to really fail in that regard.

Before I knew it, we were filling out arrivals forms, and our giant bird started a smooth, graceful decent into PuDong. The morning mist engulfed the plane until the last minute or so of flight, and with a gentle thud, we touched down at 4:09am, now Friday morning. Well, what a treat it was to have spent ALL of Thursday on a plane!

We arrived at the gate but had no marshall, so we had to wait approximately five minutes. Upon exiting and passing through immigration and border control, which had no lines at all, we arrived at the baggage claim to find our bags already on the belt—less than 15 minutes had elapsed. Customs had no line, either, and soon we were out into the murky morning air of Shanghai to begin our trip!

After a few days in Shanghai, Hangzhou and Suzhou, it was time to press on to Beijing. I was looking forward to this flight, after being pleasantly surprised by the first flight, for several reasons. One, I liked the prospect of flying out of Hongqiao Airport. Two, I was eager to sample one of MU’s new A330-300s.

Sunday May 27th, 2007
China Eastern MU5113
Shanghai SHA – Beijing PEK
STD: 02:00pm
ATD: 01:51pm
STA: 04:00pm
ATA: 03:52pm
Airbus A330-300 B-6129

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Photo © Simon Wong

We were checked in by our tour operator, and my request for a window seat behind the wing was granted. Security was a breeze and I was surprised that at the Shanghai domestic airport, the security agents spoke such proficient English. Boarding for our completely booked A333 started on-time, and it was apparent from the first minute on board that this crew was eager to please.

In particular, one of the two flight attendants working our cabin and aisle, a younger male, I’d guess no more than 23 or 24 years old, offered all the coach passengers a pre-departure choice of water or orange juice, followed by newspapers in Chinese, and finally, switching on all over-head lamps for reading people immediately before the lights were dimmed in the cabin. I had never seen such service before, and with each taking of water, or with each grabbing for a newspaper, he remarked in the appropriate language, “Please enjoy.”

Upon reaching the threshold of our runway, the captain introduced himself and our flight in both English and Chinese—another surprise, and a pleasant one. In no time at all, our A330-300 roared into the haze for a quick hop to Beijing at 2:05pm. The crew sprang into action literally two minutes after rotation by offering wet towels and another pass with newspapers. Then, the same beverage-food-beverage-tea/coffee cycle that had occurred on the trans-pac flight took place, this time being offered one of MU’s ubiquitous snack boxes. The contents was one turkey sandwich, one mystery meat sandwich, a roll (seemed redundant, no?) and breath mints. Simple, and the sandwiches were scary, but I appreciated the effort on such a short sector, and the mints tasted just fine.

After what seemed like 5 minutes in the air, we started our approach to Capital airport. Lower and lower over fields and crops, the pilots lowered the gear first, and then the flaps and slats. I noticed this on all of my flights with MU—gear, then flaps. After just an hour and a half, our A330 beat the living daylights out of Beijing’s runway, and a brief taxi amidst a sea of Air China A330s and 767s brought us to our gate, where the crew wished passengers a “beautiful and gorgeous day.” There was a mad rush to exit, as there had been a mad rush to enplane in Shanghai—I noticed this all over the country and on all of my flights. It must be a cultural thing. I look at it and say, “What’s the rush- the plane isn’t leaving with out you!” As a side note, you must be a real idiot to miss your flight in China, because there are literally 15-25 “Final Boarding Call” announcements made for every flight before it leaves. Each time, they punch the word “Final” just a little more, until 2 minutes prior to departure where I swear there was a sharp decibel increase on the word “final” – something along the lines of, “Attention passengers. This is the FINAL boarding call for China Eastern to Shanghai.” Followed by, “Attention passengers. THIS is THE FINAL boarding call for China Eastern to Shanghai.” Nicely enhanced by a psycho-quasi-yelping, “ATTENTION EVERYONE. THIS IS THE FINAL BOARDING CALL FOR CHINA EASTERN TO SHANGHAI.” I heard such announcements no less than 250 times over the course of the 10 days, subbing in the proper airline and flight respectively.

Yet again, bags were on the belt before we arrived there, and this time, there were no formalities to pass through first. The running conspiracy theory in my head is that a smaller cargo 737 takes our bags to the arrival destination and deposits them so that when we get there--- what, sounds implausible to you? Feh! Fooey!

Well, after some time in Beijing, and climbing the Great Wall (oh what tourists we are), it was time to press on to Xi’An. I had been looking forward most to Xi’An, and least to this flight, as I had no keen intention on flying an A300 ever again in my life. Of course, as soon as I make that declaration, by the good graces of China Eastern, an A300 shows up for our early morning departure to the land of the Terracotta Warriors.

Wednesday May 30th, 2007
China Eastern MU2106
Beijing PEK – Xi’An XIY
STD: 07:55am
ATD: 07:50am
STA: 09:50am
ATA: 09:33am
Airbus A300-600 B-2324

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Photo © Yu Ming

At Gate 48, we waited amongst the masses to be called for our bus to the stand where our ancient A300 awaited. The bus ride was certainly neat, and an experience not often endured in the States. We drove right under the nose of Air China’s Olympic-themed 737 and made our way to the hard-stand, parked next to myriad MU baby-busses and an Air China 767-300. A KrasAir 767 was taxing out in the background.

At the top of the stairs, a flight attendant greeted passengers warmly, and guided them down the correct aisle. I was taken aback by the pristine condition of this A300. Though it was obviously no spring chicken, the interior was flawless, clean and meticulously maintained. I settled into seat 15L and enjoyed my view of the massive A300 engine and broad slats.

As we began our taxi, the ground crew waved to our plane as it passed by the stand, and after a brief wait for departing traffic, our A300 powerfully, sharply and steeply ascended into the misty and unsettled Beijing skies. Controllers in the area were very keen on their step-climbing this morning, and our A300 climbed a few thousand feet, leveled, continued, leveled, etc—all the way to our cruising altitude of 35,000 feet, which was reached just 9 minutes before TOD.

All the while, our crew, again polite and efficient, though not overly warm like the previous crew, started the service with reading lights, newspapers, drinks, breakfast, drinks, tea/coffee. Opting for a Coke, I was given a healthy cup-full, as all the beverages sans the beer on MU are poured from large containers. There was no option for breakfast, but on such a short flight, I was pleased to receive anything.

That was, until I opened the box. The red-bean congee was terrifying. I thought about saving the roll as an economical present for someone back home. Unfortunately, I could think of no way to package it, nor anybody who needed a new paperweight. The meat salad could have been dog, roast beef, Martha Stewart—anything. The meal’s two saving graces was the vanilla yogurt and the wet roll, which was awaiting inside the breakfast box already.

Amidst the terror (cue: horrific scream) of such a meal, I smiled, handed it all back to the crew during trash collection, and stared out the window. A concerned flight attendant asked if the meal was to my tastes, which I replied that I wasn’t really hungry but that she shouldn’t worry about it for such a short flight. Troubled, she took a plastic cup for drinks, and piled a plate from the first-class fruit tray into it, insisting I take breakfast with me so that I could have an “energetic, efficient and balanced” day. Although the last thing I wanted was food, I couldn’t refuse such a gesture, and so I took the fruit, and found it to be surprisingly fresh. I have to say, the best fruit we got on the entire trip, from watermelon to lychee, was all aboard China Eastern!

Descent was rough, but short and we thumped down at a rainy Xi’An at 9:29am. By 9:33am we were at our gate, and the first thing I noticed in the airport was the incredible smell of urine. We high-tailed it to baggage claim, this time arriving there at 9:41am—8 minutes after disembarking from the FRONT of the plane, and damn it, the bags were there, AGAIN! Maybe they pack baggage elves that require no oxygen into the luggage hold of the plane so that they can pop the door open and immediately start getting bags off.

We were on our way before the planes scheduled arrival time of 9:50 for a great few days in Xi’An. Soon enough, it was time to press on to Guilin.

Friday June 1st , 2007
China Eastern MU2329
Xi’An XIY – Guilin KWL
STD: 08:00am
ATD: 07:49am
STA: 09:45am
ATA: 09:40am
Airbus A320-200 B-2357

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Photo © Roger Shen

This flight was special, as it marked the beginning of Children’s Week in China. The crew, dressed in special pink outfits, warmly greeted us at the door of the A320 and inside, there were colorful posters hung in the cabin. All the children were given brief tours of the flight deck prior to push, and were also given MU branded wings. The crew was in a fantastic mood, and the pilot welcomed us to this “wonderful Airbus A320” which would fly us “over the mountains to a rainy Guilin.” The reported temperature at that time was nearly 95F in Guilin—typical, the Captain said. I was impressed by his English.

As the safety demo was completed, our A320 lined up and rotated at 8:02am for the hour and a half hop over the mountains to Guilin. The scenery was stunning—it was a crystal blue sky over gorgeous landscapes. Unfortunately, the flight was too bumpy to yield any pictures, and attempts were marred by a window that had been attacked by the paws of a million angry felines.

After the routine reading lights, newspapers, drinks, snack, drinks, coffee/tea service, which I had by this point timed to a science, we were already approaching Guilin. The snack box this morning was the best yet—it contained a soft roll, water, dried Apple crisps and yellow radish. I didn’t touch the radish, but the Apple crisps were very tasty, and I commented to my mom about this. A passing flight attendant over heard, stopped and asked if I had enjoyed the apples. I said yes, very much so and she nodded, contented and walked away.

Touch-down was a little rough, but the landscape along the approach was just phenomenal—something I had been told (rightly so) to expect in Guilin. Gorgeous scenery indeed. As I made my way to the front of the plane from 23F, a different flight attendant handed me three more bags of dried apple, commenting that she had heard I liked them. I thanked her for this, and walked off the plane. For once, we beat our bags to the belt! Though the wait was only about 2 minutes.

As our trip progressed, I realized that the next flight we were scheduled for was from Shanghai-New York. Knowing that we couldn’t drive from Guilin to Shanghai, I inquired with our guide as to how exactly we were getting back to Shanghai. He informed me that MU had canceled our original flight before we ever left the states (shocking!) so we had rebooked with Shanghai Airlines. He also threw in that Shanghai Airlines had much prettier “wait staff.” I said nothing, as I don’t think he meant the comment in a derogatory way, but instead was slightly humored by the differences in air travel perception between countries.

Saturday, June 2nd, 2007
Shanghai Airlines 9223
Guilin KWL – Shanghai Hongqiao SHA
STD: 08:25pm
ATD: 08:15pm
STA: 10:30pm
ATA: 10:04pm
Boeing 767-300 Sub Boeing 737-800

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Photo © Xiao min

I had checked the schedules earlier to learn that this flight would be operated by a 767-300—a prospect that excited me as the -300 series for some reason had been elusive for me. It was also a refreshing break from a trip consumed by Airbii—I have nothing against Airbii, but it would be a nice return to Boeing metal for a change.

Arriving at the gate, a 737-800 without winglets waited instead. Slightly defeated but still excited at the prospect of flying with FM, we boarded, and was greeted with a gentle nod. We were the last on board, and our group of 13 had the entire back half of the plane to ourselves. Additionally, we were the only Westerners on the plane.

The flight crew played the safety demonstration while passengers were up and about the aisles. It wasn’t until after push back and engine start that the crew made everyone take their seats, but at no point were passengers asked to stow items. I was surprised by this blatant disregard for safety, and the crew generally seemed disinterested. I was especially taken aback by their behavior when I realized this flight was being audited by the CAAC—a man in a suit with CAAC identification was using a checksheet evaluate this flight.

Luckily, though, we took off without incident, and did so early. According to my tour guide, this flight is almost always delayed. Not only did we leave on schedule, but we arrived almost half an hour early. The crew offered newspapers first, but never dimmed the cabin lights at any point, which negated the need for a reading light service, if they even offer such things. First, snack boxes were handed out, which contained a sponge cake, a roll filled with something not-terribly-unlike feces (of the animal of your choice) in both appearance and smell, cherry wafers filled with fruit leather, sugared walnuts which tasted like burnt chemicals and mint gum drops. The up point to the service was being served warm towels after trash collection, and not moist and paperly like MU’s – these towels were thicker, more durable, and piping hot.

As the flight pressed on, I claimed all of Row 28 on the left side (the last row) to myself for a brief rest, while our friend Judy read in 28D. Native to Taiwan, Judy speaks Chinese fluently. Thank God she was with us! I woke up at the TOD and immediately noticed the strong smell of cigarette smoke coming from the bathroom. The crew was all there, but seemed to not notice. As a passenger emerged, clearly having had a smoke, the male from the CAAC asked him if he had a cigarette in the bathroom. The man was honest, and replied yes, to which the CAAC representative simple said, in Chinese, “You should know better. Please sit down.”

After this ordeal, I was feeling a little touchy, and was about ready to end my experience with FM. Of course this couldn’t happen without one little last incident. As I was sprawled across the seats reading, my head on the wall panel and feet on the aisle arm rest, three people from the front of the plane headed to the back to have the loudest conversation of their lives. Judy had fallen asleep and couldn’t translate for me, but I assume the conversation must have been intense, as it was clearly audible to not only all of our 737-800s load, but the entire country of China as well. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if my Uncle in Santa Maria overheard the conversation. Well, one talker wanted to get a little more comfortable and decided to step into my row to lean over the seat. Having been in China for almost 10 days by this point, I was fully aware that it wasn’t rude, but merely a cultural thing about personal space, when you’d get bumped on the street or passed. This, however, was inexcusable. One foot was on the seatback pocket for 28C while the other was on the armrest, and this lady tried to wrestle with my foot to wedge into the space between seats. I wasn’t having any of it and when she looked at me, I merely said a stern, “No” and continued reading. She then tried to grab my foot and physically move it. Beyond livid at this point, I told her to stop. To no avail, I kicked her in the side with the foot she was grabbing, gave her a cute and polite, “Fuck off” smile, ruined her perception of Westerners permanently and continued reading as she was told to sit down by one of the flight attendants.

We landed very high and very fast at a wet Shanghai, and pulled into stand next to a 767-300 with the cabin lights on. Maintenance crews were working on Engine 2, and it appeared as if the flaps on the right wing were hanging unevenly. Judy overheard the CAAC man, who had stood during the entire landing in the galley, talking to the crew, mention that aircraft had a flap failure, and was originally scheduled to fly our Guilin turn.

By that point, I was ready to get off, and never fly Shanghai Airlines again. Before I knew it, it was time to return to the states, for a final experience with MU. They had done well so far, and just needed to pull off one more flight!

Sunday, June 3rd, 2007
China Eastern MU587
Shanghai PVG – New York JFK
STD: 06:30pm
ATD: 07:05pm
STA: 08:45pm
ATA: 10:18pm
A340-600 B-5061

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Photo © Tony C. Y. Li

After arriving at Shanghai PVG on the MagLev, we cued in line for check-in. We knew we had no chance at securing exit seats, so instead settled for two seat pairs in the back, 51 and 52 AC for the four of us. Since almost every seat on the plane was full, this arrangement was just fine, and as we had come to learn with our domestic travels on MU, legroom was rather generous.

After passing through all of the necessary stations, our aircraft was towed to a remote stand opposite Gate 16, our departure gate, as a Dragonair A330 was parked at the gate. Boarding was to start at 5:45, but at 5:30, our gate was changed to 21. There, there was no plane, and finally, at 6:20, the plane was taxied into the stand, and boarding commenced. We closed and pushed back at 7:05- 35 minutes late- for no reason, but I took the delay in stride as 35 minutes was peanuts compared to the stage length of the flight. The captain informed us that the first 5 hours would be choppy, and that because of headwinds, we’d be in the air for almost 15 ½ hours, arriving JFK a total of 2 hours late. Such is life. I settled into my again headrest-less, footrest-less, amenity-kit-less seat (52A) and noticed the panel on this slightly older A346 was duct taped together. A little unsightly, but I’ve seen worse on AA 757s.

We took off at 7:24pm and climbed over the haze to witness a beautiful yet mysterious looking sunset—a proper departing scene from an equally beautiful yet mysterious country. I won’t go into much detail about this flight, as I slept for most of it, but suffice it to say that the turbulence over the Pacific Ocean was incredible—This being my 29th flight for leisure since January, and having passed through some nasty air in the past, had my positively gripping the armrest because the G forces were forcing the seatbelt into my stomach at times. Though the worst of it only lasted for 30 or so seconds, it was 30 seconds I care not to repeat!

The first meal was dinner, and the western option was a pork cutlet with rice and bok choy, a salad with thousand island dressing (my pack was missing a few islands), a roll, melon and a “Gula” mint, whatever that may be. The snack this time was beef buns, and the 2nd meal, which I thought would have been something lunch-ish or dinner-ish was instead a breakfast. Clearly, the service schedule was tailored to Shanghai time, so no marks to MU for helping alleviate jetlag. I will mention, though, that on both trans-pac flights, exercise videos were shown, while the tail-mounted cameras were never turned on. Our breakfast was identical to the outbound meal, and I washed it down with tea.

The flight was routine, and this crew was very excited for their 3 day lay-over in New York, as for many of them, it would be their first time to the Big Apple, including 3 out of the 4 pilots. We landed, went through formalities, and I must say—it was nice to be back.

Overall, the trip was a great success. China Eastern performed almost flawlessly. The major annoyance was the misrepresentation of the coach product, but as it was, the airlines offerings were run of the mill. While the staff of the airline shine, the service is merely adequate. Basic, but efficient. Clean, reasonably comfortable, and at half the cost of competitors, a logical choice. Would I fly MU again? Sure, but if it was trans-pac, I’d try out Business Class. With Shanghai Airlines, all I can say is what a disaster. After hearing wonderful things about this airline across the board, I was not only disappointed at FM, but genuinely taken aback by their blatant disregard for safety. And finally, as for China… what a unique place. China is poverty, socialism, communism and a total throw back. Families in Guilin villages with wall-less shacks gathered around massive flat-screen TV sets which remain unguarded. China is mystery and grandeur. But above all, despite the ever-so-little that most of China’s citizens have, it is a place of great optimism. Actually, it is a stunning sense of national pride, and one that is a pleasure to witness, even if the culture can be a little rude when compared to what we in America have grown accustomed to. It was, if nothing else, a total departure—a nation clearly touched by the modern, but culturally in tact. I will surely be back.

I hope you enjoyed this report, and thanks for sticking with me! I’ve uploaded my favorite pictures from the trip to my Flickr, and invite you all to have a look!

Photos from China!

Happy and safe traveling.
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RE: Adventures Across The Pacific: MU/FM

Thu Jun 07, 2007 12:09 am

Quoting JBLUA320 (Thread starter):
Clearly, the service schedule was tailored to Shanghai time, so no marks to MU for helping alleviate jetlag.

Actually it is the same for the opposite direction too... I had breakfast on a DTW-NRT flight as my 2nd meal before my 1630 touchdown... Strange if u ask me!
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RE: Adventures Across The Pacific: MU/FM

Thu Jun 07, 2007 12:33 am

Very nice trip report,and very funny.Well done.
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RE: Adventures Across The Pacific: MU/FM

Thu Jun 07, 2007 3:00 am

Great report and very well written, thanks for sharing.

That mean to Xi'an truly looks digusting. And how was China? What were your favorite sites/foods?

That lady on the Shanghi flight sounds quite rude, good thing you put her in her place

[Edited 2007-06-06 20:04:50]
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RE: Adventures Across The Pacific: MU/FM

Thu Jun 07, 2007 3:27 am

Really enjoyed reading your trip report (and your non-av pics of China too). Thanks for posting this report. I've heard mixed reports about MU too but they seem to have done pretty well on the flights you took. They always seem to be offering attractive fares on UK - Australia flights with a stopover in Shanghai - might consider it one day.
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RE: Adventures Across The Pacific: MU/FM

Thu Jun 07, 2007 6:27 am

You really should have put (Long) in your title - but your reporting was worth every minute I spent reading it. Job very well done! You're just going to have to travel more and keep on writing these mini-novels. They're wonderful. Thanks!

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RE: Adventures Across The Pacific: MU/FM

Thu Jun 07, 2007 6:37 am

Great report, enjoyable to read and very funny too!

Flad you enjoyed China, been there once myself, loved the place, really look forward to returning on day.

I flew CA on my domestics, were ok, MU looks fun  Smile


111 732 733 734 735 736 73G 738 739,7M8 BBJ 741 742 743 744 752 753 762 763 764 772 77L 773 77W L15 D10 D30 D40 AB3 AB6 312 313 318 319 320 20N 321 21N 332 333 342 343 345 346 359 351 388 CS1 CS3 I86 154 SSJ CRJ CR7 CR9 CRK 145 170 175 220
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RE: Adventures Across The Pacific: MU/FM

Thu Jun 07, 2007 7:18 am

Good trip report, entertaining.
Sounds like MU have a basic but decent enough product for the price across the pacific.

Thanks for sharing.

The white zone is for immediate loading and unloading of passengers only
Topic Author
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RE: Adventures Across The Pacific: MU/FM

Thu Jun 07, 2007 7:26 am

Hi everyone,

Thanks for commenting!

To PlateMan: China was great! We visited Shanghai, Hangzhou, Suzhou, Beijing, Xi'An, Guilin and Yangshuo County. My favorite scenery was undoubtedly in Guilin, both for the natural hills and for the Reed Flute Cave. I also really liked the Temple of Heaven where all the retirees go-- it was a great atmosphere there, especially with everyone doing their morning Tai Chi!

To Palmjet: They definitely have the best fares, but I'd be wary about using them on the UK routes, as I think they fly the A343 to London-- it is this plane that has been the root of MU's bad press amongst European travelers. If you can be sure you are on an A346, I'd say go for it.

To Tbear: Thanks! I should have put Long-- and I meant to, and totally forgot. I normally don't write trip reports but I thought MU was a little bit of a mystery to lots of people, so I decided to post my experiences!

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RE: Adventures Across The Pacific: MU/FM

Thu Jun 07, 2007 7:56 am

What a great report to read. It really reminded me of the great fun that China and her airlines offer. The crew of the airlines always seem quite polite, but your experience sounds really unique to me. I usually get the politeness and attention although quite mechanical, and always with a tremendous lack of English skills, also from the flight deck. Even the food seems better than on the most of my Chinese flights, except for that red bean thing. Looks pretty discusting Big grin

I can see from your non-av photos that you had the encounter with the cormorant fisherman in Yangshuo. I've been there three times, and he have been the river bank everytime Big grin

Amazing that you did Guilin and Yangshuo in only one day, must have been quite a hectical schedule there.

Quoting JBLUA320 (Thread starter):
ATTENTION EVERYONE. THIS IS THE FINAL BOARDING CALL FOR CHINA EASTERN TO SHANGHAI.” I heard such announcements no less than 250 times over the course of the 10 days, subbing in the proper airline and flight respectively.

They actually use the same concept in KWL, I have never been so annoyed in an airport. The constantly announced flights for a 4 hour period (yeah, last time in KWL my A/C was changed as well, causing a 4 hour delay), not caring that they announced the same flight five times in a straight row! And off course a ringy dingy bell before each announcement. Welcome to the land of China Big grin

Quoting JBLUA320 (Thread starter):
and our A300 climbed a few thousand feet, leveled, continued, leveled, etc—all the way to our cruising altitude of 35,000 feet, which was reached just 9 minutes before TOD.

Seems that it's common out of PEK. My two flights (CDG and CAN bound), have climbed a few thousand feet, and then leveled for quite a while before climbing again.

Looking forward to your next report. I'm up for a CPH-SVO-PVG//HGH-CAN-CKG//HTN-URC-SHA//PVG-SVO-CPH this summer, you have really inspired me to make a trip report on that one  Smile
Last flight: SAW-CPH on H9 on 02/11/09 - Next Flights: 23/12/09 CPH-AAL on QI, 30/12/09 CPH-LHR on SK, 19/01/10 CPH-CDG-
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RE: Adventures Across The Pacific: MU/FM

Thu Jun 07, 2007 8:20 am

Great tripreport! I like your writing style (really funny and sharp ) That meat salad onboard your flight to Xi'an looks really... erhm... awkard
Amazing pictures too on your flickr account: the pictures from some signs are hilarious: you should send them to Engrish.com

[Edited 2007-06-07 01:31:45]
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RE: Adventures Across The Pacific: MU/FM

Thu Jun 07, 2007 9:56 am

Hideous MU, I hardly take MU as Shanghainess when traveling to Beijing, prefer AirChina or FM. Why not to take AirCHina to Beijing?
I give your another plan. NY, Beijing, Xian, SHanghai, Hangzhou Suzhou, Beijing NY.

Enjoy reading your report. Welcome Shanghai again.
Topic Author
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RE: Adventures Across The Pacific: MU/FM

Thu Jun 07, 2007 10:39 am

Hi all,

Thanks for the comments still.

CPH: Definitely write the report, that sounds like a neat and unique trip. I'm planning on doing Tibet/Silk Road sometime in the next two years.

Lu: We didn't have a choice, the travel agent picked the airline for us, and has an arrangement with MU. And, given the awful performance of FM on my flight with them, I'd never want to step foot on a Shanghai Airlines aircraft again! I think MU did a fine job for me, and would have definitely preferred their A340-600 from JFK-PVG than Air China's 747-400 to PEK. That's just a personal opinion though-- I'll definitely have to come back and see the "real" Shanghai off the tour!

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RE: Adventures Across The Pacific: MU/FM

Thu Jun 07, 2007 7:26 pm


Thanks for the great trip report, one of the best I've read!! really funny and entertaining. Glad you enjoyed China. I love it there - I've been twice and can't wait to go back again! There's just so much to see.

With regards to FM, I flew on a 763 with them from Macau to Shanghai return when I went there in 2000 and they were so good I thought EVA Air could learn a thing or two from them (and that's saying something!). I flew EVA Air, which was great, from Brisbane (australia) to Taipei and thought FM blew them out of the water. Maybe things have been declining since then!!

Anyway it was a great read  Smile have a good one


PS love the 'fuck you' smile hahah. how did she react to that?
Spirit of Australia
Topic Author
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RE: Adventures Across The Pacific: MU/FM

Fri Jun 08, 2007 10:45 pm


I was expecting that kind of experience with FM, but they failed to deliver! I'd normally never rule out an airline on the first go, but with a combination of indifferent staff, smoking in the lavs and flight crews who stand and talk in the back during landing (not to mention not preparing the cabin for departure until...literally 2 seconds before take-off).... I think I'll pass!

Thanks for reading!
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RE: Adventures Across The Pacific: MU/FM

Sat Jun 09, 2007 4:30 am

Thanks a lot for this wonderful report, it seemed you ad a great time in China, it was also nice to get a good insight on the offerings of MU.

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RE: Adventures Across The Pacific: MU/FM

Sat Jun 09, 2007 7:09 am

[quote=Ryanair!!!,reply=1]Actually it is the same for the opposite direction too... I had breakfast on a DTW-NRT flight as my 2nd meal before my 1630 touchdown... Strange if u ask me!

I thibk NW and CO flights to Asia feed you as if you are still in North America. The afternoon meal is brerakfast.

I know UA serves its 2nd meal as lunch/dinner. I think the meals should be based on the time of the destination not the origin.

I am not sure what AA and DL do
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RE: Adventures Across The Pacific: MU/FM

Sat Jun 09, 2007 8:44 pm

Excellent, interesting report! Well written too...love your sense of humour!!

Thanks for sharing.

Ladies & gentlemen this is Captain Tobias Wilcock welcoming you aboard Coconut Airways flight 372 to Bridgetown Barbados
Topic Author
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RE: Adventures Across The Pacific: MU/FM

Fri Jun 15, 2007 8:44 pm

Thanks for all the comments!


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