Quick Hits: Do NOT take Air China

My love of travel didn’t come out of no where.  I’ve been fortunate enough to have parents who have taken me around the world and see the benefit of exposing their children to the vast diversity of cultures on our planet.  So with that, our guest post today comes from none other than Mom!  It’s a little lengthy, she’s big on narrative, but worth a read to avoid having to go through the horrible experience she just went through.  Here she is:

“I have always enjoyed travel.  The last few decades had seen me in many countries around the world and since my retirement, the frequency of my travel has increased.  I just recently returned from a trip to Bangkok, flying from JFK, with a lengthy layover in Beijing on Air China.  The flights to and from Thailand were so terrible that I need to share the experience with you.”

“As any seasoned traveler would know, one usually chooses an airline based on price and service.  The Thailand trip was actually a vacation package deal including all airfares, international as well as domestic.  The price was very reasonable because they booked us on Air China, which offered the lowest airfares.”  

“Both the outbound trip and return trip each took approximately 15 hours in the air.  Two meals were served between JFK and Beijing.  The flight attendants could not speak English well (I think they probably understood English much better than they spoke it) so with the first meal served, I could only grasp the concept of either duck or beef for choice of entrée–I chose duck.  The duck tasted like the back end of the fowl; it was absolutely offensive.  The accompanying rice was cold and dry.  I ended up eating just a dinner roll with a pad of butter.  The second meal came maybe 8 hours later.  Again, I could barely understand the choice of beef or chicken.  Still reeling by the duck experience, I chose the beef and onion stir-fry.  I had one bite and stopped.  The beef and onion had a slimy texture, the type of slimy food would get just before turning rancid, usually after a day or so without refrigeration.  I was nauseous for the rest of the flight.”


“Also, for the entire 15-hour flight, beverages were served only twice when the two meals were served.  There were no beverage carts going up and down the aisles for the passengers at any other times during the other 14 hours.  Fortunately, I had an aisle seat, so I was able to make frequent trips to the galley to beg for water.  And when I did ask, the cabin crew had the audacity to give me attitude for asking!  For water!  Food and service on the return flight was no better; I chose not to eat and I was so hungry and dehydrated when I got off the plane.”

“Now, let’s get to the bathrooms on the plane.  With over 200 passengers sharing 6 bathrooms in the economy section for 15 hours, it goes without saying that maintenance of these bathrooms is pretty critical.  I’m not sure of the airline’s policy, but I was not impressed by the condition of the bathrooms on either flight.  There was a clogged toilet in one bathroom and I stepped into a giant puddle of some liquid which I’m assuming was urine in another.  Needless to say those shoes didn’t come home with me.” 

“And that’s not all.  At the Beijing Airport, I chatted with a family waiting for the same flight back to JFK (Two parents, an elderly grandmother, and a 10-year old son). Air China had scattered them all over the plane, not keeping this party of four together.  The father asked the ticket agent at counter for, perhaps, just two seats together so that one parent could be with the young son.  The counter agent couldn’t accommodate such a humble request of finding any two seats together on a Boeing 777.  She told them to ask the agent at the gate for the seat changes.  When they spoke to the agent at the gate, they were told that they should have had the counter agent to change seats, not at the gate. Ultimately, the family was able to switch seats with other passengers so that the child would not have to travel alone without parental supervision.  It was the passengers who resolved the problem.  The airline was no help at all.”


“This brings up the most important issue to anyone traveling and my final note–the airline’s willingness and ability to help during an emergency situation.  Air China could not deal with a simple problem like seat changes for a family booked as one party.  I doubt the company will assume responsibility for major issues like damaged luggage, lost children, or injury.  On an international flight between Beijing and New York with passengers from different countries, the inability to speak fluent English by the flight attendants worries me greatly.  If an emergency arises at 35,000 feet, I doubt the ability of the Air China crew to help me.  I would not be able to understand their emergency instructions.  Knowing the words duck or beef will not help at all.  Personally, I will avoid flying Air China in the future.”


A few quick tips

I’m learning very quickly that keeping a travel blog is sometimes hard to maintain regularly when you’re not traveling regularly.  I’m not going to be able to give you all stories every week even though I’d love to.  So allow me to share some random thoughts/tips every now and then that stem from things that I think of at any given moment.

-When you’re in line at the airport security gate, do yourself and everyone behind you a favor.  Be ready when it’s your turn at the X-Ray scanner.  Nothing is more annoying than someone who has tons of junk and takes forever to get their crap onto the belt – especially when you’re running a little late for your flight.  To make things go a little smoother, while you’re waiting in line, untie your shoes.  Take your watch, cell phone, and belt and put it in your carry-on (assuming you have one).  And while you’re putting stuff in your carry-on, take out that laptop that TSA wants you to separate.   Believe me, that routine will make your life much easier.  You can get all your stuff on the belt quickly, and when you get to the other side, you can quickly grab your bag and put your watch back on, take out your phone, etc. at a nearby chair without fumbling with all of it at the belt causing more traffic.

– Buy a bottle of water before you get on the plane at the Hudson News or whatever near your gate.  You might not be thirsty at the time, but believe me it could pay off.  If your plane is delayed and you’re stuck on the tarmac for an hour, the flight attendants don’t take drink orders.  You’ll be happy you at least have something.

-Finally, let the person in the middle seat have both arm rests.  I know it sounds silly.  But it already sucks to be in the middle (unless of course Giselle is on one side and Megan Fox is on the other), and it sucks even more if the guy on the right is hogging the right armrest, the girl on the left is hogging the left armrest.  Meanwhile, you’re stuck having to keep your elbows awkwardly pressed in your sides.  If you’re in the window seat, lean on the wall and wall arm.  If you’re in the aisle seat, lean a little on the aisle arm.  It’ll go a long way to make the middle person a tad more comfortable.  I’m saying this from a personal middle seat experience – 4 hours ago.