Don’t want to fly Air China again

I don’t really like to complain, and I know it doesn’t make a huge difference posting on my personal blog, but I need to remind myself not to fly Air China.

I recently took the direct flight from Beijing to New York, and Air China is the only operator that does it. And you pay dearly for the privilage of sitting in their tightly cramped seats for 13 hours.

It wasn’t just the seats.

Flight CA981 leaves Beijing at 1:50 in the afternoon, which is quite a reasonable time, and actually, as far as I know, we left on time.  It wasn’t long, however, before we discovered the interior of the old 747 Jumbo had some problems, and I can’t figure out why they weren’t dealt with before we took off:  I think they would have been easy to recognize long before the flight left Beijing:

  1. The reading lights were broken.  My section had no reading lights, the section ahead of me had reading lights whether they wanted them or not.  For the whole flight (at least during the times when the cabin lights were turned off, which was most of the time), I couldn’t read — couldn’t do anything really, but twiddle my thumbs.  Watch the movie you say?  See #2:
  2. The entertainment system is terrible.  Not only are there no in-seat TVs which I have expected as a standard on long haul flights now (call me spoiled?) but there were only two movies planned for the whole 13 hour flight.  The rest of the time, we watched the flight progress on the GPS map.  Very exciting.  Oh, and the in-flight exercise film, which I do really enjoy, was played 4 or 5 times.  Even though I enjoy it, I eventually lost interest.
  3. The flight attendants continually missed seats or rows in the service of food and drinks.  I thought this kind of service would have been standardized practice, but no, I had to jump over my neighbour and ask for my meal. Why not push the attendant button?  See #4.
  4. The attendant button was broken.
  5. The selection of drinks is abysmal.  Great Wall red and white vinegar wine, or Pepsi or Yanjing Beer (the beer is fine).  Compared to other airlines, however, my tastes were not satisfied.

So, you say, I got what I paid for?  Well no.  Air China is the only airline that operates direct flights between New York and Beijing.  And they make you pay for it.  My round trip economy-class ticket was 11,600 RMB.  The closest competitor, which has a stop over somewhere was abour 9,000.  The cheapest ticket, on China Eastern, is about 6,000 RMB including tax.  I wouldn’t expect little bottles of Baileys with fresh brewed coffee on that flight, but we will see, because I’ll take China Eastern next time, I think.

The return flight was somewhat better.  The entertainment system was half decent, but the attendants continued to miss seats and people in the distribution of meals and other services.  Oh well.

What’s it all mean, folks?  I think Chinese people need to expect more from their national airline.  You can’t accept half-baked service just because “China is a developing country.”  Vote with your feet and your pocketbooks, take some other airlines, and force Air China to put on a better face for China!


Don’t want to fly Air China again — 1 Comment

  1. I really thought their international flights were supposed to be better than their domestic ones. Next time fly Continental to Newark–they have nice international service. Or see if you can take Korean Air…I flew them from HK to JFK with a short stopover in Seoul. It was very nice.