…and a Rave for Shanghai Airlines
On Friday, April 21 my family and I left Shanghai for Xi’an. We went by bus from central Shanghai to Pudong International Airport and arrived at 6:30 p.m. in time for our 8 p.m. China Eastern Airlines flight. At 7:30 p.m. we arrived at the gate and waited for the boarding call. The flight was delayed due to a freakish thunder storm. We waited almost one hour to board, standing in line with hundreds of other passengers. The flight was full. At about 9 p.m. we were ushered into the plane. The weak announcement overhead periodically announced that we had to wait for other airplanes to depart. At midnight, our flight finally departed.
Waiting three hours for a flight is bearable, but China Eastern Airlines mismanaged the flight. As China’s second largest airline, I expected better service. The boarding was chaotic, and once we were seated, we were subjected to poor circulation and high temperatures induced by warm bodies cramped in a parked airplane. The air hostesses brought drinks and peanuts but were at a loss to provide any other comfort. The flight was miserable. Our Airbus A300 did not handle the turbulence of the thunder storm and China’s central plateau well. Airbus builds its jets so that flight stress is borne by the fuselage, not the wings. You could feel every dip and crack during the flight. It did not help that we flew on an older Airbus. My son slept during the entire flight, but my poor wife paled and gripped my hand with each turbulent shock. I’ve flown on China Eastern a few times and was satisfied with the flights. This one failed miserably. Because the flight was a domestic route serving Shanghai and Xi’an, it’s likely that the level of customer service was a notch below that of international routes. While a regional carrier, China Eastern still serves several international locations, including London and Los Angeles.
I might let my experience with China Eastern slide, but I was surprised by the difference between their service to Xi’an and Shanghai Airlines’ return service to Shanghai. When we flew back to Shanghai on April 23, we flew on a brand new Boeing 737-800. The air hostesses reminded me of international hostesses. They served real food, and the flight was smooth as glass and on time. Our experience on China Eastern Airlines and Shanghai Airlines could not have been more different. I was more concerned about flying Shanghai Airlines than China Eastern Airlines, but it seems that my concern was misplaced. If you have plans to fly in China, give Shanghai Airlines a try.
On Thursday we will fly Delta Airlines back to the states. I hope that our next experience with Delta will be better than our previous one. One thing is for sure–we will not wait to be the last passengers on the plane.