Tag Archives: Air China

Arrival in Beijing

The Air China flight to Beijing was very uneventful, if relatively comfortable. It arrived in Beijing on time. Even before the arrival, the airline prepares their passengers for the immigration formalities by handing out the appropriate forms and showing instructional films for them. It’s clear that China is not only a communist dictatorship, but can also look back on a tradition of thousands of years of bureaucracy.

I already had a visa for China. But I still had to fill out an Arrival Card, a Customs Declaration Form, and a Health Declaration Form. None are really complicated, and my neighbor on the plane told me not to be overly honest on the customs form. In the end, the few gifts I had brought would not remain, as the form put it, “in the territory”, as they would be carried on to Japan: so I told my conscience to go to sleep.

I wasn’t so surprised to learn that it was illegal to bring “deadly poisons” into China. I guess I should also have expected that it’s illegal to bring any printed materials, pictures, videos, or digital media into China that would be ‘dangerous’ to the country’s economic, political, cultural or moral well-being. Can someone please explain what that encompasses? All my belongings, including books, were apolitical, but could someone get arrested who carried a magazine that included an article critical of, say, Mao?

I hate dictatorships.

Another item I was surprised to learn was illegal to import into China: Used clothes. All of mine were fresh and clean, but is a returning Chinese really supposed to hand in his dirty socks at the Quarantine desk? I rarely come back to Germany with a suitcase full of clean clothes.

Anyway. The plane landed, and thus equipped with my filled out forms I entered China. The queue at the immigration check was insane. But, as predicted, nobody cared about my health form (empty) or my customs declaration form. They didn’t even pay me a second look.

12458

I did have to pick up my luggage. And then check it in again. Beijing is not a transfer airport. It’s actually pretty easy to find all the required places, but it’s still a lot of hassle. I guess it saves them the customs / immigrations checks at other airports, but, well, it’s still very annoying, and I could imagine a big problem if you are in a hurry to catch a connecting flight. I seriously doubt the entire process can be done in less than 30 minutes (if there are no queues anywhere). Took me closer to an hour I think.

So I only had to catch the connecting flight to Qingdao. Waiting for it was interesting, because I was one of the very few European guys there. There were two or three people that looked like business travelers, and one small group of people consisting of a very fat guy with a really skinny Chinese girlfriend, and what appeared to be his two friends. Couldn’t help but wonder what she saw in him.

12468

Boarding the flight to Qingdao meant going out on the airfield (a bus brought us to the plane). As I had expected, there was a haze all over the airport. No, not fog; Good old pollution. Yes, the stories are true, and yes, it’s worse than Jakarta. I would be back in Beijing later

Flight to Beijing

So the big day came. I went to the airport – almost too late, because I had remembered the departure time incorrectly by 30 minutes. My taxi driver then drove me to the wrong terminal (I had told him quite clearly to drop me off at “Terminal 1B”. Terminal 2 doesn’t have a “B” area; something which I would expect every Taxi driver in Frankfurt to know) but I managed to arrive well in time.

When I boarded the plane, I was surprised to learn thatthe flight was an Air China / Lufthansa Code-Share. Surprised, because the Lufthansa agent had told me the ticket would cost 1600 Euros (yes, in Economy class) and I eventually bought the ticket from Air China for 800. Goes to show you that you can never trust an airline, and that shopping around for tickets is very well worth it.

I was lucky in that I got a pretty good seat: First row in Economy class. Not only did I had a little more foot space, but there were also no morons in front of me who could lean back all the way. I’ve never understood that, by the way: Sleeping in an airplane is still uncomfortable as hell, and you torture the guy behind you by leaning back. Maybe that’s the purpose of it.

So compared to my KLM flights to Asia, Air China already had managed to secure a huge lead. Unfortunately, that ended right there. The food was just as bad as on the KLM flights, and the service, well, what service?

There is only one thing I want to mention quickly: The in-flight entertainment. The movie they showed was a movie about ancient China; I didn’t follow it from the beginning and I am not sure what the title is. I think the basic plot is that the Emperor is trying to poison his wife, and various people (their sons and two women) attempt to save her. One of the sons even stages a revolt to accomplish this. Anyway, the notable thing about the movie is the violence level. We’re talking about a flight that has “all ages” in the audience. But in the movie, people got impaled, beheaded, cut down by swords, slaughtered by barrages of arrows, and beaten to death. The entire thing was very well filmed but I can not help but wonder how this got past the airline censors.

China 2007: Problems before departure

My next trip will take me to China and Thailand. It’s scheduled for late August and early September – three weeks in total. I’ve made a rough plan, with enough details that I wanted to buy my plane tickets today. And it turns out that Air China can’t sell any tickets. My travel agency said they don’t really know what the problem is, but no reservations for Air China are “going through” at all at the moment.

Tried calling Air China, but of course all their lines are busy. The [Air China website](http://www.airchina.de/) isn’t exactly a masterpiece either, and it doesn’t have any kind of reservation system.

I’ll try again later, or tomorrow, but this is quite aggravating.