I must first apologise for the fact that all the photos in this report are square. My phone defaults to 1:1 ratio photos so I did not think to change the aspect ratio until after the fact.
I recently returned from a work trip to China, and during that trip I was able to catch a couple of short domestic flights between the cities of Tianjin, Shenyang and Qingdao. This trip was my first time taking a domestic flight in China, and was certainly an eye opener as to the numerous airlines operating in China and the inflight service provided on short domestic legs in the Middle Kingdom. This flight only cost RMB 196, approximately USD 32, with a scheduled flight time of 1h15min.
My colleagues and I had a 6 hour layover between our arrival in Tianjin and our departure to Shenyang, and thankfully our company’s local representative in Tianjin was able to facilitate an early check in so that we could lighten our load and leave the airport to find some lunch.
We were checked in by a bored looking Tianjin Airlines duty manager at Tianjin Airport’s domestic Terminal 2, which is remarkably modern considering that Terminal 1 is somewhat of a dump.
For those who aren’t familiar with Tianjin Airlines, it is a regional airline under the HNA Group (Hainan Airlines) operating a fleet of A320s, E145s and E190s from its hubs in Tianjin and Haikou to destinations within China and regionally to Japan, South Korea, Russia, Indonesia, Cambodia and Mongolia.
With our bags checked and all other formalities settled, we left the airport to have lunch at a famous Chinese restaurant chain called Hai Di Lau, translated literally as ‘catch from the bottom of the sea’.
We headed back to the airport after lunch and cleared security, which was surprisingly painless and efficient. The first thing you see after clearing security is a bunch of high end luxury shops, undoubtedly targeted at young and affluent Chinese passengers. The terminal interior was very well appointed and had lots of natural light and there was ample sitting room near the gates.
Our aircraft had earlier arrived from Xi’an and was continuing the flight to Shenyang. It was partially obscured by the boarding pier and therefore I do not have any pictures of the aircraft in Tianjin. Boarding was called 30 minutes before schedule departure and a mad rush of people swarmed around the counter as people jostled to get their boarding passes scanned. My colleagues and I decided to take our own time to queue and after the initial rush had cleared, we had our boarding passes scanned and proceeded through the doors. The pier did not have an aerobridge attached and we had to walk down a flight of stairs onto the tarmac and onto the plane.
There were 4 flight attendants on the flight, 3 female and 1 male. The male flight attendant greeted passengers at the front door and was also in charge of serving the 6 seat business class cabin at the front of the aircraft. The business class cabin consisted of 2 rows of seats configured 1-2 whilst the economy class cabin was configured 2-2. There were 2 lavatories on the aircraft, one in front and one at the back.
I was thankfully able to put my carry on in the overhead bin and took my seat by the window.
Boarding was completed quite swiftly and the doors were closed ahead of schedule. A manual safety demonstration was conducted in Mandarin, followed by a similar one in English. The crew members onboard spoke decent English, another unexpected surprise.
The safety cards carried onboard had instructions in 6 different languages – Chinese, English, Japanese, Korean, Russian and I think Arabic.
Inside the seat pocket was the Tianjin Airlines magazine and a small tablet which was to be the IFE for the flight, as well as the standard airsickness bag.
The aircraft was pushed back on schedule and taxied behind the customary follow-me car to the runway.
We took off from runway 34L and made a right turn to head towards the north east. The layer of smog near ground level quickly dissipated as we climbed higher, and it was clear blue skies for the better part of the flight.
We climbed to our cruise altitude and the cabin crew came down the aisle to provide a basic refreshment and snack service. Each passenger was given a bottle of water and a pack of cream crackers which actually tasted quite decent considering the length and price of the flight.
The tablet in the seat pocket had a decent amount of entertainment on it, including some TV shows and a surprisingly wide selection of games, including Angry Birds Space.
Soon enough, the aircraft started descending into the smog layer once more, and we made a safe and uneventful landing in Shenyang.
It was a remote stand for us, and by remote, I mean the furthest possible stand from the terminal. For your information, all operations at Shenyang are currently based out of the newly opened Terminal 3, whilst Terminal 1 and 2 lie derelict. Our aircraft was parked in front of the old Terminal 1, which is practically on the opposite end of the airfield from Terminal 3. Furthermore, the entire planeload (close to 100 pax) was allocated to a single bus to bring us to the terminal, which made for an uncomfortable 15 minutes before we disembarked into an empty domestic arrivals hall where our bags appeared shortly thereafter.
For such a short flight, Tianjin Airlines certainly provided good value for money. The flight operated to schedule and the food provided as well as the tablet IFE onboard certainly was more than one would normally expect for a flight of such a short duration. The crew were nice enough and spoke relatively good English.
Happy and safe flying!
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