After landing at Terminal 3 I proceeded to the transfer desk to get my boarding pass for my Dragonair flight to Hong Kong. This was where the problem began. The agent was unable to find my ticket, again. Fortunately I had a hard copy of my itinerary and ticket number. She had to call the check-in counter on landside, but only to find out I NEVER FLEW TO BEIJING (or I never boarded the flight to Beijing, I was still in Tokyo, etc.) They told me to call American Airlines to fix the problem. How on earth did this happen, and how was I supposed to call AA from China? I decided to go to the check-in counter to get this resolved.
Immigration was a breeze since I didn't need a passport to enter China as a Hong Kong resident. After that it was quite a hike to go to landside.
Automated people mover (taken from my previous visit to Beijing). It was a LONG ride - the airport must be humongous.
After baggage claim, there was another line for scanning the bags. I wonder what the purpose of the scan was. Finally, the arrival hall (taken from my previous visit).
I walked back up to the departure hall (taken from my previous visit), only to find out the Dragonair counter had already closed, and wouldn't be open again until 3 hours before departure, which was three hours away. WTH.
That was the most stressful three hours in my trip. I asked for a WiFi code from the customer service desk, and started to look for help, only to find out the connection was painfully slow and spotty. The worse part - I was in the Great Firewall of China. I tried to send a tweet to AA for help - blocked; call out for help on Facebook - blocked; make a call to the US on the public phone - didn't work. After several attempts, I was able to log on to my reservation on CX's website and confirmed what I heard was true. It said I couldn't check in to my flight to PEK-HKG because I hadn't completed my HND-PEK flight. I knew something was wrong when check-in took so long at HND.
It was late at night. I was hoping to get some rest at the lounge. I walked back and forth to see if the check-in counter was open yet. WhatsApp was the only app I could use to connect to the outside world. I rang up a good friend of mine and asked him to tweet AA on my behalf. A while later, AA replied saying they couldn't do anything. I suspected JAL caused the problem by not properly checking me in at HND. I asked my friend to call JAL's office in the US, but he came across a bad customer representative who was not helpful at all. I ran out of solutions, and was prepared to pick up a fight (for my rights) when it was time to check in.
After all the anxiety, the check-in counter finally opened at 12am. As I expected, there was indeed something wrong with my ticket. The agent had to seek assistance from her supervisor. Thankfully, after 10 minutes or so, everything was straightened out, and Hallelujah, I was all set to go to Taipei!
Hiking back to airside (taken from my previous visit)
It was past midnight. Immigration and security check were fast, but one thing that I felt weird about security screening in China was the mandatory pat-down after going through the metal detector. It was a really thorough pat-down, covering almost every inch of my body!
At that time I just wanted to get some snacks and rest at the lounge. The Dragonair and Cathay Pacific Lounge is located on the west wing of Terminal 3, but the boarding gate was at the far end of the east wing. More walk on my already sore feet.
Open air lounge, overhearing noises from constructions next door. The couches were quite uncomfortable.
Dim sum, cup noodles, snacks and beverages at the snack bar
I didn't have high expectations for lounge food in China, even at a CX lounge
Another section of the lounge
It was about time for boarding. Lounge agent informed me that the flight hadn't even arrived yet, boarding would be late, and I could stay longer. I should have listened to her.
Chinese architectures in Terminal 3
Japan Airlines Boeing 767 parking overnight
Cathay Pacific Airbus 330 parking overnight
Draganair Airbus 321, my flight to HKG
It was almost 3am. People were anxious to get on the plane.
What a pleasant surprise! The flight was scheduled to be operated by the old A320 with old business class seats with only 8 recline. I walked in and saw the new business class seats, with much delight.
From my previous experience, Dragonair flight attendants tend to be less experienced and refined compared to CX. Not on this flight! I was warmly greeted by the purser and his highly professional crew and well taken care of during the flight.
I was sharing the cabin with only two other passengers, making it look really spacious. The seat itself is very comfortable. It provides a good recline for napping. I was able to nap for a couple of hours on it.
Delay in PEK means less time for me to enjoy the lounge in HKG :(
Another pleasant surprise! I was given an amenity kit for this 3-hour red eye flight. It's the same amenity kit as CX.
Everything was upgraded along with the equipment change - from seats, to amenity kit, to a three course dinner! I was going to pass dinner and go right to sleep, but I just couldn't resist. Dinner started with a fruit plate.
Then an entree of seafood fried rice
Ice-cream and chocolate
Landed at the remote terminal at HKG, which required a bus ride to the main terminal, eating more of my lounge time :(
Beijing - PEK
Hong Kong - HKG
Despite all the drama with ticketing and check-in and the mediocre lounge in Beijing, I was so delighted by the last minute equipment change to the retrofitted A321, which features the new business class. New seats, amenity kit and a three course dinner (which I thought was a bit excessive for a late night flight) came along with it. The crew was very friendly and highly professional and far exceeded my expectations for Dragonair. I'm glad everything turned out so well at the end.
The 3am flight happened to fit my itinerary well. I could see it's convenient for Chinese travelers connecting in HKG to other destinations, or those who just want to save time. It's only three hours long - there's hardly any time for sleeping. It could be quite an ordeal, even traveling in business class.
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