This series covers a recent trip to China with stops in Shanghai, Chengdu, and Jiuzhaigou. As a reminder, the routing is:
Part 1 – LAX-PVG [DL 185, Boeing B777-200ER, Comfort+] – Here Part 2 – PVG-CTU [CZ 3359, Airbus A320, Economy] – Here Part 3 – CTU-JZH [3U 8607, Airbus A319, Economy] – Here Part 4 – JZH-CTU [CA 4482, Airbus A319, Economy] – You are here Part 5 – CTU-SHA [FM 9404, Boeing B737-800, Economy] – Coming soon Part 6 – PVG-LAX [DL 186, Boeing B777-200ER, Comfort+] – Coming soon
This report will cover the flight from JZH to CTU aboard an A319. The bonus at the end will be of Jiuzhaigou.
This FR will be a good compliment to Marathon’s FR on CA4480 back from 2009: here.
Opening the window in the morning, we are met with snow and dense fog. This was very unsettling for us given the propensity of flight cancellations at JZH in inclement weather. We quickly got up, had the front desk arrange a taxi and we ate breakfast at the hotel. The airport shuttles don’t have the right to operate from hotels, so you are limited to hired cars to the airport. The rate for the taxi was 260 RMB ($38) for the 60km trip. The taxi driver told us we should leave 4 hours before our flight time since it snowed the previous night. A word of advice, trust the locals^^
At 8:40, we set off in the taxi as the clouds begin to break a little and blue skies are visible.
Propaganda billboards on the side of the road.
We got about 20 minutes into our drive when everything went wrong. There was a long line of cars stopping on the side of the road. We stop behind them and the taxi driver explains the police closed one of the lanes. We get out of the taxi and wait for a bit. Some photos as we look around.
Eventually the police start to let our flow of traffic move. Well, at least we tried to move. Our taxi was now stuck on black ice and the driver was just spinning the wheels as we skidded towards the guardrail. This is when I started to get really nervous, getting stranded in rural China was not on my list of things to do.
He asks us to get out and he starts talking to some other drivers. They help him push the car up the hill to get away from the ice.
Eventually we get clear and can get back into the taxi to continue our journey.
Another icy stretch that we inch through. There were several cars skidding off the road so it is definitely not a trivial drive through the mountains during the winter here…
After all that drama in the mountain pass, we eventually get into some better weather as we continue the slow drive to the airport. Some photos of the scenery along the way.
Even David Beckham wants you to visit Jiuzhaigou^^
Entering the airport.
The taxi driver drops us off in front of the terminal about 2 hours before our flight, it took almost 2 hours to get there from the hotel.
The entrance was roped off and we had to wait for the security to let us in. JZH didn’t have metal detectors, but they did wipe our bags for explosives to enter the terminal.
We were the second group of people to arrive in the empty terminal. There was no one at the CA counters. We tried using the self-service kiosks and that let us pick our seats and input FFP info without any problems. We opted to go for 2 window seats so we picked 23A and 24A.
CA’s super excited about their B789s, so much they feel it necessary to advertise them at JZH^^
All of the shops were closed and employees didn’t show up until 90 minutes until departure. As Marathon mentioned, there are only ~10-15 seats in the check-in lobby, so you better get there early to sit down^^
The security line is to the left on this photo, as soon as an employee showed up, we went through security.
We will head upstairs.
The departure’s lobby for Terminal 2. Terminal 1 is connected and it just looks like the original building that was added on to. During low season, they only use Gates 3 and 4 since there are never more than 2 planes on the ground at any given time. Again the shops haven’t opened yet, but that café in the top looks open.
Checking the *A website, there is a lounge here that I have access to. Let’s go there^^
Marathon will be happy to know that this is no longer called the “Oxygen Network,” but the bad news is that it is closed during the low season. This sign on the door says to go downstairs in order to ask for access, but we figure it’s probably just a “politeness” sign and we’d get told it’s closed one way or another…
We just wander around the terminal.
The bathrooms were disgusting (both men’s and women’s). The men’s restroom just reeked of urine and didn’t have hand soap. Thankfully, I had hand sanitizer. They also have the same signs as CTU, but with a different English translation. One small step forward to the urinal, is a giant step for mankind^^
While I was in the bathroom, I missed the 3U A319 arrive from CKG. It taxis in and parks at the gate next to ours at Gate 3.
The 3U tail logo is beautiful. I like how it has the 4 rivers for Sichuan^^
I tracked our plane on FR24 and when it was getting close, I went to go try and see it land. I can see it in the horizon.
And it lands.
It taxis back to Gate 4.
Our plane now at the gate. They quickly disembark passengers as the 3U flight to CKG/HGH leaves at the adjacent gate.
Air China, CA 4482 Equipment: Airbus A319 [B-6228, delivered September 2006] Departure: 12:40 (ATD: 12:33) Arrival: 13:40 (ATA: 13:31) Flight time: 0:58
Less than 10 minutes after the last passenger deplanes, they make a call for boarding. There is no priority line and it’s just a free for all to board. We join the line and head in.
Blocked fuselage shot.
Entering, 3 FAs are in galley and greet passengers. I was greeted in both Chinese and English. Passengers were handed a water bottle in the galley as they boarded.
The F cabin, which would be surprisingly full on this sector (5/8 load).
The dated Y seats with seemingly ancient upholstery.
A look down my row and the seat details.
Seat pitch is fine at 31-32”.
This upholstery is like looking at clouds, can you see the peacock too? Or am I just daydreaming again?
Audio/video controls in the armrest.
Cabin is older on this plane, and a loose panel can be seen hanging down a few rows up.
Cabin shot during boarding. The flight again will be essentially 100% full in Y.
The water bottle handed to me on boarding (380mL). Only half as lucky as the 388mL bottle that 3U gives out.
The safety card on this A319.
Wings of China magazine.
CA is super excited about their new B789s, but unfortunately made little effort to update their hard products along with the launch of this plane (same issue with the B748s).
Super stereotypical picture^^
CA’s route map to North America.
As soon as the last passenger boarded, the front door closed, and we pushed back before people were even all seated. CA was clearly in a hurry to get this plane out of JZH.
The final passengers sitting down as the plane pushes back. The screens come down for the safety video.
A male FA approaches me, and says “Excuse me sir, are you Dr. NGO85?” I affirm, he welcomes me onboard as the cabin manager, offers a newspaper, and let’s me know to inform him if there is anything else I need during the flight. Further proof that *A is the superior alliance to ST.
Safety video plays as we taxi out to the runway.
Aligning onto the runway on this sunny afternoon.
Believe it or not, we took off 7 minutes before our ETD, a world record for a Chinese carrier^^
Passing the terminal.
It was a surprisingly smooth lift off with very little turbulence.
Leaving the plateau the airport sits on, the valley below is visible.
We continue our rapid rise to clear the mountains.
Another spectacular run over the mountains in western Sichuan.
The mountain peaks are replaced by clouds.
The overhead monitor played some sort of ad about CA’s relief efforts in Africa and then had the moving map for the rest of the flight.
As on the outbound flight from CTU, as soon as we level off, we are notified of beginning our initial decent. The FAs aren’t seen in the cabin during the flight other than one pass through for safety checks.
The haze is deep around Chengdu and we can’t even see the end of the wing out the window.
Based on the moving map, we entered a holding pattern south of Chengdu for ~20 minutes. Based on how deep the haze was, it’s not surprising to see delays with low visibility.
Crossing the Min River, which will later join the Yangtze River.
Rapeseed (canola) fields below, characterized by their bright yellow flowers.
We land at 02R, which seemed to be dedicated for arrivals with all departures from 02L. Despite being placed in a holding pattern, we still land ahead of schedule thanks to the quick departure at JZH.
A peek at the hydraulics.
CTU’s Fire Brigade.
We taxi around T2 filled with *A operations and then veer off towards the remote stands.
TV A332 (1 of their 2 A330s).
EU operations, there are some Comac ARJ21s in the background. Couldn’t get any closer to them.
As soon as we come to a stop, the VIP bus shows up^^
Deplaning was fairly quick. The FAs thanked me in English leaving the galley.
Last picture before heading into the bus.
Unlike the paxbus driver we had in Part 2, this driver was very good and drove very slow and carefully to get us back to the drop off point.
We didn’t check bags so head out through the baggage claim.
I’ll leave off this series here during our layover in CTU.
***TOURIST BONUS***:Jiuzhaigou National Park
Low season is not the best time to visit for weather, but does come with reduced crowds and cheaper entrance fees (80RMB versus 220RMB). It was definitely worth the hassle of getting there though.
Double Dragon Lake.
Shuzheng Waterfall and Tiger Lake.
Five Flower Lake.
Pearl Shoal and Pearl Falls.
Five Color Pond.
Spring is in the air^^
Jiuzhaigou - JZH
Chengdu - CTU
Not my first rodeo with CA, plenty of nostalgia there with that great Communist-era livery. CA was fine on this flight, it's a short hop so I can only compare them to 3U for a flight of this length. They had similar service and punctuality so their ratings pretty much fall on top of each other. Whereas CA offers more pitch, 3U had cleaner cabins. The crews behaved the same and CA at least acknowledged my status. They both had the moving map briefly on the overhead monitors so IFE score is what it is. The water bottle provided by CA is 8mL smaller than the one provided by 3U. I have yet to have a catastrophic flight on CA, so maybe I should roll the dice with a long-haul Y flight some time^^
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