Hello, and welcome to another quick trip to Asia with your humble flight-reporter. This time, I’m off to Beijing in Delta One. This trip was inspired by a very low YYZ-PEK business class fare that Delta offered for much of the first six months of this year. As it happens, this is a week before my birthday, so happy (early) birthday to me.
As a reminder, here’s the rundown of our agenda:
DL4062 YYZ-DTW - 7/3/2017 - Find it here! DL583 DTW-PVG - 7/3/2017 - Find it here! MU5186 PVG-PEK - 7/4/2017 - You are here? No, not really. DL188 PEK-DTW - 7/6/2017 - Coming soon DL6217 DTW-YYZ - 7/6/2017 - Coming soon
When last we saw each other, I had just arrived into Shanghai Pudong, looking forward to this connection onwards to Beijing, only to be informed by his travel-tracking app that said flight to Beijing had been given the axe for the day.
So immediately after clearing customs into China, I found my way to the transit help desk. After some miscommunication — I walked up to the China Eastern desk, who referred me to the transit supervisor’s desk, who promptly yelled at the first China Eastern desk, and pointed me to another China Eastern desk, this one apparently dedicated to folks on Delta tickets, we started to get things figured out.
The agent confirmed my flight had been cancelled, and there were no additional options this evening. The first offer presented me was a 4:00 pm flight from Pudong to Beijing the next day, although she said she might be able to get me there earlier if I was willing to change airports.
Well, either way, my plans were screwed. You see, having booked the flights to Bejing, I decided I didn’t want to spend two days in smoggy July in Beijing, and sought out options, quickly finding a cheap business trip on China Southern to Bangkok and back, which would have given me about six hours in Thailand, and more importantly, let me fly the CZ A380 on a PEK-CAN and CAN-PEK. But that itinerary left Beijing at 9:00 the next morning, so pretty much no matter what they come up with, I was screwed.
Eventually, I decided to go with a SHA-PEK flight at 10:00 the next morning, reasoning that I’d be better off at whatever hotel I could arrange in Beijing than whatever hotel China Eastern arranged for me in Shanghai. Fortunately, the CZ itinerary is refundable, so while I won’t have the experience I was hoping to have, I’ll at least have some cash back in my pocket.
The agent confirmed me in First on the flight the next morning, gave me a ticket for the bus ride from PVG to SHA, and told me to catch the 7:00 bus over to Hongqaio the next morning. Then she told me to go sit down in a bank of seats across the way, while they arrange the hotel.
So here’s the revised rundown:
DL4062 YYZ-DTW - 7/3/2017 - Find it here! DL583 DTW-PVG - 7/3/2017 - Find it here! MU5186 PVG-PEK - 7/4/2017 - Didn’t quite happen MU5105 SHA-PEK - 7/5/2017 - You are here DL188 PEK-DTW - 7/6/2017 - Coming soon DL6217 DTW-YYZ - 7/6/2017 - Coming soon
Fortunately, I was able to get WiFi working, so at least I was able to catch up with the outside world a bit — although with it being the hangover from Canada Day, and U.S. Independence Day, life was pretty quiet. The area where I was sitting was all but empty when I arrived, but over the course of the next 45 minutes, it filled in.
Eventually, an MU agent came over, saying “Hotel?” and motioning for all of us to come with him. We were shown out to a bus, where we then sat for the better part of an hour, while additional passengers trickled aboard. Finally, with the bus basically full, we were off for about a 15-minute drive, ending up at Ease Hotel somewhere in the greater Shanghai area.
Check-in was easy enough, aided by the woman who sat next to me on the bus, who was able to translate for me — English is not spoken here. The room was basic, but clean, and nice enough for what it was, and I got some sleep before getting up at about 5:00. A couple of bottles of water were provided, which was appreciated. WiFi worked well enough to get my refund request in to China Southern, so I was pleased enough with that.
About 5:30, I received a call from the front desk. Initially, the agent tried to speak to me, but when it became apparent we didn’t share a language, a recording was played, reminding me I was scheduled for the 6:00 bus, so I should check out soon. Fortunately, I was already up and packed back up, so it didn’t take long to head out. But before I did, I secured a room at the Langham Place hotel near PEK, giving up on sightseeing pretty much in favour of a day of rest and relaxation once I made it to Beijing.
Outside, it was already quite warm, and threatening rain. The bus boarded promptly at 5:50, and left equally promptly at 6:00.
My best description of this ride was that I survived it. The driver seemed pretty convinced it was his right to drive down the centre line of the road, and while this worked fine when the oncoming traffic was scooters or bicycles, it resulted in slightly more harrowing moments when it was another bus, or a transport truck, which didn’t have much wiggle room on the rather narrow two-lane road we were traveling on.
But I made it to Pudong intact. Having not eaten since the pre-arrival breakfast yesterday afternoon, I was pretty hungry, but was disappointed that the landside restaurants were all closed at 6:30 am — even the Mickey Dee’s.
So I headed downstairs to the arrival level, and found the short queue forming for the bus over to Hongqaio. The bus pulled up about 6:50, and we were boarded and on our way. Traffic was heavy in places, but this drive was decidedly less scary, although the driver was still prone to honking his horn in traffic, as if it would somehow magically cause the congestion to ease.
We arrived into Terminal 2 of Hongqaio about 8:15, and it was getting to be quite hot.
I quickly found the very large check-in area for China Eastern, and although it took me a while to get to the front of the First/Business Class check-in lineup (I naturally chose the wrong lane, behind someone who was being re-accommodated and apparently having some trouble with it) but once I made it to the front of the line, I was quickly checked in, and assigned a window seat on this flight, slated to be flown on an A330-300.
Security was very quick — not nearly as thorough as I remember when transiting PEK at various points in the past — and I was quickly airside, with a sticker on my boarding pass telling me I was welcomed to check out the VIP 2 Lounge. The lounge system at Chinese airports (at least PVG and SHA) is confusing to me, and I don’t know if I’ll ever fully understand it.
Nevertheless, I follow signage upstairs, and find the V2 Lounge, which I’m quickly checked in and welcomed inside.
It’s a relatively small space, partitioned up smartly. And it’s also quite full. But I manage to find a place at counter seating overlooking the main part of the lounge.
The “business centre” was right behind me.
Remember how I said I was hungry before? Well, now I was rapidly approaching famished. So let’s check out the buffet, shall we? It was quite busy, but there was a decent selection of hot and cold dishes.
However, the clear main attraction was the noodles window, serving hot bowls of noodles with spicy meat and other accoutrements to round out the dish. There was a fairly long lineup to get the noodles, but it was by far the best food on offer, and I wasn’t sure if there was even a meal service on this short flight up to PEK this morning, so I figured I should go for it.
There’s a little alcove with a couple of massage chairs behind the hallway where the noodle line formed.
Back at my seat with my breakfast take. I have to say, everything was pretty good, although the noddles maybe weren’t quite as good — not quite as many topping options — as the freshly made noodles at MU’s PVG lounge. But it was a satisfying breakfast.
I went back for more — a weird scallpped potatoes type dish, where the potatoes were actually still fairly firm and crunchy. This wasn’t nearly as good.
While in the lounge, I hear back from CZ, requesting a copy of my passport to process my refund. I snap a pic and send it off to them.
About 9:20, I made my way out of the lounge, and started heading out towards my gate. Some interesting heavy options at SHA this morning including this MU 77W.
My ride up to PEK this morning is at the gate, which is a good sign.
Interesting to see the CA 747-8i here, presumably for a short domestic segment back to PEK.
And a few minutes later, my first time seeing a Air China 787, as it taxiis on in.
Just around the scheduled boarding time of 9:30, an announcement is made, and a few of us foreigners start lining up. The agent quickly comes out and tells us that boarding will be at 9:50, so we’re a bit delayed.
The guy in front of me in line, an American, wonders how they’ll manage to load the plane in 10 minutes, and we have a laugh. He asks if I was caught in “the mess” yesterday — apparently, my flight to PEK wasn’t the only one cancelled yesterday, due to weather in the Beijing area. What else? Good to know, I guess.
Boarding actually starts at about 9:45, and I’m on my way.
Flight: MU5105 From: Shanghai Hongqiao (SHA) To: Beijing Capital (PEK) Date: 7/5/2017 Aircraft: Boeing Airbus A330-300 Registration: B-6128 Seat: 9L ATD (STD): 10:53 (10:00) ATA (STA): 12:35 (12:15)
Boarding through door 1, I found my way back to my starboard window seat pretty easily. This A330 is equipped with older angle-flat seats in a 2-2-2 configuration in business
On the way to the door, I was handed this newspaper and magazine. Ummm… thanks. Although not so useful for me unless I just want to look at the pretty pictures.
The seat is equipped with a pillow, which is fairly nice, and a blanket… which is…. less than nice. I don’t bother with it at first, but eventually, end up sitting on it. I think the padding is going on this old seat, because it feels in several places like I’m sitting directly on the metal frame of the seat. It is not comfortable, to put it mildly. But the blanket underneath makes it feel marginally better.
The offered headphones don’t even look like they’re worth trying. So I don’t.
Legroom is not a complaint. Leg comfort is.
The screen is fairly small and obviously a previous generation. Notice slippers are offered, even on this short segment.
A look across the aisle as boarding continues. We’d end up full up-front — not a surprise given the apparent number of cancellations into PEK yesterday.
The view out my window is less than thrilling at this moment. And I'm not even on the port side.
Seat controls on the outside armrest.
And on the inside of the inside armrest, an old-school IFE remote, headphone jack, and power outlet.
A nice hot towel is presented before takeoff.
Pre-departure beverage options are water or orange juice. I go for the latter.
A flight attendant takes post-departure beverage offers. No mention of food, so I’m assuming there’s no meal. Either that or no choice. I choose to have a black coffee.
We quickly fill up, the door closes, and the safety video rolls. Then we’re informed that PEK ATC has told us to wait, and we’ll be informed when they know more.
At least there’s something slightly more interesting out my window now.
After about a 20-minute wait, we finally push back. It’s a fairly short taxi, and without delay, we are on our way. Goodbye, Shanghai!
As we reach altitude, the IFE is turned on. To no surprise, it’s a bit dated, but still functional. I choose to just put on the old, lo-rez moving map for this flight.
A table cloth is quickly offered, so I guess we’re getting something to eat.
Soon enough, I get my answer on the catering. Yes, there is a meal. No, it isn’t much. A single-tray offering, included my already-ordered coffee.
The meal is light, but it’s not bad. The fruit is nice and fresh, the chocolate dessert is nice, somewhat gelatinous ball of cocoa, and the yellow-ish item turns out to be a canapé of chicken salad on a round of bread. Not too bad, but I’m quite glad I ate in the lounge, given how hungry I was at that point.
Meal trays are cleared almost as soon as they’re finished, and I decide to put my seat back into bed mode. It’s at quite an angle, but it’s actually decently comfortable in bed mode. Not nearly the pressure points with metal pressing into my legs that I got in seat mode. I pull off a good post-coffee power nap, getting about 45 minutes of sleep, and feeling quite refreshed afterwards.
When I wake up, we’re into our descent. It looks like a lovely Beijing summer day below.
Yep, not getting much clearer as we get closer.
And even as we land, it’s very smoggy outside, to absolutely no one’s surprise.
Some interesting spotting on the way in, including this Iraqi 747-400.
And a very pretty Azerbaijan 767.
After a rather long and seemingly circuitous taxi we make our way around the end of Terminal 2 at PEK.
And just to rub salt in my cancelled flight’s wounds, we pull in next to the China Southern Whalebus, just like the one I should have been flying down to Guangzhou at this time. Fortunately, at the same time, I get confirmation from CZ that my refund request has been accepted. So at least there’s that.
We quickly deplane, and on the way out, I get one last good look at my ride up from Shanghai.
And, one last insult to injury, a good look at the CZ Whale.
With no checked luggage, and no customs because it’s a domestic flight, I’m through and landside in no time, and quickly find the shuttle bus over to the Langham Place, which I’ll chill for the better part of 24 hours in advance of my trip home. And that’s where we’ll pick up the narrative.
Thanks for joining me on this surprise portion of this trip, and I hope you’ll join me for the next leg, a DL A330-200 flight from Beijing to Detroit.
China Eastern V2 Lounge
Shanghai - SHA
Beijing - PEK
The catering was lackluster, and the seat was terrible as a seat (but pretty good as an angle-flat bed). Service was not super-polished, but as seemingly usual on MU, earnest in trying to please and quite polite. This whole situation wasn’t great, but I thought MU handled it about as smoothly as could be expected. Actually, considering the reports one hears of Chinese airlines’ behaviour towards foreign passengers during IRROPS, I thought the whole cancel/change thing was handled very well.
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