Review of Air China flight Guilin City Hong Kong in Economy

Airline Air China
Flight CA115D
Class Economy
Seat 17A
Aircraft Airbus A321
Flight time 01:30
Take-off 12 May 14, 14:00
Arrival at 12 May 14, 15:30
CA   #65 out of 121 Airlines A minimum of 10 flight-reports within the past two years is required to appear in the rankings. 183 reviews
Numero_2
By GOLD 4728
Published on 30th May 2014
Hi all !

Here is another report about CA. ^^
But, as the previous one I have posted, this one will be more chaotic than the quiet NRT - PEK posted by Avionero few days ago.

GVA - ZRH, A320, LX, Y In French
ZRH - PEK, A333, LX, Y In French
PEK - HKG, A321, CA, Y / Hell, in French
PEK - HKG, A321, CA, Y / Hell, in English
4° KWL - HKG, A321, CA, Y (You are here)
KWL - HKG, A320, HX, Y / Paradise, in French
6° HKG - ZRH, A343, LX, Y (Coming soon)
7° ZRH - GVA, A320, LX, Y (No show)

I invite the readers who would not yet know the history of this trip to read the previous reports in order to understand how this FR came to be. ^^

PURGATORY

OK, I'll admit that even though the hotel room was awful, a good night's rest has been salutary and CA even granted us a Chinese breakfast at the restaurant of the hotel.

The bus which was supposed to drive us back to Guilin Liangjiang Airport was scheduled at 11am for a take off at 2pm, which left me some time to wander around in the morning. It was nice to see again that city that I had not seen for two years.
The weather was already quite hot and humid; you could feel that you were in the South of the country.
photo photo 4

The bus (apparently made in China under Volvo license) is on time and we leave the hotel in a concert of creaking sounds of all kinds.
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A 30 minutes drive later, we are at KWL.
Heading towards the international check in to obtain the BPs. The flight number has been modified and is now :
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As mentioned in the previous FR, another CA flight from Chengdu has also be rerouted to Guilin and is scheduled at the same time as ours that afternoon, which means that quite a lot of people find themselves at the same time at the same place. That is rather poor passenger flow management ; A 30 minute interval between both flights would have been more than welcome when you see the capacity of the place.

This part of the airport is not large and quickly becomes saturated when the cumulated equivalent of an A320 and an A321 congregate at only 5 counters (2 for each flight + 1 common premium counter).
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What is more, the BPs have been pre-printed, only one person (the supervisor, apparently) holds the entire set of BPs and must each team give to each staff at the check in counter the BP corresponding seat number that she shouts from her seat. What an example of efficiency…

I receive mine after a 40 minute wait, upon presentation of the BP of the day before. On top of the collector's stamp received the day before, I have here a collector's BP with the mention PAX instead of the name and surname !
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It is not over yet, we must go through the immigration. It is crowded there too and I must fill again an immigration departure form so that my passport can receive a second departure stamp, this time from ?? instead of ??.

After immigration, the security check, which is relatively fast compared to the two previous waits.
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KWL's international section is at the far end of this corridor.
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There is a lounge shared by all airlines and which also welcomes many other eligible PAX according to the plethora of mention on the entrance totem.
I admit that being *G flying CA, I wondered if I had access, but I did not try to enter there anyway.
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This is the entire airside international section of KWM. On the right, there is a panda doll shop. ^^
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There is also the unevitable duty free shop.
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And also a cafe which may have made its month's revenue on this single day.
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I'll actually buy there instant noodles and a beer for an exorbitant 50 yuans check.
I take my potluck meal leaning on cigarette cartons, but with a view on the tarmac.
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On the left, the A320 from Chengdu and on the right our A321.
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Suddenly, unexpectedly, a PA message tells that the passengers can have a meal offered by Air China upon presentation of their BP. Even though I had already eaten, I was curious enough to line up to see what would be served.
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It is a full tray, which is completed with a bottle of water.
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OK, you have probably guessed at the very first sight and I am going to confirm right away : It was awful, and worse, was already cold, lol.
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For the record, the entire crew (which was not staying at the same hotel as us), including the captain and air marshall, appeared in a relaxed mood during the meal distribution and reached the aircraft less than 45 minutes before the scheduled departure time. Isn't that professionalism…

After this disastrous culinary experience, time passes by and the flight from Chengdu is called for boarding, and it is our turn shortly afterwards.
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Some tails of the airlines staying at the domestic terminal.
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We of course have a paxbus.
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And we are finally ready to board the aircraft.
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The weather is hot and quite hazy.
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PEK - HKG via KWL by Air China, second try.
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The crew is without any surprise the same as the day before, but this time the first impression is rather poor, because the FAs greet the PAX like they had never seen them before. The perfect Do we know each other ? kind.
Again, the J section that you start knowing well. ^^
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And the first row in Y, sharper than on the picture of the FR of the previous flight.
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I am back in my seat 17A, with my female neighbor in 17C.
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It is slightly after 2pm, we let the Chengdu flight taxi towards the runway.
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There was a helicopter behind it.
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Our turn now !
The doors are closed, we have the welcome speech again, but are spared the safety demonstration.
Engine #1 start, followed by #2, all OK.

The other stranded passengers take off towards HKG.
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Engines are running meanwhile.

A landing.
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The engines are still running…

5 minutes, nothing.
10 minutes, nothing.
15 minutes, nothing.

25 minutes, nothing.
30 minutes, engines cut off.

OK then, an hour more or less is no longer an issue !

A quick and cursory announcement of the captain, who splutters about a technical failure about the cabin pressurization.
Come on, kid, couldn't you come earlier and check your bird like a professional before everybody was on board ???

This time, the FAs come to grips with the situation and organize the distribution of bottles of water, inviting the passengers to wait on board until a technical crew comes to fix the plane.
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Shucks, finding a technical crew in that provincial airport to do something darn more touchy than changing a wheel, I bet you a million they won't find one !

Another landing.
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This time, the PAX are no longer as patient and obedient as the day before, and chaos quickly overcomes the cabin. Note that it is stiflingly hot outside and that our aircraft has an air conditioning and pressurization failure, so that the comfort is not what it should be. There is in particular a pregnant woman among the passengers ; hats off for taking that without much complaining.

They decide to open the plane's doors when the stairway is back. I take this opportunity to take some fresh air.
photo photo 1

In the front galley, it is a complete mess, with technical teams navigating between the cockpit and the tarmac but seem to only move air around, the FAs who are overwhelmed by requests, the angry PAX, those who want the full list of the names of the crew in writing, etc.
photo photo 5

Chance made it that a sizable number of passengers were lawyers on a business trip for a congress in Hong Kong and many of them were in continuous cell phone conversation with their respective offices to start a claim against Air China on that disastrous management of the events.

Exchanges of emails, of business cards, all is done to contact each other easily and quickly and later team together against CA when the time comes.

Without any surprise, after having us wait on board for over an hour, they decided to disembark everybody.
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Back to the bus that I get to know well !
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Walk up the stairs again to reach the international boarding gates.
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And there, the mess will intensify… For your information, everything happened in Chinese, and I thank the various people who volunteered as improvised translators and interprets.

The two hapless airport staff are assailed by a hord of fulminating PAX. From Indians to Americans, together with Spaniards and Chinese, each adds his comment against Air China and demands a solution immediately.
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I know that the best strategy is to stay calm and bide my time, so I look and the whole scene from a distance while checking with the various pax about the progress of the situation.

The funny thing is that a Dragonair flight to HKG was supposed to board just after us, and the crowd of pax which blocks the gate will delay its departure for over an hour, because the airport employee cannot manage the CA crisis together with the boarding of the KA flight at the same time.

The employees do not know what to do, KWL is too small to have a full time CA manager there. We learn that there is the equivalent of an Air China manager, but he is nowhere to be found and his cell phone rings without an answer. Nobody else wants to take a decision because nobody wants to take the responsibility.
Tempers rise, rise and rise…
The employees do not know what to say and avoid the confrontation in a very Chinese way.
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We finally manage to reach Manager X or Y by phone.
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In the mean time, some exasperated pax have bought a ticket on the departing Dragonair flight and wait for boarding.
I do not know about you, but I cannot see any technical team around the plane.
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I did not check the exact time, but after around two hours, after much parley and negotiations, a solution is announced:
1) The passengers who want to stop their travel there and leave the airport to reach Hong Kong by rail or road can, an arrangement has been found with the immigration.
2) The passengers who want to stay with CA will be assigned on Hong Kong Airlines' flight at 6:30 pm, but the problem is that only 90 seats are available.
3) The passengers who will not have boarded the HX flight will be reprotected on the last flight of the day to Guangzhou, from where a bus will drive them to Hong Kong.

After this announcement, we are told that we must take back our checked luggage and go through check in again to obtain the new BPs.
I'm getting to know this way quite well !
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The landscape around is so characteristic that you cannot be insensitive to it.
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Down again to immigration.
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No cancellation stamp this time (ii would have been too much !), but a simple check of the BP is enough to let us in the Chinese territory. Is the People's Republic of China ready to ease its entry procedures ? lol
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Everybody takes his suitcase again, and the same players shoot again.
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Landside arrival.
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And then a sharp left turn to go up again to Departures level.
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See more

Verdict

Guilin City - KWL

5.2/10
Efficiency5.0
Access3.0
Services5.0
Cleanliness8.0

Hong Kong - HKG

5.0/10
Efficiency5.0
Access5.0
Services5.0
Cleanliness5.0

Conclusion

CA:
I don't believe it is useful to justify this five-fold zero grade received with flying colors by China's flag carrier.

KWL:
- I think that I am lenient in rating 5 the security and immigration efficiency.
- Road access only, which is very poor according to me. 3
- A duty free shop, a panda souvenirs shop and a café make up the entire services of the international section of Guilin Liangjiang. 5
- No problem with regards to the cleanliness of the place, even the toilets were acceptable. 8

I rate again HKG with a flat default 5 in order to degrade its present rating.

Thanks for your reading.

Information on the route Guilin City (KWL) Hong Kong (HKG)

6 Comments

  • Comment 109701 by
    Chibcha 432 Comments

    Wow, what an ordeal, I'm impressed at such a sheer display of mismanagement and incompetence.

    I'm waiting to see how all turned out, thanks for sharing!

  • Comment 109706 by
    jetsetpanda 2294 Comments

    What an eye opening experience. I think there has to be more reports like this through every medium that is available in order to increase the exposure of CA at a global level. One thing is to be a small and obscure carrier, but when you want to play with the big guys and proudly position yourself as a world carrier in a global alliance, then you must act like a carrier of that caliber.

    One indicator of a great airline is measured by how they recover during a crisis or irregular operation. A good airline handles the problem efficiently and has several back ups just in case one of them fails. Being proactive instead of reactive is a sign of good management and I am afraid that CA fails miserably in this case.

    I am sorry that you encountered these set backs, but at the same time they are quite revealing and you experience is a caution tale for FR members and travelers who will now have a second thought before booking with this airlne.

    Thanks for sharing and I hope your odyssey had an acceptable ending.

    • Comment 295094 by
      Numero_2 GOLD AUTHOR 9930 Comments

      Of course, FR.com and other websites are made to share good flight experiences as well as the worst ones.
      The problem with CA is that the airline doesn't really care about its weaknesses (well, it's state-owned...) and they act like they didn't care about what other quality airlines in the same alliance are doing in terms of passengers' care.
      I hope that Air China will improve its services in the future. If not, it will become a Third World's airline...

      Unfortunately for me, I still have 2 CA flights booked on next September. lol
      Thanks for your comment.

  • Comment 109751 by
    KévinDC TEAM SILVER 5305 Comments

    Like Jetsetpanda said, you can have a decent product and even great service, but if at the end of the day you can't handle irregular operations with any sense of organization and control, than you are not a true global carrier. Europe and the US have passed a lot of new regulations in the last few years to avoid these kinds of situations and protect consumers, not surprisingly, it seems that China is lagging behind here.

    All I have to say is, Air China is lucky that the grades are averaged between the French version and the English version because they would have an absolutely miserable grade based on just English-language reports! LOL

  • Comment 109814 by
    Avionero 77 Comments

    This is one of the most interesting FR I have ever read... Excellent, even if you didn't take off

    The whole story was so tragic and incredible, that became hilarious. I imagined the horde of fulminating PAX. From Indians to Americans, together with Spaniards and Chinese, each adds his comment against Air China and demands a solution immediately... lol

    So, may I ask you, why the hell are you going to fly Air China again in September? lol

    PS: you were too strict rating catering. You forgot the white rice before boarding...

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