When my good girlfriend texted me exclaiming that she found airline tickets for USD $500 RT to Hong Kong leaving from JFK, I didn’t have to think twice. Let’s book and ask questions later! And so we did.
In October, we decided to head to Hong Kong for a pre-Christmas vacay.
Keeping the same energy I use to plan all trips, I decided to strategize, starting with gathering details on the airline carrier and the flight.
The most important things that I look for are: baggage requirements and limits, information on seats, onboard entertainment and food selections and, total flight time. After flying South African Airlines in 2017, the standards are set, especially when it comes to food and alcohol.
To put it plainly, I was vastly underwhelmed with Air China, I would even go as far as to say, disappointed. I am not one to enjoy writing so-called “negative” reviews, but I do believe it’s important, to be honest when trying to be a resource for the culture.
When completing my research I took note of the restrictions on bag size and weight, which was not a problem at all. We were also encouraged to prepay for assigned seats, but decided against this, trying our luck at the counters. All of this went smoothly, we were able to be seated together, our bags were in compliance and I even got an aisle seat!
Here’s where things went wrong, from not-so-bad to worst:
- On both our departing and returning flights, none of our flight attendants spoke English, and neither I nor my travel entourage spoke much Mandarin or Cantonese. We were prepared for the language barrier once in Beijing for our layover and somewhat in Hong Kong, but the universe decided it should start with the ride over there. Tasks like getting water, letting the flight attendants know my tv screen was broken or explaining my reason for moving about the cabin on a 13 hr flight to prevent blood clots was more difficult than you can imagine. Again, this was the not-so-bad, because, as travelers, we know how to navigate these situations.
- The seats were the most uncomfortable things I’ve ever forced my backside to be attached to for more than 5 minutes. Reminiscent of cinderblock covered with a slept-on-too-much pillow, nothing could make those seats even remotely comfortable. And I already come with a bit of my own “personal” cushion.
- The food was not good. I know it is an airplane but I have had some quality, top star cuisine onboard various flights, such as South African Airlines and Delta. I don’t expect much. I also want to make clear, I’m very open to and comfortable with trying new cuisines, so it was not the new foods that I was trying, it was simply the lack of flavor. We were also fed far less than I’ve been on previous long-haul flights and, offered alcohol less frequently.
- The plane wasn’t clean.
- Our flights did not leave on time. We did not leave the US on time. We did not leave Beijing on time. We did not leave Hong Kong on time. And so, we arrived back to the states multiple hours later. No explanation was given.
- They lost my friend’s luggage, twice. Not one time. TWICE. They lost it between the layover in Beijing and the journey to Hong Kong and again on our way back to the United States. TWICE. And not only was it lost, but customer service also was not a huge help or at all apologetic for their oversight/mistake. Literally, we waited in line for 2 hrs, after waiting to deboard, waiting in line for customs and waiting for our luggage after arriving back to the US, we waited for another 2 hrs in line to be seen by customer service. The reason? They did not have time to transfer all bags during the layover. And after landing on a Sunday, bags were not guaranteed until Thursday afternoon, at the earliest.
But hey, we made it safely, in one piece, and for that, I am grateful and thankful. Would I fly AirChina again? It would have to be one heck of a flight deal. I don’t expect much from a flight, no frills and bells and whistles, I know I’m not on an Emirates flight, but there are some basic things that I would hope would be a universal experience.
Have you ever had a bad flight experience? Tell me about it below.
Be on the lookout for more content about my amazing experience to Hong Kong soon!