I’ve heard bad things about Air China. The most popular comments I had seen on airline review sites were that flights were often delayed or cancelled without any notification, flight attendants are rude, and passengers are loud and pushy. But, a lot of other reviewers were also saying that they were expecting a horrible experience, and ended up getting a pretty good one. Luckily, I had a pretty good experience, for the most part. And for $588 roundtrip (with one stop in China) from JFK to Bangkok?! I was willing to take my chances.
Everything started out smoothly from JFK. The boarding process went well. They fed us often and had an ample supply of Chinese beer. The entertainment choices were only okay but that’s usually not a deal breaker for me. Once we landed in Beijing for our layover, that’s when things went slightly awry. It took forever to get the plane into the gate, and we only had an hour to catch our connecting flight to Bangkok. When we finally disembarked the plane, the Bangkok flight was already boarding, and we had to go through a long line of customs/security. We found out that there were a few other people who were on the same flight as us, trying to catch that same flight. When we got through security, we were already frazzled because we were about to miss our flight. Plus it was late, so who knew when the next flight would have been. Enter an Air China attendant, looking equally frazzled, telling us to hop onto his cart and he would drive us to the gate. So we did, thinking the gate was far but in actuality, it was a minute away, and then the guy asked for $5 USD per person. At that point, we had no choice but to pay him. So that was my first scam on vacation and my trip had barely even begun. Luckily, we did catch our flight because it turns out there were a bunch of people on other delayed flights as well, that were trying to catch this last flight to Bangkok. After we boarded, we ended up having to wait another hour before we took off. Go figure.
Moral of the story: Don’t pick an international flight with just an hour for layover. Also, don’t hop in some random dude’s cart.