When we were informed that there were no sleeper cars available on the train from Yangshuo to Beijing, the prospect of sitting in a regular seat for the 27-hour journey immediately made us price out flights. We ended up booking coach seats with Grand China Air, an airline we knew absolutely nothing about.
We arrived to check in the recommended 2 hours before our flight and were instructed to head to gate 1 for our on-time departure. At our gate, however, the message scrolling in both Mandarin and English explained there was a delay due to “air traffic conjestion” (spelling mistake theirs, not ours).
A full 40 minutes before our scheduled departure time, the airline served us a meal, waiting there right at the gate! Perhaps it was an apology for a delay that seemed to be more the fault of air traffic control than the airline. That was, of course, until we discovered the true cause of the delay: a maintenance issue with the aircraft. Unfortunately, the gate agent knew literally no English, so Ligeia’s attempt to speak her airline lingo went for naught. She did however return to her seat at the gate with a phrase the agent pointed to in a manual. Apparently, we were to take a bus on the 2nd level to the hotel. What the heck did that mean? Grand China Air only had one flight per day to Beijing, so would we be delayed overnight and were getting put up in a hotel?
At the time our flight was scheduled to take off, we were indeed shuttled by bus to the airport hotel, located nearby. Our confusion could have been overwhelming had we worried about things, but yet again on this trip, we decided to just go with the flow, and follow our fellow passengers to the hotel’s reception desk. We were given our own double room in exchange for our boarding passes, and we had at our disposal likely the swankiest hotel we’ll stay at during our trip. The shower was fantastic, the toilet didn’t have any odd smells emanating from it, the beds were, well, they were still extremely hard, but the pillows were nice.
Given our experience with North American airlines, we figured we’d be there at least until the next morning. Yet, we were beckoned by hotel staff and informed to quickly get on the bus a whopping 2.5 hours after checking in! We were sent to the hotel simply for a “rest”. It was absolutely sublime!
We returned to the airport, passed through security for the second time and headed back to gate #1. The inbound flight had just arrived and we boarded shortly afterward. On the plane, the amazing service continued with 2 drink services (we tried mulberry juice the first time around, and then opted for coconut juice on the second pass – they were very yummy!), a full meal service (they even had special veggie meals for us, despite the fact none were previously requested) and free blankets for passengers to use! All this for a measly 2.5 hour flight. Unbelievable! We even learned later that our emergency contact was called by the airline to inform him of the delay (too bad the time difference translated to a midnight phone call, though).
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if this type of service was standard for all airlines? That would certainly make flying more enjoyable again!
We’ve got 2 more full days remaining on our month-long trip. It’s amazing how quickly the time has gone by. Let’s see what more adventures are still in store for us!
Ligeia & Mindy 🙂 🙂