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Tag Archives: Delta
(Friday January 15, 1:15pm – China time)
This begins my travel blog of my trip to Yiwu China. The other stuff was just the preface. It seems that my Chinese internet connection won’t connect me to my blog directly, so I’m saving notes to post when the opportunity arises.
This is day one of being in China, but the trip began more than 30 hours ago in Atlanta. Our flight was supposed to leave Atlanta at 5:30pm. By 7:30 we still hadn’t left, and a lot of people (including me) started worrying about making important connections. Delta did not do a stellar job of making folks happy. There were no offers to put folks on other flights to LA, and the ticket counter rep response to my inquiries was, “You may have to wait until tomorrow.”
By 8pm Delta had rolled another plane to another gate and got us in the air by 8:45. They must have had the pedal to the metal because we made it to LA in just 4 hours (instead of the scheduled 5). Most of us made our connections with no time to spare, but no time worry either.
In LA we had to trek over to the international terminal past scarily long lines of folks going through customs. Fortunately, we didn’t have to stand in those lines. There was no line at the ticket counter for our airline (China Southern), and we ambled up to the counter to get checked in to our flight. I have to say, the young man at the counter was insanely proficient, friendly, and helpful. He assigned us the “best seats possible” for our class (more on that in a minute), and even walked us to a VIP security entrance bypassing the very long lines of folks trying to leave the country.
The TSA officials at LAX are what the make the horror stories true. They were rude, loud, condescending, and “superior” to the folks in the lines. I really wanted to bring one down a few pegs, but people in government uniforms can make your life hell.
Banks, our man at China Southern Air, escorted us to the gate, said his friendly good byes, and we got on a bus(??!!) to begin a 15 minute bus ride, standing up and packed in tight, to the Worst Plane In the World. Now, we didn’t know it was the WPItW at first. It looked like any other large jumbo jet, but we should have been clued when we realized that CSA doesn’t have a gate at LAX. They have an enclosed ramp, and “orderly lines” seem to be an insane concept to the Asians flying with us. There was a mad dash to get on the plane.
We walked past the large and luxurious first class section into the “business economy” section. I was pleased to see the large roomy seats, soft pillows, and blankets. To my horror and dismay, we kept on walking to the “economy” section. I wouldn’t have been surprised to see chicken crates and empty baskets. The seats were uncomfortable and cramped. The arm rests did not lift back all the way, and the minute the seat in front of me leaned back, what little space I had completely disappeared. This was our home for the next 15 hours!
Seated in front of us was a very cute little Chinese baby who communicated the only way babies know how – crying. To our right a middle aged Chinese woman was heaving into an air sickness bag and moaning and groaning. Behind us a half-dozen adolescents began doing what adolescents do…and we hadn’t even left the gate yet.
We got in the air and the flight crew dispensed the first snack – err, meal of the journey. It was forgettable. Not good, but not bad. I pulled a mask over my head, put on the cheap Chinese headset, plugged into some classical music, and attempted to sleep. After all, according to my body it was now past 3am, and I had been awake almost 20 hours straight by then.
I have been told that there is an art to sleeping on a plane. I believe it. I dozed. I napped. But I really didn’t sleep. There was always the constant din of someone’s conversation, or the jostling of my seat by someone behind me, or turbulence. I just didn’t sleep. With 7 hours behind us, and 7 more to go, I gave up.
I watched Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince on the 5 inch TV screen with the washed out color and zero contrast. I read a bit. I listened to my Ipod. I cat napped. Breakfast (of sorts) came around. So far, by the way, the culinary choices were decidedly Western airline fare. Not exciting one way or the other.
Yadda yadda yadda, we landed in Guangzhou on time, and I have never been more happy to be off of a plane. But we were still 5 hours from our final destination. I really just wanted a shower and a nap!
I breezed through Chinese immigration and customs. My traveling companion was not so lucky. She became a “lost luggage” story. Her one bag didn’t make it to China from LAX. It seems the Delta ticket agent didn’t send her bag all the way to China like mine did. Her week’s worth of clothes are sitting somewhere in the lost luggage section of LAX. If there’s an update about that, I’ll be sure to post it.
While she tracked down her bag, I went through another long security line, and again had my camera bag emptied and thoroughly inspected (this happened in ATL as well). This time, however, the screener was friendly and almost apologetic. It wasn’t even a hassle, just a slow down to an otherwise smooth process (perhaps the Communists have something to teach us).
I hope this isn’t a trend, but three times on this trip I’ve tried to get a cup of black coffee, and all three times I haven’t gotten it. Twice on the flight I got cream and sugar already mixed in, and black coffee was not an option, and at a diner in the Guangzhou airport I got a small cup of pretty good Turkish style coffee. But the large cup of plain black coffee seems elusive right now.
Our man in China (Thomas Tiang) met us at baggage claim and drove us to our hotel. We are NOT staying at the America’s Best Inn or the Budgetel Inn his client has opened. Thomas and Mr. Li have put us up at the nicest hotel in Yiwu – the Kingdom Hotel. The standard room is the most luxurious hotel room I’ve ever stayed in.
So I have checked in, unpacked, and taken the long missed shower. I feel clean, but still tired. I’m going to lie down for a “disco nap” then go for a photo stroll around Yiwu. My initial impression isn’t favorable. This is a city that makes “commodities”. You know those cheap plastic “made in China” things? They make them here. There is a lot of poor working class punctuated with places like this hotel.
I’ll have more later, including photos! Thanks for reading!
Whenever I have flown domestic (including to the USVI), I simply go on-line to make my flight reservation and select my seat. A day or two ahead of time, I go back on-line to the airline’s website and do my on-line check in.
I was going over my Priceline itinerary and noticed that I did not have seats for 5 of the 6 total flights I’ll be making in the next 10 days, so I went on-line to do that. Thus begins the Seat Selection Two Step.
First leg of the flight is ATL to LAX on China Southern Airline operated by Delta; however, Delta has no ticket information, and cannot do seat selection or on-line check in. This was confirmed with a call to a representative who had a less than clear phone voice and had trouble spelling my last name (even after I spelled it out for him).
China Southern Airlines’ (CSN) web check-in asked for my mobile phone number, but it couldn’t be less than 10 digits, so the 7 digits we’re used to in the US didn’t work, and adding the 3 digit international China to USA prefix resulted in the same error message, “Phone number must not be less than 7 digits.” I had to dig down deep into the China Southern website to find a US-based phone number, but did manage to call them in Los Angeles.
After a 15+ minute hold, I was connected to a very friendly, very well-spoken and easily understood representative who politely and apologetically explained that CSN does not allow web check in or pre-flight seat selection on flights outside of China. She did assign the seats for the Guangzhou (CAN) to Yiwu and the return from Yiwu to CAN (one aisle and one window); however, she explained that we are unable to do pre-flight selection for ATL to LAX and LAX to CAN. We have to wait until we are at the airport to select our seats!
Normally this wouldn’t bother me, but the cross-Atlantic flights are 12+hours, and I would like to be able to watch a movie on my laptop, or play games, or listen to my iPod, and I would like to do the best I can to guarantee I have a seat with power available (the 777-200 has that). I am dreading a mad-dash in LAX to the CSN ticketing counter just to make sure I have a seat with power.
Ah, the adventure begins!