Anything is Possible at a Chinese Airport

30 minutes from one plane to another? Anything is possible at a Chinese airport!

Isaac and I moved to China in July 2016 in hopes of discovering Asia and traveling as much as possible. During our first 5 months here we visited Shanghai many times, took a train up to Beijing, explored an ancient water village and hiked in a rain forest during a typhoon just to mention a few of our many adventures! Until recently, however, we hadn’t experienced Chinese airports…

We booked our flights with Southern China airline from Shanghai to Phuket and then from Bangkok back to Shanghai way back in August. Using Skyscanner we got a great deal and only spent about $250 on two round-trip flights with one layover each way. It was a bargain!

Leading up to the flight, the agency that we booked with, Vayama, kept changing our flight times every two or three weeks. We didn’t think much of it, until the week before our flight we received an email saying that our flight there was a day before our expected departure! Since Isaac had to work, we had to call and change the flight – unfortunately, the only other option they could offer us was two layovers on our way there.

Reluctantly, we agreed and headed to the airport on the day of our flight. As soon as we checked our luggage, the panic arose – our luggage could only go as far as Wuhan Airport! This meant that during our one hour layover we had to get off the plane, pick up our bags, check them in again within 45 minutes of our flight… this left us 15 minutes from landing to the closing of the gate.

We called Vayama and Southern China but neither was willing to accept responsibility. Their solutions were to take a flight that arrived in Phuket a day later, or we had to risk missing the flight and having to pay for a new one ourselves. Worried and angry, we boarded our plane and hoped for a miracle.

Murphy’s law was taunting us at full blast. The plane was already moving a whopping 20 minutes before expected departure! But then we had to wait in on-ground plane traffic and ended up taking off late. We began descending right on time despite the late take-off, but surprise surprise, we landed late again.

The plane drove right up to those roll-up stairs, near an entrance to the airport but, of course, we were told not to get up yet. That’s when the plane started driving… away from the airport! Frustrated, we watched the airport shrink the distance, jumping up frantically the moment it finally stopped, in the middle of nowhere. The gate was closing in 5 minutes!

Pushing past people while yelling apologies, we ran out of the plane. That’s when we saw a man in a neon vest, holding our checked-in suitcase. No way. He somehow recognized us and shooed us onto a private mini-van. Turns out the plane drove out of the way just for us!

The van took us to a “staff-only” door at the back of the airport. The friendly neon-vested guy ran us through all the check-points, helped us skip the lines to check our bag and sent us off to the security check with half an hour to spare!

Thanks to Southern China, it took less than 30 minutes plane-to-plane! Not only is that outright impressive but they saved us hundreds of dollars in booking a new flight and changing all our reservations.

Some things are only possible in China!!!

SMLXL

 

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Are We There Yet? Prague – Ohio Delay

No one from our group of twelve had problems at any airport security checkpoints or got even close to being sent back to Prague on our long journey to Cleveland through London and Chicago. This was especially surprising seeing our diverse nationalities, religions, frustrating visa requirements or the confusing nature of our university trip that required a tourist visa rather than a student one. Many of us were sweating bullets over the possibility of having problems with our transit visa in London and about the intimidating officers at the U.S. passport control. Ironically enough, those were only parts of the entire journey that actually went through as planned.

Seeing Home Dried My Tears was originally published on an expired domain created for the Kent State and Anglo American University‘s Journalism Program sponsored by Prague Freedom Foundation that I participated in during the Winter Semester of 2014-2015.

No one from our group of twelve had problems at any airport security checkpoints or got even close to being sent back to Prague on our long journey to Cleveland through London and Chicago. This was especially surprising seeing our diverse nationalities, religions, frustrating visa requirements or the confusing nature of our university trip that required a tourist visa rather than a student one. Many of us were sweating bullets over the possibility of having problems with our transit visa in London and about the intimidating officers at the U.S. passport control. Ironically enough, those were only parts of the entire journey that actually went through as planned.

Everyone arrived at the Vaclav Havel Airport in Prague on time and with as great an attitude as one could muster at 6:30 in the morning. No one forgot their passport, had an overweight bag or forgot to take their scissors out of their carry-ons. The flight itself was uneventful in a good way and they didn’t even check our transit visas at the passport control in Heathrow. The problems began as we sat by our gate waiting for boarding to start and our excited chatter was interrupted by a delay announcement due to technical problems. Half an hour of hopeful waiting turned into a four-hour delay during which our only compensation was a £5 food voucher. Unfortunately, airport food and £0.99 filtered coffee weren’t enough to prepare us for what was to come.

The flight from London to Chicago was long and traumatizing to some – including a very unhappy baby sitting near several unlucky members of our group. But the selection of movies and games in combination with the free beer and wine helped pass our time. However as much as the pilot tried to catch up on lost time, many passengers, us included, missed our connecting flights. Arriving in Chicago was chaotic as we were rushed towards passport control with our new boarding passes. There were no problems with our visas and not a single suitcase was left in Heathrow, but we weren’t all on the same flight to Cleveland. Half of us were scheduled to fly out on the first flight next morning instead of the last flight of the day.

Not wanting to split up the group, Bibiana and Iva used a combination of charm and (I assume) stern looks to persuade American Airlines to put us all on one flight. Since this was only possible for the 6:55AM flight we had to go out into the cold and squeeze into a small shuttle like cattle. The well-humored driver managed to make us all laugh at the silly situation and it wasn’t long until we reached our destination.

Westin was a pleasant surprise as the hotel was very nice and the beds very comfortable. We had to rush to dinner to get our $35 worth of food and drink. Steak was the most popular option at my table and we enjoyed our first proper meal in the U.S. while discussing politics, journalism and our life stories. After agreeing on a 4:45AM meeting time the following morning we went back to our rooms. After almost 17 hours of travel it was a relief that my last concern of the day was how to arrange the 6 pillows on my bed to get the best nights’ sleep.

Sleeping in a nice big bed and the promise of a short flight to Cleveland had us all in a good mood for our last bit of travel. Everything went smoothly at the airport and we got a chance to discover a bit of American culture while observing a young man wearing blue pajama pants tucked into his boots. His baggy green shirt attracted even more attention as he walked through security unaware that he was our first example of what we were warned about – the overly-casual dressed American. Before arriving at our gate I had also discovered that there are stores dedicated primarily to selling popcorn and that you could buy sim cards in pharmacies.

Our last flight was on the smallest plane that most of us had ever seen. My dilemma at take off and landing was whether to look left or right from my seat 10B which was an equal distance from both windows: the plane only had 3 seats in each row. After a short 45 minute flight we were finally in Cleveland surrounded by advertisements for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. We had to rush to get our bags from taking another spin around the conveyor belt and were greeted by Candace Bowen. An hour later we finally arrived in Kent State Hotel, only 13 hours after our expected arrival. We were still excited about the last and best surprise of our long journey. Candace must have gotten a kick out of our reaction to seeing our ride from the airport – a large white limo that seemed bigger and much sturdier than the plane that we had just gotten off of.

This post was updated on June 14th, 2018: the text, as well as title and headline, may have been edited, proofread and optimized for search engines. The featured image may have been changed due to copyright or quality issues.