Category Archives: Flights

Don’t Trust Travel Agencies

I need to change my flight back to China earlier.

I called ctrip, where I booked the flight (I should do a better job in getting around them). Their term:

Sorry. We cannot do it since it is international flight. You have to give up your back leg, and book a new ticket. If you just change the date, you need to pay 1500 RMB change fee. Let me check what a single trip ticket from San Francisco to Shanghai is. That can be very expensive

Well. I decided not to change, but later, I thought of American Airline, the carrier. I called them, and they said:

Everything has been changed as you wish. BTW, since there is a change in the price of your new route, we are giving $400 back to you

Hmm… For the same question, maybe we need to try different channels.

Book Earlier for Cheaper Ticket? Not So in China

Yangle asked:

Alright folks?

There’s been some really awesome and helpful stuff here – thanks! :)

I have a question that is probably quite obvious – if I were to book an internal flight in the UK (where I’m from) then I would book it really really early – possibly months in advance if I could – so I could get the cheapest fare possible. Is this the same rule for Chinese domestic flights? Or can you book them just a month or two in advance and get the cheapest fares? I’m wanting a round-trip from BeiJing to GuiLin end of June, beginning of July time.

Looking forward to your invaluable help!

Posted by: YangLe on January 7, 2010 5:48 PM

The China is just the opposite. The later you book the ticket, the cheaper. This may over simplify the situation, but one thing is for sure – it is NOT that the earlier you book, the cheaper the ticket is.

Chinese Price System

If you book months in advance, chances are, you can only get the full price tickets with no discount. The airline business in China is highly regulated. Most of the ticket price is fixed for all the airlines by the CAAC. Basically, the price is proportional to the distance of the two airport – the same way as the fixed price for railway system in China.

However, most airlines will give discount based on the fixed price. They can determine the price table only several months before the travel time. That is, if you book far before that date, say, 6 months before you travel, it is for sure that you can only get the list price – the highest possible price, because they have no idea of what the price in the future will be.

Why?

If you book just few days or few hours before you travel, you are very likely to get the cheapest price, because most of Chinese airlines are not full in most of the case. They will offer some really cheap price before the seats become empty. Another factor is the agents. Most of the airlines rely heavily on agents – tourism industry, and ticket dealer. The way to operate it is, to ask the agents to book a range of the seats. If no one buys the ticket, the agents still need to pay the fixed amount. This causes the agents to be really worry about having empty seats, and willing to sell it out at much lower price at the last minute.

However, the risk to book at the last minute is, you may not be able to get a ticket.

Deeper Reasons

I have to go further to guess the deeper reasons why China is just the opposite of US, UK, and many other countries. Why in other countries, the earlier you book, the cheaper the price will be, and in China, it is the opposite.

Here is my guess.

1. Occupation Rate. The occupation rate of Chinese airlines are always not high. Most of them are just 70%-80% on average. (Spring Airlines (My review) is an exception with amazing 98% historical occupation rate.) For most airlines, the days of fully booked flights are limited, so passengers can leverage that.

2. In China, people still plan things in the last minutes. I have seldom know any of my friends who book tickets, or holiday more than 1 year in advance. That was something I was consistently amazed by my foreigner readers who started the question like: “I am going to China in July of 2013. Can you help me on ….” What? 2013?

Any other reasons?

Back from Xiamen via Spring Airlines

I wrote about Spring Airlines three years ago. At that time, the low cost airline just celebrated its first anniversary. Now, it not only broke even, but also made decent profit, and grew very fast. I am a Spring Airlines fan. Let me tell you why.

I Always Fly China Spring

Recently, I really enjoyed flying with China Spring. Wendy, me and Yifan fly back to Zhengzhou via Spring Airlines, and fly to Xiamen and back via Spring. The 99 RMB flight ticket is very attractive. But there are more than that. As a business person, I appreciate what Spring Airlines did.

Low Cost with Relatively Bad Experience

Many people complained about the airline. They complained this and complained that, but they never complain about the price. The secret the airline keeps the ticket so low is very wise.

The seats are very tight. It is very compact. They re-arranged the seats to allow 20% more seats than most other airlines. It is tough and painful to sit there, but other than complaining about it, how can people refuse to take that airline? The ticket price is low!

There are no food, not beverage, and no any service on board – just a bottle of pure water. My guess is, if it is not required by the government, they will remove that also (since it is not allowed to bring any liquid on board, they have to offer something to drink). You have to pay for anything else.

They sell things! This is the part they got most complain. From the beginning of the trip to the end, the flight attendants sell stuff at the front of the seats, and use the on board broadcast system. People complain that they cannot fall asleep. They sell from Disney toys, to MP3, to shaver, and they have plan to sell real estates, and cars. Everyone complain about it, but that is the way they keep the flight ticket price low. I would say they are genius to make the decision to intentionally offer bad experience to keep the cost low, and it works very well. Everyone complains and most of them continue to choose that airline.

On the baggage allowance, they are the lowest. On the time for reserved ticket, they are the shortest (if you don’t pay in 30 minutes after reservation, your reservation will be automatically canceled). On the turn over time, their flight will take off again after 20 minutes of landing, so they push the limit to move passengers as quick as possible, no matter you like it or not. They require you to use their website or call center to book (no other agents and dealer), and you have to have your online payment account ready before you are qualified to buy a ticket from them. Bingo! I love their style.

They also have unified aircraft – A320, and they fly 14 hours out of the 24 hours – compared to 11 hours of the industry average. It is common sense that aircraft only makes money when it is in the sky.

They are also planning to sell standing seats if they get the approval from the government. Yes. You see it right – standing seats on the plane. I believe if approved, they can further push the cost from Shanghai to Zhengzhou, or Shanghai to Xiamen to under 10 USD on regular basis.

I Love China Spring

I admit the operating philosophy of Spring Airlines sounds great for me. Every business wants to use good words to describe themselves – the best experience with the lowest cost! But we are not genius. The only way that works is to give up a dimension of value, and only focus on the other. Spring Airlines stands for low cost airline, and they stand firmly on that area. I firmly believe they will be doing very well in the future, and will buy their stock if they go to IPO.

Channel 9 of Flight Control Center

Maybe the last key reason to keep me fly on United Airlines is the Channel 9 they offer. I believe most of people even don’t know that there is a special channel at every passenger’s seat: the 9th channel. That is the channel the pilot communicate with the control tower. Recently, most of the United Airlines captain don’t bother to turn it on, but they did turn it on the last time at UA857 from San Francisco to Shanghai. Here are some audio I recorded. Click on any of the dark image to play.

Part I near landing Pudong Airport

Interestingly, although I heard it is required to use English to do the communication, most of the conversation in the audio is in Chinese. It is the same situation when we fly near Tokyo Narita Airport. They are using a language I am not very sure whether it is English or Japanese – I just cannot get a single word besides the numbers.

In the audio above, a brief transcript is like this:

“United 857 …. 300” (the flight I am in)

“FM9142 go down to 12.” – Background information: FM9142 is from Qinhuangdao to Shanghai and will launch at around 12:10 pm that day. I don’t understand what 12 means. I thought it was runway numbered 12, but a quick check reveal that there is no runway 12 at Pudong Airport (there are only 17L/35R, 17R/35L – this should be future, and 16/34). What does it mean?

“247D 2400” “247D keeps 2400”

“MU2155 turn left, to 070” my guess is, they want them to turn left and heading to 70 degree?

“MU2155 ..” This is the flight from Yinchuan to Shanghai via Xi’an. They are scheduled to land at 12:15 PM.

“FM92142 down 600” I guess this means lower down to 600 meter level, and if this is the case, the previous 12 may mean 1200 meter altitude.

Above is just my guess, and I will send this to my United Airlines pilot friend to ask him what this means. I believe he will have the best answer for me.

Below is another piece:

Part II near landing at Pudong Airport

The message in it was:

“MU2155 direction 050”

“FM9142 can turn left direction 210”

“247D turn left direction 350”

“MU2155 down 15” from what the pilot repeated, I am sure 15 means 1500 meters in altitude.

From the communication above, I have the impression that all the planes are lineup as a big circle surrounding the Pudong Airport, and gradually lower the altitude to land. It turned out that we finally landed at runway 16 – the runway east of the T2, near the sea, from the north to south.

Below is another clip I recorded at the time when we were at range of control center of Japan. Anyone can understand any word from the conversation? I cannot.

Communication near Japan

Airline Fuel Surcharge Lowered

Wendy, Yifan and I am planning to get back to home in Luoyang in January. We booked flight ticket away ahead, so we are happy to got tickets between Shanghai and Zhengzhou as low as 99 RMB (14 USD) per adult for the 2 hour flight. It is Spring Airline.

However, the biggest part of the cost is not the charge by airline. The fuel surcharge was 150 RMB per person (Yifan enjoy infant waiver) and the airport construction fee is 50 RMB.

Recently, the airline fuel surcharge was lowered to 40 RMB per person, but for people like us who have already have the ticket issued have no option to refund. The refund policy is, they will only refund the fuel surcharge and airport construction fee, and the 99 RMB fee is not refundable – still 11 RMB higher than the benefit of getting a new one – but really a lot of work to do, so we gave up.

P.S. With the adjustment on fuel surcharge, many things get cheaper with the expectation that 2009 will be a tough year for them. Gas price dropped by 0.45 RMB, and even mortgage rate got 30% off.

From the consumer point of view, it is good thing, but meanwhile, it is also a strong signal that recession is getting started.

Arranging Hong Kong – Xian – Beijing Trip

Readers asked me about how to arrange a trip in China. I understand that many tourist will do an around-China tour, so most of the tour is connected between multiple points, like Hong Kong to Xi’an, to Beijing, to Shanghai, and then back to San Francisco – something like this.

Let me rest assure you something.

1. You can buy tickets like this.

Some worries that the multi-stop tickets are more expensive. Well. I don’t think it is the case. Since most of the tickets are single trips, and round trip is typically the same price as double the single-trip. So don’t worry.

2. You can buy tickets locally.

Go to hotel receiption or call 800-820-6666 for ctrip to book the ticket, and they can issue electronic tickets.

3. You don’t need to have too long lead time.

Several days, say 4 days are very safe time for booking most of the lines, unless you are travelling at festivals.

The business festival is Spring Festival, and the second is Oct festival, and the third is May festival. Avoid them, and you should be OK.

My reader asked about the ticket of Oct 3 and Oct 9 of 2007. My answer is: you are not lucky since it is the national holiday and the tickets are generally hard to book. But the good thing is, Oct 3 and Oct 9 are much better than Oct 1 – Oct 2, or Oct 7 – Oct 8.

On Oct 3, most people already left home for travel destinations, and on Oct 9, most people have get back, but anyway, it is busier than norma days.

China Eastern Airlines

To ask the right question is more important than answering it, isn’t it. Here is the question of today:

What is flying with China Eastern like? I’ve booked to fly from Shanghai to Beijing. Are there weight limits with baggage with domestic flights? 20kgs? Long queues for checking in? Any seat allocations? I tried www.ce-air.com but couldn’t get the English web page to show up.

My Knowledge about China Eastern Airlines

China Eastern Airlines is the most frequent airlines I fly with, since I only took two mileage programs serious: one is China Eastern Airlines, and the other is United Airlines. Compared to Air China, I’d say air crafts of Air China is usually bigger than China Eastern Airlines, so more comfortable, and the service is better, but since I am based in Shanghai, and China Eastern Airlines is a Shanghai based airlines, it offers more choices for me.

How Flying with China Eastern Airlines Like?

It is nothing new. The airline industry is pretty standardized already. The same aircraft – Boeing 737 or 747, the same safety instruction, and even same food – you can expect bread in the morning, beef with rice or chicken with noodle for lunch or dinner. Not surprisingly, they also offer water, orange juice, apple juice, coke, and beer. To be short, there is nothing that is obviously different.

If you talk about Hainan Airlines, or Chunqiu Airlines, they may offer something different, a little bit different.

Weight Limit on China Eastern Airlines

5 Kg is allowed for carry-on baggage for economy class. Check-in baggage are limited to 20 Kg for economy, 30 kg for business, and 40 kg for first class. Above is all for domestic flight.

Checking in with China Eastern Airlines

Typically China Eastern Airlines don’t have long queues to check-in. In my previous experience, it should be around 5 persons. Of cause this is just some impression. Sometimes it is long, sometimes short, but basically, you don’t need to expect long queue for domestic flight.

Seat Allocation?

It is allocated by the person at check-in counter. Call them (95108) in advance to give you the seat you prefer.

Happy flying!

Say Goodbye to Paper Ticket

From yesterday, CATA (China Air Transportation Association) stopped providing paper ticket to ticket agents. This is an event that will eventually affect my life, and many others.

This is a great achievement. When the Southern China Airlines started e-ticket testing in 2000, 6 years past. The user behavior changes slowly, and till now, paper ticket is still 70% of all tickets.

My guess is, from today, travel agents cannot purchase blank paper ticket from CATA. They must have a lot of tickets in stock that they can continue to print out. However, by the end of this year, when most of the paper tickets in stock are used up, the travel agencies have to transit to using electronic tickets.

I am expecting more people using e-tickets and recognize e-ticket.

Reimbursement?

One of the key issue with e-ticket is, it does not work with the current reimbursement practice. In U.S. and other countries, a receipt can be of any form – a piece of paper with handwriting numbers, or printed receipt from a teller machine. In China, however, only government agencies can issue blank invoices, and merchants fill in the blanks on the standard format invoice. Originally paper tickets are type of that “official invoice”.

My friends in U.S. thought the invoice in China is like money note. That is true (with very high-tech anti-fake technology in it).

The e-ticket caused the problem. In many countries, you can just print out the receipt and reimburse with the paper. This is not working.

To meet this need, the travel agents are thinking of ways to workaround it. I believe finally, people still have to go somewhere to get a paper ticket. The blank tickets may still be bought from government, and the travel agents fill in the departing, arriving cities, and the price. This may be even done after the travel. In this case, the paper ticket is not used as part of the travel experience, it is all about the reimbursement (and sometimes tax) experience.

Another example of how the less-developed industry/process (the tax and reimbursement) stops fast pacing industry (airlines) from going faster.

Suzhou Airport

Suzhou Airport? When people ask me about Suzhou airport, my first impression was, does Suzhou has an airport?

Yangtze-Delta area has too Many Airports

This is a fact that you may not know. The Yangtze-Delta has one of the highest airport density in the world. There are 0.8 airport per 10,000 sq. km in the area. The average of U.S. is 0.6.

The airports I know are:

Some reports said there are 8 in the area. Maybe they counted Suzhou Airport. Does Suzhou Airport really exist?

Ticket Reservation System Says Yes

I checked CTRIP and eLONG, and they have Suzhou listed in the airport list. However, I didn’t find any flight to or from this airport. Strange. This page also suggested Suzhou has an airport with code SZV.

People in Suzhou Uses Shanghai Airport

Suzhou is the nearest city to Shanghai. From Shanghai to Suzou is sometimes quicker to go to some places in Shanghai. Seriously. I have friends who has company in Suzhou and goes there to work every day – just 1 hour or less of ride on Highway.

Suzhou is only 88 km away from Hongqiao Airport or 130 KM from Pudong Airport. The government of Suzhou said in 2004 that Suzhou will not construct a new international airport in the next 5 years. So if you are going to Suzhou, the best choice is to go to Hongqiao Airport or Pudnog airport and take buses there.

Buses from Shanghai Airport to Suzhou

Shanghai Pudong Airport to Suzhou

From Hongqiao Airport to Suzhou, there are also direct buses to Suzhou. Please refer to this page: Shanghai Hongqiao Airport Long Distance Buses

China’s Low-Cost Spring Airlines

Spring Airlines is amazing. They started its first flight from Shanghai to Yantai on July 18, 2005, exactly one year ago. Within one year, they successfully broke even in Feb this year, and turned to be very profitable now. It is not easy for a new business, especially in the highly competitive airline industry.

It is one of the very few low-cost airlines in China.

It offers surprising price like 99 RMB, 199 RMB, to 399 RMB. It is not always that cheap. For example, I just queried price from Shanghai to Qingdao. It is 450 RMB – their lowest price was 199 RMB.

Spring is a small airline. They only operate 3 Airbus 320 aircraft, serving 12 flights from Shanghai to major travel cities. I will try it the next time I travel and write about it.

46A is the Best Seat on Boeing 747

This is not a secret, but very few people know it, and most people either don’t care or don’t know.

The best seats in the economy class of Boeing 747 or UA858/UA857 are 46A or 46K. Why?

Economy Plus

United Mileage program has a special grade called “United Mileage Plus Premier” membership. Holders of this card can enjoy seats with bigger space than other Y class seats. Fortunately, I am a Premier member of United.

The Seats have all the Benefits

46A and 46K are window seats. I like window seats. Although during the 10+ hours of flights, only few minutes after departure and before landing are really interesting, I still enjoy pressing my noise onto the window and see what is happening outside. During the flight, to have a sense of what is happening outside is important for me. I am that type of curious people.

Also, it is just at the emergency exit. There are no seats before the seat. So you can extend your legs as far as you can.

You don’t need to interrupt others to leave your seats and walk around, and exercise. It is combination of good view of a window seat, and convenience of a aisle seat.

There is something even better. The kitchen is just besides you. You have easy access to all beverage in a DIY manner even when everyone is in deep sleep.

Other Options

46B, 46C, and 46I, 46J are also good choice. There are 6 seats available on one air crafts. 35A to 35 K are also good. They are as the same arrangement as row 46. The only problem for 35A and 35K are, they don’t have a window. If it is the case, 35C and 35I may be much better to combine convenience of aisle seat and big space of emergency location seats.

Frequent Fliers

Many frequent fliers know the secret. When I was seated at 46J during my flight back from San Francisco to Shanghai, the gentleman seated at 46K told me, he only fly with 46J, United in his recent years. If there is not 46J, or 46A, he would rather delay the flight. His agency knows his preference well, and every time he get on board, he is sure that he will get the seat he likes.

P.S.

There is nothing else interesting during the flight. On flight, I enjoyed the movie Webeldon (2004).

The flight typically arrive earlier than expected (5:45 pm v.s. scheduled 6:18 pm).

CTRIP + CMB = Best eCommerce Experience

It has been at least 4 years since I first used online payment in Shanghai. There were always dissatisfactions and “exceptions” either in the system, or credit card payment, or delivery.

Today, my experience to book a ticket on CTRIP, Pay with China Merchant Bank credit card, and claim e-ticket from China Eastern Airlines were perfect. I vote it as the best ecommerce experience I have ever had so far.

I am excited about the improvement in online stores, credit card system, and electronic flight ticket.

Booking

There are many improvement in the CTRIP system, that enables me to quickly enter all the information I need. For example, they store all the previous names on ticket, so I won’t need to enter my Chinese name, National ID, and Birthday again. These information are required by airline.

It responded quickly and suggested me e-ticket was available.

Payment

The credit card from CMB works best for me. I entered the card, and the system just went through. For many system, like net.cn, they have complicated system, and still simply does not work. When I enter a credit card number, those system reports scary technical details of an error, that is not possible to understand.

This time, payment is OK.

e-Ticket

MU (China Eastern Airlines) and CA (Air China) started e-ticket years ago, and kept expansion of their e-ticket services. There were always problems with a new systems before.

This time, the system seems to be mature already. I was told to visit the counter A, B in Pudong Airport to claim the boarding pass.

No burden of delivery the ticket.

3 minutes

Everything happens in 3 minutes. This is exactly what ecommerce should look like. From the idea to reality, it takes more than 5 years!

Change happens all the time. It is not as fast as we original expect, but when it happens, we realize it is actually faster than we thought.

Bill Gates said: “The development of technology is always below our expection in 5 year frame, but dramatically above our expectation in 10 year frame.”

It applies to social change too.

Booking China Domestic Flight Outside China

My friend asked me whether it is cheaper to book China domestic flights within China than outside China. It is for sure – almost always so.

When I check popular ticket booking website in U.S, like Expedia, Travelocity, I am amazed on how big the price difference is, for the same China domestic flight between US agent price and China local price. Here are some examples for China domestic flight booking.

Example 1: Shanghai to Beijing Round Trip

SHAPEK: March 19

PEKSHA: March 21

Expedia.com price: 308 USD or 2464 RMB. There are two flights to be chosen from.

screen-shanghai.beijing-expedia.png

Image in courtesy of Expedia.com

From CTRIP.com (The largest China online booking system)

SHAPEK: March 19

PEKSHA: March 21

CTRIP Price:

SHAPEK: CA178 08:20 10:30 767 Y 50/40 1130 620

PEKSHA: HU7603 17:00 18:40 767 Y 50/40 1130 570

The lowest combination is 1190 RMB, or about 150 USD.

There are 42 flights to be chosen from on the day of March 19, from Shanghai to Beijing…

Example 2: From Shanghai to Guiyang

Let’s choose another route – a more rare route.

SHAKWE: March 19

KWESHA: March 21

Round trip.

Expedia Price: 579 USD

CTRIP Price: 1440 RMB or 180 USD

For other routes, the local price is definitely cheaper than U.S. price.

Conclusion: Find Friends in China to book your tickets

So when you are traveling with limited budget within China, and you need to transit to cities other than port cities (Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou), my suggestion is to find local friends to help you to book the ticket using domestic agent, or just use ctrip.com/elong.com.

The difference for International flights are not so big compared to China domestic flights. There are several reasons: 1. For domestic flights, the discounted price is the mainstream offering. You can easily find 70% to 50% discount prices. 2. Domestic flights are not in the global distribution system, so it is invisible for most users.

The airline market in China, as many other areas, are highly competitive, and flexible – by flexible, I mean the price, the service, and the schedule are not fixed. It is not always good thing, (also, not always bad thing to have). This kind of flexibility seldom gets reflected in the international systems.

P.S. Previous, I have published an article called PVG: Book Domestic Flight in China

Both Bejiing and Shanghai Airports are Smarter

Beijing and Shanghai airports are among the two most important airports in mainland China. Lot of people complain about their service and management, but the good thing is, both airports get smarter day by day. It is good!

Shanghai Airport Learnt from Beijing to Rearrange the Lanes

At the very beginning, all the taxis in Hongqiao Airport line up in two lanes. When the one in the front stops and picks up passengers, the taxi behind it cannot move. If there is a delay at the front, 5 or more taxi need to wait (sometimes horns).

Photography by Jian Shuo Wang. Taken in August 2004, posted in Shanghai Taxi Colors

Often, it is strange that more than 100 passengers line up there, while more than 500 taxis line up at the other end, but the bottle neck is the pickup area.

The New Approach

Now, the lane was re-arranged, just like the Beijing airport. They transformed one lane into a lot of parking lot 45 degree of the road. All taxi park turn left a little bit and park into the parking lot while picking up passengers. So even if one taxi takes more than the time expected, it does not block the queue.

shanghai-taxi.lane-hongqia.airport.jpg

Taken by Jian Shuo Wang on Jan 10, 2006 at Hong Qiao Airport

shanghai-taxi.lane-only.jpg

Taken by Jian Shuo Wang on Jan 10, 2006 at Hong Qiao Airport

The efficiency greatly improved. Now the bottle neck seems to be the taxi waiting line. Sometimes, there will be open slots, and passengers, but no taxi coming up to the slot.

At least it is a sign of improved efficiency of the picking up area.

Short Distance Queue in Beijing Airport

I heard from taxi drivers that Beijing Airport setup short distance queue just as Shanghai Airport did. If the destination is too near the airport, passengers can take the short distance taxi. They didn’t wait 4 hours or more to pick you up, and they don’t complain if you just got to Sanyuan Bridge. I felt the pain since I always get there, and felt so bad to get on board a taxi.

I didn’t confirm it yet. Not sure whether the taxi saw it or not (rumors often spread quicker than truth). I hoped Beijing airport to have the same approach for a long time.

There are many things can be better in China. There are enough smart people. If people keep making small improvement like this everyday, it can be a much better place.

Problem of Not Having Standard High Resolution Picture

Yesterday’s Shanghai Daily had a cover story on Kijiji and this blog. Miss Fan, the warm hearted journalist asked for high resolution picture that can be printed as a full page of the cover of the newspaper. I do have many pictures but don’t have many pictures with myself on it. Most of them are only the scene taken by myself. Even if there are some, it is not good enough for a cover. So, they used some computer generated image with my outline as the cover. It tells everyone should prepare some photos for us in the future. Just share the tip with you. :-)

Image in courtesy of Shanghai Daily

Image in courtesy of Shanghai Daily

Here is a copy of the left side of the report. Some (about 5) commenters on this blog was also featured there.

Update: Feb 21, 2008

It has been a while since I last visited the Hong Qiao airport. However, the last time I was there, I still saw very long waiting lines for taxis.

I talked with my friends in Beijing and they are very dissatisifed with the taxi queue in Hong Qiao airport. There are just about 5 spots for the taxi drivers to pickup passengers, and many taxis are waiting in the underground garage. Meanwhile, many passengers are waiting in long line at the taxi gate.

The taxi scheduling team need to do something to help people get a taxi quicker, and help taxi drivers to pickup a passenger quicker.

Short Time Flight Ticket

Question

When I get to Shanghai Oct 10, I need to get a one-way flight to Chengdu on 13th. Will I be able to do that on the 10th or 11th? No web site that I can access in US permits reserving a one-way ticket. If you think trying to get a flight on 2-3 days notice is not realistic, could you suggest a travel agent located in Shanghai that might assist me. I love Shanghai and wish I had more time to spend this trip. Thanks for your help.

Answer

Typically, if it is not the golden week (Oct 1 – Oct 7, May 1 – May 7 and Spring Festival Week), a good bet is that you can book flight on the same day when you travel. The air tickets works not the same in U.S. Typically, the cheapest air tickets are only available just few days before the departure. So typically, my suggestion is you go to the airport and buy the ticket at the counter – there are enough ticket counter at any airport of Shanghai (or other city).

If you want to be safe and get lower price, making a reservation on CTRIP.COM is a good idea. They have English version of their website. Or try to call them at +86-21-34064888. They are really nice.

How to Win Free Cross China Travel?

Many people have the Around the World dream. For young people in China, maybe the Around China Travel is more realic. Dan Washburn did wonderful to travel around China in 3 months. He was also very successful in the fund raising perspective. I hope he can realize his dream of publishing his story into a book soon.

I talked with my friend, a girl with great thoughts recently. She is also dreaming a 3-month around China tour. She expects the cost to be something around 10,000 USD. It seems to be a mission-impossible to raise this big amount of money in China. Donation and sponsorship are not popular yet.

I suggested her to focus on the larger scope. I thought there must be some way to get some money for her trip. I don’t know yet. Here is a list of things I can think of. Anyone has more ideas or willing to sponsor her? Please leave comment.

Plan A: Gege is a very good writer and writes novels. Maybe she can publish some articles (but only in Chinese).

Plan B: Some company may want to sponsor some $$ to have her wear the T-Shirt or coat with the logo of the company. And she makes sure there are enough reports for the trip so people can see the logo.

Plan C: If any company or agents want someone to do some survey around China, maybe hiring her is a good idea – she only needs the travel cost, and don’t ask for pay for the labor (I guess)

Plan D: She can take pictures and sell it on the web, so someone can assign some photo-taking tasks….

Plan E: Create a donation website so people can donate and help her…

I know there must be plan F, G to Z. Any ideas?

P.S. Wendy spent the last week in Seattle and this is the first weekend for her in Seattle. Wendy always wanted to visit Seattle. Her last trip was only to Portland – very near Seattle. I hope she enjoys the trip, as well as enjoy the happy life in Shanghai.

Yes. I Expect the Flight Delay

After posting two blog entries (I and II), I am still at the Chengdu Airport. My flight CA4519 from Chengdu to Shanghai was expected to depart at 7:20 PM but the latest information I got is, it is delayed to 9:50 PM. At its departurer time, the aircraft was still in Shanghai airport – about 1500 miles away.

Well. I expected the delay. It happens every day. Sometimes I even wonder what went wrong my flight departed on time. I hate to be stack in an airport – I even thought about going back to hotel and coming back tomorrow, but I guess Wendy will definitely feel happy if she see me home, no matter how late it is tonight. Some passengers have fallen asleep on the long benches. It is 18°C here – not suitable for sleep, at least for me.

I just finished the free Sichuan style box meal and half botton of purified water. If I were a beggar, I may be the happiest beggar in the world.

The Chengdu airport has been renovated. The previous old airport was as dirty as typical train station. People enjoyed their hot instant noodle, standing near the boarding gates, and pushing each other for their way to get on board. Now, the new airport is completely a new airport that is as modern as Shanghai Pudong or Beijing Airport.

Flying and Flying…

From Dec 6 of the last year till now, the mileage numbers in many airlines increased a lot: ANA, United, China Eastern and Air China…. As I didn’t disclose, on the first working day of 2005, I went to Beijing and stayed there till Jan 7. I am packing my package for my flight to Cheng Du tomorrow and hopefully I can get back this Friday or Saturday.

I don’t like business travel. On the flight from Beijing to Shanghai, I stared outside the window – I always ask for window seat from my first airplane experience in 1995.

My First Air Travel Experience

It is interesting to recall the excitement when I took the China Southern Airlines for the first time, from Zhengzhou, Henan Province to Shanghai. China Southern Airlines rewarded three free tickets to the top 3 student in the entrance exam in Henan Province (out of half million examinees). (Update: To be accurate, they sponsored free tickets for top students for Peking Univ., Tsinghua Univ, SJTU and Fudan.) I was lucky to get one. Wendy also got one. Gan Quan, who became a good friend of mine in university was the third person. :D I’d like to take the chance, after 9 years, to thank China Southern Airlines for their generous sponsorship.

United Airlines in Shanghai

Company name: United Airlines

Toll Free Phone (inside China): 800-810-8282. This toll free number works very smart. It is a Beijing based toll free number. When dialed in Shanghai, it will transfer to its Shanghai office seamlessly.

Direct phone: +86-21-33114567. (The old number, as published in the United.com and almost all the publications of United +86-21-62798009 does not work in Nov 2004).

Website: http://www.cn.united.com/

Location: Second floor of Shanghai Center, or the Ritz Carlton Portman Hotel.

After checking all the airlines, we finally choose United Airlines to fly to U.S. It is interesting that almost all flight booking system used the wizard to check flight information. They ask for a departure date and a return date, the origin and the destination and the system calculate the best route. This is convinient for most passengers, but not for me. China and American are on the two sides of the pacific. The choice to fly across the Pacific is actually very limited. It seems only very few lines connecting the two continent.

Update

shanghai-united-central.jpg

Image in courtesy of Uninted

The new office of United on the 33rd Floor of Central Plaza.

Airport Construction Fee Included in Tickets

From Sept 1, 2004, the Airport Construction Fee (50 RMB for domestic travel, 90 RMB for international and 10 RMB for branch airlines) is paid along with the ticket (news) in China. Travelers no longer have to buy it at airports.

I took Shanghai Airlines flight from Wen Zhou to Shanghai yesterday (Sept 2, 2004). The price is 50 RMB higher than the listed price. On the ticket, CN 50.00 was printed in the TAX field (at the left-bottom corner). I directly got on board the plane after the security check. There are less stops I need to go through:

1) Check-in

2) Pass security check

3) Get on board.

Please pay attention to this change during your next travel in China. This change may confuse people since there is no sign or promotion of the change anywhere at airport yet.

Refer to Airport Construction Fee for more information about the fee.