CZ 6103 25 JAN- SHE-PEK, CO 88 25 JAN, PEK-EWR--Finally Back
It was Friday morning and -2F in Shenyang, and I was ready to come home after a long meeting the day before. We had dinner in an out of the way Korean BBQ restaurant in one of the less central areas of Shenyang on Thursday night, and I tried to get a good nights sleep before leaving but wound up with 5-6 hours and was awake by about 3AM. I was fully packed and ready to go by about 7, but that was too early to leave.
After checking out I met some guys who worked for my client in a different division who were headed back to Amsterdam. We had met a couple of nights before, and they invited me to share the company van to the airport, but it never showed, so we were relegated to taking taxis. At least I would have some company waiting for the flight, as we were all on the SHE-PEK together.
We got to the airport, and found the check in counter. They did not ask us where we wanted to sit, but arbitrarily assigned seats (13D which was in the row without a window). We went through security, and I noted that their domestic sercurity screening is somewhat less stringent than international--then again I doubt they have a problem with domestic terrorism in China. We found the gate and noted that the incoming aircraft had not yet arrived. Luckily there was a little coffee shop right opposite the gate, so we sat down and had some coffee while waiting.
Finally the aircraft arrived, and we lined up to board. As I said before, there is no rhyme or reason to boarding--no rows, zones, etc.--you just get on in the order you line up. Since we began to line up as soon as the airplane arrived (they have arriving passengers take a different route from the jetbridge), we were able to board early enough to insure overhead space. Once on board, it turned out that they had seated the three of us relatively together, with one guy in 12C, and the other in 13C, next to me across the aisle-so we were able to share some English language newspapers and chat during the flight.
We pushed back about 15 min behind schedule and taxied out to the active runway, and within 5 min or so we were airborne. The flight proceeds west/southwest almost directly to PEK, and since Airshow was turned on for this leg I noted that we were cruising at 27,500 feet, and groundspeed was hovering around 350 kt. As soon as the flight attendants got up, they each went to the head of each cabin, (halfway through coach too), and bowed to the customers as an announcement was made, then proceeded with a full beverage service including a small snack. It seemed like this flight back to PEK took much longer than the outbound (it did), but after about 55 minutes we had begun our descent, and turned south to enter the traffic pattern at PEK.
As I said, I couldn't see too much from where I was sitting but I could see parts of the city as we banked, and I could see the new terminals which are supposed to open before the Olympics off to the right side of the arrival runway (36R). We taxied in and wound up at the same gate we had left from three days before.
Once off the airplane, I accompanied my new friends to bag claim, at which point we said our goodbyes (I only had carryon), and I tried to find my own way to the international terminal (T2). After only going the wrong way once, a policeman pointed me in the right direction and after a 15 minute walk I found my way to the international departures hall. I went through departure customs-nothing to declare, which left me in a large hall with many check in facilities--and no sign of where to check in for my flight.
Now we had arrived around noon, and my connection did not leave until 5PM. After checking for about 10 minutes, I found someone who spoke enough English to tell me that CO does not open for check in until 2PM. Now they had to know many people were arriving on long connections, but there was obviously no provision made for accommodating people who just had to wait. Coupled with the fact that there were no facilities or restaurants in the departure hall, we were stuck. At least within 20 minutes of me finding a little waiting area near where CO would have checkin (they had a bunch of non functioning kiosks in a corner, so I waited there), more people arrived, until we were about 30-40 strong. Misery loves company, so I was chatting with a few people in similar industries, so it helped pass the time. The silver lining is that I made a few new friends on this flight which was pretty nice.
At 1:45 they started wheeling up the CO signs with the arrows (left for B/F Elite and right for Coach). We began to queue up in the appropriate lines, and as we did a couple of the CO concierges (grey jackets) came by, and asked which cabin we were in, and if in B/F, for our names, which they checked off on a preliminary manifest. Although we had to wait, it was well organized, and check in from there was uneventful.
My new friend from IBM and I made our way through security (much more stringent-equiv to US standards if not tougher-visual inspection of all bags), and gradually found our way to the lounge (CO uses Air China's Business Class Lounge), which was overcrowded and very hot. Finally we found two seats and had a refreshment, and I texted my daughter that I was on my way home (she had texted me when I left). After about an hour and a half in there, we decided to explore a little bit before boarding, which wound up being good so I did not have to come home empty handed (the girls got Beijing 2008 Olympic T's). Eventually we made it to the gate, just as they were setting up inspection tables (checked carryons again).
After only a few minutes, they began boarding, so we made our way down, had a final bag check, and they checked passports for a fourth time. Once on board, we were greeted by the ISM and directed to our seats.
Before we could even get settled, the FA's were in the cabin taking coats, serving predeparture bevs and handing out amenity kits and menus. My friend was seated 2 rows behind me, (I was in 1K), and I thought for a while I might not have a seat mate, but at the lst minute he showed up, and, a little flustered, settled into the window seat. Since we were in a bulkhead, I had put everything above, but remembered to take my Ipod and Bose QC3s down.
We pushed back about 3 minutes prior to scheduled departure, and the huge 777 engines came to life, and we made our way to RY 36R. After waiting for about 2 departures and 6 arrivals, we took the active for takeoff--and again we were off in no time. We climbed out to the north, and after about 30 miles or so banked right to a northeast heading. Today's route was not polar-it went through Siberia and Russia toward Alaska.
The plan was to imbibe as much as possible at meal time, so I would sleep. The plan worked. I had a scotch before dinner and 2 glasses of wine during. The appetizer was lobster and crab legs with pork, followed by a salad. For the main course I decided not to have the steak and opted instead for the beef noodle bowl. It was kind of like Yaki Udon for those who know Japanese food, but it was very good. Immediately after that came a cheese plate, followed by my favorite, the ice cream sundae. After that, I let the wine take effect, and set the IPOD up with classical music and drifted off to sleep. The seat goes almost flat, so I was comfortable, and the blankets they give you are warm. I am not sure how long I was out, but I fell asleep over Russia and woke up over the Aleutians somewhere--my guess was between 5 and 6 hours.
While I was asleep the second meal service was conducted, so I missed that, but once awake, they came around to check if I wanted anything--I had my water so I was fine. Then I watched 2 movies--one of my old faves Mean Streets which was early Scorsese with a VERY young DeNiro, and the Nanny Diaries (don't know why), which was not good. I then passed more time with music from the pod, and nodded off again, to be awakened by the smell of coffee as they were preparing for the third meal service-prearrival. I had the omelette, which was pretty good-came with hot bread and a fruit salad.
After the meal and coffee, we began our descent into the Newark area. We were going to arrive about 45 minutes early, which was great. We filled out the immigration/customs form, and watched as we came in over SAX, turned left then swept to the right onto 22L at EWR. A quick taxi to gate 138 and off to the covered walkway above the terminal to customs.
I had expected a long line, but within 5 minutes I was out of there and headed for the garage. I found my car, and paid the parking fee, and headed home. I made a wrong turn headed toward the Goethals but eventually found it, and made my way through Staten Island and Brooklyn, happy to be home!
Overall, CO did a great job both ways, and other than the long wait in PEK, it all went very well...and the business didn't go badly either :)
PS I looked for the flight plan from this flight on Flightaware and other trackers (I also use Flight Explorer AOPA), but could not find it--I'd really like to get hold of one--I have the plan for the outbound.
Re: CZ 6103 25 JAN- SHE-PEK, CO 88 25 JAN, PEK-EWR--Finally Back
Art:welcome back home. I passed thru PEK 3 years ago and one or two levels below departure they had a full food court, albeit it's food from various regions in China. It's before check in and security. Many airport workers go there for lunch. Next time you transit thru PEK, give it a try. Did you do any spotting in PEK or SHE?
Re: CZ 6103 25 JAN- SHE-PEK, CO 88 25 JAN, PEK-EWR--Finally Back
As far as I could tell, once I arrived at Terminal 2, there was a hall with food and facilities, however, you have to go through customs before arriving at the check in area. I did that before knowing that the check in didn't open until 2, and once in you can't go back out. I walked all around the hall, and did not see any signs for food or any other facilities.
This was a business trip, so the only spotting I did was what I could see from the terminal or from the window of the airplane. I did see some interesting aircraft, however not much worth mentioning.
There is a very good chance I will be going back in May, so maybe I will plan a longer visit.