Our Experience Flying Air China

When we booked our air travel to Tokyo, Japan through Air China in January 2018 I was a little nervous. My mom had worked for Continental/United while I was growing up, so I really only had experience flying this airline and a few other US based airlines. I was even more nervous when the only confirmation/correspondence we received was a printout detailing our itinerary that we (thankfully) printed out and took with us on our trip.

The week before I started having dreams that we would show up and our confirmation would not exist, we missed our flight, etc. I kept telling myself that these were irrational and everything would be fine.  It turned out that these dreams weren’t entirely unwarranted.

Before detailing exactly what happened I better explain our flight itinerary.

To Japan: Fly United from Orlando to Houston, Fly Air China from Houston to Beijing (arrive next day), Fly Air China from Beijing to Tokyo (Haneda)

From Japan: Fly Air China from Tokyo (Narita) to Beijing, Fly Air China from Beijing to New York (JFK), Fly Jet Blue from New York to Orlando

Let’s just say that this isn’t what happened.

Our United flight was scheduled to leave Orlando at 7 pm. When we arrived at 5 pm we entered in our confirmation number and…nothing. We didn’t exist. Semi-concerned, we went to talk to a gate agent. Apparently United had changed its evening  flight schedule with no communication between the two airlines. Our flight had left AN HOUR EARLIER. We pretty much thought our trip wasn’t going to happen at this point.

Well it turns out the couple in front of us had the same issue (except they were trying to get to Bangkok) and the gate agent had already been trying to fix the issue for over an hour. By the time we arrived she gave us a new itinerary within 10 minutes which allowed us to return home and leave the next morning.

Orlando to San Francisco, San Francisco to Tokyo (Narita); all on United. We were only set to arrive two hours later than our original flight plan, and she didn’t charge us anything extra. I can’t even begin to describe how lucky we were that day.

On the way back we stuck to our original flight plan, so we were actually able to experience what Air China was like.

Pros

  • It’s a member of the Star Alliance – If United and Air China weren’t both part of the Star Alliance, let’s just say things would have turned out very differently.
  • All the same amenities as other national airlines – We read reviews that stated the movies weren’t in English, but this was not the case. We were also served meals on flights to and from Beijing.
  • It’s cheap – Our tickets cost around $1300 round-trip, which is really amazing considering we flew on United on the way there.
  • It’s safe (for the most part) – The airline has had only one fatal crash, and it was back in 2002.

Cons

  • Long Layovers – When we arrived in New York, we had a 7 hour overnight layover. The other layovers were about 4-5 hours
  • All flights have a connection through Beijing
  • No communication between other connecting airlines, hence the incident above. We also had to re-check again on our Jet Blue flight.
  • All carry-on bags over 5 kg must be checked, which pretty much means all bags except purses and backpacks.
  • If you are overly hygienic, you probably won’t want ride them. The pillows on each seat had definitely not been cleaned; and towards the end of our flight to New York, the bathroom had run out of both paper towels and water (?!) which I didn’t know was possible.

 

Overall, I honestly would fly Air China again. However it would be the only airline I flew on the trip, with no connections between other airlines.

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