Saturday, February 4, 2012

Winter in China: Harbin to Shanghai via Beijing on Air China


We were thankful we got to Harbin airport in one piece. The cab driver taking us to Harbin airport was probably a retired race car driver. He was speeding the whole way to the airport and there was even a moment when we both gasped for air when he squeezed the cab between a truck and car on the two lane highway.

Check in at Harbin airport was also chaotic due to lack of signage. Air China, which we were flying on, outsourced their check-in and similar to Beijing, there was no Star Alliance Gold signs. We learned from the experience in Beijing and just tried checking in at the generic First Class counters.

We were flying to Singapore via Beijing and Shanghai and the agent could only check the luggage through to Shanghai. He made a few phone calls and made up some excuse that the luggage tags only allow routing to two destinations which we knew was bogus. Our bags were already on the scales and he quickly tagged them and push them down the chute trying to get rid of us as fast as possible. We were now worried on whether we would be able to check our bags through to Singapore in time since we only had about an hour and fifteen minute layover in Shanghai.

We made our way through security and then to "First Class" Lounge that was operated by the Harbin airport. We got access thanks to my *G status even though we were flying in economy for the flight to Beijing. The lounge itself was not anything spectacular but was better than having to hang around outside. I enjoyed my last couple Harbin beers while trying to surf the web and check email on the very slow internet access.

Our flight departed on time and it was packed. We were flying on a A321 which was a first for both of us. It's such a long plane and even though the leg space was pretty good on Air China, I will go for a wide body flight if I had the choice.

A sandwich and drinks were served on this flight. I caught up on some reading and an uneventful 2 hours later, we landed in Beijing.

On arrival, we headed straight to the Air China domestic business class lounge that we just visited earlier during the week. We tried looking for the showers but couldn't find it. After inquiring about it at the lounge check-in counters, we were told it was on the first class side of the lounge but we we could use it. They gave us the key to it in exchange for our boarding passes. After the shower, we just stayed in the first class side and from our quick inspection, there was nothing majorly different between the two lounges.

Some views from the lounge:

We headed to the boarding gate a couple of minutes before departure for our flight to Shanghai. The main for the reason for the "semi-weird" routing via Shanghai to get to Singapore was to sample Air China's international business class especially without "suffering" through it on a mid or long haul. Yea, we could have gone on the direct Beijing to Singapore flight. Air China typically only uses a two cabin (first and economy) on domestic flights in China. On some routes like Beijing to Shanghai, they do operate their international wide bodies and offer a three class cabin.

Our flight to Shanghai was operated by a pretty dated Airbus A340. The seats were also dated and in need to refurbishment. I would not have wanted to be on this plane for a flight much longer than 2-3 hours. Water and juice was offered on the ground in addition to slippers to have to change into. Service was genuinely friendly and I was surprised that the English by the attendant serving us was decent.

View from our seats



The less than 2 hour flight did get bumpy during parts of the flight. Dinner, which was a choice between a noodle or dumpling dish was served on this flight with some mediocre wines. There were no champange available on the flight. After 2 episodes of CSI on the IFE, we arrived on time still worried whether we would make the next flight to Shanghai.


  1. What type of bun did they give you? Luncheon meat?

  2. Some sort of "mystery meat". Probably some ham..

  3. Do you have a spam problem on this site; I also am a blogger, and I was wondering your situation; many of us have developed some nice procedures and we are looking to trade strategies with others, please shoot me an email if interested.xian airport transfer