When I first started going to China, I was warned not to fly on Chinese domestic airlines. I was told they were old, cast-off planes or old military planes, and that people were crammed into each plane with barnyard and other animals. Before I felt daring and took a domestic flight one day, I was under the influence of yet another case of Chinese stereotyping.
In all honesty, over the years, I have not had an uncomfortable or unpleasant flight anywhere inside China. To get to our meetings we had to fly quite a bit. We went, mainly, to cities up and down the eastern coast; however, we did fly occasionally to inland locations. Some flights were long—some were short—all were without mishap.
I found the service provided, once inside the plane, to be exceptional. I was always greeted in English even if I was the only non-Chinese on the flight, which occurred many times. I was even handed Chinese newspapers in English. The flight attendants were quite efficient. On most flights, we received drinks, a snack, more beverages, a hot Chinese meal (which was always good), and then a last set of beverages. I never paid extra for my checked luggage, the snacks, drinks, meals or great service.
I was also impressed with the screening, security, and overall terminal experience. There “are” many people in China—most seemed to be flying on the same days that I flew. However, in going through the document check (passport for me—identity cards for my Chinese associates) and then the security check which is similar to the security checks I have been through in other countries including the US, I found the process to be quite efficient. I am an “early get to the airport” type of guy—my Chinese associates are not. They gave me much concern on numerous occasions when we would arrive at the airport a half-hour before our plane departed. Fortunately, we never missed our flight and never really had to run to catch it. We went through all stations in such an efficient manner that I should not have bothered to worry (but I always did).
Again, as with my other posts regarding China, I can only speak to my own experiences. I am certain other travelers have horror stories about flying domestically within China. My main reason for offering this insight is, for me, another example of incorrect information when it came to China, its people, and its functioning.
If you would like to read other guest posts by Bob Grant, start with They All Look Alike.