Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Shangaied in China! The Magical Midnight Tour by China Eastern Airlines.

My wife and I were returning to Malaysia from Canada and we were flying via China Eastern Airlines.
After arriving from Vancouver, we had a seven hour wait for the connecting flight at 23:55hrs. If you have been to Pudong International Airport, you will know that waiting here for more than 2 hours is punishment enough. The airport is spartan and lacks any shops of interest; although I must admit the architecture is quite attractive with high roofs and slanting supports.
But the interior decor and assortment of shops is really unappealing.
We managed to nap a few hours before we made for the departure gates at about 23:00hrs....something quite unusual as we are usually the last few passengers to get there.
We were there hardly 10 minutes when an official came down and started shouting "SINGAPORE!SINGAPORE! Go to hotel NOW". We were then herded up the stairs as the escalator was for only for going down. Not much fun having to climb 3 flights of steps with your hand luggage.
We then had to pass through immigration and then onto a waiting bus that was already 3/4 full of bewildered passengers and within minutes, we experienced a bumpy 20-minute ride to the hotel.
I believe the hotel had close business links to the airline. The rooms had already been allocated and all it took was a scramble to get to the reception counter where the girl took two passports and gave us a room key.
So we took the lift to the room on the 18th floor; our weary bodies looking forward to a restful night.
After checking out the room, which we found to be of reasonable standard, my wife took a shower while I rested on the bed. I was about to take my shower when the phone rang. I answered and the girl said; "Check out now!" So I asked her; "Now?" She replied; "Yes, go to airport."
We both laughed at the comical scenario; even though it was not so funny.
It took another 5 minutes to re-pack and head for the lifts. Two girls we met on the way were also half-amused; one of them had not even had time to dry her hair properly.
At the hotel reception, 4 girls were frantically working to exchange passports for hotel keys...I wonder how they handled any lost keys?
On the way out to the bus, I noticed a big stack of packaged food and I belive they would have been distributed to the rooms if we had stayed longer.
At the airport, we had to go through security and also fill up the immigration forms for departure.
The flight finally departed at about 0130hrs and we arrived in Singapore 2hours later than the original eta. The airline staff apologised profusely for the flight delay but the efforts they made to take care of us seemed misguided.
It would have been better if they had kept us at the airport longer and provided a hot meal instead of the hurried transfers to and from the hotel that caused some distress.

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