The Truth About Flying Domestic In China: There Are Some Interesting Similarities And Differences Versus The US

A couple weeks ago, I flew to Beijing on a Saturday to speak at conference.

I’d never been to China or even Asia before, so I decided to use the opportunity to see some other parts of the other side of the world.

So, Monday morning, I woke up at 4:30 A.M. and headed to Beijing Capital airport (PEK) for an early morning flight 800 miles south to a city near Shanghai called Hangzhou.

To get there, I flew Hainan Airlines — a domestic carrier.

In many ways, the experience was just like flying a US carrier from New York to Chicago, also an 800 mile flight. But there were some key differences.

I got to the airport before having breakfast. So I stopped at this place for a dumpling filled with mystery meat. I regretted it.

My gate looked like La Guardia during the holidays.

I got to the airport so early because, according to Flight Stats, 80% of all flights in China leave late. I heard only the first flights out leave on time.

Unlike in the US, there was no boarding by section or zone. It's just a mob.

Hainan Airlines is an American Airlines partner in China. It's the country's largest private airline, launched in 1989. Now it's part of a conglomerate called Grand China Air.

Air travel is a booming industry in China. Since 1992, travel has increased 24X.

Onboard, the plane looks a lot like any American 737 -- except slightly older.

This was first class. The seats aren't leather or very big. But you get a pillow.

No pillows in economy class, where I sat. (My tickets cost $US450)

Just like in the US, you're really squished in cattle class. I was shoulder to shoulder with the guy in the middle seat.

And my shoulder kept getting whacked by people walking down the aisle.

Let's look through the seat-back pocket, shall we? You've got your 'safety instructions'

…a golf magazine with Shanshan Feng, the first Chinese player in the LPGA, on the cover…

…a catalogue…

…and a magazine written in English and Chinese. I checked out this magazine.

Couldn't read this section…

…but I really enjoyed the mistranslations in this feature. You must read the first sentence.

Once we were in the air, these monitors dropped down from the ceiling. They showed short documentaries. There was one explaining St. Patrick's Day.

I didn't snap the picture in time, but when the flight hit cruising altitude, this stewardess stood at the front of the plane and bowed as a stewardess at the back welcomed us on board.

After I took that last picture, another attendant walked up and told me 'no camera.' So I had to pull out my iPhone.

Then we got food! Apparently, food is still served on ALL flights in China. I got rice with eggs and vegetables.

Inside the box, I found a roll inside plastic and some melon.

Strangely, the meal did not come with chopsticks. Everyone (not just me) got plastic silverware.

After my meal, I played video games on my phone. That is…until an attendant told me iPhones aren't allowed to be 'on' even in 'flight mode.' Paging Nick Bilton!

A few hours later, we landed. Just like the in the US, everyone stood up before the doors opened, so we all had to stand around when we could have been sitting.

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