One of the experiences from my recent trip with our kids (I have written about traveling with kids with a fever, people who complain about your kids, and what I did to entertain our kids in-flight) was - again - how lousy customer service is in China. Specifically, this time, on Air China.
It should not come as a surprise that when I call the call center of Air China, select the English-speaking operators, ask a simple question, and get transferred to a different agent. What did surprise me was that the first agent apologized that her English was not sufficient.
The second agent proceeded to ask me about the ticket number, and would not even let me ask the question. So it probably comes as no surprise that when she finally got the ticket number, it was useless to her. She could not open the trip details as we had booked through Expedia. Which was a surprise in itself.
we had now been talking for five minutes, and she finally let me ask my question: would our arriving and departing flights be from the same terminal? The answer, not unsurprisingly, was yes. It should also come as no syrprise that one of us felt his time was wasted.
What she did not tell me was that we had to pass through passport control and security to get to the gate. And that security was literally squeezed in under the staircase, had only two X-ray-machines, and an incredibly bad queue management. It took an incredible time until they had cleared us, especially since they insisted on checking our carry-on luggage several times.
Chinese have not learned managing queues after three thousand years, and there are always people trying to squeeze in front of you. But this did not decrease the time it took to get through. And the passport control did not help either. The line took about 20 minutes, eating up a large chunk of our time margin (the toilet took the rest). The kids were extremely cooperative and despite playing a bit in the passport control they came along quickly and did not even ask why there were a second passport control after the first one, before we were let into security. Even if daddy was strongly inclined to ask that question. If there had been someone to ask.
We did not have time to go to the toilet in Beijing, but it did not matter since my kids were already in diapers at that point. We always put diapers on before long flights, even though the kids are toilet trained and usually can go a night without. But on the airplane things happen with pressure (the size of the bladder first inflates as the pressure decreases and then as the plane lands, the pressure makes the bladder contract). This is why we always put diapers on our kids during flights. But it would certainly help if Beijing airport tried to do something about their passport and security controls.
I am Wisterian Watertree, recently moved from Bangkok to Tokyo, with a brief visit to Honolulu on the way. I write about travel, especially with our three beautiful kids (two girls and one boy, soon turning four and a half - yes. they are triplets). Travel is education and fun rolled into one, and if you are like me, that is something you want to give to your kids. If you want more tips and want to find out when I will publish something, get it from my email list. If you want to be personal, drop me a note on email@example.com, or if you want general tips, follow me on Twitter @wisterianw.