Whine Wednesday: Horrible Air China ‘Service’ At Beijing Capital Airport During Flight Delay

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This weeks Whine Wednesday is coming to us compliments of Air China and their completely inept staff at Beijing Capital Airport where incompetence prevails at every corner (likely due to corporate policy).

Air China isn’t well known for their stellar service to begin with but apparently the design of Beijing Capital Airport itself makes it even worse as the staff seems unable to rebook passengers onto other airlines.

Delays and cancellations are nothing new for Air China and various Chinese airports in particular (especially Beijing) and so far I’ve always been pretty lucky that nothing major happened to my flights.

Yesterday I had a connection from Beijing to Tokyo-Haneda that was supposed to leave at 12:50pm but apart from an announcement at the Business Class lounge around 12:15 that there would be an indefinite delay Air China didn’t provide any further information.

1:30h of time passed by and I consulted the ‘service desk’ where some bored employee was sitting. The reason given to me for the delay of CA167 was ‘aircraft rotation’ and even though there were many other Air China flights delayed there didn’t seem the usual reason of air traffic control being the culprit here.

I asked to be rebooked on the Air China codeshare operated by ANA that leaves at 3:30 should they not have a confirmed departure time yet. That’s where the fun started.

First they couldn’t find the flight, then they can’t change tickets at the lounge, the ticket desk is outside in Terminal C (not accessible from the international terminal and outside security). Ticket office doesn’t pick up the phone, a manager is not available (apparently the only manager at Air China’s PEK Hub is also at the main terminal).

Finally after 45 min someone does answer the phone but says I’m still checked in on the original flight and have to organize myself to be unchecked from that flight before anything can be done. By then I’m told that ANA can’t issue me a boarding pass unless I exit immigration again and pick up a boarding pass at the main Terminal 3C. In short: Nothing ever got done and none of their explanations made any sense. I’d go so far as saying 60% of what I was told were blatant lies. Especially since all other airlines left on time.

The problem was not that I badly wanted to fly another airline but that I needed to get to Tokyo timely. Eventually the flight started boarding at 15:20h with pretty much zero advance notice.

In the end I was glad to have arrived with ‘just’ 2:20h delay at Haneda but it pretty much ruined the entire evening.

Conclusion

What is going on at Air China that everything seems to be in complete disarray? I think it’s a mixture of everything that can go bad. Incompetence of the staff, horrible operations, congested air traffic and a horribly designed airport.

I’m not buying their statement that one has to exit immigration again and go back to the main check-in terminal just to get a new boarding pass. That would make zero sense, especially because there are transit counters upstairs in the same terminal ahead of the immigration counters. Why couldn’t the gate staff of your new airline just print your new boarding pass? In any case the transit counter would be able to do so.

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