“We go above and beyond” is the slogan of Air China. In the west, we associate this kind of claim to be a positive thing and something for which to be heralded. However, knowing Air China as I do, I really wonder what they mean when they make such a boast – because their customer service is known to be extremely poor.
Air China is the flag carrier and one of the major airlines of the People’s Republic of China, with its headquarters in Shunyi District, Beijing. Air China’s flight operations are based out of Beijing Capital International Airport. Statistics show that in 2013, the airline carried 51 million domestic and international passengers with an average load factor of 81%. With the booming economy in China in the past 10 years, more and more people can now afford to fly, and it seems Air China is trying to pack as many into their aircraft as possible.
I recently took my first ever voyage with Air China on a flight from Beijing to Singapore. I was not overly looking forward to this trip as I had heard many horror stories about the poor service standards of Air China (and other Chinese carriers). I was even worried about the kind of passengers I would be sitting with in economy class! Recently, a passenger onboard Shenzhen Airlines was arrested on arson charges for trying to set the aircraft alight mid-flight! On top of that, a recent flight with China Eastern became a crime scene as passengers deliberately forced open an emergency exit door while the aircraft was taxiing, just to get the aircraft to stop and return to the gate! On both these occasions, luckily the offending parties were arrested, but what happens when these people don’t get caught?
Even though I was positively surprised by my check-in experience with Air China, I am aware that usually there are chaotic scenes, angry passengers (and staff!), and long, long delays. In fact, only Air India seem to be delayed more often than Air China.
Watch the video below (by YouTuber brascoTabo) to see Air China staff get into a physical fight with passengers!
Chaos normally ensues when Chinese passengers check in for their flights, especially if something happens to throw them out of their routine (i.e. a seat not being guaranteed or a change in the departure time). While most civilised people will just roll with it and go with the flow, I have noticed many mainland Chinese passengers kick up a stink and wreck havoc to all people in their way – including other passengers (now I know why Hong Kongers are embarrassed to be associated with their mainland cousins). Seeing as Air China is owned and operated by the Chinese Government and seeing as it is supposed to be the flag carrier for the whole country, I think that the airline should be forced to have higher standards, yet at the moment there seems very little being done to improve the behaviour of these rude Chinese passengers.
Chinese passengers are generally known to be very rude and very aggressive towards foreigners. This is actually the opposite of MOST of my experiences in China. Throughout my travels in the country, around cities such as Beijing, Shanghai, Chengdu, Xi’an, and Dalian, I have found Chinese people on the whole to be very friendly and welcoming towards me, and have never really felt threatened or unsafe (unlike in India). However, as far as airline passengers are concerned, I must say that MAINLAND CHINESE ARE THE WORST! They have no concept of safety, and no concept of courtesy towards other passengers – and if you don’t believe me, take a look at one such example in the video below (from LiveLeak):
I have been made aware that on flights between Singapore and mainland China, Chinese gangs operate and actively steal other passengers’ belongings. I have never been robbed in a flight, but it must be pretty easy for the thieves if they have had enough practice. Only Chinese gangs are known to do this, so it’s always a risky affair flying to and from mainland Chinese cities!
Fortunately, on my flight to Singapore, no such problems ensued regarding theft, but I was very unimpressed with the attitude of the Air China crew. They were going through the motions and were not enjoying their job. Meal service was slow and we didn’t get a drink after the meal for the rest of the flight. No cabin crew member even looked me in the eyes for the whole flight, even when serving my meal. For this route, I shall be using Singapore Airlines in the future. Silly me for trying Air China. Never again.