Tuesday, March 15, 2011

There's Something to be Said for Low Expectations

When I was about to book my flight to Beijing with Air China, my friend who lived in China for three years said that it was a terrible idea... of course, because it was the cheapest and the friend I was travelling with had already booked a flight with Air China, I went ahead and did it anyway.

Over the next few months, I heard many, many warnings about Air China. They included things like: children will be peeing in the aisles, there is no in-flight entertainment, they wake you up when it's time to eat, and a whole host of negative reviews on the Internet. Even as I sat getting a manicure in JFK (those massage chairs they put you in are AWESOME between flights; I'm not high maintenance, I promise!), my manicurist added two additional warnings: there isn't enough food (so buy a sandwich) and they stop serving beverages a few hours into the flight, so you should go help yourself.

Anyway, given all the warnings, I made sure to prepare for the flight, dutifully buying a sandwich at the airport and stocking up with movies on every portable electronic device I have with me, buying a book at Borders, leaving my guide book reading and even going so far as to purchase a portable game of Settlers of Catan.

When I started boarding the plane, I got the impression that the warnings may have been a little extreme, as the plane was nice and new and there was even a decent amount of leg room. While, as promised, there was no personal in-flight entertainment, the movies shown on the common screen alternated between Chinese and English, so I could have gotten a good six hours of entertainment from that. The food was actually the best airplane food I'd eaten (though the novelty of Chinese food on a plane may wear thin by the trip home...), and while the flight attendants did stop serving a few hours in, you were welcome to walk to the back of the plane and help yourself. (This turned out to be mostly a good thing --- you could drink lots of water and the aisles were clear to stand and stretch your legs; on the downside, one of our fellow passengers took it upon himself to down an entire bottle of wine and got belligerent... but hey... free entertainment?)

Anyway, all in all, it was either my low expectations that made for a good flight, or the fact that maybe Air China is not that bad?

In other news... I landed in Beijing tonight and while I am crazy jetlagged (yet writing this blog despite a need for sleep), it's been good thus far. Despite having complete and total language barriers, we were able to get to our hotel (I had printed off the address in Chinese!) and order dinner (yay for pictures on the menu). Tomorrow we are off to the Great Wall and I'll probably post some pics!

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