I just returned to Shanghai with a 14+ hour flight and before we left the ground I almost blew a gasket! It had to be the worst flight ever. Travelling on a small piece of metal hurtling through space which is already cramped and crowded you need to think about fellow passengers and not to mention customer service.
I have learned travelling with Chinese is just like trying to get on the
subway metro. It becomes survival of the fittest. Push, shove and why wait for others to get off before getting on? If you are polite and orderly then you will miss the train. Before the attendants are even at the gate they line up waiting to get on the plane. Umm has anyone told them the little piece of paper called the boarding pass is guaranteeing them a seat and place on the plane? I don’t understand the logic of lining up when seats are called by row to help ease the flow of boarding. I have started to do the same now only because if you wait for your seat chances are there is no room for your carryon luggage. A few times it has to be stored 5-10 rows away from where I am sitting which is fine until you try to retrieve it. Soon as the plane stops moving they are up out of their seats pushing to get off the plane. What is the hurry? You can’t go anywhere until the doors are open! So basically I end up waiting until the flight is almost empty to get my things. Patience is not in their vocabulary 😉
This flight I was caught a little off guard and they started to board soon as the attendants arrived. I was also leaving from Toronto and last flight in January anyone who tried to board ahead of their called rows was turned away, so I didn’t feel the urgency to get on just yet. Lesson learned; never assume things will be like last time! I thought we were on a larger plane with over 60 rows of seating, so I got in line when they called my row in the 40s. Once on the plane I realised I was sitting at the back and ¾ of the plane was already on board! While still waiting in line the last rows were called and the remaining passengers tried to push and cut into line ahead of the other passengers who were already waiting. Common courtesy is just not observed.
As I tried to fight my way upstream to my seat, through the many people blocking the aisles who seat rows had not yet been called, the people behind me were close enough I could feel them breathing down my neck. As I stopped and waited patiently for the blockers to rummage through their carry on the people behind me began to push. Really where do you want me to go? Should I trample the other passengers? After about the third time I said out loud ‘Really? You need to push me? People are in the way’. The people behind me backed off ever so slightly.
I got to my seat to see all the overhead compartments stuffed full. No one put anything under their seats and large carryons (most people had 2 plus a large bag of duty free). Obviously the carry on luggage rule was not carefully monitored. I asked the flight attendant to help me find space and she said go back and look closer to the front of the plane. I said ‘No I don’t think I need to put my luggage near the front when there should be space here. I boarded when I was suppose to and all the others came on early and took up all the space. That isn’t right.’ She just walked away. Great customer service… thanks for your help. Did she come back later to see if I found space? No of course not.
Thank you to the kind gentleman who tried to help me squeeze my bags into an overhead bin, but there was just no room. He also had an unfortunate situation where his wife and small baby were near the front of the plane and he was near the back. The flight attendants said there was nothing they could do since the flight was pretty well full. I doubt they asked anyone to move. I am sure if someone knew the situation they would have helped. I also had asked for an aisle seat hoping they could do something at check in. After explaining I was travelling alone, needed to get up and move around and needed close access to a bathroom I was told I had a window and that was a good seat. Again thanks for your understanding and good customer service.
With no other option and I wasn’t about to try to swim back downstream I shoved my small wheelie bag under the seat in front of me along with my purse. In an already small environment I now had no leg room. Good thing I am short and I am not claustrophobic because this would have put me over the edge. My seatmates came along and luckily didn’t have large bags. They settled in and it started to snow, so the long flight was about to get longer as we had to go to de-icing. Luckily it was a light snow and hadn’t had time to accumulate so the icing process only took a few minutes.
Soon as we were in the air the fellow in front of me reclined his seat and immediately started to snore. Could this get any worse? As it would have it yes. I had difficulty sleeping due to my cramped positions and my body just ached and was all tingly from pins and needles. My body was finally tired enough to sleep through the pain. Not long after I got some sleep my snoring friend kept opening the window to see outside even though the night lights were on. The blinding light woke me up from the 2 hours of sleep I managed to get. He had to have opened the blinds at least 3 times. Hey buddy yes it is still sunny… just like it was 15 minutes ago. I guess he already slept 7 or 8 hours and didn’t notice the other sleeping passengers around him.
In my already cramped position I noticed my middle seat mate had the legs propped up on my luggage which as you recall was under my seat. She had lots of space on her side, but I guess thought I needed less. At the end of the flight an announcement was made to stay in your seat if you needed assistance and a flight attendant would happily help you. Well sitting at the back of the plane I couldn’t get out and I had to wait for my seat mates to leave so I could pry my things from under the seat. Did any attendants come to see if I needed assistance? No of course not. They were all too busy gathering their things and leaving the plane. I left BEHIND some of the flight crew. I guess the announcement is not put into practice, but sounds like good customer service. I have done a lot of travelling in my life and this had to have been the worst flight with common courtesy and customer service I have ever had. Maybe if I put it out there in the universe people will stop and think about travel etiquette… Here are a few things for travellers to think about.
1. Carryon luggage – if you have more than 1 bag stow one under your seat so others have room for their things.
2. Think about packing light and not carrying all your belongings on the flight with you.
3. If you want people to fly your airline again acknowledge them and be kind, don’t ignore them and walk away. Maybe they wouldn’t be so grumpy with you if you treated them like a valued customer and wanted their repeat service.
4. Wait for your seat row to be called before lining up to get on the plane and the airlines should reinforce this.
5. Personal space… in an already cramped environment need I say more?
Now this may not be the worst travel horror story, but having back trouble and requiring to move every 2 hours or less, leaving my husband in Canada (and hopefully seeing him before July) and dealing with family illness back home I was sensitive and emotional as it was. All the small things built up and made the trip back here alone difficult. (And I didn’t even get into the taxi situation once I arrived in Shanghai…).
All images from Google Images.
What is your worst travel story? Or what can you add to the travel etiquette list?