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Old Jun 16, 12, 2:19 pm   #1
 
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Air China: the flight that didn't exist?

I flew last week from IAD-PEK-CKG (Chongqing). When I booked the ticket through UA, they got me to CKG fine. But it would have cost an additional $1500 to fly from CKG-PEK, so I just booked IAD-PEK-CKG, PEK-IAD and booked the CKG-IAD via Expedia (for $278). (I tried calling Air China but they said that they could only do a reservation by fax, not over the phone or online). So I was booked on CA1420 CKG-PEK on Friday 6/15. I got to the airport in CKG in plenty of time (1.5 hours before departure), received my boarding pass for CA1420 with an exit row seat. Went to the lounge where I was informed that the flight would be delayed half an hour. Went to the gate anyway. They told me to come back later. Both the lounge and gate agents saw my BP.

Even though boarding was now at 11:30 rather than 10:30 I went back to the gate at 10:40. No one was there. At 11:15 an agent showed up. So did other passengers. We were told (in Chinese, I had to ask) that boarding would now be delayed another 15 minutes. At 11:50 we were told of a gate change. Everyone ran down to the other gate. As I was boarding, the GA told me that this flight was CA1423, not CA1420 and that I would have to go back past security to get a new reservation on a later flight.

I was worried about connections since the other flights (PEK-CKG, CKG-NAN) I took on this trip were delayed by between 1 - 2 hours. So I went to the lounge, where the agent told me that CA 1423 was full, asked me why I didn't take CA1420, and then told me that there was another flight, CA1430 that would leave at 1:30 (it had originally been scheduled for 1 pm). An agent at the lounge went to speak with the manager (after a kind young Chinese man helped me explain to her). After 20 minutes of uncertainty, she came back and told me that they had cleared a seat for me. I was thrilled but still stumped. She continued to ask why I didn't take CA1420.

I finally make it to PEK and go to the CA lounge. I opened my email and found this:

Air China confirmation code: ML9L85


Dear Expedia Traveler,

Air China made the following change(s) to your itinerary:

* Cancelled 1 of your flights.

If this change was not initiated by you or you believe there has been an error, please contact us at 1-877-787-7145 or at 1-404-728-8787 (collect calls accepted).


Your updated flight schedule is below, and you can always view your itinerary at Expedia.

Chongqing to Beijing
Flight Details Friday, Jun 15, 2012 at 11:00 AM Cancelled Flight
Air China Flight Number: CA1420
From: (CKG) Chongqing, China Depart: 11:00 AM
To: (PEK) Beijing, China Arrive: 1:25 PM
Status: CANCELLED Class: Coach
Equipment: Boeing 737-800 Jet Seat:



So: (1) CA gave me a boarding pass on a flight that had been "cancelled"; (2) but CA1423 was scheduled to depart at the same time as CA1420.

So the mystery of why I did not find CA1420 was resolved, but not why the flight had simply been renumbered, why I got a BP for a flight that had been cancelled, and why agents at the lounge and the gate indicated that all was in order until I actually tried to board a plane.

If I hadn't been so persistent and hadn't found a helpful local (and called my own contact in Chongqing), I'd still be in China after missing my UA connection to IAD. Not to mention out a change fee (at least) and perhaps the loss of my upgrade on UA.
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Last edited by euslaner; Jun 16, 12 at 2:41 pm.
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Old Jun 17, 12, 9:51 am   #2
 
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According to the record on airchina.com.cn, CA1420 on Jun 15th was not cancelled, and it departed CKG at 1130am that day, delayed for 30 minutes. I did not find CA1423, but found CA1432, and I am assuming you meant CA1432. This one departed at 1229, again 30 minutes delay. So your situation was very confusing to me because it contradict with the airlines record. But I would advise you to book through an local agency or directly through the airline when you make a domestic reservation with any Chinese carrier next time. Because their TravelSky system always mess up when it involves international transaction(either interline reservation or through-check-in).
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Old Jun 17, 12, 10:37 am   #3
 
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Originally Posted by ben237829624 View Post
According to the record on airchina.com.cn, CA1420 on Jun 15th was not cancelled, and it departed CKG at 1130am that day, delayed for 30 minutes. I did not find CA1423, but found CA1432, and I am assuming you meant CA1432. This one departed at 1229, again 30 minutes delay. So your situation was very confusing to me because it contradict with the airlines record. But I would advise you to book through an local agency or directly through the airline when you make a domestic reservation with any Chinese carrier next time. Because their TravelSky system always mess up when it involves international transaction(either interline reservation or through-check-in).
Sorry it was CA1432. But if CA1420 departed at 11:30, why didn't it board? I was at the gate as early as 10:40. No one was there. Seems as if the Air China web site is wrong. And I wrote that I called Air China and they had no capacity to book either online or by phone. I would have had to download a PDF, fill it out, and fax it back to them. If they can't deal with sites such as Expedia, they shouldn't sell seats through them.

The web site can say anything the airline wants to post. But there was no plane there--and no reason why CA would have two flights scheduled to leave CKG for PEK at the same time. Seems as if Expedia is correct and you are wrong.
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Old Jun 17, 12, 2:58 pm   #4
 
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They are practically useless in E-commence for overseas people. Could you check-in through to IAD?

I would thought you could check-in through to your final destination on one alliance even with seperate tickets? Or Star Alliance have something different?
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Old Jun 18, 12, 10:03 pm   #5
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Originally Posted by euslaner View Post
booked the CKG-IAD via Expedia (for $278).
Sorry for focusing on this part, but I'm simply amazed that Expedia sold you a ticket from Chongqing to Washington, DC for $278. Mistake fare?
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Old Jun 19, 12, 2:52 am   #6
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Originally Posted by moondog View Post
Sorry for focusing on this part, but I'm simply amazed that Expedia sold you a ticket from Chongqing to Washington, DC for $278. Mistake fare?
Suspect the OP meant to type PEK not IAD if you look at the rest of his comment.
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Old Jun 19, 12, 7:28 am   #7
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Originally Posted by Swiss Tony View Post
Suspect the OP meant to type PEK not IAD if you look at the rest of his comment.
Oh, I think you're right. In that case, $278 is a lot of money; that route usually costs around $160 all in.
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Old Jun 19, 12, 7:54 am   #8
 
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Sorry to have been away from this. First, ben237829624 was wrong and I mistakenly agreed with him. The flight from CKG-PEK that departed was CA1423, not 1432. CA1420, which I bought from Expedia, did not take off even as I had a BP from it. He may choose to dispute this, but he wasn't there and I was. I have no idea when or if CA1432 took off or even whether it existed but the only flights from CKG-PEK that departed that day between 10 and 2 were 1423 (which took off at noon) and 1430 (which took off at 1:30 and I was on it). And yes, I goofed--I bought CKG-PEK from Expedia but I had no idea that $160 was a more appropriate price. As I wrote, I tried calling CA directly but that wouldn't have worked. And the price I saw on the CA website seemed to be the same as on Expedia.
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Old Jun 19, 12, 8:19 am   #9
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Originally Posted by euslaner View Post
And yes, I goofed--I bought CKG-PEK from Expedia but I had no idea that $160 was a more appropriate price. As I wrote, I tried calling CA directly but that wouldn't have worked. And the price I saw on the CA website seemed to be the same as on Expedia.
Expedia is not the right tool for this job, as it normally shows only full Y fares which is all that they load into the system. Chinese airline websites (at least the English language interface) don't necessarily show all available fares either. You paid the full Y fare; whereas most people pay discounted fares. Unfortunate waste of cash, but now at least you know for future reference. Hopefully, you were able to earn some frequent flyer miles on your favorite *A program, though. The Master Transportation Thread in the China Forum has links to reliable online travel agents, based in China, that will allow foreigners in or out of China to easily book discounted domestic Chinese tickets using a foreign credit card.
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Old Jun 19, 12, 9:00 am   #10
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Expedia is not the right tool for this job, as it normally shows only full Y fares which is all that they load into the system. Chinese airline websites (at least the English language interface) don't necessarily show all available fares either. You paid the full Y fare; whereas most people pay discounted fares. Unfortunate waste of cash, but now at least you know for future reference. Hopefully, you were able to earn some frequent flyer miles on your favorite *A program, though. The Master Transportation Thread in the China Forum has links to reliable online travel agents, based in China, that will allow foreigners in or out of China to easily book discounted domestic Chinese tickets using a foreign credit card.
Expedia is getting better at displaying competitive fares, but I still wouldn't use them because -- well -- when things go wrong (often), you need to deal with Expedia. Even if your ticket is refundable (most are at least to some degree), getting a refund is a royal PITA.

I only use Expedia when paying with Expedia points or Thank You Points. In the case of the latter, the 25% discount on plane tix is really nice.
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Old Jun 19, 12, 5:59 pm   #11
 
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What does all of this criticism of Expedia have to do with the fact that CA gave me a BP for a flight that either was cancelled or never existed?

CA did enter my MP number and my BP showed *G. The miles haven't posted but I still have my BP, which shows CA1420 crossed out in pen and CA1423 entered.
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Old Jun 19, 12, 6:29 pm   #12
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by euslaner View Post
CA did enter my MP number and my BP showed *G. The miles haven't posted but I still have my BP, which shows CA1420 crossed out in pen and CA1423 entered.
Air China's CKG-->PEK flights are numbered as CA1**x and CA4**y. x is always an even number and y an odd number, so CA1423 cannot be a PEK-bound flight. If it was hand written by an agent, it must be a human error.
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Old Jun 19, 12, 7:01 pm   #13
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Originally Posted by euslaner View Post
What does all of this criticism of Expedia have to do with the fact that CA gave me a BP for a flight that either was cancelled or never existed?

CA did enter my MP number and my BP showed *G. The miles haven't posted but I still have my BP, which shows CA1420 crossed out in pen and CA1423 entered.
You used a travel agent that was completely incapable of helping you when things got messy... and you overpaid.
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Old Jun 19, 12, 7:34 pm   #14
 
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Originally Posted by chongcao View Post
They are practically useless in E-commence for overseas people. Could you check-in through to IAD?

I would thought you could check-in through to your final destination on one alliance even with seperate tickets? Or Star Alliance have something different?
About a year or so ago I had a separate ticket on CA from CKG (purchased in China by my hosts) and then onward from PEK-IAD. CA didn't let me do anything further. They saw my two itineraries, they saw my 1K card, and they laughed at me. Only *A carrier to do so. A few months after that I had separate tickets on LH and they booked me and my luggage all the way. It's the CA attitude.
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Old Jun 19, 12, 7:39 pm   #15
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