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China Eastern Cancelled my Flight while I was in the Air (Business Class Review)

China Eastern Cancelled my Flight while I was in the Air (Business Class Review)

Old May 29, 19, 7:57 am
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China Eastern Cancelled my Flight while I was in the Air (Business Class Review)

Hello everybody!

I live in Singapore. Recently, we had a most interesting trip to Xi'An, China. Yes, the place of the Terracotta Warriors. This was a couple trip (left our kids at home) and also a belated birthday celebration for dear Wife. We wanted to try something different, so we decided to go to Xi'An, the historic capital of China, to take a look. Based on research, there was so much to see.

Didn't want to Scoot to Xi'An

Yes, we knew that Scoot flew direct to Xi'An, from Singapore. Scoot is the low cost carrier, wholly owned by Singapore Airlines. But, hey, birthday celebration, so we can spend a bit more money. We ended up flying to Xi-An on China Eastern, in Business class. China Eastern flies through Shanghai, so the schedule was:

1. 17 May MU 566 - dep Singapore 2310, arr Shanghai 0440
2. 18 May MU 2335 - dep Shanghai 0645, arr Xi'An 0930

Getting to Xi'An was an adventure! When we got to Changi Airport on 17 May evening, there were long lines at the check-in. At first I thought the Economy check in was just slow, but something wasn't quite right because the line wasn't moving at all! We headed to the Priority Check in, only to be told that our flight was re-timed to next morning 0800hrs! DUH! Apparently the Shanghai Airport unilaterally did the re-timing, due to some bad weather over Guangzhou.


Two China Eastern Flights Re-Timed


What could we do? Either we waited at the airport and let them put us up at a hotel, or we go home. Counter staff told us that there were more than 500 pax that were due to fly (because 2 flights were re-timed), and if we wanted the hotel option, we had to wait for the bus to come, and the hotel was somewhere downtown (i.e. not airport hotel). So we decided to take a taxi home so that we could have a proper sleep, and come back to the airport early tomorrow morning (i.e. before 6AM).

We got to the airport before 6AM the next morning. We knew we had to change our connecting flight. We would have missed MU 2335 (dep Shanghai at 0645hrs). So the China Eastern counter staff changed our flight to MU 2162, dep Shanghai at 1730hrs. Based on our re-timed MU566, we would have landed in Shanghai around 1300hrs. So a 1730hrs flight was the next available fight out. At least we got seats. So we felt relieved.


MU 2162 Boarding Pass

They issued our boarding passes (for both legs) and checked our luggage through. Ok, it was time to go to the lounge at Terminal 3 to relax. China Eastern uses the SATS Premier Lounge at Terminal 3. With our lounge invites issued by check in counter, we got in. It was very busy that morning! Even the China Eastern cockpit crews were there having their breakfast. Fortunately we could find some seats, but the staff were slow in clearing up used cutlery, making the place look very messy, as the video below shows.


Well. the mess didn't bother me too much. I got some breakfast, including meat congee, laksa, noodles, otah-otah. Soon, it was time to board, and we made our way to the gates, which was a rather long walk at the end of the Terminal. When we got into the gates, I noticed that the cabin crew were still at the gates. Was the aircraft even here? Well there was no aircraft at the gate! Oh no, no plane, no need to go to Shanghai!


Crew still at gate

Well, fortunately, the plane arrived shortly thereafter, being towed in. Managed to take this video clip. I think the plane was parked at a remote stand overnight, that's why they had to tow the plane to the gate.


Travel Insurance Documentation

Oh, before I forget, we had bought travel insurance for our trip. So we would be able to claim something from the insurance policy due to such a lenghty delay, but important to get an official letter from the Airline to prove that the flight was delayed. We asked at the check-in counter, and they told us to get the letter at the boarding gate. We asked again at the boarding gate, and indeed they gave us 2 copies of the letter. My point is that if you don't ask, you won't get anything. This is what the letter looked like.



Boeing 787-900 Dreamliner
Thrilled to see that the plane was one of their very new Boeing 787-900 aircraft! We were in for a treat because this model of aircraft carried their latest Cabin products, which you will see later. Boarding commenced shortly and a wonderful sight greeted us when we boarded the Business class cabin. It was gorgeous and very classy indeed! I was seated in 8L and my wife in front of me in 7L.



Flight Experience on China Eastern Business Class

The flight experience was very nice. We ended up taking off at around 9AM (instead of 8AM). All the seats could turn into a flat bed at a push of a button. Even though the flight to Shanghai was not long (under 5 hours), I had time to take a short nap. My wife told me she watched movies throughout as there was some Chinese show that she liked.

They didn't have menus at the seats. Rather, the stewardess comes around to take your orders for the meal after takeoff. In that process, she showed me the menu.



I made a flight review video, and I hope you enjoy watching.

When we arrived in Shanghai, we had an aero-bridge and walked straight into the Terminal. After the earlier fight re-timing, we were expecting any more surprises, but a bigger challenge was to come!

Stay tuned for more...
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Old May 29, 19, 8:04 am
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Part 2 of Adventure - Flight Cancellation!

At Shanghai Pudong, the aircraft was parked at an aero-bridge and we got off the plane very quickly. This was the first time that we were flying through Shanghai (international to domestic) and we didn't really know where to go. So we asked around and was told to clear Immigration. That was quite simple and straightforward - the lines weren't long. After clearing Immigration, we were told to go through the baggage collection area, clear Customs, enter the Arrival Hall and then proceed upstairs to the main public departure hall and enter the restricted area for Domestic flights again. We didn't need to collect our luggage as they had been checked through. All this sounded simple and easy enough.

Here Comes the Shock!
We already had our boarding passes for the next flight. As my wife tried to clear security to enter the restricted area for Domestic flights, the security officer who checked her boarding pass informed her that our flight MU 2162 dep 1730 for Xi'An had been cancelled!

What???

We were just booked on that flight (MU 2162) that very morning, at around 6AM while still at Singapore Changi!! It was now past 1PM, and the flight was cancelled. This was so frustrating. What were we supposed to do?

The security counter staff told us to go the China Eastern reservation counters to get ourselves rebooked on another flight. Ok, this was getting crazy. We were originally supposed to arrive in Xi'An before 10AM on 18 May. But now, we weren't even sure that we would be able to make it to Xi'An on that day!

Thankfully, we kept our cool, and it really helped that my wife spoke very fluent mandarin, so she could talk (and even argue) with the counter staff. We had to go speak at several different China Eastern counters (because they said different departments took charge of different things!).

In summary, we had to

1. See whether we can get rebooked on another flight to Xi'An on that same day, otherwise we had to insist that the Airline put us up in some hotel for the night.
2. Get another letter to prove our onward connection was cancelled
3. Retrieve our checked-in luggage (they were supposed to be checked through... where were they now??)

Rebooking to a later flight
Fortunately, the counter reservation staff said that he could book us on the last flight going to Xi'An, which was MU 522 departing 2110hrs. We would land in Xi'An around midnight. We needed 2 seats in Business class, and there were 2 available.

Letter
We also had to find the Duty Domestic Manager (different from reservations) to get another cancellation letter for the missed flight. The reservations counter couldn't provide this letter so we had to go to another counter called 'Duty Domestic Manager'. This time, it looked like this.



For good measure, my wife took a photo of the departure board - MU 2162 to Xi'An, dep 1730hrs, was cancelled. Why the sudden cancellation? Frankly I have no idea. No reasons were given to us either. Well, cancellations were not uncommon, so the ground staff we spoke to didn't seem surprised.



Retrieving our Luggage, returning back to Baggage Claim area
What about our luggage? The duty manager told us to go back to the Arrivals Hall, and find the entrance back into the restricted area. The reservations counter was at Level 3 Departure Hall. So we made our way back down to Arrivals Hall, where we had emerged earlier. The guard there asked us (in mandarin of course) why we wanted to go back in. We had to explain to him that our flight was now cancelled (showed him our boarding pass for the flight that was cancelled) and we had to go back to the luggage area to collect our luggage. Again, speaking fluent mandarin helped a lot, because he understood our situation and let us in without any further questions.

Once inside, we headed to the China Eastern baggage office, and there was a short queue to see the staff. One staff told us to go back to the baggage claim carousel for MU 566 to check if our bags were there first, before coming back to see him if we couldn't find our bags.

So I went to the luggage claim carousel for MU566 and thankfully, both our bags were still there. So it appears that the Airline would send the bags out to the luggage claim area, even though they were checked all the way through originally, because the Airline could tell that the flight had been cancelled.

Check whether your onward flight is cancelled when you arrive
In retrospect, what we should always do next time (if we fly through Shanghai) is to check whether our onward flight was still running, before we leave the luggage area. If indeed our onward flight had been cancelled, then we would need to collect our bags from the luggage carousel anyway. That seems to be their SOP, which is a logical one.

Bear in mind that the current China Eastern system isn't good enough to help you proactively if your connection is cancelled. Logically, the Airline would know, when they cancelled the flight, just how many passengers were already checked in on that flight! In our case, our boarding passes were already issued! Yet, there was really no help, no directions and no notification. We had to figure it out ourselves and I thank God for my very capable wife (whose fluent mandarin and cool head kept things under control) who could navigate the system so well. I married the correct woman!

No meal vouchers?
We had also earlier asked whether the Airline would provide meal vouchers to cover the time in between. One staff at reservations counter in the public area said we had to get them from the baggage claim area! But when we checked with the staff at the baggage claim area, they said that there was no need to provide vouchers for us because we could gain access to the Business class lounge. But we explained that the staff earlier said that we could only check in 3 hours before departure! The supervisor at the baggage claim area looked at us incredulously and said there was no such rule. Anyway, he got his staff to make a call somewhere, and confirmed with us that we could check in and use the lounge. The time was about 1500hrs and our flight MU 522 wasn't departing till 2110hrs.

Checking in for MU 522 dep 2110 to Xi'An
And after we got our luggage, we had to bring everything back to Departure area, and look for the check-in counters. China Eastern has a separate area for premium customers at the far end of the terminal for Domestic check-in, near the domestic check-in security counters. When we got there, there were no queues. The counter staff looked a bit stressed though. He had to call his supervisor to verify that he could check us in for the MU 522 flight (without imposing any additional charges on us). We had to explain to him (and showed him all our boarding passes) that it was not our fault that we were in this predicament. Surely, the Airline had to send us to our final destination! He was rather apologetic and explained that this issue straddled several departments, so he had to check. Finally, he was given the green light to check us in for the MU 522 flight, departing 2110 for Xi'An. Well, the good news was that it now looked like we would be able to get to Xi'An after all!

Phew! After all that excitement and running up and down Shanghai Pudong Airport (Level 1 to Level 3 back to Level 1 to get our bags and then again to Level 3 to check in), we finally got checked in and could make our way to the lounge. Our fight was departing quite late, at 2110hrs, and by this time it was not yet 4pm. So we definitely had some time to kill. But I was hungry, and tired.

China Eastern Shanghai Pudong Domestic Business Class Lounge
Clearing security was smooth (hardly any line) and we headed straight to the Domestic terminal lounge. Here is the video of the lounge experience. This lounge is not to be confused with the Business Class lounge for international departures. This was the business class lounge in the Domestic section of Terminal 1 at Shanghai Pudong.


Thankful that all issues were sorted
Thankfully we sorted out all the issues with our onward flight, and since the departure to Xi'An was now 2110hrs, we had plenty of time. Never mind, it was time to rest and get some food! I went straight for the noodles, which was very comforting. Also had a glass of white wine, which wasn't too bad. Took a nap, and then woke up to eat dinner. They started dinner service at about 1730hrs and there was rice, with some meat and veggies. I must say that the food was all very local, and not international oriented. But it worked for us since our Singaporean tastebuds were somewhat similar to the local Shanghai cuisine that was being served. (or put in another way, we weren't fussy eaters!)



Boarding Announcements were made
I actually managed to sleep for a couple of hours! Wife was so bored she went walking around the terminal a few times, which was fine. There were boarding announcements and indeed, we waited till our flight was announced to be ready for boarding, then we left for the departure gates. Upon reaching the gate, we realised that we had to be bussed to the airplane. This was our first bus experience in Shanghai (when we arrived, it was an aerobridge).

Premium passengers get to board a separate mini-bus. When we got to the boarding gate, general boarding had already begun. So what you do is to go right to the front of the line (yes, cutting queue!), show your boarding passes and they will let you through first. Of course, other passengers in line may give you stares, but so be it!

When you get to the bus bay, board the small bus (enough seats for all) and not the big one. Since we all had seats, the bus ride to the plane would be comfortable.



Arrival at Remote Stand
When the bus arrived at the remote stand, other passengers were already boarding (Economy passengers who had arrived via an earlier bus). No hurry to board. The weather was good that evening, however, if it was raining, I think most of us would get wet!



Flight MU 522 Shanghai to Xi'An Flight Review

Check out my flight review video of this 1hr 50min flight below. I titled this video 2 Tarts and 5 Fruit Slices because we were literally served this light snack of 2 tarts and 5 fruit slices on this flight! Wow. Granted that this was only a 1hr and 50 minute flight, one would still have reasonably expected some type of supper.

Well, you have been warned... eat your dinner before you get on-board! Thankfully, I had my fill in the lounge. We arrived in Xi'An slightly ahead of schedule, but we had to take a bus from the airplane to the terminal. That took a bit of time, but by this time, we were just going with the flow. At least we made it to Xi'An!


Conclusion
Well, this wraps up our exciting China Eastern Airlines Business Class adventure, from Singapore to Shanghai, onward to Xi'An.

This was our first time onboard China Eastern Airlines in any class. Overall, the actual Business class product was very decent given what we had paid. However, what wasn't so fun was all the delays and hiccups. First, out of Singapore (9 hour delay), and then the onward flight getting cancelled only when we arrived in Shanghai, and the fact that we were pretty much on our own in terms of trying to sort out the luggage and re-booking. We were literally running from department to department within the same airport, from restricted baggage area (level 1) out to public check in area (level 3), back to restricted baggage area to retrieve bags and again to domestic check-in area. Felt like we knew the airport very well after this experience!

Thank God my wife spoke excellent Mandarin and she could navigate her way through the China Eastern system.

We got to our destination safe and sound, so can't complain. Yes, we were supposed to have landed in Xi'An at 0930hrs on 18 May and we ended up arriving only at 2350hrs, i.e. 14+ hours behind schedule. We lost a day of sight-seeing, but hey, at least we made it. We went on to have a very fun holiday in Xi'An, and would fly back to Singapore some days later.

We are in the process of claiming travel insurance. Will update again when I get news on whether the claim is successful.
Stay tuned as I will post more from our Xi'An trip on this thread, when I managed to sort out my travel videos and photos!
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Old May 29, 19, 12:59 pm
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This is why, Chinese airlines are always the last resort for me! The Chinese ATC has to bow to the demands of the military so they can close off routes and airspace indiscriminately, and you never know what's going to happen! Without fluent Mandarin, it would have been much worse too.
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Old May 29, 19, 6:54 pm
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Originally Posted by roastpuff View Post
This is why, Chinese airlines are always the last resort for me! The Chinese ATC has to bow to the demands of the military so they can close off routes and airspace indiscriminately, and you never know what's going to happen! Without fluent Mandarin, it would have been much worse too.
I would have endured Scoot, myself, but I do want to point out that the PLA is much less of an issue these days, in the sense that they rarely do drills on commercial flight paths. That having been said, they still control ~90% of China's airspace, so the flight paths themselves are quite narrow, and whenever bad weather hits, spacing requirements are increased.
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Old May 30, 19, 4:34 am
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All the IRROPS must have been tiring but it certainly makes for an interesting TR!

I got issued a boarding pass for a connecting flight which (in hindsight) would have been impossible for me to make. I can only guess it was cheaper for the airline to put me up in a hotel at the connecting city (Addis) rather than the origin (DXB).
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Old May 30, 19, 6:25 am
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It's a disaster for a non-Mandarin speaker to get stranded in a Chinese airport trying to do a re-booking due to a random cancellation. Buyer beware the next time you see a good deal from the Chinese airlines!

I'm surprised they ticked air flow as the reason and not weather. Do insurance companies cover this type of delay/cancellation? Would this be 1 or 2 delay events?
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Old May 30, 19, 11:08 pm
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Wow. Scoot was certainly the way to go. What an awful start to your trip.

Thanks for posting.
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Old May 30, 19, 11:32 pm
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Originally Posted by hkskyline View Post
It's a disaster for a non-Mandarin speaker to get stranded in a Chinese airport trying to do a re-booking due to a random cancellation. Buyer beware the next time you see a good deal from the Chinese airlines!
Amen. The J seats DID look nice though.
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Old May 31, 19, 7:37 am
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Originally Posted by hkskyline View Post
It's a disaster for a non-Mandarin speaker to get stranded in a Chinese airport trying to do a re-booking due to a random cancellation. Buyer beware the next time you see a good deal from the Chinese airlines!

I'm surprised they ticked air flow as the reason and not weather. Do insurance companies cover this type of delay/cancellation? Would this be 1 or 2 delay events?
Yeah, if you don't speak Mandarin, the ground staff would probably ignore you. At one stage, my wife spoke in English. The chap just said "I don't know English". What to do? Switch back to Mandarin.

I'm still waiting for my insurance company to get back to me. We have an Annual Travel insurance plan, and I have filed claims under 2 separate clauses, one for Trip Delay, because I reached my end destination some 14 hours late, and another for missed connection because my original connection was impossible to catch, and then my subsequent re-booked connection was cancelled. My travel insurance policy as specific clauses for Trip Delay (pay out of US150 for every 6 completed hours, subject to a cap) and also a small payment for missed connection (US 150).

I'm curious to see how much they will compensate me.
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Old May 31, 19, 7:39 am
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Originally Posted by GetSetJetSet View Post
Amen. The J seats DID look nice though.
They were very nice!

When we first booked our trip, we were under the impression that we would be flying in their older Airbus A330-200 series aircraft.
That was what was told to me when I wrote to the China Eastern Singapore office email on what aircraft we would be flying on.

We ended up getting the Boeing 787 Dreamliner for both Singapore-Shanghai, and Shanghai-Singapore legs. Yaay.

We expected the short-haul legs (Shanghai-Xian) to be on their Boeing 737 or Airbus A320. This was true for Shanghai-Xian. But on the return (Xi-An to Shanghai), we got an Airbus A330-300 series. I'm still working on the videos for those reviews. Stay tuned!
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Old May 31, 19, 1:26 pm
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A few more comments:

1. ~10 years ago, I simply loathed MU, but could tolerate FM (which, it owns)

2. These days, the tables have turned; MU's newer planes are very nice, and their soft product is decent (i.e. you won't see me raving about the food anytime soon, but it won't kill you)

3. Customer service still has a long way to go, and I really wish that changing flights on the spot was easier (this is a systemic problem that applies to most airlines in China; essentially, the checkin people have very limited power do help)

4. With respect to insurance, Ctrip (and other TAs) always attempt to tack an insurance policy onto tickets that they sell in a semi-sneaky manner. These policies are cheap (e.g. Y20), but have never been a good value (e.g. trivial amount of money if you die). That having been said, there used to be a delay/cancellation component, which made the policies a little more useful. I believe these benefits have been stripped from most policies sold by Chinese TAs.
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Old May 31, 19, 7:46 pm
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Originally Posted by moondog View Post
A few more comments:

1. ~10 years ago, I simply loathed MU, but could tolerate FM (which, it owns)

2. These days, the tables have turned; MU's newer planes are very nice, and their soft product is decent (i.e. you won't see me raving about the food anytime soon, but it won't kill you)

3. Customer service still has a long way to go, and I really wish that changing flights on the spot was easier (this is a systemic problem that applies to most airlines in China; essentially, the checkin people have very limited power do help)

4. With respect to insurance, Ctrip (and other TAs) always attempt to tack an insurance policy onto tickets that they sell in a semi-sneaky manner. These policies are cheap (e.g. Y20), but have never been a good value (e.g. trivial amount of money if you die). That having been said, there used to be a delay/cancellation component, which made the policies a little more useful. I believe these benefits have been stripped from most policies sold by Chinese TAs.
Thanks for the reflections!

On point 4, I don't recall buying any insurance when I booked on CTRIP, but as you said, they could have done it in a sneaky manner at a very low price that I didn't even notice.

Now, I'm still waiting for my insurance company to get back to me after filing my claims a week ago.

We bought an annual Travel insurance policy for our family.
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Old Jun 1, 19, 5:46 pm
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Does your insurance company pay you a fixed fee in the event of cancellation? Or it the USD150 towards any expenses you have (provided the delay is over 6 hours, or a missed connection)? Most insurance companies work on the latter - reimbursement.

In your case there seems very few out of pocket expenses, so a fixed compensation would suit you!
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Old Jun 2, 19, 12:16 am
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Originally Posted by LHR/MEL/Europe FF View Post
Does your insurance company pay you a fixed fee in the event of cancellation? Or it the USD150 towards any expenses you have (provided the delay is over 6 hours, or a missed connection)? Most insurance companies work on the latter - reimbursement.

In your case there seems very few out of pocket expenses, so a fixed compensation would suit you!
Indeed there were no out of pocket expenses so nothing for me to claim in that area.

My insurance policy pays a fixed fee of US$150 for every 6 completed hours of travel delay, subject to a cap of US1,500.

For missed connection, the policy says a fixed fee of US$150 if I was unable to get connection beyond a certain number of hours. This is under a different clause of the policy.

I am pretty certain that the completed hours travel delay segment applies to our case, but not sure how they would deal with the flight cancellation/missed connection bit.
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Old Jun 2, 19, 5:07 am
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what a very interesting report.. glad you finally got there and good on your wife... (mine would have probably broke down crying)
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