Updated on August 17, 2017
Flight Log of China Eastern Airlines Flight 5183 / 717 from Beijing to Chicago O’Hare via Shanghai on April 5th, 2017
In early April I accepted a university’s campus visit invitation and visited Chicago area. Given that their 600 dollar allowance on travel, my only choice within that for return trip from Beijing to Chicago was China Eastern Airlines with connection at Shanghai Pudong.
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Given the admission reply deadline of April 15, a departure time of April 5 seemed a little bit late. But considering Northwestern’s offer arrived just on the same day I sent out my passport to apply for Japanese visa, which took two whole weeks. So after all these, it’s early April.
For my outbound trip I chose flight MU5183 connecting to MU717. Given the 0740 scheduled takeoff time of flight MU5183 and Beijing Metro’s operating hours, I found that I could take Metro line 4 at roughly 5am in the morning, connecting onto line 10, and then at around 6am take the first Airport Express Train. Given that last year I had a most unpleasant experience at Wuhan Airport with Di-Di (Chinese Uber) , I picked metro without a second thought this time.
The end result was that, since I left so early in the morning, everything was expectedly late, and I only made it to the second Airport Express Train. At Beijing Airport T2, I still got ample time to perform check-in (, although when I made it to the gate the first shuttle bus had already left, so I waited for quite some time on the second one).
By the way the first few Airport Express trains were pretty crowded. I don’t know why the metro company didn’t open that line earlier..
Then something about the website StudentUniverse. Well, I booked my tickets with it, only because my credit card offered cashback with them. After purchase, I couldn’t perform seat reservation on China Eastern with the ticket number provided. It’s only after calling China Eastern that I learned they picked me some
rubbish seats after purchase. And it took a phone call for China Eastern representatives to manually delete those selections to allow me pick my own seats.
Then due to central runway maintenance at Beijing Airport and
the incompetent Chinese Air Traffic Control’s way of designating runways by flight paths, after pushback we taxied unhurriedly in the airport for 30 minutes.
But this left the cabin crew with enough time to fix some broken overhead bin doors, with stickers though. Although this improvised repair didn’t stand the forces of takeoff.
The magazine offered onboard China Eastern was so thin that it took only 1 minute to go through it all. So to kill the time before takeoff I counted takeoff intervals at Beijing Airport, and amazingly found that the
incompetent Chinese Air Traffic Control could do 80-90 second interval. Although there still room to Heathrow’s 60 second, but given this is China I guess I should be well content.
That morning central China was covered in dense smog all the way to Shanghai, so I didn’t take any photos along the way.
The breakfast offered onboard was rock-bottom congee, (No, I don’t do congee). It feels so bad that I didn’t take my conventional food photos.
Since this is China Eastern at its hub in Pudong, we were parked at apron. It wasn’t until 10 minutes after we were parked that (the first) shuttle bus arrived. Unfortunately when I got off the plane, the first shuttle bus had already left, and the second one was nowhere to be seen (so there’s one all together?), so fellow passengers and I spent the time watching constructions at the airport satellite building while waiting.
Well, I was in no hurry. If I missed my connection it would be on China Eastern, on China Eastern.
The whole transit services by China Eastern Airlines at Shanghai was heaving an employee yelling names of destinations, and after she got all her passengers, swiping her card and leading everybody through a “employee passage” and security check to departure hall.
I thought the lady waiting for me must be pretty upset waiting for my second shuttle bus.
And I was quite puzzled that we needed to go through security again at Pudong. Since we were doing domestic to international transfer, and we were at a special transfer area after an “employee passage”, I could only take it as Shanghai Pudong Airport didn’t trust securities at other Chinese airports?
After all these waiting, for shuttle bus and for security, it was near boarding time when I arrived at departure hall.
Before this trip I heard that China Eastern was suffering from poor load factors on its Chicago route(so it’s cutting down service frequencies and planning to use the surplus rights to serve Houston), but with almost the entire economy class making their own beds, it seemed that this load factor was way too low.
The only highlight of this meal service was that it was provided in a rather speedy fashion (45 minutes after takeoff, taking into account that safety-belt sign on Chinese carriers were often turned off rather late). Oh yea, Chines Eastern would distribute (heated) bread separately.
Then about China Eastern’s onboard WiFi. Up till now China Eastern Airlines offered free onboard WiFi if it’s equipped. There’s a quota of 100 people per flight, but after getting that quota there would be no limit on time or allowance. On its website China Eastern asked everybody to register for that quota with ticket numbers, after many online attempts and a phone call, they couldn’t find my itinerary. My guess was that their website didn’t support trip with multiple segments at all.
Another way of getting that quota was to register onboard the plane. Since Chinese Authorities didn’t allow open usage of cell phone onboard their planes, network access would be rather helpful for my laptop. China Eastern stated that their WiFi would be up and running after reaching 3000 meters in elevation. So when we climbed to 3010 meters I boldly ignored the seat belt sign and opened my laptop, only to find that there’s no available wireless network. My takeaway back then was that this onboard WiFi just simply didn’t exist.
After the first meal service I opened my laptop and accidentally I found that the onboard WiFi was available. So I immediately
scrambled proceeded (I shouldn’t use “scramble”, there’s no competition for that 100 quota) to register my computer.
Conclusion: China Eastern’s online registration and “3000 meter availability” were all bullshit.
Then about this WiFi’s speed, well, by and large it’s fine, as there’s minimal delay accessing text websites in China, the delay was also bearable when accessing domestic websites with pictures and interactive contents, although one shouldn’t expect it to work with online videos. But since its access point were probably in China, it’s a terrible experience accessing my server in the States, and using it as a proxy to access other sites (I should be content it didn’t block ports).
It was drizzling throughout Middle West America on that day, there’s no clear sight of land until immediately before landing, that plus I’d been to Chicago Airport before, so I didn’t take any photos before landing.
Then there’s immigration at Chicago Airport. Just like airports in Morocco, this third-world country by President Trump didn’t provide pens for arrival cards.
Then there were the horrible lines at immigration. Well, it’s not the lines that were horrible, but there were like only 5 CBP officers at work stamping the passports (so the rest were all sent by President Trump to build the border wall, or go door to door deporting illegal immigrants?). To make matters worse, there’s no cellular signal in the immigration hall, so after 30 minutes’ of free WiFi expired for each of my two cell phones, it’s sheep-counting to kill the waiting time.
After hopelessly long lines at the immigration I took the O’Hare’s shuttle train to the main terminals, where I got onto City Metro Blue Line and headed downtown. For reference, my flight arrived at gate at 1330, and I reached subway station at 1600, two and a half hours later.
Flight Log of China Eastern Airlines Flight 5183 / 717 from Beijing to Chicago O’Hare via Shanghai on April 5th, 2017 by Huang's Site is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.