Let’s face it, I’ve taken a lot of flights. As a result of this I’ve taken a lot of domestic flight connections. Yet nothing comes close to the nightmare I had last Sunday with domestic flight connections in China. What a nightmare!
As many of you will know I am currently in China. I had a fabulous time last weekend meeting Agness and Cez of E-Tramping. They are based in the south near Guangzhou whereas I am currently in the north in Shanghai. The only way to catch up with them for the weekend was to go there via domestic flight connections.
Thankfully with all my flights over the years I’m doing very well with air miles, I have over a million on one scheme alone. I was able to use some miles to get free flights from Shanghai to Guangzhou, well I say free it cost around €70 for the taxes and so on. Airlines will not cover the taxes for you with air mile redemptions. (To find out other great benefits don’t forget to read my book on frequent flyer schemes.)
Anyway, my “free” ticket allowed me to take one direct flight down on Saturday (Business Class) and required 2 flights back on Sunday. Unfortunately Business Class was not available on the flights back so I had multi city flights in Economy Class.
Now I’ve taken multi city flights with domestic flight connections in a range of countries including Australia, Germany and the US. Whilst I have taken domestic flights in China I’ve never come straight off one domestic flight and onto another one. So this was my first time in China.
Domestic Flight Connections Timings
My domestic flight connection timings were tight as things were so there was no need for the Chinese to make them worse!
My domestic flight connections schedule was this:-
- Guangzhou to Wuhan depart 18:05 arrive 19:50
- Wuhan to Shanghai Pu Dong depart 20:45 arrive 22:15
Notice anything? Yes my domestic flight connections officially had 55 minutes to spare! Not long when you consider that I’ve never been to Wuhan airport before and airlines tend to close gates maybe 10-15 minutes before departure.
When I compare flights with connections I generally allow at least an hour for domestic flight connections. My flight tip is at least 2 hours for connections between international and domestic flights, this helps you to get through Passport Control and Customs.
With domestic flights I use 1 hour as a guide so you can get off one flight and find the gate for your next one assuming you are just walking gate to gate. This also gives time for your luggage to be transferred from one plane to the other. I only had hand luggage this time so it was not an issue for me.
Where’s My Boarding Ticket?
So you have an idea of my general rough guide to domestic flight connections. However I was not prepared for the way things happen in China. When I checked in at Guangzhou they only gave me a boarding ticket for my first flight. They would not give me a boarding pass for the flight from Wuhan to Shanghai. When I queried this they said that I need to go to the desk at Wuhan and have my next boarding pass issued there. When I explained that this was very unusual and showed my tight connection time they shrugged their shoulders and refused to help.
I approached another member of airline staff and got the same response.
With time passing and ID as well as security queues to battle with I was not in a position to argue any more.
So off I went and caught my first flight.
Why is it that the cabin crew / pilot always say enjoy your flight? How could I enjoy my flight now? I knew that on arrival at Wuhan I would be stressed looking for a ticket desk to get my next flight with a tight connection?
Domestic Flight Connections At Wuhan Airport
We arrived in good time at Wuhan Airport. We didn’t pull up at the gate though, oh no. We parked in the middle of the tarmac and had to get a shuttle bus to the terminal. Naturally I’m getting a little bit anxious at this stage. Here I was, holding a ticket to claim an economy class boarding pass for a flight which left in around an hour.
After about a 5 minute shuttle bus ride I was trying to bustle my way to the front as soon as I could. Wuhan is an international airport so is of a reasonable size. I had no idea where the ticket desk is nor where the gate for my next flight was.
Hustling through the airport arrivals area I was directed towards the luggage collection area. What? I don’t have any luggage apart from the overnight bag in my hand.
I notice some stairs to the left with a sign saying “Domestic Transfers”. That is me I thought. But oh no. Someone in uniform called over to me and insisted that I go through the baggage hall and pass into the external Arrivals Hall.
My protest that I had a domestic flight to catch with less than an hour to spare was fruitless.
So with no luggage to collect I rushed through Arrivals and then scrambled to see signs for check-in desks. They were upstairs, great.
Rushing upstairs I soon saw large queues at the check-in desks. Even more great, just not what I need. I don’t have time for this.
Thankfully since I was flying with China Southern, a Sky Team member I was able to use my KLM Platinum Elite card to queue jump and go to the First/Business Class check-in desk. This is even though I only had an economy class ticket. Frequent flyers I thank you!
Ticket in hand I rushed to find the way to the departure gates only to be greeted with a terrifying sight, more queues at ID Check and a Security Check!
Why China, why? Why do I have to have another ID and security check? I’ve just come off a domestic flight. You checked my ID and passed me through security at Guangzhou.
If you let me stay inside the main part of the airport then there would be no need for this! I don’t have time for this. Don’t you know that I have a flight to catch?
I can understand security checks when going from an international to domestic flight. Much as I loathe the idea it is basically because national security checks in each country don’t trust each other. However I’m one of the passengers on domestic flight connections in China. Your same government organisation just checked me less than 3 hours ago. I’ve not left China. In fact I’ve not really left an area under your control. Don’t make me miss the last flight tonight to Shanghai because of your perverse set up.
I was fuming.
I queued for a few minutes withholding my fury to some degree. Then I noticed a God send. It was a Sky Priority sign at the end of the row of queues for security. Even though I was flying economy I could now speed through. So I did.
Relatively quickly I got through ID check and security check. Just imagine though what it could have been like.
- What if I had luggage to collect at arrivals then re-check?
- What if I had to join the long check-in queue and wait my turn with my economy class ticket?
- What if I had no priority at the ID Check queue?
- What if no one would allow me to speed through the security check to make my flight? (Some airports won’t let you speed through if time is tight.)
I still rushed to make the last of my domestic flight connections gates. I didn’t know the airport and knew little of how far away the gate was.
It must have been karma though. It was only when I arrived at the gate and sat to wait for boarding that a notice went up. My flight to Shanghai Pu Dong airport was delayed.
Have you ever had any horror stories with domestic flight connections? Have you been stressed about missing your flight? Please share your experiences in the comments box below. Oh and please tweet or share this story on facebook or Google+. Are you interested in going to China? Plan your trip now with the China specialists.