China – Under The Hood: China’s Unbearable Air Traffic Congestion and Flight Delays

Flight delay, delay, delay….The glamour of air travel is gone.

In China was it ever thus?

Unquestionably one can consider Laozi (a.k.a ‘ Lao Tzu), the ancient Chinese poet and philosopher who died in 531 BC, truly perceptive when he remarked:

“Yī wèi cōngmíng de lǚxíng zhě méiyǒu gùdìng de jì huà, érqiě bù yīdìng fēi yào dàodá mùdì de [一位聪明的旅行者没有固定的计画,而且不一定非要到达目的地]”, which roughly translates as

“A clever traveller has no fixed plans, and does not necessarily have to reach their purpose.”

For it seems this wise sage back in ‘BC’ times was privy to the staggering state of affairs that would by and large ensue by the end of 2015 when China will have built close to 220 fully operational airports (up from 175 airports in 2011) handling over 870 million passengers and serviced by 46 domestic airlines (exclusive of foreign airlines), with a fleet of just over 2,000 planes (to be expanded to 4,200 aircraft in 2020) vying for limited space overhead.  Add to this mélange the fact that China doesn’t have enough airspace (the People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) controls all airspace, only allocating 20% of airspace to civil aviation), and China’s inclement weather (for example, if there is a thunderstorm impinging on a flight route between two cities, the flight will likely be delayed since it can’t divert through controlled airspace), and it is no wonder flight delays snarl China’s clogged and struggling civil aviation transportation system.

With the People’s Liberation Army Air Force blaming chronic air traffic congestion and flight delays on poor airline management and scheduling performance, “having no fixed plans” at least for the day of passage, as in “cancel all other appointments”, is sage advice indeed. China’s airlines have the world’s worst record for flight delays.”

And so to some of the tell-tale signs that all is not well regarding timely aircraft departure from Chinese airports as experienced by myself over the past 12 months almost 100% of the time.

1. The informative announcement

China - Under The Hood -  The Joys Of Flying In China - delay delay delay

Actually there is usually no information reflecting the cause of the flight delay problem, except to adopt the People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) spin that the fault lies with the airline. It is not uncommon for passengers to have to wait for hours at the boarding gate without any information about how long the delay might last, while ground staff weary of being on the receiving of verbal and physical abuse usually scarper.

2. Queuing to board the aircraft?

China - Under The Hood -  The Joys Of Flying In China - Time to board - queuing for food 2

At last we’re off🙂 Alas, wishful thinking… A queue for food handouts😦

3. Hand-luggage?

China - Under The Hood -  The Joys Of Flying In China - Time to board - queuing for food 3

…not quite… looks like this delay is more than a case of the pilot leaving his passport at home. Noting that the first line of defence in offsetting the bubbling rage of irritated Chinese passengers is to attempt to gratify their appetites, this airline came well prepared!

 4. Food Service

China - Under The Hood -  The Joys Of Flying In China Serving meal before the plane moves

After the mad rush to get to the airport, dealing with queues at check-in, security inspection, and boarding, hungry stomachs pang just that bit more at the sight of the commencement of the on-board food service. Unless, as in this case, the aircraft hasn’t budged from its stand. Not a great omen!😦  In China passengers can wait for hours inside a plane without any information from an equally clueless flight crew.

 5. In-flight Films

China - Under The Hood -  The Joys Of Flying In China Staring at the runway - no movement

As last the aircraft is on the move, taxiing towards the runway. Slowly it dawns on us that we are no longer moving, instead being treated to a live 80 minute silent film about the concrete surface just below the plane’s belly.. Mind-numbing in-flight entertainment akin to watching paint dry.

6. Angry Passengers

China - Under The Hood -  The Joys Of Flying In China -ready to take off and a demand for explanation why the plane is delayed

Air passengers in China are noted for adopting extreme measures to vent their anger and demand an explanation over why the plane is delayed. This really furious customer sprang up just as the plane was turning toward the runway ready for take-off!

7. The Hard Landing

China - Under The Hood -  The Joys Of Flying In China hard landing

Hard landing: Thump! Bounce! Bounce! Bounce! Swerve! Brake! “What the hell was…..?” as we bleary-eyed travellers are instantaneously brought to our senses. Seems the guys up in the cockpit are also worn out. At last, and at least, we’ve finally arrived at our destination. Now just get me off this aircraft!

The joys of flying in China, soon to get worse. “A clever traveler has no fixed plans, and does not necessarily have to reach their purpose.”

Read the somewhat related blog ‘China – Under The Hood: “Bu Hao Yisi” – The animated joys of everyday living in China’ https://nialljoreilly.com/2008/12/20/bu-hao-yisi-mei-banfa-mei-wenti-and-chinese-language-expressions-and-everyday-living/

Leave a comment

Filed under 2014, China, Indifference, tolerance, Travel

So did you learn something? Have a comment?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s