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Rodney's Ramblings: Layovers

Rodney Gascoyne finds that changing planes on long distance journeys is becoming increasingly tedious.

Long layovers are becoming more common, but it is not pleasant at all. Airlines set up global connections that concentrate on their main hubs, so changing planes can become a nightmare. Recently I had a bad experience, or maybe just bad luck, with China Eastern Airlines, a carrier who has only just started serving Western Canada.

I was flying from Singapore to Calgary and the cheapest fare came with layovers, but China Eastern made it more complicated than normal. We landed from Singapore, in Shanghai at 4.20, very early in the morning, but they had no services or directions for Transit passengers, at such an early hour. Many of us just milled around for some time till it was obvious our only option was to go out of immigration into the airport entrance. I did not have a visa, but they have some arrangements, different depending on whom you ask, that permits you to stay and visit locally for a short time, as long as you leave on your scheduled continuation flight. Immigration officers did not seem too concerned.

At that early hour, you have to wait till 6am for the subway to open and another hour for the Maglev station to open, so I eventually wandered back to the entrance, where we waited till 6.30am for China Eastern staff to open up check-in desks. This allowed me to re-enter the interior of the airport, still toting my carry-on luggage, while I waited for our noon flight to Vancouver. Not a great experience when you consider the few shops, food places and little options for entertainment or amusement, in a sparse waiting area.

Early this year I was faced with a similar experience, but far worse managed, when I transited in Bangkok and Hong Kong, en route back home. This was originally scheduled as a nearly ten hour layover, thanks to Cathay Pacific Airways. These airports are grander than the new Shanghai buildings and far better amenities to keep anyone occupied for a long stay, while Singapore has to be the best equipped. Unfortunately, I needed to change my flights and Cathay took the opportunity to overcharge the maximum they thought they could get away with, having totally mishandled prior notification from my agent, with their Vancouver office, they denied knowing anything about in Bangkok. The lesson here was not to have to make changes with them, or you are at their mercy, and no chance of any apology. On the other hand, I also needed to make changes with Thai Airways, but they were super efficient and almost instantly made appropriate refunds. It would seem that some newer carriers in Asia can be far better than the established ones, and offer a high class service in the air too.

These stops are becoming tedious, as are the long flights I think I am becoming finally averse to, and I must stop doing this. Travel used to be fun but not so nowadays, let alone the endless and timewasting exercise of airport ‘security’, that often seems like annoying theatre, rather than making you feel any safer.

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