Sunday, June 22, 2008

The Flight

I want to go back and post about some of the memorable things that happened to us while we were on our trip. One of the most memorable was the flight from Nanchang to Guangzhou. The flight is supposed to be like an hour and a half long (SUPPOSED TO BE). We got to the airport fine, had no weight issues when checking our baggage, and made it through security without a hitch. When we got to our gate, there were several other families there who where not in our travel group. It seems that the airline booked out group of 14 families and another group of 11 plus one single family all on the same flight. We all thought it would be so neat, a plane full of babies. Well, the trouble started when we got in line to board. For some reason the line stopped moving. There was quite a commotion at the front of the line. The other travel groups guide was yelling at the airline staff at the gate for some reason. Our (wonderful) guide threw her hands in the air and went to sit down while the other guide continued to argue with this extremely short man (ESM; he was even short for a Chinese person) from the airline. It turned out that they had too many babies on the flight and they were not going to let us board. After much more arguing from the other guide, they finally decided it would be okay.

So we get on the plane and all of the non-adoption people are at the front and all of the adoption people are in the back. Okay, not big deal. WRONG!!!!! ESM approaches the other guide and more arguing in mandarin ensues. Eventually the other guide comes on the speaker system saying that there can only be 24 babies on the flight so two families are going to have to volunteer to leave the plane. Two families quickly volunteer and we are ready to roll. WRONG!!!!!! Seems they have some rule that there can only be one infant per row on airplanes. I don't know if this is only applicable in China or a rule everywhere, but it nearly started a riot on our plane. Like I said before, we were arranged so that ALL of the adopting families were in the back of the plane. The flight attendants started going through row by row rearranging people. Asking for volunteers to switch seats so that there would be only one baby per row. We were one of the first families to be moved. As we went to the front, a man laid into our (wonderful) guide. I don't know what they were saying (all in mandarin of course), but they had to be physically separated, and all of the women were patting our (wonderful) guide on the arm as she moved to the back to get another family.

As you can imagine, everyone was starting to get a little bit irritable and this is when the yelling started. We were in the 3rd or 4th row, pretty much in the middle of the fray. A rather large man behind us started in on one of the flight attendants shortly after we sat down. It is kind of scary to be in an airplane surrounded by people yelling angrily when you don't have any idea of what they are saying. I didn't know if they were mad at us or the airlines at first. Eventually the large, yelling man said it wasn't us it was them and pointed at the flight attendants. The man who went after our (wonderful) guide told me that he really commended us for what we were doing but we should have planned our flights better. I had already decided that I did not like him very well after his original argument. I told him that it was the airline that had screwed up the reservations because we were two separate groups of families. He just turned around and didn't say anything else.

After the yelling stopped, they gave us a boxed meal of a roll, grape tomatoes (which we were all deathly afraid of because they couldn't be peeled), a small bottle of water, a small packet of (what I later found out were) pickles, and a piece of sponge cake (evidently something that I did not know was a Chinese specialty before our trip). We then had to sit in the plane for about 45 minutes because there was bad weather in Guangzhou. We ended up being 3 hours late arriving.

We later found out that the arguing match between the other guide and ESM was as intense as the commotion that we experience in the front of the plane.

The most amazing part was that all of the babies behaved wonderfully. It was the first airplane flight for most of them. Annika ate some cake and then fell asleep. The yelling didn't even seem to irritate her. A lot of people were down to their last diaper and low on formula by the time we landed, but everyone made it in one piece with no meltdowns. The White Swan seemed even more wonderful after that experience.


Johnny said...

A Chinese airline following the "rules"? Ha! I thought they made it up as they went along.

And as you said, it made the rock-hard beds at White Swan seem delightful, eh?

Steve and Jen said...

We will never forget that flight as long as we live.