Friday, June 22, 2012

Class Struggle

Flying on China’s domestic airlines is not always the most pleasant travel experience. Flights are often cancelled, delays are regular, and the processes at the airport: from checking in to going through security to boarding can be chaotic. However, if you happen to be flying business class, the difference between that and standard service is striking compared to the United States.

Firstly, the cost differences between business and economy are nowhere near what they are in the US. This also applies to making changes in your itinerary. I swiched my flight from Nanjing to the Beijing a day before and paid a whopping twelve bones for the change.

When you arrive at the airport to check in, you go through a different process from the unwashed masses. You walk into an separate area where you take a seat and relax while they get your boarding pass ready. After I checked in at Nanjing, a customer service rep walked me over to the security checkpoint to ensure I arrived at the right place.

In the US, being in business class can help get you to the front of the security line faster, but it’s the same process from there. In China, there’s a separate security process for business class. No waiting with security personnel standing by to get you through. Anyone who thinks the TSA can go a little overboard with the pat downs is not going to comfortable with China’s procedures. Everybody gets patted down and it’s a pretty thorough groping too. And they seemed to have moved forward on the whole genderless society thing too as I had a female security staffer carry out one of my feel ups. Maybe something for the TSA to think about.

American airlines will usually fill the first/business class cabin with upgrades. And since I’m one of the poor slobs desperately hoping to be upgraded when I’m flying in the US, I much appreciate that approach. In China however, the only people in business class are those who paid the full freight in the first place. So if you’re lucky, you’ll not only enjoy the extra legroom, wider seats, and better service, but you might not have anyone sitting next to you.

Somewhat ironic if you think about it that when it comes to flying the separation of the classes in the Peoples’ Republic of China is quite distinct.