Last week, I found myself in Beijing, China. My second time overseas in my life, this trip came with a thirteen hour time difference and two (roughly) thirteen hour flights, the second out of Beijing Capital International Airport (PEK). This trip was my first on a United long-haul plane, so, though I didn’t know what to expect, I had high hopes for the trip.
Before I continue, I’d like to point out that this is Part 2 of my trip report. To read Part 1 first, please click here.
Route: Beijing Capital International Airport (PEK)–Chicago O’Hare (ORD)
Airline: United Airlines
Flight Number: UA850
Aircraft: Boeing 777-222ER (Registration N216UA)
Scheduled Flight Time: Beijing Departure 16:10 (Actual 17:10) –> Chicago Arrival 16:25 (Actual 16:23)
Seat: 42J (Middle seat, economy)
My family showed up four hours before scheduled departure with a guide. We first went to check in and check our bags, which went really quickly, especially since we didn’t speak the language of the country we were in.
After checking bags and getting boarding passes, we headed toward the international terminal. PEK’s security is much more spread out than the security of the US. In America, we show our boarding passes to a TSA agent and go directly to screening. For our flight AT PEK, the X-Rays were in the international terminal while check in was in a different building, so we had to take a tram from the point of scanning boarding passes to the X-Ray screening. In the international terminal, we were required to show our passport, departure card, and boarding pass to an immigration officer who cleared us through to another agent, who checked our boarding pass before passing us on to screening.
The screening process is very similar to that of the US, but with a couple big differences. There were no full-body scanners, and every passenger was able to go through a basic metal detector. In addition, we weren’t required to take off our shoes during screening, which made the process go faster than in the US.
After passing through security, we headed toward a restaurant which, like the one I ate at in ORD on the way over, had a view of the terminal. While eating, I had a nice view of a United 747 arriving from San Francisco International Airport (SFO).
After eating, I still had over an hour until boarding. I decided to walk around and to some terminal spotting. Among other things, I was able to see a Thai 747, an Air China 787, and a Hainan Airlines jet in a special panda livery. Some of the best pictures I got are below.
Though we started boarding five minutes late, the boarding process was very efficient. While boarding, some dark clouds rolled in over the airport, and it started to rain. After closing the door and doing the safety demo, the captain announced that, due to some storms, we were required to sit at the gate for a while.
While we waited, the cabin crew came by with a cart of water bottles. Though there were enough for most of the passengers, I noticed that the water bottles ran out before the crew was able to hand them to some passengers in the back row. The crew also offered plastic UA wings to whoever wanted them.
We left about an hour late, and went through some rough turbulence throughout the first couple minutes as we passed through heavy rain. Once we cleared the clouds, the plane become more level and smooth.
Surprisingly, the aircraft was the same as the one that flew me from ORD-PEK, so the entertainment was the same as I had had before. As we climbed, the flight attendants made a long announcement on meals, entertainment, on-board WiFi, and US customs. Since I wanted to take more advantage of the movies than I did on the way in, this was annoying, especially since the announcement needed to be repeated in English and Mandarin.
The first meal service on this flight was a choice between chicken or pasta. I decided on the chicken, which, like that on the last flight, came with rice. It also came with vegetables, some bread, and ice cream. I enjoyed the meal overall, and ended up saving some of it for later.
Like on the last flight, the lights in the cabin were dimmed so passengers could sleep if they desired. Halfway between meals, a snack of a sandwich and cookies was served along with some drinks.
Breakfast was served 90 minutes before landing, as it was on the last flight. I got eggs again, which came with a sausage, potatoes, and a roll on the side, whereas it came with the potatoes and sausage in the eggs on the inbound flight. However, I thought that the eggs on the ORD-PEK flight were better, and ended up not finishing the meal.
We landed two minutes before scheduled despite an hour-long delay in PEK. We got through customs quickly and went to pick up our bags. The baggage carousel that 850 was assigned to was being used by multiple long-haul United flights, and it seemed like the passengers on the other flights hadn’t cleared customs yet because the carousel was overloaded with luggage. Repeatedly, airport workers were required to stop it in order to clear off luggage that was blocking incoming suitcases from getting off the ramp. After over half an hour, we got all of our bags and were able to go home, concluding my first trip to China.
Missed part one of the series? Click here to read it.
Featured photo from Harrison Fukuji / Layoverhub