Well, that is when you finally do fly.
This is the last entry about our brief vacation in Beijing.
We left Novotel for Beijing Capital International Airport at around 10:30 PM. Our flight was scheduled to depart at 1 AM the next day and we didn’t want a repeat of our photo finish experience in NAIA two days ago. A hotel personnel hailed a cab for us and helped us with our luggage. As usual, I was seated in front since I was the one who knew a little Mandarin. I told the driver to bring us to the airport.
It was pretty silent on our way to the airport. I looked at Ate and Arman, thinking that they were asleep. Apparently, they were just tired that’s why they weren’t talking. The driver noticed the dead air so he tried to start a conversation… in Mandarin. First, he asked which terminal he should bring us to. I told him that our flight was leaving from BCIA Terminal 2. Next, he asked what time was our flight scheduled to depart. I answered 1 AM. After that, silence filled the air again.
It took us less than 30 minutes to get to the airport. We had a lot of time in our hands so we weren’t in a hurry.
We went inside to the check-in counters and looked for Cebu Pacific’s counters. There were quite a lot of people in line so I guess we weren’t the only early birds there. I wasn’t worried of exceeding the weight limit since I didn’t buy anything. As I have mentioned in my previous posts, I was a poor man in Beijing so I couldn’t buy any souvenirs.
After checking in, we walked to the departure area so we could rest while waiting for our flight. We passed by some of the duty free shops but most of them were either closed or preparing to close. We checked out the merchandise of one shop and my sister almost bought a panda pen. I wanted to buy something for my friends. I saw a pack of packed Aiwowo but it costs 38 RMB. Oh well, I guess my friends would understand. Heck, even I don’t have anything for myself.
On our way to Gate 15, the gate where our plane would dock, we saw an open Baskin Robbins shop. My sister asked Arman and me if we wanted some ice cream. I hovered my eyes over the tubs of ice cream in front of me and my gaze locked upon something that looks nutty and caramel-y at the same time. Old Fashioned Butter Pecan! Okay, I want one.
When my sister was about to pay for the ice cream, a girl (Filipina, about my age) approached us asking my sister if she (the girl) can have her small bills exchanged for hundreds. She explained that money changers in Manila don’t accept small bills. When my sister told her that she intends to keep her bills of bigger denominations, the girl turned to the person in charge of Baskin Robbins and spoke in straight Mandarin. As in she sounded like a local. I was really envious and it showed – Arman told me that he could see the envy in my eyes. I just couldn’t help but ask where she studied Mandarin. She told me that she studied Mandarin in Beijing for two years. Okay, my dream of being a fluent speaker of Mandarin was shattered right there. It was there that I realized that it would be near impossible to get a good grasp of a language if you’re not exposed to it 24/7 for a significant period. Oh well, I will not give up.
With an hour to spare and a cup of ice cream at hand, we went to Gate 15. We decided to just stay there and wait for our departure rather than going around the airport. Arman tried to sleep but the seats at BCIA T2 were not the best for sleeping. The chairs have fixed armrests so you can’t lie down, plus, the chairs weren’t that soft and it was covered with synthetic leather.
After thirty minutes, the people manning the Cebu Pacific counter announced that our plane would be delayed and we will be departing… at 5 AM. The ‘heavy‘ rainfall in Beijing made landing unsafe and the pilot made an emergency landing in Shanghai instead. Rawr! When we heard the announcement, I just forced myself to sleep. I set my alarm to 4:30 AM and moved my body around to find the best sleeping position given the uncomfortable seats in the departure area.
I woke up earlier than 4:30 AM. Rather than closing my eyes to catch more sleep, I just roamed around the airport and took photos of docked planes. There weren’t a lot of airplanes docked in BCIA T2 though.
I suddenly realized that we won’t be leaving anytime soon when I checked whether Cebu Pacific’s plane (flight 5J 673) was already docked at Gate 15 or not. It wasn’t. It was almost 5 in the morning and our plane was nowhere in sight. It was starting to get bright and sunny outside, something that I wish I could say about the people waiting for the flight. Most of the passengers, especially the Chinese, were getting impatient. When it was announced that the flight would again be delayed until 7:30 AM, Arman, ate, and I decided to have our breakfast.
We roamed around the terminal but most of the shops were still closed. At around 6 AM, Starbucks opened. I ordered a big sandwich since I was really hungry. I was very eager to eat my sandwich that I didn’t even ask the barista to heat it up.
We went back to Gate 15 after our breakfast. When we got there, many passengers were in front of the desk complaining about Cebu Pacific’s service. Most of those who were complaining were transit passengers who had flights that same morning. They had no business whatsoever in Manila, Manila was just a jump off point for them to another part of the Philippines. I’m quite sure that most of them were bound for Boracay.
As the clocked ticked and 7:30 AM approached, it became more apparent that our flight would be further delayed. Our plane was nowhere to be seen at 7 AM. A lot of passengers were already beginning to get feisty. There was this particular girl who led the people into complaining at Cebu Pacific’s desk, even going to their office in BCIA to complain.
As minutes passed by, the level of frustration and anger in the gate rose dramatically. There was this group of Chinese guys who were shouting tui piao (退票), or ticket refund. One of them, out of sheer frustration, threw a bottle of water on the ground. That happened in front of me and my sister. Still, in front of the Cebu Pacific desk, a group of European travelers were also complaining about the delayed flight. Cebu Pacific was already issuing certificates stating that 5J 673 was delayed.
At around 9:30 AM, our plane finally arrived. We saw the people disembarking the plane and exiting the gate. There were two passengers who talked to the staff because they had a connecting flight in Beijing to another destination. The staff had to talk to the people from the other airline to take care of the two passengers’ flight. Great, further delay. My sister and I went to the other gate (which was empty) to get away from all the commotion happening at Gate 15.
Just when we thought that we’d be finally flying out of Beijing, the staff announced that our flight would be delayed yet again. This time, the departure time would be ‘final‘ – 9:30 PM. Oh my goodness, an additional 12 hours of delay! Bravo Cebu Pacific, bravo!
The staff informed us that they’d be bringing us to a nearby hotel where we could rest. They asked the people who wants to go to the hotel to follow two of their staff. The three of us were included in those who wanted to rest in the hotel so we went with them. We had to go through security again and they made us stay in a holding area near immigration. The immigration officials took our passports to put a ‘canceled‘ stamp over our departure stamps. A transit passenger pass was given to us after they were finished with our passports.
Even in the holding area, people were still complaining. You can really feel the anger, dissatisfaction, and desperation of the passengers who had a connecting flight in Manila. There were some who bought tickets from other airlines and told the staff that they just had to get their luggage (which were checked in). One person even said that he doesn’t even want to go to the ‘Stupid Philippines‘ anymore and just wanted his luggage back. Congratulations Cebu Pacific, you were able to turn off one tourist from visiting our beautiful country.
We stayed there until around 10:30 AM until one of the staff announced that we could get our luggage already. We headed to the baggage claim area and waited (again) to get our bags. The staff made us fall in line near the baggage carousels while the airport personnel brought the bags to a carousel. Something that seemed so simple actually took more than an hour. We were able to get our luggage at around 12:20 PM.
The staff accompanied us outside where the vans that would take us to the hotel were waiting. There were around four vans deployed to haul us to the hotel. We rode a van that looks like a rip off of the past-generation Toyota Hi-Ace.
From the airport, the van brought us to a Beijing district that looks more like a province rather than part of a booming megacity. The roads were narrow, there were no high rise buildings in sight, and motorcycles were everywhere. My sister, Arman, and I were wondering where the van would take us. We were going deeper and deeper into the district until we reached FuramaXpress Hotel.
If we have Sogo Hotels scattered all over Metro Manila, then FuramaXpress would be China’s equivalent to that. Sleazy is the kindest description I could think of to describe the hotel. The hallways had drawings of, err, ‘sexy stuff’… If you know what I mean. The lobby was filled with cigarette smoke, something that I found hard to accept. There was an ‘Agogo Club’ right across the hotel.
When we were about to get our key, the hotel clerk told us that there could only be a maximum of two people per room. One of us had to be paired with some random person. Perfect. It was quite obvious that I’d be the third person in the group. Also, we had to submit our passports before we could get our room assignments. That was something that I had a hard time dealing with because if ever they lost my passport, I would be stuck in Beijing for a long time. My sister told me to come along with them first and wait until no one’s getting a room anymore so that when I get one, there would be no one else to pair me up with. Sounds good to me!
We went up to the fifth floor and walked along the hallways colorfully painted with some sexy art. Some of the rooms were open and you can see some couples in their underwear. (Note: I wasn’t being a Peeping Tom. The rooms were wide open!). When we got to the room, I left my bag there and told Arman and Ate that I’d wander around for a bit. I went down, took some photos, then went back up again. I didn’t really wander around because I was scared that I might get lost.
I went back to the hotel’s reception area after around 30 minutes to get my room assignment. I was hoping that everybody had a room already so that I won’t be randomly paired up with some stranger. The receptionist told me that I would be alone in a room but a fellow passenger would be sent there shortly. Errr, great.
I gave her my passport and she gave me the key to the room. I went up to the third floor and went straight to the end of the hallway where my room was. To be fair, the room wasn’t bad. It was much bigger and better than the room assigned to Arman and ate. There were two queen-sized beds and I had a good view of airplanes passing by. I was a little disturbed though by the toilet without a door and the glass-enclosed shower area that is just beside one of the beds. What if I had to poop and my random roommate was there? Ugh.
I lay down on the bed by the window and rested. I didn’t sleep though, well, not yet. I had to let half an hour pass before really resting. Why? I waited whether or not a random person would knock on the door and stay in the room as well. In short, I had no random roommate. Yey!
I turned the television on and scanned the channels. Hmm, CCTV1.. CCTV2.. CCTV3……. CCTV14. Never mind. I turned the television off and gazed out the window. I watched planes pass by until I was sleepy. I closed my eyes until I fell asleep.
At around 5:40 in the afternoon, I woke up from my short sleep. My tummy was already grumbling since we weren’t able to eat lunch earlier in the day. I went to the 5th floor and went to my sister and Arman’s room. Arman said that he’d go down to check out where we could eat. When he got back, he told us that they will be serving us dinner. Hooray! We went down and headed to the restaurant two buildings away where the dinner would be served. After a minutes of waiting, they finally served our dinner. Our dinner wasn’t fancy, but it was really delicious. I particularly liked the dish that was made out of chili peppers.
Right after dinner, the guy from Cebu Pacific told us that the buses that would bring us back to the airport would be arriving soon. The three of us hurried back to their room, got our bags, and claimed our passports. The bus arrived at around 7:20 PM and off to airport we went… again.
We had to do everything all over again. We checked-in, went through security checks, filled up immigration forms, etc. We gave them our transit passenger pass and headed to Gate 16. Finally, we were boarding!
I was really glad when we got inside the plane. After a 20-hour delay, we were finally on our way back to Manila. Not everyone was happy though. Apparently, one of the passengers was left in the hotel. She was sleeping and no one bothered to go to her room and wake her up. She woke up in the hotel with everyone else gone. She threatened to sue Cebu Pacific though I doubt she pushed through with that.
The plane didn’t have any further delays and we took off without any problems. The flight attendants started selling in-flight snacks so I bought a bottle of water and three coffee buns. The buns cost a hundred pesos and they weren’t soft. After eating, I relaxed and slept. I had zero energy so I didn’t mind that the seats of Cebu Pacific’s plane was uncomfortable.
Six hours after, hello Manila! I woke up with Manila’s lights shining outside the plane’s window. My sister woke up minutes after I did but Arman was sleeping soundly. The captain announced that we were about to land, yey!
I would’ve jumped for joy if I were the only person in the plane. We excitedly exited the plane once it was docked in NAIA T3. Arman, Ate, and I walked fast so that we’d be the first ones to go through immigration. After having our passports cleared, we headed to the baggage claim area.
We had to wait before the baggage carousel started to bring out luggage. Arman was the first one to get his luggage. My luggage came out a few minutes after Arman’s. We waited for ate’s luggage to come out. We were already standing in front of the hole where the luggage come out waiting for ate’s luggage. The carousel suddenly stopped and we wondered what happened. I approached the hole and asked the person behind the rubber curtains whether they’ve unloaded all the luggage already or not. The guy said yes.
Where was my sister’s luggage? Lost. Perfect. Just when we thought that we’re done with misfortunes, Cebu Pacific lost my sister’s luggage. It was highly unlikely that someone else was able to take her luggage since the contents of the luggage were being checked by the Customs officer. My sister’s luggage had a lock so once it passed by Customs and it couldn’t be opened, they would’ve returned it. We asked one of the personnel roaming around and he said it might have been included in the luggage of the next flight. Wow.
We went to Cebu Pacific’s desk to complain about my sister’s lost luggage. They weren’t very helpful. They just asked my sister to fill out some forms and they told her they’d deliver the luggage when found. Uh, what if it wasn’t found? (As of today, July 5, almost a month after, they still haven’t found the luggage).
It’s quite obvious that my sister would be very angry at that point. There were a lot of bad things that transpired on our way back to Manila and ending it with a lost luggage just made her lost her cool.
As a consuelo de bobo, her most important stuff was in her hand carry. There were nothing but clothes in the luggage and the Pu’er tea they bought at the Dr. Tea. Also, because of the extremely delayed flight, Cebu Pacific gave us a free one-way ticket to any destination, international or domestic. I’m a bit scared of flying with them again anytime soon though that’s why I’ve decided to use it in December. I’m eying Bangkok or Taipei.
What really worries me about our experience is that it was shared with a bunch of foreigners. I can just imagine how mad they were! I’m quite sure that they’d be sharing that horrible experience with their friends, and their friends would share it with their friends, and so on. That could potentially affect our country’s image. They might conclude that the standard of service in the Philippines is low. Oh no! (Or maybe I’m just being OA.)
Even though we had this terrible experience with Cebu Pacific, I don’t think I can give up flying with them anytime soon. I’m just starting to have a love affair with traveling and given that my budget for travels is tight, I could not afford any other airline for international flights. Besides, without them, I wouldn’t have been able to see Beijing. For now, I’d just have to live with the reality that my next flight with Cebu Pacific could be as bad as this one. On the bright side, if ever my next flight would be delayed, they’d be giving me a free flight again. Hooray!