15 Hours From Shanghai to New York on China Eastern Airlines
A s a passenger, I spent 15 hours from Shanghai to New York on China Eastern Airlines — which is the airline that operated the flight — and that did not include time in the airplane before or after the actual flight itself…
…and that turned out to be the longest flight I have ever taken — without a significant delay, although this airplane did not leave the gate on time. The gate area was rather crowded with passengers awaiting not only this flight; but also a flight to Los Angeles, which departed first. The boarding policy had little rhyme, reason or order to it, which did not help with attempting to have a departure which was on time.
I spent my time waiting at the gate watching men washing the windows of the terminal building at Shanghai Pudong International Airlines. I could not use the free Wi-Fi access to the Internet inside of the terminal building at the airport because it requested a mobile telephone number to send the code needed for Internet access — and my mobile telephone was not set up to work in China; so that idea went out the window which was being cleaned at the time.
15 Hours From Shanghai to New York on China Eastern Airlines
The time had finally arrived to board the airplane.
This is the interior of the Airbus A340-642 aircraft, looking towards the rear during the boarding of passengers. The airplane wound up being fairly full of passengers for the flight to New York.
I am ready to get settled in the seat by the window…
…and yes, there was a blanket wrapped in plastic and a pillow in the seat awaiting my arrival.
The tray table on the back of the seat in front of me is equipped with a separate cup holder. The seat pitch was ample enough; and the seat itself was as comfortable as the one in which I sat for the flight from Seoul to Shanghai a couple of days earlier — which was the first time I was ever a passenger on an airplane operated by China Eastern Airlines — but that comfort was marginal for such a long flight. If the seat was any less comfortable, the flight might have been potentially unbearable.
This advertisement for a brokerage firm in China — thank you again to reader Higgins for identifying this for me — appears to be prevalent. To have to stare at this for 15 hours without being able to do much was not my idea of a productive and interesting flight — but I then realized that there was a red dot which seemed to be glowing from underneath the advertisement…
…and lo and behold, there was an electrical outlet in the unusual position of being square in the middle of the back of the upper part of the seat in front of me. I tested it out; and it was indeed working. Excellent — I can work aboard the airplane on the long flight to New York!
The view outside of the window at the airport revealed two airplanes operated by Shanghai Airlines, which — although its operations remain separate — is a subsidiary wholly owned by China Eastern Airlines since the acquisition of the airline was completed in February of 2010. As a result of the acquisition, Shanghai Airlines left Star Alliance to become a member of the SkyTeam alliance — but I digress as usual.
Once again — as has been the theme for many of the flights on my unintentional trip around the world which included this flight operated by Alitalia and this flight operated by China Eastern Airlines — I have a nice view of the wing. I do not know what is the message painted on the wing, however.
Time to say goodbye to Shanghai Pudong International Airport as the aircraft is pulled away from the gate. I do not think I would want to wash the windows outside of this terminal building — let alone inside of it.
Food Served Aboard the Aircraft
Before the first meal, I was served a bag of peanuts. They remained unopened, as I generally do not like peanuts.
When the first meal was served, I skipped on the plain flavored fermented milk — similar to kefir, I suppose — which was in the blue and white cup that remained unopened. I do not drink plain milk or eat plain yogurt; so plain flavored fermented milk did not exactly appeal to me…
…but I must admit that the meal was tastier than it appeared. The spaghetti with small shrimp and vegetables in a tomato sauce was actually quite good. I also enjoyed the two pieces of smoked fish atop a slaw of some sort with a small fresh tomato. There were also cubes of watermelon; a roll with butter…
…and an “aviation radish,” which seemed some sort of moist slightly crunchy spicy pickled vegetable of some kind in a pouch on which the only other verbiage — other than the two supposed quality certifications issued by the International Organization for Standardization — printed in English was “Good quality is sure to be good. The best choice for you and me.”
To this day, I have no idea what is an “aviation radish” — but I found it to be strangely good; although it is probably best when mixed in with other food.
The second meal was served several hours later while it was dark outside. The beef was okay but not great, as there were some fatty and sinewy parts to it; but the gravy was good when I mixed the rice in it. This meal also came with a roll with butter — and that mystery “aviation radish” made an appearance again…
…but it also came with cubes of watermelon; a cup of Bilin orange juice; and a lone shrimp nestled on top of what appeared to be seaweed — which loosely resembled noodles — with an equally lone small tomato.
After flying overnight across the International Date Line, dawn broke through the night sky as the sun started to rise off to the east. Flight attendants arrived with a snack service not long after that.
Passengers were served small cut sandwiches on some sort of white bread. The first sandwich was a slice of some sort of mystery meat with tomato and some type of sauce with a mayonnaise base; while the second sandwich had a thin slathering of tuna in mayonnaise with a slice of lettuce — both sandwiches using what seemed to be white bread of some sort, which I do not like to eat.
I ate the tuna sandwich only because I was hungry — they do not serve enough food for a flight duration of 15 hours, in my opinion — and I ate the tomato off of the other sandwich.
Views Upon Approach into New York
On the approach to John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York, I had this view of the southern half of the borough of Queens facing northeast, with the Rockaway peninsula in the foreground. The road in the center of the photograph is Cross Bay Boulevard; while the tracks to the east of the road are part of the subway system of New York on which the A and S subway trains use. On the northern end of Jamaica Bay is the neighborhood known as Howard Beach. The green patch at the top left of the photograph is Forest Park; and on the right side of the photograph is the western portion of John F. Kennedy International Airport.
It was a hazy day that afternoon; but if you look carefully, you can see the buildings of Manhattan — including the World Trade Center — in the background; while Long Beach on Long Island is in the foreground. The Atlantic Ocean is at the bottom of the photograph. The windows of the airplane were not exactly the cleanest I had ever seen, which did not help matters in the sunlight.
The airplane flew over Jones Beach State Park on Long Island before starting to turn northward. The highway on the peninsula is Ocean Parkway; the highway in the middle of the photograph on the right side is Wantagh State Parkway crossing the inlets of South Oyster Bay; and the highway at the upper left corner of the photograph is Meadowbrook State Parkway.
After bypassing the airport and flying eastbound adjacent to the southern shore of Long Island out over the Atlantic Ocean, the airplane started its turn north over Amityville — the horror! — before again turning west to head back to the airport to land. Sunrise Highway is in the center of the above photograph; with the Massapequa Park station on the tracks which serves the Babylon branch of the Long Island Rail Road. Just beyond that looking west is Massapequa Creek in the wooded area which cuts across the photograph.
Thankfully, the passengers in the immediate vicinity of my seat were all quiet, which made for a pleasant flight. The passenger who sat next to me was a Chinese man who watched Chinese-language movies on his laptop computer for much of the trip. There were no issues at all sitting next to him; and we did not speak to each other during the entire flight — he was gracious to let me out whenever I needed to use the lavatory, which was not often — but I automatically assumed that he was based in China and probably did not speak any English. That assumption was apparently false when I saw him whip out his American passport upon arrival into New York. Welcome home!
I paid a total airfare of $562.70 — but that included flights from Seoul to Shanghai; Shanghai to Manila — which was postponed by a day at the last minute where I was forced to alter my plans; Manila to Shanghai; and Shanghai to New York — all seated in the economy class cabin. I thought that at the time I purchased that airfare that it was a good price; but you can probably find lower a lower airfare for a similar routing these days.
There was little I can say that was negative about the experience; but it was not exactly exciting, either. The flight attendants were polite and nice enough — but almost in a robotic way. The food and service were good; but not memorable. The aircraft was clean. The in-flight magazine was forgettable. Quite noticeable on a 15-hour flight is the lack of an in-flight entertainment system; but they did show complimentary movies on the overhead screens in the main cabin — although some of them were repeated during the flight — so bring with you whatever entertainment you can fit on your portable electronic devices, as you will need them. Even the safety video at that time — which had since been changed — was extremely boring with an uninspired piano accompaniment; and it was played twice: once in Chinese and once in English.
I would fly as a passenger again on flights operated by China Eastern Airlines in the future — but only if the fares were significantly lower than competing airlines. Had it not been for that working electrical outlet, the flight would have been incredibly boring and unexciting for much of the 15 hours — and that is not including time at the gates in either Shanghai or New York.
All photographs ©2014 by Brian Cohen.