We started off in the the beautiful, quiet lounge at the Calgary airport, eating surprisingly good butter chicken while we had plenty of time to wait for our 3 pm flight to Beijing on Hainan Air. It’s very nice that this one airline does direct flights from Calgary to China.
The flight was uneventful (a good thing!) as I had quiet, respectful seatmates, traveling back to China to visit family.The interesting thing about flying into China on Chinese airlines is that you are not allowed to use your cell phone at ALL during the flight. Not even on airplane mode. Frustrating when trying to catch up on blogging ;). But at least I was able to tune it to Spotify, discretely hiding my phone and headphones under my good old hoodie.
There was a very cute and creative eye mask given to us on the flight, even in economy class, with labels indicating whether you wanted the attendant to wake you up for food or not.
We booked our second flight from Beijing to Vladivostok under a separate ticket with a major Russian airline, Aeroflot. I know, risky in case the first flight is delayed or cancelled, but we left 9.5 hours scheduled layover time to be as safe as possible. When planning the trip, starting in the east of Russia and heading west (flying to Asia and from Europe) would be the cheapest. Later on, when we told people about how we had gotten in to Russia, they seemed surprised we had chose the Russia – Vladivostok route.
Our plan was to hang out airside in Beijing Airport’s Terminal 2, where our first flight landed and second flight was taking off, but for some terrible reason, we weren’t able to use online check in to get our boarding passes for the second flight. Off through immigration and out past security we went!
We tried to check in and get boarding passes for our second flight immediately, but eventually found out that check in counters only opened 3 hours in advance. We would have to spend 5 hours landside waiting. An ice cream from the typical Family Mart convenience store eased my frustration.
Finally, at 11:30 pm Beijing time, we were able to check in for our 2 am flight, and proceeded past security. Thank goodness the Priority Pass accessible BGS Lounge was still open, where we relaxed until the flight.
In typical big-airport fashion, there was a traffic jam on the runway and once we boarded our plane, we had to wait an additional 2 hours to take off. By this point, I had been awake for over 24 hours with maybe 2 hours of sleep, and I barely noticed the extra time on our flight to Vladivostok.
The Aeroflot plane itself was similar to other planes I had been on, minus the much taller flight attendants. Juice, tea, or coffee was provided twice during the flight as well as a chicken sandwich with mayo – tons of mayo! It was a taste of the plenty of mayo to come, as Russians love their creamy sauces.
Since we were leaving around 3 am and arriving in Vladivostok at 7 am local time, I got a great view of sunrise from the plane.
And then when were landing, I was surprised by how lush and green it was outside.
After the disappointment in Beijing, having to wait outside security (it was a zoo) for so long, arriving in Vladivostok was anticlimatic. We had both been asked questions going through immigration in Beijing, and we expected some sort of questioning at Russian customs. Turns out, we were out of the airport within 15 minutes of arriving. It almost felt too easy…