The woman in terminal 3 told me that I was mistaken, and that my flight was actually departing from terminal 2. Not only that, but it was not delayed as I had been told, but was still departing on schedule, in just under an hour. The Beijing Capital International Airport is city unto its own, and and hour was not very much time. I would have to get onto a bus, get to the other terminal, make it through customs and security and then sprint to gate 206, the furthest gate in terminal 2. During this whole process, I couldn’t help but wonder why they would call terminal 3 the international terminal if all of the terminals had both domestic and international service.
The agents at terminal 2 were confused, and confusion is never a good thing when you are in a rush. I had given them my passport, they had scanned it, and nothing was showing up. No ticket, no standby, nada. And yet they kept assuring me that there wasn’t a problem. After much delay, many phone calls to mysterious people higher up on the food chain, they gave me my boarding pass, and off I went. The boarding pass showed that my departure time had been pushed back by an hour, but all of the monitors still said that the flight was about to board. It has become my diehard policy to stick with the earliest time provided. On this occasion, it proved to be uneccessary, but on past occasions it has proven to be a wise decision. Arriving at the gate, I saw no plane, and not even an attendant at the counter. Late it is.
The plane arrived very late, but in one piece and generally ready to be boarded by it’s next lot. I sat waiting for the call to begin, and watched as an agent from the boarding counter walked around the room, periodically stopping at a passenger to show them something. I noticed that she was only stopping to speak with foreigners, and soon enough she found her way to me. She held a ticket stub in front of me that had my name on it, and asked me to confirm if I was the one she was looking for.
“Sir, the plane is very crowded today”.
Never the words that you want to hear from a ticket agent, and certainly not after the trouble that I had checking in. In other countries, an agent at the check-in counter will tell you that you do not have a seat. In China, it would not have surprised me if they issued me a ticket that had already been filled, allowing someone else to deliver the bad news. Back to the agent;
“We have no option but to push you up to business class”.
I was shocked on all levels, but accepted the change. The agent took my ticket, crossed out my old number and wrote in the change in ballpoint pen. I think I might try this on my own sometime.
For many years, I have trash talked all of the individuals who I see sitting in the first and business class cabins. The full distinction that is made between these areas and the rest of the plane epitomize everything that I do not appreciate, from the curtain the separates the cabin to the request that passengers in economy keep their distance. This being said, a flight in business was the most luxurious flight I’ve ever been on.
“Some juice, Mr. Spademan?”
We hadn’t even begun to taxi and already I was reaping the rewards of a false placement. Sipping my juice and eating a bowl of assorted nuts, I took a moment to look around the cabin at the other chosen few. Were we all here through anomalous seating errors? Were these other passengers (all of whom were wearing suits)pretending as I was that this was a life to which they were accustomed? I did my best to act important, in spite of my sneakers and smudged t-shirt.
We ordered our food, with a selection of American style chicken, a non-descript fish and Filipino Bistek. I chose the the later. The attendant asked what I would like to drink, and I asked what beer they had available.
“Sir, are you familiar with our beers from the Philippines?”.
I am not, and did not even pretend to be.
“Well then, why don’t I choose for you. Do you like strong beer?”
And with that said and done, the attendant went into the galley, returning a few moments later with a Philippines special. A can of Colt 45 had appeared on my tray. My love of business class, along with my complete respect for the Philippines Airline company, have been sealed. True to the words of the Attendant, this beer had been brewed in the Philippines, and was far stronger than any colt 45 I have had elsewhere. On the label, it read “The Finest of American Beers”. Oh, if only. After a meal of raw salmon, Bistek, and cream with mango, I was soon in the land of dreams, rocked to sleep by the turbulence of a flight into warmer climates.