Video for Chinese air travelers: Don’t fight the airline employees

By Mitchell Blatt | China

Sep 19

As more and more Chinese have been traveling by air in the past decade, many for the first time, reports of passengers fighting with airport staff and running out onto the runways have become a common phenomenon. And Chinese passengers often have reason to be angry. Their airports are some of the worst in the world for on-time departures. Average delays at Shanghai, Guangzhou, Xiamen, Nanjing, and Hangzhou were all over an hour.

In 2014 the airlines of China got together and produced a helpful video explaining why delays happen and telling travelers not to fight. It seems to be partially an introduction to inexperienced travelers and partially a PR effort, but it also doesn’t explain one of the main reasons flights in China are always delayed.

1.) It begins by explaining the “main reasons” a flight could be delayed. Those are “weather,” “traffic,” “airline reasons,” and “travelers.” It is nice of them to admit that the airline could be the reason, something some American airlines have a hard time doing. But what’s missing from the four “main reasons”? The fact that less than 30 percent of China’s airspace is open to civilian airlines, while the air force aggressively controls most of the sky.

2.) Why are we stuck on the runway?, this man asks. As the video goes to explain, maybe there are a lot of planes waiting in line. (Maybe they have to wait a long time because there’s a lot of traffic in the skies due to no airspace being open.) This is the explanatory part. There is also an explanation that even if the weather at the departure and arrival airports is nice, there might be a storm in between.

3.) Up until reason #4, all of the characters in the cartoon have had black or dark brown hair, but when it gets to “passenger” reasons for delay, when it shows passengers stupidly being delayed while buying snacks when their plane is about to depart, the characters suddenly have yellow and brown hair! Are only foreigners so stupid as to delay a plane by being late? (A flight wouldn’t wait an hour for a late passenger, however.)

Military operations are only listed–along with “unidentified flying objects”–as a secondary reason flights might be delayed.

Now we get to the fun part of the video: exhortations to be “civilized” when traveling.

Don’t kick the trash can! There is an orderly process for dealing with delayed flights:

This video divides delays into two categories: Those which are the responsibility of the airline, which the airline will provide compensation for, and those which are not, like weather.

If it is the airline’s responsibility, they will communicate with you, offer food and lodging, get a replacement flight set up, and/or offer monetary compensation. In my experience with Chinese airlines, they really do live up to their obligations. When an international flight was delayed for about four hours at Shanghai Pudong, they provided food, offered to let me stay in a hotel for an hour or two (I declined), and handed us all a few hundred yuan as we boarded the plan. Try just getting transportation and hotel covered when your flight is actually canceled because of airline fault on with an American company and you might have to argue with their customer support for weeks!

Don’t run out onto the runway and block the plane if your flight is delayed! Once again, I was slightly interested in the color of the hair the cartoon characters had in this scene.

However when the characters are being escorted away by police all of them have black hair.

Don’t try to rise up against the airline’s customer service! The other passengers will shun you if you try to fight. (One of the women tells the man he wasn’t being “civilized.”)

Here’s a video of what that kind of fight actually looks like in real life:

And finally, don’t act like a superhero and start Hulk-smashing things or Batman-kicking things.

I first noticed this video being shown on flights in 2014. It was produced in partnership, the credits show, with Air China, China Eastern Airlines, China Southern Airlines, Shenzhen Airlines, Sichuan Airlines, Xiamen Airlines, and a number of smaller airline companies. The Chinese Civil Aviation Administration is listed as producer.

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About the Author

Mitchell Blatt is a travel writer, editor, and columnist who has lived and worked in China for six years. He is an author of two guidebooks, Panda Guides Hong Kong and Panda Guides China. He has been published in National, The Korea Times, The Shanghai Daily, Roads & Kingdoms, Vagabond Journey, City Weekend, Silkwinds and The World of Chinese, among other outlets. See examples of his published articles.