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Hello and welcome to Seat 1A!

When you travel, do you ever wonder how you can be that person who is always ahead of the pack, even when things go awry? Hosts Vinod Viswalingam (@VViswalingam) and Geoff Dahl (@geoffdahl) are proud to present The Seat 1A Podcast.

Seat 1A aims to provide savvy travellers with advanced industry based knowledge to enhance the air travel experience and take off from the crowd. By arming you with an understanding of the systems, processes, rules and structures that define modern air travel, Seat 1A strives to give you the upper hand by examining real experiences from abroad.

Whether traveling in ultra-economy or first-class, with or without frequent flyer status, knowing how the operation works will keep you moving in front of the masses, especially when things don’t go as planned. Seat 1A provides tips and tricks on how to make your travel experience as smooth and efficient as possible. Our goal is that you'll be in Seat 1A all the time!

We have over 5 million miles of flying and over 10 years working for numerous airlines, enjoying all classes and cabins, and exploring airports on every continent. We're enthusiastic #avgeeks, with a keen interest in modern aviation trends and aim to share our knowledge in The Seat 1A Podcast. To learn more about who we are, check out Experience 010!

The Seat 1A Podcast also relies on feedback from listeners, offering the chance to take real experiences and analyze them, breaking them down to understand what happened, where things went well or wrong and what can be learned from it. If you have a story, question or experience that you would like to share, please email us at stories(at)seat1a.org or find us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

In the meantime please find us wherever you download your podcasts, and tell all your friends!

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Apr 13, 2022

In this experience Vinod shares his experience of flying to and from Beijing in the first quarter of 2022. Due to Chinese regulations he was required to be in a closed loop separate from the general public. That included flights.

In pre-pandemic times there are many flights between Vancouver, Canada, and various cities in China. Currently there are none. So...how do you get a Canadian (and others working with Vinod) into China?

Due to complexity of the situation, Vinod only got his booking confirmation four days before departure. He needed to follow very specific timelines for COVID testing. The routing had three stops: Vancouver to San Francisco to Tokyo-Haneda to Beijing-Capital. All of his timings for entrance were based off the final leg of his flight. His flights took place in January 2022, while airspaces were still normal. The flight into Beijing was restricted without any general public on them.

Due to China being the end destination, online check-in was not possible. As he departed Vancouver with Air Canada, the region was still under the impact of the Omicron variant and the airport was eerily quiet. When he arrived in San Francisco, it was as if there was no pandemic at all. Then Vinod boarded an ANA flight to Tokyo-Haneda. The amount of legroom was amazing on an incredibly clean plane with impeccable service. Vinod had a very early arrival into Tokyo. He had stayed at Haneda in the summer of 2021. Then he left for Beijing on Japan Airlines and was blown away by the service, an incredible premium economy seat and one of the best in-flight economy meals Vinod has had in a long time. As the plane took off, Vinod could see his hotel room from Summer 2021. The plane took a very scenic route with beautiful views of Tokyo and Mount Fuji.

And then, he landed in Beijing.

Terminal 3 was sequestered for Vinod and other flights coming into the closed loop. There was throat and nasal COVID tests -- Vinod has never had a worse nasal test than this one. Surface sanitizing was everywhere, the ramp crew was all wearing PPE, and all that sanitizing had aged the new terminal vey quickly with corrosion and white gunk everywhere. Plexiglass became opaque -- which made for a humorous moment at immigration. He picked up his bag and boarded a bus.

As an avgeek, the experience was incredible Vinod -- riding airside at Beijing Capital. As they travelled on the highway the bus had a police escort. Two hours later Vinod ended up at his hotel and waited for his test results, at which point he was able to continue in the closed loop.

38 days later...

It's time to go home. There were limited slots and passenger load factors available for Chinese flights. Based on these limitations, Vinod had a round-the-world return to Vancouver -- of about 39 hours door-to-door. Beijing to Doha, Qatar, to Toronto, to Vancouver. Upgrades were available for a reasonable price, so Vinod took the upgrade. And three days before departure, he learned that the Qatar Airlines flight had an upgraded interior. Leaving China was much easier than arriving. Yet again, the airport was empty -- with no services open, except for one solitary water fountain. They boarded early. In Vinod's words, "When I stepped on that [Qatari] aircraft, I thought I was going to cry."

He had a suite with a door with incredible levels of service and quality. The bed, the food, even the lavatory -- Vinod had a pinnacle level of experience. Then he arrived in Doha for early morning transfer rush hour. Vinod had to stand aside for a few moments and let his brain recalibrate.

After some duty free shopping, he boarded his very long Air Canada flight 059 to Toronto. It was February 24, 2022, and normal routing was no longer available over Ukraine. Once the flight reached the Red Sea, it made a hard left turn and then flew up through western Turkey. The flight kept going and going and going...eventually landing in Toronto.

Canadians can be chosen on landing for a random COVID test...Vinod was chosen. Now what? "I have to do the test, but I have connection bags." His bags may have been a bit over the limit and his carry-ons were maxed out. Oh no, Air Canada has a sizer and scale! But he was connecting -- issue solved. After being in a zombie-like state on the last domestic Air Canada leg, Vinod finally arrived home in Vancouver.

News Items:

  • skift.com article "Canada’s WestJet to Buy Sunwing Airlines."
  • simpleflying.com article "Woken From Deep Sleep: Lufthansa Resumes Airbus A340-600 Flights."

If you have a story about travel to China during COVID-19, round-the-world trips, or other experiences that you would like to share, please email us at stories(at)seat1a.org or find us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. If you wish to support the show financially, we are on Patreon. Show notes are available online at http://podcast.seat1a.org/