Traps for first-timers
In an effort to save some money, for one of my trips back from China, I booked a flight from Guangzhou via Beijing to Amsterdam. The flight time was reasonable, and the time between flights with roughly 2 hours seemed enough to change planes. My ears should have pricked when, upon checking in my luggage in Guangzhou, the friendly lady behind the counter told me I could not check my bag through all the way to Amsterdam. Only at my insistence did she check it through, but not without telling me that I still need to pick up my bag in Beijing. I only half-listened, not worried at all, having successfully made similar transits numerous times.
The domestic flight from Guangzhou to Beijing was uneventful and with an on-time arrival (never a given for airline travel in any country). Happily, I disembarked the plane, ready to take on the next part of my trip. It was then that I discovered that I had arrived at the domestic terminal of Beijing airport, that I indeed needed to pick up my luggage, make my way over to the international terminal, re-check all my bags and only later can continue to my next flight.
As I was waiting at the luggage belt, I started to realize that maybe two hours would not be enough to change flights and terminals. I was getting nervous. That increased with every minute that my bag didn’t arrive, and even more after it arrived. Then I frantically tried to navigate through Beijing airport. Not speaking the language, and not finding anyone with decent English skills didn’t help. By the time I finally found my way and arrived at the international terminal at the right check-in counter, they had closed the flight. I was but 15 minutes late.
Well, there was only one thing left to do now – go to the airline desk and rebook for a flight 24 hours later. Thankfully, the airline was nice enough to not charge me extra. Once I had secured a new flight for the next day, I organized at hotel near the airport. And did the only right thing – went to Tiananmen Square for a bit of sightseeing for the rest of the day. Looking back, I think I was meant to have a wonderful 24 hours in Beijing! And for next time I will either plan more time or avoid changing flights in China altogether.