We started our journey from Toronto Canada, where we had overnighted last night from our first flight from Orlando (via Charlotte). As I posted in the last post, we had a leisurely morning touring the CN Tower and surrounding area, near our hotel, the Hyatt Regency Toronto.
After checking in at American Airlines at Toronto Airport, we proceeded to security, and then US Customs. While we were continuing on to Beijing, we were connecting in Chicago, so had to pre-clear customs to the US, although our luggage was already checked to Beijing. Using our Global Entry status, it was a quick procedure getting thru immigration and customs. For continuing international passengers such as us, they do scan your boarding pass and luggage tags. Once thru customs, we were technically back in the USA.
While waiting for our flight to Chicago, we stopped by the small Admiral’s Club in Toronto. The staff there was super friendly, and the one lady concierge asked if she could go with us as checked luggage! We had a nice chat, before entering the club for a soft drink and a check of emails. We then headed down towards the gate area to get something to eat. The choices in this ‘domestic’ terminal for US bound flights is fairly minimal, however we did find some to-go sandwiches and sat in a row of seats in the boarding area.
Our flight from Toronto to Chicago was delayed by almost an hour due to Air Traffic Control, but fortunately we had a scheduled two hour layover, which was easily cut in half by the delay. We flew to ORD on a tiny CRJ700 jet, that was equipped with 8 First Class seats, and the balance in Coach. I haven’t flown the CRJ700 series much; for regional jets I usually fly the larger CRJ900, which is longer, and has 2 restrooms; one up front and one in the back of the cabin, unlike the 700 series which only has one restroom in the rear of the cabin.
As the two hour flight was quite bumpy, it made for an uncomfortable waiting of the seat belt sign to come off, and once it did waiting for the Flight Attendant to finish drink service in coach so I could walk to the very back of the plane. It’s all but expected to have a First Class ‘Loo’ but in this case even us First Class passengers had to walk (and wait) at the back of the plane. LOL!
Once in Chicago, we had a short one hour layover due to the flight delay, but we still had a bit of time we spent in the newly remodeled Flagship Lounge at O’hare. The lounge there is located in the same area as the Admiral’s Club, however it is located on a separate (and private) level off of the elevators. (You receive an invitation to the lounge upon lower level checkin, and someone waiting outside the elevators escorts you in.)
After our quick stay in the Flagship Lounge, we headed to our “K” area gate, which had started boarding as soon as we arrived. This flight from Chicago to Beijing was a Boeing 787, which was configured with Coach, and Flagship Business. We were in the front section of Business, in seats 2L and 3L (one behind the other), but they had both aisle and window seating which was wonderful. I faced forward in my ‘suite-like pod’, while Steve (DOS) faced backwards in his.
I’m not a huge movie person, but did watch two movies before taking a long snooze; (Hippopotamus and Dinner with Beatrice) neither one of which was super-duper thrilling, but fine for an overnight flight.
Dinner was good; I had the beef tenderloin, and it was paired with an OK Cabernet; i.e. so-so Cabernet; nothing spectacular but ok. It’s apparent American doesn’t splurge on the quality of their wines like other international carriers, but like the food, will take what they offer. I don’t know why I didn’t take the English version of the menu, but here is the Chinese one.
After the movies I slept for several hours, which is made comfortable by the fully flat bed in Business First. It’s actually nice having a long flight as you can get nearly a full night’s sleep aboard.
About an hour and a half before landing, we had a light lunch, which seemed a bit odd considering we were landing at 8pm local time. It was actually nice when we landed at 8pm, as we were arriving at nighttime, and could easily sleep after that long flight, as opposed to the early morning European arrival where you are up the whole day to get over jet lag. The time difference from Beijing to Orlando is twelve hours; so basically you just flip the a.m. and p.m., and you have the correct time back home!
Once off the plane, we proceeded to immigration and customs. It was actually faster than I thought it would be, but with only two agent lanes open for foreigners, it still took us a half hour or so. From there we went to gather our luggage, and since our luggage was prority-tagged, it came off the belt fairly quickly.
After gathering our luggage, we proceeded toward customs, which was a hodgepodge of lines meandering into a couple lines where you entered a gated-in area, after first self-scanning your passport in the reader. There was an X-ray machine to screen luggage, but we and most of the people were waved on by past it.
Once out of customs we were picked up by our pre-arranged driver DOS had set up for us. We then headed for the hour drive to our hotel, the Grand Hyatt Beijing, which will be our home for the next five nights. At the 9pm hour, the traffic was light however, so we were there by 9:45pm. We used our Hyatt Globalist upgrade for the room, and were offered a nice suite on the 18th floor at the very end of the hall; a nice ‘quiet location’ as I usually ask for.
Although we had a couple meals on the 13 hour flight, I was still a bit hungry, so we went down to the Lobby level Japanese pub-like lounge and had some light appetizers, and myself a brewski.