Does this “disgusted” passenger deserve a full refund?

Airlines often speak from both sides of their mouth.

They say their seats are unique products, and loathe the idea of “commoditization” which says all seats are basically the same. At the same time, they’re unwilling to promise these amazing seats in writing. (In fact, most contracts won’t even guarantee your flight will run on schedule or even you’ll be offered transportation.) And they’re more than willing to overlook their uniqueness to sell you a codeshare ticket on another airline.

All of which brings us to Sandra Dekoj and her case against Hainan Airlines. She asserts that her travel agent sold her a seat on a spanking new Hainan 787, but that she ended up flying on a dilapidated Airbus instead. And that package, which included a one-night hotel stay in Beijing, did not meet her expectations.

She wants a full refund, and she wants me to help her get it.

Let me give her the floor for a minute. Her adventure started when she boarded an aging A340-600 aircraft from Chicago to Beijing.

“It was an old aircraft with worn-out seating,” she says. “My aisle seat was broken, as the seat wouldn’t recline to its final point.”

Dekoj was seated near the lavatory. She enclosed pictures of the toilets. They speak for themselves.

“It was vile,” she says of the bathroom’s condition. “The toilet had rust and cracks. They heavily taped the ‘push to flush’ button on the wall, as well as the cabinet sink, which looked absolutely terrible.”

Oh, and the flight attendants were rude. “They shoved and kicked garbage bags in the lavatory. One of them didn’t even say ‘excuse me’ when he bumped into me. It was very unprofessional and rude,” she says.

But that kind of goes with the territory when you’re flying on any airline, doesn’t it?

When she arrived in Beijing for her layover, Dekoj realized she didn’t even know the name of her hotel.

“I asked if I need a voucher or something for this hotel, and the agent said yes and then walked away,” she says. “This is an example of poor operational service and lack of customer service.”

The hotel was awful. When she checked in, a large cockroach crossed the floor. The staff was indifferent. She checked out earlier than she needed to and waited for her next flight to Thailand.

Hainan bills itself as a five-star airline, but Dekoj alleges she received one-star service.

“I am requesting a full refund on this ticket,” she says. “Had I known what I would be paying for in advance, I would have surely shifted my business to a real airline.”

Here’s how Hainan responded to her request:

When Hainan Airlines initially announced its intent to fly non-stop from Chicago to Beijing, we were excited to be able to accomplish this with the new Boeing 787 Dreamliner.

The delays in production and delivery of this new aircraft left us with the decision to either operate with alternate aircraft or to delay our start date.

We decided to begin service with the Airbus 340, which was the only aircraft in our fleet capable of flying this route.

Regarding the hotel service, we will revisit our agreements and expectations with each property we have under contract to express the concerns.

Please accept our sincerest apology for the trouble this had caused to you. Being a Skytrax five-star airline, we strive to provide the best service possible to our passengers.

Hmm, Hainan seems to be blaming Boeing for its bad service. It’s turning down her request for a refund and offering her nothing. Is that how a five-star airline responds to the concerns of a customer?

In fairness to Hainan, some of Dekoj’s requests were what you might call “laundry list” grievances. For example, she gripes that the Chinese employees only spoke Chinese (how dare they?) and she repeatedly threatens to take the airline to the court of public opinion, including a smear campaign on social media. Also, she fails to mention one important fact, uncovered by my eagle-eyed editors: Dekoj is listed as an employee of a Hainan competitor.

I know there will be “rules-are-rules” readers who say that 1) Hainan safely transported her to Beijing; and 2) It gave her a hotel. What more could she want?

If Hainan had presented itself as basic transportation, then I’d be inclined to agree. But it didn’t. Instead, it promises a cherished experience. I think we can all agree that she didn’t have one.

Some of you will insist Dekoj should pay attention to the Hainan Airlines General Conditions of International Carriage for Passengers and Baggage, which is the legal agreement between the airline and its passengers. But I think the promises it makes outside of its contract (which no one bothers to read, by the way) are equally important.

Maybe Dekoj doesn’t deserve a full refund, but the empty apology she received from the airline is pretty meaningless. Then again, maybe she ruined her chances of getting anything more by asking for too much. Or did she?

Should I mediate Sandra Dekoj's case?

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Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or contact him at Got a question or comment? You can post it on the new forum.

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  • Bill___A

    Well, Chris, why don’t you see what you can do? Perhaps a fair resolution could be found. I seem to recall many airlines getting settlements from Boeing, maybe they can compensate passengers with some of that money.

  • bodega3

    When did she fly on this airline? I see that they were not going to be offering the 787 until a few weeks ago. It was in the press release and can be found online.
    She mentions a package, but she only had a one night hotel stay. That isn’t usually considered a package by tour company standards. Did she research any of this (airline and hotel) before placing money on what she calls a package?

  • Richard

    I just checked out the Hainan website and other than the phrase “cherished experience” they make no more inflated claims about their service than any other international airline. Even the western meaning of “cherished exprience” is probably more of a cultural/linguistic misunderstanding than an actual specification. Such hyperbole is common in China (and is actually often written in Roman letters as well).

    As to the 787 issue… First off, the A340-600 is at most 12 years old. It’s first commercial flight was in 2002 and the median age is 5 years. So, while it is not 787 new, it is probably less than average age for a plane. Second, aircraft changes are common for lots of reasons… late arrival of an incomming flight, mechanical problems are common. This often leads to class downgrades and other issues. SO WHAT. Yes, it is a dissapointment to get bleeding knees when you expected a lie-flat seat. But, so it goes. Get over it. Life is full of disappointments. Just don’t try to cast them as injustices.


    I would not waste my time on this one. She deserved a better apology than this, but that is all. The laundry list of complaints raises a red flag for me every time I see one. And the fact that she works for the airline”s competitor makes that red flag wave furiously. And I cannot count the number of times I booked a flight that showed a particular type of aircraft only to show up and board another craft. My favorite—the time I booked an Air Jamaica 19-seat puddle jumper only to get to the flight to find out the plane was overbooked and that I would be flying on a Cessna. Aircraft changes happen daily for many reasons. This is simply a joke. The condition of the plane is a concern but does not warrant a refund.

  • Cybrsk8r

    I have a real problem with your attitude. If an airline is enticing me with the promise of lie-flat seats (and we’ve all seen those commercials), and that seat doesn’t lie flat, “SO WHAT”, as you put it, doesn’t cut it.

  • Richard

    The OP did not claim any specific offer of services other than a “cherished experience.

    Of course, if you are downgraded, you should be compensated and If you booked a lie-flat seat on a 747 with International service and you end up in a 737 with peanuts, you have a legitimate gripe for compensation. But, in neither case do you have a right for a full refund.

    The passenger always has the option of not boarding. Yes, you may be compelled to be somewhere at some date and time. But, grow up, that is your problem. Sometimes life just doesn’t work out the way we’d hope. When did we turn into a nation of whiners.

  • Justin

    I Vote “No”:

    1) Op seems unable to be pleased, evidenced by the trivial laundry list of complaints. Had there been a few concrete gripes, I think the forum of public opinion might be sympathetic.

    2) Op Asserts Travel Agent Sold her “X”. – Is there a Written Agreement Outlining TA’s Promises? Otherwise, “Caveat Emptor”.

    3) Hotel had a Cockroach…. So were pictures of the Hotel’s Inhabitable Conditions Taken? Insects travel, so was food left around? Sheets Unmade? Lobby a mess?

    – Biggest Concern. OP works for a competitor and DOES NOT disclose conflict. I think that’s a critical oversight.

  • Justin

    I’ll await our “Legal Eagle” Carver, but I am going to guess the argument of “Non Performance” isn’t a sure fire. Unless Op can prove a new aircraft was guaranteed, the experience differed drastically, and amenities were lacking, recovery is unlikely.

    Plus, the OP flew on a foreign airline, subjecting the flight to Chinese Law (Presume).

  • Justin

    “Honey We Shrunk the Plane”. I’m sure you laugh now, but weren’t thrilled at the time.

    Your mishap warrants more sympathy than the OP. From an aircraft with legroom and a lavatory to a small sardine can. Cessna’s aren’t spacious, so I can only hope the puddle was small and the flight short.

  • TonyA_says

    A bit off topic but somewhat relevant.
    When I tried to read this article on my android tablet, the screen went black and a KIX candy commercial played. I could not exit and control the movie. When it finished, I was brought back to this page and allowed to read the rest of the article.
    I feel that there is too much consumerism happening when an advert takes control of a consumer advocate’s own website.

  • sirwired

    1) She works for a competitor and failed to mention that fact.
    2) Isn’t it a cherished travel-industry perk that you receive discounts on travel with your own company? What was she doing on another airline?
    3) It doesn’t seem unreasonable to blame the lack of a new plane on Boeing… they DID start 787 production very late, and the battery issue didn’t help either.
    4) Why aren’t you mentioning the agency or talking about poor service there? It sounds like the agent completely dropped the ball when booking that hotel.
    5) She didn’t think to ask for the name of her hotel (and didn’t receive it) before leaving? What kind of travel agency is this?
    6) Yeah, the “laundry list” is a little over the top. “They shoved and kicked bags in the lavatory.” What kind of gripe is that? If my hands are full, I’ve been known to kick and shove things like bags of garbage with my feet… she talks like they were shoving and kicking passengers.

    A full refund for petty stuff like this? Seriously? I don’t think so.

  • sirwired

    Yeah, Chris needs a better ad broker… it was running an AARP commercial that would do pretty much the same thing on mouse-over (with sound, no less.) And it did it every time you accidentally strayed your cursor over the thing. It was bad enough that it drove me to install AdBlock.

  • TonyA_says

    Google the OPs name. It will find exactly one match for a lady in Illinois who happens to work for a competing middle eastern airline.
    Any ideas?

  • VoR61

    It seems clear to me that some refund is appropriate, but not the entire amount.

    The OP was flown to her destination without delay. And a hotel was provided, at which she apparently stayed. However, she states that her booking was based upon a reasonable expectation of the 787 and a clean, safe hotel stay. While some of her complaints would not rise to the “refund” level for some of us, I consider the context when saying she should receive something.

    First, this was not a 2-3 hour flight. Rather, we’re talking about 14 hours in the air. That’s a lot of time to endure the difference between the 787 and the 340 with a seat that wouldn’t fully recline. The condition of the toilets certainly doesn’t help either, but no indication is given that they were dysfunctional. And a cockroach would make most of us a little nervous about sleeping, would it not?

    So, for me, I would apply the 80-20 rule. She pays 80%, they refund 20%. Basic services were provided, but below what was advertised and expected. Seems fair to me …

  • Christopher Elliott

    Tony, I’m using Google Adsense, Technorati and Travel Ad Network to serve ads. I should also note that they pay peanuts — not enough to support the site, and barely enough to pay the ISP bills. I’d gladly get rid of them if I could afford to.

    When I find out about these kinds of intrusive ads, I immediately ask the broker to stop. I also opt out of all of these video-style ads, but the brokers are constantly changing their terms. If you can tell me who served the ad, I’ll block it.

  • Michael__K

    other than the phrase “cherished experience” they make no more inflated
    claims about their service than any other international airline.

    Brand Concept

    4. Leadership & Teamwork

    Using teamwork to craft 5-star quality service, our team spirit contributes to a perfect journey.

  • TonyA_says

    It is not repeatable. I cleared history, cookies, etc. and tried to make it come out again. It did not.
    Well, this never happens when I use Firefox for Android. Chrome default browser for Android just sucks with all these adverts.
    Goodbye chrome.

  • Justin

    @elliottc:disqus ,

    Adsense plays adverts based upon cookies, browsing habits, and keywords. I doubt you’ll have much control.

    You’re entitled to revenue streams. Bills don’t pay themselves.

  • TonyA_says

    I have yet to read a contract of carriage where the airline guarantees a particular type of aircraft. In fact they all will say something like they have the right to change or substitute.

  • Helio

    Funny… if you usually cannot guarantee the seat assignment, let alone the aircraft model…

  • MarkKelling

    Yes. And this airline has that pasted on nearly every page that says anything about aircraft types.

  • Christopher Elliott

    Thanks. I’m just trying to feed my consumer advocacy habit. It sucks, having a rescue complex.

  • Mel65

    Can I jump in here and say I’m not having any ad issues, but I have to launch in Chrome to view comments. In Firefox I can’t see them at all. They don’t load, and below the story is just “related stories” followed by “trending topics” … I have no idea why and I’m obviously not tech savvy enough to fix it, but boy do I hate using Chrome.

    Now, back to our regularly scheduled programming….

  • Helio

    I just found it at the Hainan website:

  • MarkKelling

    She received a “cherished experience.” That’s for sure. Just not in the way most of us would want to cherish it from her description.

    But what is the airline to do? They didn’t have any other plane available. Either they flew the one they did, or they cancelled and refunded everyone’s money. And if the flight attendants act the way the OP claimed they do on the A340, what makes anyone think they would act differently on the 787? Maybe they weren’t rude, maybe that is how Chinese appear to those not used to their demeanor. Especially when that person is upset that Chinese are speaking Chinese.

    No mention is made of what cabin the OP was seated in. Maybe the package booked was the least expensive economy option available. So the mention of the seat not reclining does not mean it was supposed to be a lay-flat one, which is only offered in their 1st class cabin which does not even exist on the 787.

    The OP just sounds like someone trying to get a “free” trip because of a few minor inconveniences.

  • Fly, Icarus, Fly

    I have a feeling her “package” was simply a long layover and a complimentary low-rent business / airport hotel…

  • Naoma Foreman

    Some people ask for more than they deserve. I’ve met those types everywhere. They are “entitled” and I give them little time or attention. Do not MEDIATE this!

  • MarkKelling

    No issues at all for me. Using Safari and Firefox. All is well as I post this.

  • Helio

    Regarding the seat that didn’t fully recline, if she was at row 44, the lavatories are at her side, but according to the airplane map this row has a bulkhead behind this row.

    If she was at center row 43, the lavatories are just behind her, and if she was at row 67 (the last row), the lavatories are just behind her too (or some airplane structure).

    Probably all seats in these rows didn’t recline much, as usual.

  • Michael__K

    I see that they were not going to be offering the 787 until a few weeks ago. It was in the press release and can be found online.

    What about the much older releases found online?

    Update at 0520GMT 21OCT13

    Hainan Airlines is delaying planned Boeing 787 International operation, based on previous week’s schedule changes (around 17/18OCT13). The Boeing 787 was previously scheduled to operate Beijing – Chicago route from 10NOV13, however this is now postponed till 10DEC13. Planned overall service increase to Chicago, from 2 to 4 weekly, remains unchanged at present time.

    HU497 PEK1320 – 1225ORD 787 x135
    HU498 ORD1425 – 1820+1PEK 787 x135

    A340-600 continues to operate this route from 10NOV13 to 09DEC13.

    She mentions a package, but she only had a one night hotel stay.

    What gives you the idea she only had a one night hotel stay?

    She checked out earlier than she needed to and waited for her next flight to Thailand.

  • Michael__K

    what is the airline to do?

    The upstanding way to handle it would be to notify all the customers who made their reservations expecting a 787 and allow them to postpone their itineraries.

    The OP says she booked through a travel agent. Was the travel agent aware? Did they make their client aware?

  • Jeff Kolker

    “perfect journey”

    Is there such a thing?

  • Cam

    No this sounds like the proverbial laundry list, and no airline will guarantee the type of aircraft you fly on. Plus working for a competitor sours the whole thing especially as the person was not up front about this.

  • omgstfualready

    Hmmmm, I couple years ago I chose a longer travel experience to have a better plane on an overnight trip to Europe (I rarely sleep on planes). My video screen was broken. Only mine. Most everyone else was sleeping and/or comfortably relaxing and the staff tried to reboot the system a few times for me but nothing. So my trip was not what it should have been since it was longer and not any better. Then this past spring it happened again (minus the helpful staff). My hotel room in a 4+ star hotel was pretty crappy (was a connection room and I could hear basic conversation, you can imagine all else I heard) and it took 2 days to get me moved because they were full. WAH, pay me, business suck.

    Oh wait, I also another time had a crazy no reason upgrade to a phenomenal room for a week at another hotel and when a plane changed on another overseas flight I got bumped up to a lie flat from coach. Yea for me, the business gets no credit, I deserved all that.

    Ugh, don’t mediate.

  • Fishplate

    “Even the western meaning of “cherished exprience” is probably more of a
    cultural/linguistic misunderstanding than an actual specification.”

    I’ve bought computer motherboards from a company that advertised them as “Rock Solid, Heart Touching”. Yes, I suspect there’s a little bit of cultural translating that needs to be done.

  • backprop

    How would they know if the customer was expecting a 787? Maybe the customer was just expecting transportation from point A to point B, as per the CoC.

  • Asiansm Dan

    Here I can read the 787 Dreamliner is decision criteria for choosing Hainan Airlines. I agree that she are entitled to some compensation but not the full refund,
    Upon personnel experiences, I avoid Chinese Airlines (even CX), Most of the times, passengers broke half of the toilets in the middle of the Pacific and the chinese FA don’t like to clean its during flight, contrary the Japanese carriers, the toilets are always clean and the japanese FA keep the toilets sparkling.
    Made-in-China is cheap, so the service is cheap or none.

  • emanon256

    I voted no on this one. I am shocked honestly that she is asking for a full refund, it is an airline after all, and it sounds likes he was traveling coach, and most of what she complained about is normal. Even equipment substitution is normal, and the A430-600 isn’t that old of an aircraft and is actually pretty nice. I understand being disappointed that she didn’t get to fly on the Dreamliner, but they were grounded by the FAA when she flew, so if she really wanted it, she could have changed her ticket. Still, equipment is never guaranteed. Coach is a commodity, and people pay for transportation, not for an experience like we used to back in the good old days.

    If her seat was really broken, I think she may be due some sort of airline funny money or even a small partial refund as compensation, but based on her laundry list of petty grievances, I think that completely discredits her case. Also, she didn’t know the name of her Hotel, shouldn’t she have known tat from when she booked the package? And the staff was indifferent? Wow, that’s a real eye-roller of a reason for a refund. Based on her pettiness and over the top demands, I have lost all sympathy.

  • EvilEmpryss

    I would certainly like to see an airline spell out what they *will* provide as opposed to giving a laundry list of all the things they *won’t* guarantee. They won’t even guarantee that they will actually provide the transportation that you paid for — so what *will* they guarantee?

  • Cyn2

    In and of itself, the fact that she works for a competitor shouldn’t be an issue. She bought the ticket, so she should be considered a paying customer like anyone else. Now, if she was traveling standby that would be a different argument, but I can’t imagine a standby/staff travel ticket would include a hotel room during the layover.

  • Mark Cuban

    This is 5 star in China. What does she want????

  • Dutchess

    OMG, the flight attendant bumped into her on a crowded plane? GASP! They kicked a bag of precious garbage!?! Double Gasp!! My seat wouldn’t recline the whole way?!? Triple gasp! I didn’t bother finding out my hotel’s name and the airline couldn’t help! OH, the humanity. How did she survive such a horrific ordeal?

    She’s obviously just mad because she didn’t get a ride on a 787. If she had booked The Concord (I know it isn’t operated anymore) and was given a turbo prop perhaps I would have a little sympathy, but this is just petty. This person is a whiner and the fact that 170 people thus far have voted to take her case makes me shake my head. Either my expectations of airlines is far too low, or other people have unrealistic expectations.

    RUN DON’T WALK AWAY, CHRIS. This person will NEVER be happy.

  • Jeff Kolker

    How about…

    “We guarantee we will take your money. We also guarantee that we will do our best never to give it back to you in the event something goes wrong. Getting you from Point A to Point B is incidental to our guarantee to your money”

    I’m becoming cynical….

  • emanon256

    I had a similar thing happen with Air Tahiti. We were supposed to be on a ATR-72 Turbo Prop and due to a late arrival, ended up on a Twin Otter. It was quite an adventure. Think Indiana Jones and the Temple Of Doom airplane (Though more modern and had two propellers instead of three). We had school bus seats, no seat belts, and the windows were permanently rolled down without the ability to roll them up.

  • Dutchess

    Wait, so every time they do an equipment change on you do you request a partial refund? How does that work out for you?

    Also, see Helio’s image below.

  • emanon256

    Also the cockroach was at check in, not even in her room, and there was one. Its not uncommon in Asia with the warmer climate and open air check in desks. Just liek FLorida. Also her only other complaint was the staff was indifferent? Wow! What did she want?

  • Michael__K

    It’s displayed when you select itineraries and it’s on the flight confirmation.

    Plus, the carrier sometimes advertises its new planes or amenities on it’s home page, and travel agents may advertise it as well.

    Beyond The Dream — Hainan Airlines’ Five-Star Flight

    HAIKOU, China, July 9, 2013 /PRNewswire/– Hainan Airlines Co., Ltd. (Hainan Airlines, stock code: 600221) formally took delivery its first 787 Dreamliner aircraft on 7 July at 11 a.m., when the plane (code-named B2722) successfully landed at Haikou Meilan International Airport. With the delivery completed, Hainan Airlines becomes the second Chinese airline with a Boeing 787 Dreamliner as part of its fleet.

  • Michael__K

    they were grounded by the FAA when she flew

    How do you know this? When did she fly? When was the 787 grounded? When did Hainan announce it would use a 787 on this route?

  • VoR61

    Thank you Dutchess. Refunds as they pertain to equipment changes depend on my goals and expectations. If, when I booked ground transportation, they indicated I would get a stretch limo and then switched me to a cab, I would want a partial refund. On the other hand, switching from a van to a cab, no refund would be expected, as my initial goal/impression was for basic transportation.

    Also of importance was the condition of the A340 and the hotel. It is reasonable to expect each to be in good working condition.

    I looked on to get an idea of the differences. Looking at the customer comments, it seems as though the 787 experience was much more pleasant overall.

    So, IN THIS CASE, yes, I think her expectations were reasonable and, not being met, warrant some consideration.

  • VoR61

    After some testing, I can say in that in FireFox you must “Allow” cookies for and cannot block or If you do, FF will not work.

    I have NoScript installed and do not “allow” cookies by default (set to temporary) so I had this issue until I did the above.

  • Fly, Icarus, Fly

    It’s not like these are brand new airlines. Reading reviews is a pretty good indicator of what kind of experience to expect. Whenever I book low-cost carriers or fly airlines renowned for old planes or shoddy service, I brace for the worst…

  • Fly, Icarus, Fly

    If the info is accurate at the time of booking, I don’t really mind this. Personally, I wouldn’t choose an itinerary or even an airline based on the type of plane they say they’ll fly, but I’m easy that way!

  • TonyA_says

    Can it get more ridiculous than this?
    A person with the same name of a Sales Support Administrator at Etihad Airways supposedly is fooled by a travel agent and a competing airline.
    Seems like this lady’s job is to deal with travel agents (some of these consolidators I know.)

    From India Post (the voice of Indians Worldwide):

    Etihad Airways recognizes travel agents with awards

    CHICAGO: In a formal luncheon event held here at Vermilion Restaurant downtown, Etihad Airways invited Midwest consolidators for its maiden award ceremony in Chicago.

    Etihad Airways has successfully completed four years of operations to Chicago transporting passengers to India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Middle East and many other destinations worldwide. The Airline has recently been voted by travelers as the best and Number One choice in a media survey conducted at O’Hare airport.

    Denise Harvill, Etihad Airways Vice President Central USA, together with Patrick Dunne, National Accounts Manager, inaugurated the event. Etihad Airways Chicago team members, Mohammad Anwar, Manali Vitkar, Sandra Dekoj and Murielle Achkar welcomed the guests. Denise Harvill thanked the loyal travel agents for joining the event and remarked that the award ceremony was organized to recognize and appreciate the support of travel agents.

    As Etihad Airways completes four years in Chicago, the daily non-stop service will soon be upgraded with new Boeing 777-300 modern version aircraft, she said. Patrick Dunne who had specially flown from New York for the event, also thanked the supporting agents.

    Denise Harvill and Mohammad Anwar jointly presented the awards to select consolidators for sales performance for 2012. Skybird Travel, Air Tours, Krisbi Travel, Evia Travel, Imperial Travel, RK Travel, Aero Travel, Pleasant Travel, Skylink and Riya Travel were among the recipients’ of the awards.
    The owners and staff members of the award winning agency were invited to podium. Among the winners were Umesh Patel and Masood Akram of Skybird Travel, Mafat Patel of Air Tours, Birju Bhagat of Krisbi, Faizan and Syeeda of Evia Travel, Rizwan of RK Travel, Asghar Ali of Aero Travel, Raj of Skylink, Prince of Imperial Travel and Shahbaz from Pleasant Travel.

    As the event concluded, Anwar, Manali and Sandra congratulated the agents for the sales performance awards.

  • Justin

    Precisely why I doubt the Op’s claims.

  • Justin

    Agreed. Southern and tropical Climates are rife with insects. Op’s complaints are unreasonable.

  • Justin



    Feed Starbucks Expresso Habit to maintain rigorous consumer advocacy rescue complex.

  • Helio

    In all aircraft detail pages of Hainan website, they stated:
    “Aircraft used may be changed without prior notice due to operational reasons.”

  • bodega3

    Google it, you will see the press release.

  • TonyA_says

    Mike, an STPC is considered a package by many airlines.

  • Mel65

    Thanks. I’ll give that a shot…. as soon as I figure out how :)

  • Michael__K
  • VoR61

    If you have NoScript installed, go to the Add-On options and in the Whitelist screen add and

  • TonyA_says

    I think you hit the nail on its head.

  • Dutchess

    I’m sure you’re not using a 5 year old Airbus and a 787 as a Cab to Limo comparison, right? Because this sure the heck sounds like your van to cab scenario.

    Here are two photos, tell me this is a Limo to a cab difference.

  • bodega3

    I saw that and it certainly raises some questions, doesn’t it!

  • jennj99738

    Have you been to China? The hotels I stayed at were easily 5 star hotels in Beijing, Xian and Shanghai. I personally have never stayed in hotels as nice as those for the price I paid. China is not all rundown, industrial apartment blocks and hutongs any longer.

  • TonyA_says

    Actually, the “cheap” customer might be expecting to exploit the system to their best advantage. What is the probability a new route will be full immediately?

    For example in this case, starting last mid June/July, Hainan Airlines did put the ORD-BJS-BKK route on sale for only $240 (before tax of approx $550).

    In my opinion, if you buy a (round-trip) fare that cheap from Chicago to Bangkok, you better be ready for some surprises. Get real folks!

  • Michael__K

    Where are all the shoddy reviews? Why are their fares higher than United’s (at least right now)?

    From The Economist:

    At the end of 2009 it became the first Chinese airline to achieve four stars from Skytrax, putting it on a par with British Airways and Lufthansa.

    From Yahoo Finance (linked in Chris’ article):

    “Today, I’m very excited to come to Beijing to announce Hainan Airlines winning the SKYTRAX Five-Star Airline award for the third time in a row. The airline has been adhering to five-star standards, and will continue pursuing excellence,” said Edward Plaisted, Chairman of SKYTRAX, a globally recognized aviation research organization.

  • TonyA_says

    Hainan starts Chicago-Beijing service
    Updated: 2013-09-06 11:55

    With a ribbon-cutting ceremony at Chicago’s O’Hare airport, China’s Hainan Airlines launched its new non-stop service between the Windy City and Beijing on Tuesday. The service will begin as a twice-a-week affair – Tuesdays and Sundays – but plans to expand to four days a week by December and go daily by next June. The maiden carrier – an Airbus A340 – will be upgraded to a brand new Boeing 787 Dreamliner as soon as the aircraft is cleared for takeoff.

    Sounds like that from the get go, no one was certain when the 787 Dreamliner was going to placed on service. It was just a dream.

    Source: dot htm

  • TonyA_says

    If she did not like the airplane then why get on it?
    She would have had a better (moral) case for a refund if she did not fly at all.

  • TonyA_says

    With a ribbon-cutting ceremony at Chicago’s O’Hare airport, China’s
    Hainan Airlines launched its new non-stop service between the Windy City
    and Beijing on Tuesday. The service will begin as a twice-a-week affair
    – Tuesdays and Sundays – but plans to expand to four days a week by
    December and go daily by next June. The maiden carrier – an Airbus A340 –
    will be upgraded to a brand new Boeing 787 Dreamliner as soon as the
    aircraft is cleared for takeoff.

  • TonyA_says

    Interesting. If the OP actually works for Etihad, then Etihad itself has seven (7) Airbus A340-600s in their fleet. I guess it takes one to know one.

  • TonyA_says

    The air quality in China has negative star rating :-)
    So does its human rights ratings.

  • Michael__K

    The assertion was that the Dreamliner was grounded when the OP flew.

    Dreamliners were flying by late May 2013 (after being grounded in January 2013).

    On July 8, 2013 (2 months before the article you cite), Hainan announced on it’s website (post with link held up by moderation) that it took delivery of a 787 and that Beijing-Chicago service would commence after three months of trial operations on domestic flights in China. Then they subsequently announced that ORD->BJS 787 service would commence on Nov 10th.

  • TonyA_says

    Mike, I do feel there is a disparity between Skytrax RATINGS and User REVIEWS.
    I have not flown Hainan because their routing ORD/SEA-PEK-xxx is too limited for me.
    But I do regularly fly Cathay Pacific, ANA, Korean Air and sometimes JAL.
    Why some have 5 or 4 star ratings I cannot understand because I can’t tell the difference (please note I am flying coach).
    But this I have to say with all candor – take any 5 star rated airline and fill it with mainland china tourists and you get a 2 star airline experience. You can call me a bigot but I am now recommending to my clients to avoid such flights.

  • TonyA_says

    I agree. It could be challenging for vegetarians in China.

  • Michael__K

    Where are all the negative user reviews of this airline?

    I can’t find too many recent user reviews. The few I could quickly find (e.g. Yelp and Flyer Talk) don’t raise any alarms. Nor do the much older reviews.

    Where is the red flag that this is a low-cost carrier with shoddy service?

  • emanon256

    LOL! My favorite is Veggie Duck, which is actually vegetarian :)

  • TonyA_says

    read the skytrax USER reviews themselves. i don’t find them flattering.

  • Michael__K

    Washroom cleanliness gets a perfect score. Cabin cleanliness and condition gets 4.5/5.

    The user reviews are very mixed, but on balance better than what I find for US-based airlines. I didn’t notice any reviews complaining about the lavatory conditions.

  • Michael__K

    Hainan’s home page from June 28, 2013 (per web-archive) displayed “special offers” for economy tickets from Chicago to Chinese cities starting from $1114 USD (including taxes & surcharges, 45+ day booking, “restrictions apply”).

  • TonyA_says

    The OP went to BKK. According to my GDS (historical fares), you could have constructed a round-trip fare for about $795 all in on HU.
    That’s really cheap from Chicago to Bangkok. I don’t think AA/UA can beat that fare (but I did not bother to research them).

    That said, Mainland Chinese Airlines tend to offer real cheap fares to Southeast Asia. It’s hard to find a seat since they sell out fast. But the point I am trying to say is that people should not expect 5 star service at this price point. If they do then consider themselves lucky.

  • jennj99738

    I certainly don’t disagree with you on those points.

  • Michael__K

    Hainan Airlines Co., Ltd. General Conditions of International Carriage for Passengers and Baggage

    Article 10 Schedules, Delays, Cancellation of Flights

    10.3.2 If Hainan Airlines cancels, terminates, diverts, postpones or delays a flight, substitutes a different type of aircraft or different class of service, is unable to provide previously confirmed space, fails to stop at a passenger’s stopover or destination point, or causes the passenger to miss a connecting flight on which he holds a reservation because of Hainan Airlines, Carrier shall, with due consideration to the passenger s reasonable interests, either: Rebook the passenger on another of its scheduled passenger services on which space is available or assist the passenger in rebooking with another Carrier to carry him or her to their destination. Provide a refund according to the relative regulations about involuntary refund in 12. 5 of Article 12. Assist the passenger in certain services such as accommodation and ground transportation according to the regulations of Hainan Airlines.

  • Michael__K

    per the CoC

    Which CoC? Not this one?

    Hainan Airlines Co., Ltd. General Conditions of International Carriage for Passengers and Baggage

    Article 10 Schedules, Delays, Cancellation of Flights

    10.3.2 If Hainan Airlines cancels, terminates, diverts, postpones or delays a flight, substitutes a different type of aircraft or different class of service, is unable to provide previously confirmed space, fails to stop at a passenger’s stopover or destination point, or causes the passenger to miss a connecting flight on which he holds a reservation because of Hainan Airlines, Carrier shall, with due consideration to the passenger s reasonable interests, either: Rebook the passenger on another of its scheduled passenger services on which space is available or assist the passenger in rebooking with another Carrier to carry him or her to their destination. Provide a refund according to the relative regulations about involuntary refund in 12. 5 of Article 12. Assist the passenger in certain services such as accommodation and ground transportation according to the regulations of Hainan Airlines.

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    I really, really want to know how that last item should be properly translated.
    Or are these *ahem* “Adult” items?

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    Good sleuthing! But I think that actually flying on the substituted plane messes up her chance for a refund. Article 12.5 says:
    12.5.1 If no portion of the Ticket has been used, entire paid fare shall be refunded. 12.5.2 If a portion of the Ticket has been used, as provided in Hainan Airlines’ Regulations, the refund amount is equal to the applicable fare for the part of the journey not traveled. No cancellation charge will be collected.

  • TonyA_says

    10.1.3 Schedules are subject to change without notice.
    Hainan Airlines may when circumstances so require alter or omit stopping
    places shown on the ticket or in schedules and may without notice
    substitute alternate carriers or aircraft

  • TonyA_says

    Not sure what the real translation is. Seems like they have different meanings over there in China.

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    Found a great article on the correct translation – that first character pronounced at one tone is “do” or “dry”, so “Dried Goods” in those first pictures you posted. At another tone, it’s, well, “to do” if you know what I mean.
    see itre dot cis dot upenn dot edu/~myl/languagelog/archives/005195.html

  • Michael__K

    10.3 spells out the remedies for when Hainan exercises its rights under 10.1….

    And this wasn’t a new or last-minute operational circumstance. The 787 was originally scheduled to start service on November 10th, but Hainan announced on October 21st, that it would be delayed by a month.

    Did the travel agent not know about the change? Did they not share the info with their client so their client could exercise their rights under the CoC?

  • TonyA_says

    Read the article. Interesting. I lost count of the different meanings.
    Maybe the Chinese should not bother to translate to English at all.

  • Michael__K

    The delay in the introduction of the 787 on that route was reported 3 weeks in advance.

    I would think that the travel agent (and in turn the passenger) should have been notified at that point and given the opportunity to exercise their rights under the CoC.

    The OP shouldn’t have discovered the equipment change only upon boarding the aircraft (with their baggage most likely checked).

  • TonyA_says

    This is hard to believe, Mike. In fact one of the reasons I avoid flying a packed Cathay Pacific flight to HKG nowadays is because its probably packed with mainland tourists.

    I guess you have been to China. I dread having to find and use a bathroom outside my (western) hotel.

    See pic of starbucks notice posted in bathrooms. Why would the airline bathrooms be any different?

  • TonyA_says

    On the Samsung Galaxy Tablet, Adblock for Chrome works quite differently (resource hog).
    You might as well use Firefox for Android.

  • TonyA_says

    That’s why I made the comment that she should have NOT FLOWN because if she did then she accepted the substitute aircraft.
    But really, all these requests to fly a specific aircraft is a big joke.
    The problem is poor service (like dirty bathrooms) not the type of aircraft.
    If you really want clean bathrooms fly a Korean or Japanese airline, period.
    Not Chinese.

  • y_p_w

    My issue is that often some companies won’t even run some of this copy by native English speakers. We’re talking companies with large foreign subsidiaries. I mean – companies like Samsung or Sony don’t make these mistakes because they actually have someone do a once-over or even do a complete copy rewrite of user manuals or signage. It’s simple professionalism.

    I’ll sometimes shop at the fish section of a “99 Ranch Market” Asian supermarket. Their signs are often filled with some obvious grammatical mistakes. This is a US based company, but probably with a marketing staff who are not natively English proficient. I’d be surprised if they didn’t have many employees at their head office or in their stores who are highly proficient in English, but somehow they don’t ask them or none of them speaks up when they see these mistakes. The one that jumps out at me is the sign for “MAIN LOBSTER”. It’s been this way for years.

  • Raven_Altosk

    Put this one in the recycle bin and walk far, far away.
    Really…Chinese folks speaking Chinese is a problem for this person? She needs to stay home and find her big girl panties…

  • TonyA_says

    Wow, you have got to be kidding, Mike.
    A seat in coach is a seat in coach.
    It’s not like she paid for a lay-flat seat in Biz or something like that.
    Airplanes are just glorified flying buses. No need to expect more, especially if you paid something like 5 cents a mile. Try driving at that price. My Prius does not even come close to that and it does not serve noodles.

  • TonyA_says

    If she works for Etihad and serves the Indian market, then she surely understands what the word ETHNIC means.

  • bodega3

    We get schedule changes that include aircraft changes sent to our GDS queues all the time. I always notify clients and the one and only complaint about this was from ME last year when UA switched my flight from a 777 to 767. I really don’t think she would have complained if the conditions were not up to her standards. But I am still wondering on why with her working for an airline company, why she flew this one to China to get to BKK? Very strange!

  • TonyA_says

    Do we know how much she paid for the tickets and how they compare with market prices? I have to believe she got what she paid for.

  • Michael__K

    Depending on her commitments and other non-refundable costs, and also the status of her luggage, not flying may not have been a good option either.

    It’s also not clear from the article how she got back to Chicago (or if she is still overseas). We could use some more information, starting with what was communicated between the OP and her travel agent.

  • Freehiker

    I have a real problem with YOUR attitude.

  • Michael__K

    I was shocked to find that language in the CoC.

    So many people insist it’s all about the rules and the CoC. And then in the rare case where the CoC actually offers some protection to the customer, then suddenly, who cares about the CoC anymore? What’s just is simply what YOU personally decide is just.

  • AUSSIEtraveller

    Boeings fault. 787 programme is litered with delays.

    She got to her destination. Would she rather have had her flight cancelled completely ?

  • dave3029

    Chris, when an OP sends you photos (like you mentioned in this article), why don’t you include them? I realize you may not be able to vet them, but at least then we could see what they’re talking about.

  • backprop

    I think that’s the right point. There is a huge disconnect here. Had she not flown, then she’s entitled the refund. You can’t eat the steak and then not pay because it’s wasn’t to your tastes!!!

  • Helio

    I just remember the Airbus claim about 17″ seats… The 787 probably have these – for a long trip, less confy.

    And according to Seatguru, Hainan uses at its 340 planes 19″ seats at economy.

  • VoR61

    Perhaps you are right, Dutchess. And perhaps the OP would not have been dissatisfied IF the plane itself and the hotel were in better condition, which is the compelling reason for my thinking about a refund. In the end, regardless of the differences, the quality of her flight/hotel were (in her words) unacceptable.

    But a full refund – no …

  • PolishKnightUSA

    I’m chuckling about her recline seat complaint. In a recent Elliott article on USAtoday, in the comments section a tall guy said that NOBODY should recline their seat without asking for permission first and otherwise it’s bad manners.

    This story reminds me of the famous complaint letter to Continental about the poor guy stuck in a seat by a toilet.

  • Moose

    I am not surprised about this when dealing with a Chinese company. She would’ve had a much better experience if she had the layover in Taiwan.

  • Dutchess

    Her only valid complaint here is the bathroom not being clean. Her seat recline issue could have been a number of things, and if she was in the last row, it very well could be that it was intentionally not able to recline and not an actual broken seat. I’ve seen FA’s throw garbage bags in the bathroom before landing many times, it’s a place to stow it out of the way while passengers deplane. And, I’m not going to even address the FA accidentally bumping into her, it’s so incredibly trivial and childish. Her hotel issue is completely separate and shouldn’t be used as an excuse to ask for a refund for an international flight.

    So, do you think an unclean bathroom is enough to warrant a partial refund? If so, I’ve been missing out all these years when I’ve gone to places with bad bathrooms.

  • Justin

    Sounds like you’ll get a real bargain in China.

  • gracekelley

    Lost me at Chinese speaking Chinese

  • Miami510

    Enlarge the pictures and take ’em to Small Claimes Court in Chicago. My guess is their American lawyer will tell them to settle.

  • Jbrjbr3797Joe Reynolds

    Why didn’t she know the name of the hotel where she was to stay? She had no voucher. .
    She works for another airline. With her as an employee, sounds like the other airline is also second rate. OH, Chinese people usually speak Chinese to each other. Did you know most Americans speak some sort of English to each other. Like What’s up?” Or Crack-a-lackin,.
    I voted no

  • Annie M

    I have a feeling she would have complained regardless. Her claim that her agent sold her a ” seat on a spanking new Hainan 787″ is a bunch of baloney. She agent sold her a TICKET – an agent has no control over what type of airplane the airline is going to fly out on. I have seen planes changed all the time and she should be happy she wasn’t bumped because the plane that was substituted was smaller the the original. She got to her destination – enough already.

    And surprise surprise – a Chines airline caters to Chines passengers and they speak Chinese on the plane. When I fly Aeromexico, I have to listen to everything said in Spanish before it is repeated in English. It is what it is. She got to her destination and appears to be a whiner.

  • Michael__K

    The DOT requires carriers to provide passengers “timely notice of any changes” to their itineraries or flight status. But some rules are okay to ignore, right?

  • pdeforest

    I was on a United flight, SFO to HKG a couple of years ago. I say couple of years ago because after the experiences I had, I try to avoid their long haul flights to Asia. I was handed a “fruit salad” plate that was covered in black mold. I was offered cold water from a carafe that had been filled from on-board water tanks (I saw them filling it, and I saw them offering it to children and pregnant women), which most experts agree is a bad idea to drink.

    Poor service to/from China is NOT limited to chinese airlines. And my experiences with Cathay were much better than other posters – I found the flight attendants to be gracious and the restrooms clean; yes they were crowded, bu what Asia flights aren’t? My flights on China Airlines were also fine, with the exception of confusing connections in Chiang Kai-Shek airport. I also found Delta service through Narita to be fine.

  • TonyA_says

    There is nothing wrong with the airline. Cathay Pacific is a great airline. They are not the problem. The problem is that there are too many mainland chinese passengers (in my opinion) and some of them are not quite well mannered.