Wed, August 03, 2011
Lifestyle > Travel

A day at the Chengdu airport

2011-08-03 06:22:10 GMT2011-08-03 14:22:10(Beijing Time)  Global Times

Chengdu Shuangliu airport international terminal. (

Did you know that on average people spend seven years of their lives waiting? That's more than 61.000 hours of waiting in line at the cash register, waiting your turn at the doctor's office or simply waiting next to the coffee machine for it to prepare your daily dose of caffeine.

So what do you do when your flight gets delayed? You wait at the airport. What if it gets delayed until further notice with the possibility of being cancelled altogether? You wait, wait and … wait some more.

The minutes always seem to crawl in situations like these.

People watching

Imagine, you're a tourist waiting at Chengdu's Shuangliu International Airport for your 7AM flight which has just been indefinitely postponed. The idea was to travel to Jiuzhaigou National Park, but due to unexpected bad weather the flight is delayed.

Apparently the fog is so thick, the pilot cannot even see the runway! On top of that, it's about 20 degrees colder from where you currently are, it's heavily snowing and you are wearing shorts and a t-shirt.

Waiting at the airport doesn't seem so bad after all. And if you like people watching, waiting can be fun as well.

A good tip

When the 9AM flight to Jiuzhaigou also suffers delays, a fellow traveller on a later flight with the same destination is quick to react with a good tip.

“It's very common for the early flights to Jiuzhaigou to be delayed or even cancelled due to bad weather,”she says. “It's because of the altitude and the mountains. It's better to book an afternoon flight, for the weather will almost always clear up.”

By car?

Lesson learnt. However, when midday arrives and flight after flight gets delayed, free breakfasts are eventually handed out.

And when one flight to Jiuzhaigou actually leaves, only to return an hour later because the pilot still could not see the runway and was afraid to land, it seems travelling to this nature park by plane may not be such a good idea at all. Perhaps the full day's journey by car should be more carefully considered next time? Then again, a treacherous mountain road, fog and recent reports of land slides … no thanks.

Hot water anyone?

Back to waiting it is. Chengdu Airport is somewhat odd. It has at least four, well-sized men's fashion shops, but only one tiny shop that sells heavily overpriced women's clothes. So forget about getting those long johns for Jiuzhaigou's freezing temperatures, women!

Whereas European airports have soft drink machines, Shuangliu has plenty, free hot water machines, where the Chinese fill up their Thermos, because after all, it's a taboo to drink anything cold in China.

They simply drink the plain, almost boiling water like that or add a couple of tea leaves – which they were conveniently carrying around in their hand luggage, of course.

Instead of the common snacks most travellers bring on their journeys, like a little box of sweets, or a chocolate or muesli bar, the Chinese bring (warm and fried!) chicken wings, bowls of dried noodles (which they soak in the hot water from the machine and wait 'til it's good to be eaten), dried meat and vegetable snacks.


When finally – after waiting almost for 8 hours, the word came in all flights to Jiuzhaigou that day would be cancelled because it wouldn't stop snowing, it was a relief in more ways than one.

Not one person got upset. Luggage was returned with simple Chinese efficiency and everyone just moseyed on out the airport main entrance, most likely returning to their travel agencies to claim the refund.

But seriously, waiting a full day at the airport and seeing the Chinese just go about their ways, not caring much about the delays and simply camp out at the gate, was an experience on its own. I only wish they would stop clearing their chronically irritated throats and spit the coughed up residue on the ground.


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