Freelance writer exploring Melbourne and beyond. If you enjoy the following article click on the Like button, Facebook it to your friends or subscribe. I'll update you with yummy and often free events. Like my photos? I instagram @redbagwilltravel
SNA have started in Australia offering cheap trips to China through daily deal sites.
At around $1000 you get flights to Beijing, 4 star accommodation including tours, and some meals.
This is our account. Prefaced by:
1) 20 people did this tour, most had a flawless holiday
2) Issues were with the airline and not really SNA
3) By the end we felt appeased.
Sichuan Airlines only flies out of Melbourne twice a week. Once they cancel a flight all hell breaks loose. The mostly Chinese passengers were clamouring to get on another airline. Sometimes instructions were only in Chinese.
In the departure lounge some people were marched off. A woman near me said, "They probably took them out the back and shot them". It turned out she was a fellow SNA traveller (travelling with her equally hilarious sister).
The group marched off were transferred to another airline but the bulk of us were left to fight it out.
It got so late that Sichuan finally offered accommodation at the Park Royal. Who wouldn't rather sleep between luxury sheets than on a plane? Trouble was -- the bedlam. No queuing, shouting, a $15 dinner voucher that didn't buy much at the airport, before we too were taken around the back. We weren't shot but did a reverse trip through customs. We got to bed at 2am and had to be at the airport the next morning at 7.30.
No breakfast. More bedlam. Hours of wailing people with good reason to wail. Tears. Clenched fists.
One of us lost it. His pandemics worked as suddenly we were put on another flight. There was a hare's whisker before that flight went with Southern China Airlines.
Despite the chaos I checked with Sichuan whether our bags were forwarded to Beijing (the flight was to Shanghai and had a connecting flight with only an hour or so in-between). A quick scramble. New luggage tags sent down the shoot following our bags. We ran for that flight.
Our connecting flights worked (16 hours of travel) and we even located our baggage. But with all the changes there was no SNA guide to meet us.
We found the supposedly legal taxi rank and got taken for a ride.
To our relief the hotel was the Double Tree Hilton
The desk clerk looked up our names. No booking. Come back tomorrow. Or we could have a room at rack-rate. He was smug. We were furious. Finally got the internet. "Look," we said, "here is the email with our flights and information. This is the number of our tour guide."
I do have to give it to our guide that she took that call at 2am in the morning and got us a room.
But not without words. What transpired is not recorded here, but we soon got one of Hilton's famous warm chocolate brownies. The more we fumed the more he kept saying, "Have another cookie."
SNA felt the hotel was at fault, the hotel said it was SNA.
Next morning we met up with our tour who came from all over Australia.
It was only Melbourne people who had flight problems. Another two were marched away with the initial group to board another airline and spent 3 hours on the tarmac (where they even had dinner). They arrived safely but their luggage did not arrive for days.
The two sisters and a young man from Melton made it to Shanghai but because Sichuan didn't change their baggage labels they missed their connecting flight. We missed the first day of our holiday, they missed the first two.
As expected there were many shopping stops but such are common with tour groups, not just SNA.
What was was offensive was the highfalutin sounding China Academy of Chinese Medical Sciences. They have a captive audience as your feet are being massaged. Doctors come around and make an instant diagnosis. Everyone needed at least three $100 medicines.