Really, First Class Miami to Beijing for $38.50?

Trip Start Jul 22, 2011
Trip End Aug 12, 2011

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Flag of China  ,
Friday, July 22, 2011

It's true. We saved up our American Airlines frequent flyer miles using special credit card promotions and finally accumulated enough miles to make the trip first class, only having to pay the tax per person!   We have since learned that different regions of the world have different mileage requirements for free tickets and that on American, flying to China, we got a great deal.

If you look at a globe, China is on the opposite side of the world from our hometown of Miami Beach.  Our journey began with a flight to Chicago with a short layover where we relaxed in the First Class International Lounge with a nice selection of tasty food and drinks.   And when we boarded our Chicago-Beijing plane, the monitor displayed "Beijing 10574 km" with the flight plan close to the north pole.  I gazed at that with a bit of wonder that we could fly that far in 14 hours and end up on the opposite side of the world.  It’s kind of amazing when you pause and think about it.

It was 11:30PM when we arrived in Beijing, and we’re alert but a bit bleary eyed from the long trip.  The time zone difference between Miami Beach and Beijing is 12 hours.  As we make our way to immigration and baggage claim on the automated walkway we look around us and see big open spaces in the terminal, mostly empty now because of the late hour, but clearly built to accommodate large crowds of people.  Thank goodness for the signs in both Chinese and English!  The large scale of this terminal and its modern design is a legacy of the Olympics.  Take a look at the photo of the luggage claim area and you can get a feel of how massive, modern and automated the Beijing airport is.  Those are free luggage carts – shame on Miami International Airport where the fee is $2.00.

As we exit baggage claim, we see our name on a China Highlights sign and with relief that we have made an effortless connection, meet Gerry An, our guide.  He walks us through the airport to meet our driver, Xu Biao, and we proceed on to our hotel, the Hilton Beijing Wangfunjing.  Gerry smoothes the way for us at the hotel check-in and before we know it we are settled into our room.  Our heads hit the pillow and with the aid of some sleeping pills we are asleep.

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