I travel in and out of China regularly transferring at Guangzhou and then on to Kunming with China Southern Airlines. For reasons I won't bore you with I was forced make changes to my usual pattern and ended up having to use China Eastern, transferring to a domestic flight at shanghai. I should have arrived at Kunming around midnight, but due to 'unspecified delays' at Shanghai, didn't clear Kunming airport till well after 4:00am. The person meeting me had been waiting for over 5 HOURS, the bus service had finished so we paid a minivan driver 200 CNY to take us, with baggage into the city.
Return flight to Sydney was even worse.
Left Kunming on time, but with China Eastern there is a 6 hour wait at Shanghai for a connecting flight, so my travel agent got me to transfer at Nanjing instead, should have been only a 3 hour wait - BIG MISTAKE - Nanjing isn't set up for proper international transfers, so you have to unload your baggage at Nanjing, exit the domestic terminal and go through the booking process again at the China Eastern international check in desk. And guess what, China Eastern has different rules as regards baggage on domestic and international flights, so I ended up having to abandon an oversized item I was bringing back for a friend at Nanjing airport.
The officious supervisors at the China Eastern check in counter weren't interested in the fact that I had booked the baggage in at their Kunming counter knowing full well that I was flying on to Sydney. These are your usual bottom of the ladder admin types, only interested 'the established procedure' than in fulfilling their obligation of carriage or customer satisfaction. When I asked for the form for making a written complaint they tried to connect me to a complaints hotline that only accepted complaints made in Chinese.
The kicker was that the flight on to Sydney was delayed 2 1/2 hours for 'unspecified reasons', so didn't even get the shorter wait time anticipated.
Had another friend flying with China Eastern Sydney to Kunming via Shanghai both ways. Ended up having to stay in Shanghai overnight after missing her plane to Sydney due to more delays.
I will in future be making every effort to avoid flying with China Eastern Airways or transferring via Shanghai and Nanjing.
Beware, there are China Eastern groupies on here who confuse personal friendship with employees with that sad excuse for an airline. And the first direct flight to Europe from Kunming is going to be delivered by.......China Eastern.
50% of the flights out of Kunming are on China Eastern. Sometimes it's difficult to get a flight on any other airline that's going where/when you want.
That's true and to be expected as it's a national carrier. But China Eastern is so unreliable that the OP, myself and probably numerous others will detour and pay to fly anything but CE. For me, I'll continue Thai-Air to Europe until I see evidence of sustained reliability on the European route.
I don't know anyone who has said a kind word about China Eastern on these forums. However, from July to October, the Chinese military is conducting exercises that will cause severe delays in Pudong and Hongqiao airports.
Kunming is practically a China Eastern hub. It would make more sense as a China Southern hub, but that's just wishful thinking now.
If you have to check in with China Eastern, just pull the dumb foreigner act, and use their business class skyteam elite counter. Won't help your delays, but might of gotten your bags all the way to Sydney.
I too have had terrible experiences with China Eastern flying to Hong Kong. I regularly fly to Hong Kong and the two times I have gone with China Eastern, both have been delayed (by 4 hours, forced to fly at 11pm) or cancelled completely. Now I ONLY fly Dragon Air to Hong Kong and have never had a single delay (well, 20mins, on the plane on the tarmac last time, nothing serious).
Avoid them like the plague. I suspect they have overly tight scheduling and plane turn around issues which results in planes not being available, being used on different routes, coming in much later than expected etc etc. Their management staff are incompetent to stupid (likely a result of guanxi based performance) lacking all professionalism or care about their customers. I too have never heard a kind word about them and as you can see from others who have been burned, I aren't alone.
Oh - for the HK-KM route, dragon air also has far superior service, now having on flight entertainment on board (western/Chinese shows to watch) and always giving you a meal of reasonable quality (if a little small). China Eastern gives you some shittly little sweetened crackers and a bag of salty mushrooms (which aren't too bad) and doesn't have onflight entertainment. And to top it off, the seats are much more comfy on DragonAir.
Avoid China Eastern anyway you can. Had bad experiences several years ago, canceled connecting flight, was one. Travel agents snicker when I say "never China Eastern."
Being a regular on CZ and MU and other local airlines (between 20-30000 miles annually) I have to say I had a lot of bad experiences with all of them. Especially the ground staff of China Southern at Knuming Airport is certainly the most incompetent bunch of people I ever met! China Eastern beat them by far -on the ground! In the air China Southern has a much better service. Cancellation of Flights also happend with China Southern. They will check you in knowing that you will not catch your connecting flight. " No problem we get you a Hotel and you fly tomorrow!" Flight delays are for a good portion not caused by the airline but by the completely inefficient air traffic control. And it seems that when only limited corridors are available the smaller airlines move to the bottom of the chain. My experience last week with Kunming airline was instead of arriving in Kunming at 8pm we arrived at 3:15am. Adding up to the already hugh frustration was that Kunming Airport needed 45 minutes to bring the baggage on the belt. All in all, driving from Nanning by car does not take any longer. Flying in China is no fun, never! Show me a reasonable alternative and I will happily take it.
I heard that whole swathes of Chinese airpace are off limits to commercial airlines and devoted to military aircraft...?