Review: Hainan Business Class 787 Changsha To Los Angeles

Introduction: 5-Star China On The Cheap
Review: Hainan Airlines LAX Limo, Check-In, And Lounge
Review: Hainan Business Class 787 Los Angeles To Changsha
Review: Sheraton Changsha Hotel
Review: Changsha Airport Lounges
Review: Hainan Business Class 787 Changsha To Los Angeles


After a fantastic flight on the outbound, I was excited to see if the service level I experienced was an exception or the norm. Well, this flight sure was “different.”

Hainan Airlines 7923
Changsha (CSX) – Los Angeles (LAX)
Thusday, February 11
Depart: 1:00PM
Arrive: 10:35AM
Duration: 13hr35min
Aircraft: Boeing 787-8
Seat: 15G (Business Class)

I boarded through the very forward door, and upon presenting my boarding pass was escorted to my seat, 15H. The 787 business class cabin has a total of 36 seats, spread across six rows in a 2-2-2 configuration.

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Hainan 787 business class

I was seated in the last row of the forward cabin, in an aisle seat on the right side. On second thought that probably wasn’t a good seat choice, since it was immediately in front of the lavatory.

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Hainan 787 business class, seats 15H & 15K

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Hainan 787 business class

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Hainan business class seats 787

I took a picture out the window, where I saw a nice variety of plane — Changsha Airport does have some cool traffic.

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View at gate Changsha Airport

About five minutes after settling in, an older Chinese lady settled into the window seat next to me, and her husband was in the aisle across from me. They engaged in a full-on conversation from a distance, and didn’t have inside voices. So I offered to switch seats with the husband so they could sit together (they didn’t speak English, so I pointed at myself and then at the seat the husband was seated in). She was extremely grateful, and squeezed my arm, presumably as a way of saying thank you.

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Hainan business class, seats 15D & 15G

Well, the flight was way oversold in economy, though it seemed that only a few passengers had been booked in business class. As the cabin continued to fill up, every business class seat was taken, and it seemed like at least 80% of the passengers were op ups.

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Hainan business class cabin view

Once settled in one of the flight attendants came by to introduce herself and offer me a (non-alcoholic) drink. I ordered a glass of orange juice, which was offered with some nuts and a warm towel.

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Hainan business class pre-departure orange juice and nuts

Much like on the outbound, the quantity of nuts was limited — I counted eight of them.

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All 8 nuts I was offered

Shortly thereafter I was offered the menu for the flight, as well as an amenity kit. There were no pajamas on this sector, oddly.

The cabin door closed at around 12:50PM, and shortly thereafter the captain came on the PA to add his welcome aboard. While the captain on the outbound seemed to be American, this one was Chinese, best I could tell. He informed us of our flight time of 11hr20min, though didn’t let us know the implications of that — that we’d be two hours early. Of course I could compute the numbers, but when the flight time is 11hr20min and the block time is 13hr35min, you’re going to be at the gate way early.

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Airshow enroute to Los Angeles

We pushed back at 12:55PM, at which point the safety video began to play.

With every business class seat taken, it was a really tough crowd for the crew. There are cultural differences between American and Chinese passengers, and the overall ambiance in the cabin was about as relaxing as a night market — I can’t imagine what it was like in economy.

Since there were so many operational upgrades, people traveling together were seated apart, and couples would just yell across the cabin to have conversations.

People would try to use the lavatory when it was occupied, and rather than noticing that it was occupied, they’d just keep pulling at the handle.

Once we started taxiing people would still walk around the cabin to talk to one another.

If someone wanted something from a flight attendant, they’d simply physically grab the flight attendant. It was rough to watch.

None of this is to say “how dare they,” since I realize many of the people probably weren’t frequent flyers and didn’t understand they couldn’t walk around when the seatbelt sign was on, how the lavatories worked, etc. But it was still tough to observe.

Anyway, we taxied to the runway and were airborne at 1:05PM, so I was excited to get to Los Angeles way early.

Shortly after takeoff the cabin manager, April, came on the PA to welcome us aboard. Her English was lacking, in the sense that you could tell she was reading off her script and trying to pronounce everything phonetically, without really knowing what much of it meant. She also kept referring to our destination as “The Angeles.”

About 20 minutes after takeoff the seatbelt sign was turned off, at which point meal orders were taken.

The dinner menu read as follows (the beverage list was the same as on the outbound flight, so see that post for the list):

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Drinks were served about 15 minutes after meal orders were taken. I ordered some champagne. Along with the drinks there was a small starter consisting of some rubbery vegetables and mystery meat.

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Hainan business class dinner — champagne and snacks

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Hainan business class dinner — snack

About 20 minutes later my table was set, including a personal breadbasket.

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Hainan business class table setting

The breadbasket consisted of garlic bread, a crostini, a wheat roll, and a multi-grain roll.

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Hainan business class breadbasket

For the starter I ordered the salmon and duck, which was surprisingly decent.

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Hainan business class dinner starter — smoked salmon and duck breast

After that I had the white asparagus puree soup, which was tasty, and much like on the outbound, the presentation was excellent.

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Hainan business class dinner soup — creamy soup of white asparagus puree

Next I had the salad. I chose the tartar dressing since it sounded intriguing, though I think they went slightly overboard with the quantity they served me.

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Hainan business class dinner salad — garden mesclun lettuce with tartar dressing

For the main course I ordered the gnocchi. I’ve never had very good catering departing China, so I always try to go with the “safest” option. The gnocchi itself was quite good, though the shrimp were tiny.

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Hainan business class dinner main course — gnocchi with shrimp and tomato sauce

Service throughout the meal was at a very personalized pace. Aside from dessert, everything was served individually rather than off a cart, so once you were done with one dish they’d bring out the next.

Then for dessert there’s a cart they roll around with cheese, ice cream, etc. I simply selected the macadamia nut Haagen-Dazs ice cream, which is my favorite flavor.

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Hainan business class dinner dessert — macadamia nut ice cream

To finish off the meal I had a cappuccino, though I’m pretty sure it was made with hot water and powder, so it wasn’t very good.

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Hainan business class cappuccino

The crew was friendly, way better than what I’ve had on other Chinese airlines. There weren’t any crew members quite as charming as Maria on the outbound, though I was still generally impressed.

And I have to say that the crew handled the meal service with incredible ease. They really worked their tails off, as the cabin was full, and I’ve never in my life seen such demanding passengers. They’d (physically) grab the flight attendants when they wanted something, and the flight attendants handled that with grace. So they deserve extra points for how awesome they were.

After the meal I decided to watch the show “Beyond Magic with DMC 4,” which was available on my inflight entertainment system. I love magic shows, and this one was especially good.

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Hainan Airlines business class entertainment selection

One thing which I found annoying was that since people were largely seated apart, they’d constantly walk in front of my seat to cross between aisles, rather than going through the galley. This happened constantly, dozens of times during the flight.

Eventually I put up my legrest, and they’d still climb over my legs to get between aisles, rather than just walking through the galley.

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With about nine hours left to Los Angeles I decided to get some rest, so requested to have my bed made, which was promptly taken care of.

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Airshow enroute to Los Angeles

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Airshow enroute to Los Angeles

As I explained in the outbound review, Hainan’s bedding is exceptional, and includes two plush pillows, a sheet over the seat, and a great duvet.

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Hainan business class turndown service

I just wish the seat itself were more private and spacious. There was a guy seated next to me and there no partition between seats, so I felt like I was being watched during the flight. On the plus side, I think I lucked out with the best seatmate on the plane, as he was well behaved and didn’t say a word the whole flight.

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Hainan business class turndown service

With the turndown service I was also offered a bottle of Evian water.

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Hainan business class bottled water

I slept much better than I was expecting — the lack of privacy didn’t bother me once I managed to fall asleep, and the great bedding kept me asleep.

I woke up with 2.5 hours to go until our arrival in Los Angeles, as the cabin lights were being illuminated in preparation for the pre-landing service.

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Airshow enroute to Los Angeles

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Airshow enroute to Los Angeles

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Airshow enroute to Los Angeles

While I didn’t take advantage of it, here’s the snack menu which was available mid-flight:

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There was also a self serve snack bar across from the galley.

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Hainan business class snack setup

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Cabin before breakfast service

Within a few moments the flight attendant came around to take meal orders. The breakfast menu read as follows:

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I ordered a coffee to go along with breakfast. My table was quickly set, including a breadbasket with a danish and a roll.

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Hainan business class breakfast — table setting

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Hainan business class breakfast — breadbasket

To start I was offered some yogurt and a fruit plate, both of which were very good.

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Hainan business class breakfast — yogurt and fruit

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Hainan business class breakfast — yogurt

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Hainan business class breakfast — fresh fruit

For the main course I ordered the omelette, which was doused in ketchup. I’m not a huge fan of ketchup in general, and hate it with a passion on omelettes (hot sauce for me, please!), and I’m not sure why they’d proactively pour it on there. Other than that the omelette was very good.

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Hainan business class breakfast — chive omelette

A couple more interesting things to note about this flight. This crew seemed to have no issues with phones being used, unlike on the outbound. People around the cabin were using phones throughout the flight, and the crew didn’t say anything. Given the demographic of the passengers, I’m guessing they had bigger rules to enforce.

Also, the bathrooms on this flight were in disgusting condition. It’s not that the crew didn’t try to keep them clean, but it seemed that I was the only passenger aware that the toilet had a “flush” function, as everyone just did their business and called it a day.

Lastly, I’d note that I would highly recommend against sitting in row 15, especially the center seats. They’re right next to the lavatories, and even worse, there’s no curtain between the cabin and the lavatory area, so you’ll pick up quite a bit of light.

At 8AM PT the captain came back on the PA to advise us we’d be landing at 8:30AM, about two hours early. Our descent into Los Angeles was smooth, and the views were great (though since I wasn’t in a window seat I couldn’t get good pictures).

We had a smooth touchdown on runway 24R at 8:30AM sharp. Cabin manager April came on the PA to welcome us to “The Angeles.” Our taxi to terminal 2 took about 10 minutes, so we got to our gate at around 8:40AM.

People started getting up the second the plane touched down, and when we got to the gate people pushed their way to the front to exit first.

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Deplaning LAX

Unfortunately it was about 20 minutes before the cabin door actually opened, given that the immigration facility only opens at 9AM.

Being off the plane over 90 minute early was awesome, though! I phoned up the limo service Hainan Airlines uses to inform them I had arrived so early, and they sent a driver within 10 minutes.

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Hainan Airlines limo service LAX

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Hainan Airlines limo service LAX

Hainan Airlines business class bottom line

The outbound flight on Hainan was definitely more enjoyable. That probably comes down to the slightly better crew, the emptier flight (I had an empty seat next to me), the easier to deal with passengers, the better catering out of the US than out of China, etc.

Still, Hainan’s efforts on this flight impressed me. The crew was well intentioned and professional, and handled the service with incredible grace.

I realize it’s cultural largely because most people in China don’t travel as much as those in the US, and also there are different cultural norms. But really the major downside to this flight was their lack of inside voices, lack of flushing toilets, and not understanding personal space as it pertains to peoples’ seats.

Still, between arriving over 90 minutes early and getting a decent amount of sleep, I’d say my flight on Hainan was a success.

Hainan offers a really solid business class product, and has the best soft product of any Chinese airline I’ve flown.

Do they deserve to be a Skytrax 5-star airline? I can’t really figure out why they would be. They’re solid, but to suggest their overall product is one of the best in the world seems a bit off.

But I’d fly Hainan again without hesitation.

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Comments

  1. The contrast between your two flights makes for interesting reading. This one also tempers my expectations.

  2. I like the people walking past your feet. You should have taken a cue from everyone else and grabbed one by the arm and sternly told them not to do that. It doesn’t sound like the passive approach of taking pictures was useful.

  3. I flew this route two weeks ago and experienced the same thing you did, Ben. For some reason, the Chinese travelers I encounter have no regard for posted signs (standing in business class check-in line when flying economy, check; cutting in immigration line, check; pushing past you on the gateway, check; bumping into you and not saying excuse me, check; grabbing free food and shoving it into their bags, check) and things can get a bit rough flying in and out of China. I do think that the FA’s on this airline deserve applause. If I could interject just 50cc’s of their enthusiasm into the angry AA FA’s, I’d do it in a heartbeat.

  4. @E. I just got credited for the first half of my flight and so far I got 14k EQM and 21k RDM (I’m mvp gold)

  5. The cabin chaos you witnessed is cultural. I’ve been bouncing back and forth on AA’s PEK/DFW service a lot lately, and IT IS MADNESS.

    I have been working in China for over a decade, so nothing really surprises me anymore. The key here is that for the first time in this country’s history, the middle class can afford to vacation far afield (N. America and Europe being favorites). A plane full of high-context peoples (many of whom have never left their villages, let alone stepped foot on an airplane) is bound to raise western eyebrows.

    On my most recent PEK-DFW flight (two weeks ago):

    – Boarding was an absolute free for all. Flight attendants just got out of the way, as there seemed to be a shortage of language qualified attendants. Passengers were reassigning seats amongst themselves. Others were trying to stuff massive articles into the overhead lockers. Realizing they were unable to control the situation, the FAs summoned ground staff to the plane. The scene would have been shocking to the uninitiated. Most western pax seemed to be at least nominally familiar with Mainlanders, as no one got too perturbed.

    ~12 yr old kid across the aisle from me was glued to his phone for much of the flight (video games). At a rather quiet point in my movie, I realized that this child was playing his games sans earbuds, volume cranked high. I’m pretty easy going, so I just turned up my own volume. When my movie ended and I wanted to sleep, I tracked down the Chinese FA and asked her to please tell the kid to either mute his game, or use headphones. This sequence was repeated throughout the flight. I would either ring my call button, or walk to the galley to find a language qual’d FA. I respect other cultures, but when you’re flying TO America, it’s time to respect our customs. The kid’s mom couldn’t have cared less. Beijing indeed has a long way to go in their efforts to groom Mainland travelers for foreign travel.

    – I’d venture to say that half of the plane was out of their seats before we reached our final parking position at DFW. The FAs made repeated announcements in Mandarin asking people to remain seated, but it was clear they had lost the battle. No effort was made to run down the aisle and insist that non-compliant pax be seated.

    – On the way off the plane, I jokingly asked a FA if all of her PEK flights were so rowdy. She smiled and said, “They’re always an adventure, but today’s flight was especially difficult.”

  6. The lack of manners seems painful. I think this would ruin the average polite traveler’s experience to/from and in China. Also a good reminder that being in a more expensive class doesn’t mean the passengers have any more class.

  7. Ben, I think you are being too polite describing their behavior since it could be misconstrued as racist comment.
    So as a fellow Asian, I’ll just say it.
    Lack of travel experience doesn’t excuse this kind of disrespect and ill manner. Once you decide to travel abroad, it is your duty to learn standard manner period. And many citizens of underdeveloped countries do not travel in such aggressive way when they don’t have experience. THey tend to err in being overly cautious.
    You can’t just try to bring your local manner and try to impose in international ground or air. For example, not flushing? That’s just disgusting. Not only the manner is disgusting but the person is disgusting as well. And I’m surprised that they so nonchalantly climbed over people, because in many Asian traditional culture, crossing someone’s body part is a big disrespect. I don’t know. I’m getting tired of the Chinese tourists’ behavior in many tourist destinations around the world. I really think the Gov’t should just impose some sort of mandatory class on basic etiquette before departing the PRC.
    Anyways, Kudos for your patience!

  8. No surprise on the behaviour of Chinese passengers. Flying AC to/from YVR on any China leg gets you the same crowd. They treat the aircraft as their living room and have no concept of rules/regulations. The norms in China are way out of whack with western culture.

  9. It’s more of a cultural norm rather than being impolite. Think of a place with 6 times of the density on a general basis of US on average, and that doesn’t even count in that it is more condensed in cities of China to that of the spread-out rural/suburban life in US, while the people you see traveling on a trans-pacific international flight is usually from the cities. So that’s really been a norm. For a real life example, take a late-night shuttle to the parking lot on Niagara falls in the high season, you’ll see that US people are of little difference…
    Well this is not to say that this culture does not disturb me, though. I sometimes just can’t help feel disgusted with personal space being brutally intruded, even if I actually grew up in China and felt it was the norm (and probably doing that to others myself).

  10. Frankly, the flight sounds god-awful. I’m glad you weren’t as bothered by the behavior of your fellow passengers as I would have been. Five stars? Please. That Skytrax ranking systems is a joke. I live part of the year in Nova Scotia and smirk every time I see an Air Canada television ad bragging that they are “North America’s only four star airline”. Yeah, sure they are – flying 777-300’s configured with 458 seats!

  11. And, just about 7 years ago flying in China seemed to be a good privilege. I could just have dumped the lukewarm breakfast they handed to people on a domestic flight, whereby two youngsters right behind me were talking so loud about the privilege of having a meal on a flight for free, and the meal was so very good. That was because it was the first time they are flying and food on a Chinese train is even worse, and expensive.
    So it would be a very nice observation about China how the economy would boom while people’s behavior couldn’t really catch up with it. All sorts of contrast between great growth in personal wealth and the whole culture developed from the poor show up.

  12. Fascinating commentary on the differences between US and China culture as it pertains to air travel. I recently took a flight to India and had some of the same issues with personal space and toilets. I had to keep reminding myself that although it felt rude to me as an American, it was not necessarily out of place in Indian culture. Then, after a couple of weeks in India, it was interesting to see how things “came together” and behaviors that seemed out of place became understandable.

    It’s funny thinking about my trips to other places where the opposite occured — like when I was eating a french fry with my hands in Belfast and I looked up to see a look of disgust from the people around me. Sometimes what seems “normal” to one person seems completely “off” to another. I like knowing that we, as travelers, can discover and appreciate these differences without getting too offended.

  13. It looks like a lot of people are confusing two things here.

    The perception of personal space and just ill manner.

    Yes, in many Asian culture, as a collective society, the personal space is much smaller than the Western society or even nil. If you go to Finland, apparently people wait for the bus staying 3 feet away from each other. But in China, India, Korea, Japan such personal space is not expected much so people don’t complain even when they are almost being crushed in rush hour train (i.e. Japan). Or they don’t apologize when they shove someone else. That’s culture. I get it. I’m Asian. I know.

    But! Not flushing. Not cleaning up after your mess. Not respecting line. Not respecting the authority’s request in this case FA. Public urination and defecation (you’ll be surprised how often it happens in tourist spots with Chinese tourists), etc. These behaviors cannot be simply excused for being “cultural norm.” That’s just uncouth and uneducated period. These behaviors usually don’t show up in educated Chinese people. Note, I didn’t say middle class or rich. Money doesn’t equal education. In fact, it takes a while until education and civic mind actually reaches the economic level, which better be expedited in China considering its size and its outsized influence.

    Let’s not conflate these two distinctly different issue.

    Lastly, there’s one very big issue that people tend to forget. Not knowing and making mistake and then showing contrition and trying to change is a completely different behavior from the behaviors that are shown here. Former is humility while latter is sheer arrogance and egotism.

  14. You’re really polite in how you describe the cultural differences! I would have got angry at the people walking through my seat.
    I live in Hong Kong and experience the ‘delight’ of mainland tourists on a daily basis. The other day I returned to HKG on SQ with a sizeable mainland tour group and it was pure hell.
    I have to disagree with the above poster- Japanese sense of personal space is not the same as China. I have lived in both countries and barring crowded trains, no one in Japan gets as up close and personal as they do in China.

  15. Vhat champagnes did they have in business class darling
    Was it real french de bubbles or vas it copy?

  16. My flight on Hainan BC from CSX-LAX a few days ago was without incident except for the entertainment system was out. Service was excellent. Food very good. Traveling with my girl friend the seats were fine. Otherwise I prefer reverse herringbone.

    With only one or two exceptions, no one from EC came into BC. Of course you can be trampled boarding and deplaning in China. The only chatter I heard was two American men traveling separately and sitting across the aisle from each other, one of which went on and on about OMAAT. Ben can be happy to know that everyone who could understand English in the BC cabin now knows about his blog.

    As far as restroom etiquette, yea many Chinese are that way but only about 1.4 billion. I remember years ago flying Taca Airlines in and out of Central America and regularly opening a restroom door only to find an elderly person sitting on or before the thrown. I’ve always assumed they were illiterate and also maybe on their first flight.

    I will fly Hainan again.

  17. Despite my best efforts, I can’t resist commenting this time around. It’s amazing how much recent history has played a role in determining social norms in China. I’m Chinese, and I hope what I’ve written is at least marginally insightful. To be honest, I’m rather embarrassed by much of this behavior, but I hope explaining the reasons behind some of it will make it less irrationally alien.

    For the most part, I think it’s accurate to say that the mainland-Chinese mentality is self-centered, fueled by a fear of scarcity and the deification of wealth. Throughout the 20th century, mainland china was plagued with war, famine, intellectual purges, overwhelming population growth, and communist indoctrination. Within a couple generations, a culture established across millenia was transformed into what we see today, an outrageously competitive society chained to runaway capitalism. There’s no more fundamental theme surrounding the modern Chinese citizen than the acquisition of wealth and seeking every competitive advantage possible in life, with near universal disregard for anyone standing in your way.

    All of this culminates in some interesting customs while flying.

    —–

    Regarding queues:
    People don’t form orderly lines. The assumption is that the next person arriving is just going to cut, so everyone grabs the best positions for themselves whenever possible. “I really want off this plane, and if I stand up first, that means I’ll get off before the person standing up second.”

    Regarding cleanliness:
    Aside from being below the Western par for hygiene, usually there’s someone paid to clean up. For a long time, the government provided jobs, even if they weren’t an efficient allocation of human resources. Public trash cans used to be difficult to find in cities. Why? Because you can just as easily toss something on the ground and someone is paid to come along and pick it up. The same applies on planes.
    Furthermore, in many parts of China, old infrastructure means a lot of Chinese plumbing isn’t designed to handle solid waste well. Public toilets are frequently paired with a trash can in the stall, to hold used toilet paper and disposed waste, because you can’t flush anything other than liquids. This often leads to some unfamiliarity when poor rural residents are confronted with modern lavatories.

    Regarding the seat belt sign:
    Rules are “guidelines.” China’s own civil statutes are only loosely enforced. Much like the army of laborers picking up trash, there’s almost always an employee around who can be expected to speak up if you’re truly doing something you shouldn’t be doing. Besides, “Safety be damned. It’s barely turbulent, and I know that I can walk to the lavatory without falling.”

    Regarding offensive odors, coughing and spitting:
    A large part of this is due to smoking. China’s smokers number more than the entire population of the United States. It should go without saying that smoking leads to some major health problems and only contributes to the unpleasantness of the rot-toothed, phlegm-plagued gentleman stinking up seat 2J.

    Regarding loud talking:
    People mind their own business. Just as people don’t voluntarily help others out, people also don’t voluntarily insert themselves into others’ affairs. It’s reflected in China’s unwavering and unapologetic policy of not messing with other nations’ domestic affairs. It’s better to lay low and play it safe than make yourself a target of anything. Translated to cell phones, people are expected to talk louder if they find it difficult to carry on a conversation, and people are expected to ignore you when you’re talking loudly.

    Regarding overuse of the call button / grabbing the flight attendant:
    I commonly see poor reviews on service in “authentic” Chinese restaurants in the US. This is one interpretation. The other is, “Don’t bother me until I want service, and when I want service, I’ll make it known.” and “I’d better be more demanding than that guy in 4A, otherwise you’ll pay attention to him instead of me.”

    —–

    Throughout all this, there’ve been two common themes. “Me me me” and “It’s only against the rules if you get caught.” Again, I don’t want to make excuses for this type of behavior, but given how quickly China has industrialized and modernized, I find it understandable that the behavior of its people hasn’t quite caught up yet. I hope I’m able to provide a slightly different perspective than everyone else observing from the outside.

  18. Lucky
    You didn’t have to go across the pacific to experience this type of behavior. Next time tou are on a long layover at JFK or La Guardia catch a cab over to Flishing Queens

  19. I applaud those that have the admirable patience to deal with this hell. My Russian temper would have been loudly flaring!

    Thankfully–and strangely–during my three decades of intercontinental air travel I don’t recall ever having experienced such a deplorable lack of manners and decorum.

    Oops…just remembered a Pan Am flight I was on in the late 80’s. A couple of American soldiers had gotten blitzed at one of JFK’s bars and “really had to piss” as we were awaiting takeoff. They got out of their seats, bullied an FA when she told told them to sit back down and ended up getting into a fist fight with the First Officer when he came out of the cockpit to see what was going on.

    It was irritating as it resulted in the flight being severely delayed; nonetheless, it wasn’t nearly as intolerable as Lucky’s flight.

  20. As with many of the commenters here, I’m of Asian descent. Taiwanese-American, actually. I’ve dealt with many Chinese immigrants during my lifetime. When my grandfather got sick 20 years ago, our family hired a Chinese woman as his caretaker, literally fresh off the boat. I think she was hired at it in agency or something. Once in a while we would all go out to the mall or some other public place, and I was shocked at how clueless she was. No respect for lines, or even any sort of humility or decency.

    But I will say that some of the rudeness and lack of courtesy is a cultural thing. My parents are guilty of some of this, particularly my dad. He does what he wants and doesn’t worry too much about what society thinks. But he would not take a leak in a public place and leave toilet unflushed; that just stinks.

  21. Hallo, Ben
    Entshuldigen Sie bitte, aber es kam zu meiner Ankündigun, dass die beiden Airshow Fotos an den falschen Stellen sind. Das erste Foto , wo das Flugzeug von Los Angeles gibt neun Stunden beträgt, zeigt das Flugzeug fast auf die amerikanische Küste, und das andere Foto ist von Los Angeles neun Stunden. Das erste is das Zweite, und das Zweite ist das erste!

    Es tut mir leid: Ich lerne Deutsch und ich weiß, Sie sprache Deutsch , so dass Sie mein Schreiben zu verstehen. Gute Möglichkeit zu üben!

  22. I’m not surprised one bit by your experience. Been to mainland China twice and have no desire to go back, I’m done with it. There are tons of other places to go with ‘good’ cultural differences. Hong Kong on the other hand is one of my favorite cities on this planet, go figure….

  23. I actually rather like mainland China, for a couple primary reasons:

    1. I speak Mandarin Chinese. That helps A LOT. All of the difficulties in communication Lucky experienced would probably be non-issues for me.

    2. I feel superior there, and I can get away with things I wouldn’t dare do or say in the US. Everyone else is pushy and rude? I get to be the same way. It’s empowering.

  24. After reading this and the other nightmare stories, let’s just say I’m thabkful I didn’t experience any of it when flying from HKG to PVG and back again on KA/CX last year.

  25. Hong Kong and Shanghai are modern, cosmopolitan cities probably with more people used to flying. Changsha is a bit more nouveau riche. I’d liken it to the manners of leisure travelers on a Spirit flight versus Executive Platinums on an AA transcon.

  26. Lucky, you’re being too polite and I can understand why as the implications of being totally honest could get you in some trouble. I have had experiences with these mainland Chinese people and they are by far the most rude, obnoxious and arrogant bunch I have ever dealt with. It is always a challenge going through travel with them. I know that the Chinese government have taken steps to punish Chinese citizens who misbehave overseas (see vandalism in Egypt). Things are not gonna change soon and I pray that I never have to do another Chinese filled sector.

    But, loved this review though!

  27. @Darryl — Your 7:53pm comment on why you like mainland China cracked me up..good belly laugh. “Empowering.” When in Rome….. I just did the same thing the other day in Hanoi. Getting myself on a free shuttle bus to a new Japanese built shopping mall (it is across the river and an expensive taxi/Uber ride away). I had my 3 tween/teen kids with me and we joined the fray pushing & squeezing our way onto the bus. It was fun to go “local.” I’m 6’6″ and 260 pounds…..so I had a physical advantage. I didn’t hurt anyone mind you, but I wasn’t afraid to push back when those elbows were coming my way. If you try and be polite you will be steam rolled and left behind in some cultures.

  28. Being Chinese myself and having worked in India for several years (my gosh what a combination) I’d say you just need to be louder to have your needs heard in these countries – there’s just a lot more people and you have to turn it up to 11 to get what you want or need. Sometime you need to lay down the law yourself as those supposedly in charge are very much overwhelmed with more pressing matters, like you mentioned.

    I was on a local flight where people stood up and started grabbing their luggage from the overhead compartments the moment the plane slowed down on the taxiway. When falling luggage nearly hit my wife, I just had to get up and shout at people to sit down, and physically close a few luggage bins around us. Something I’d never consider doing in the US, but this wasn’t the US! Same with the immigration and security lines where I just need to use my elbows or roll-on luggage to block line cutters. Having said all that, I still enjoy travelling to China and India! All part of the fun.

  29. You might have had a worse crowd than usual because of Chinese New Year. I’m guessing there were a lot of tour groups with infrequent travelers on the flight. Were they mostly middle aged or elderly?

    It’s absolutely OK for you to complain next time. If they intrude on your space, you should let them know. This is acceptable socially.

  30. There’s a reason why many citizens of Taiwan, Hong Kong, and parts of the Chinese diaspora will let you know REAL quick that they are not mainland Chinese.

  31. If I were you I would have yelled as soon as they started intruding my personal space. However, do keep in mind that most people in China got rich in the recent 10-20 years.

  32. While I have never been to China and therefore cannot comment on it, I have traveled to India a fair bit and as TheInternationalLine commented, it can get pretty bad. The worst passenger behaviors I have experienced have been on flights to India whether it was AI, EK, EY, QR or KQ, in Y or J. I’ve had minor incidents like passengers sticking their camera/phone in front of my face and block my IFE screen to take pics out of the window to more serious things like drinking waaaay too much free booze (this I’ve see a lot on flights to India) to the point of getting demanding with the FA and even abusive. I had one particularly bad experience ex-Doha. After a technical delay of about 3 hours, the passengers basically mobbed the gate agent while trying to board the bus to the aircraft (old airport) even pushing an elderly man aside (he was easily 80, and in Indian culture, respect for the elderly is paramount). Another passenger and just made our way to the back of the crowd and waited staring in complete disbelief. I just wanted to yell “We’re in the gate so the plane isn’t leaving without us and we all have assigned seats!” It was utter mayhem. Even onboard the passenger sitting next to me and the one in front of him got into an argument about reclining seats. The passenger next to me put his feet on the seat and thus his knees were raised so when the passenger in front of him reclined he was pushing back against the others knees. The man next to me tried to force the seat forward repeatedly and that’s when the argument took off. Fast forward to arrival at the baggage carousel upon arrival, people crowded the belt and would swing their luggage around without looking who was nearby and I saw multiple people get hit as a result.

    This is all to say that as a person of Indian descent (my family hasn’t lived there in close to a century), I can understand why may FA’s think of Indians as difficult passengers and because of this, I figure that they probably lump me in with the rest of the Indians based on their experiences, so much so that I make sure I go out of my way to be nice to all the staff along my trip in way to sort of make up for it.

  33. China trips are a great opportunity to dothose things you always wanted to try taking it to a new low: Book a cheap business class flight, cut the check-in line (I’m bigger than them), fart loudly, cut in the security lines, trample over everyone on boarding while playing rap music on my boom box, throw rolls at people’s heads during meals, try to start a food fight, fart loudly, belch, pee in a cup, randomly crank-up my tunes during sleep time, walk around and take food off other people’s tables, take a dump in the lavatory sink, get-up and sit near the door with bags during landing.

  34. All excuses; only 1 true reason: The Chinese Cultural Revolution in the 1970s 文化大革命

    For example:
    the excuse of population density – China has always been been densely populated. Why didn’t they behave like that for thousands of years? Heck, why didn’t they behave like that before the 1970s? Heck, why didn’t the taiwanese and hong kongers who emigrated from mainland China before the 1970s behave like that? Wait, isn’t Hong Kong a very densely populated city?

    the excuse of first-time air-travel – Why didn’t first-time air-traveler from Taiwan, Hong Kong etc behaved like these mainlanders? What about first-time air-traveler from Japan? from Korea?

    and so on…

    All these behavior came about only after the 1970s Cultural Revolution, which in a nut shell, was like this: a person came out and in a public “trial”, fabricate completely untruthful rubbish about his own parents or siblings, resulting in his/her own parents / siblings being publichly humiliated and sent to hard labor or commit suicide. Tell me, such a person, who had shamelessly fabricated lies against his/her own parents for self-preservation, what kind of moral values can he/she has? What kind of moral values do you expect him/her to be able to pass to the next generation? These shamless survivors of the Cultural Revolution are now the badly-behaved grandpas and grandmas that you see, and their children behavior are the result of what they passed down. Such behavior does not exist pre-Cultural Revoluation, pre-1970s!

    That’s the truth. If you want to experience the “real” (i.e. traditional) Chinese culture that existed for thousands of years till just before the 1970s, go to Korea, Japan (where they still sit on the floor and eat from low tables, like the Chinese did 1000 years ago), or even Taiwan, Hong Kong, and I would say, even Singapore and Malaysia. If you want the new “Chinese” culture that bear no similarity to the pre-1970s culture, yeah, mainland China is the place to go.

    A person from mainland China, well-traveled and with objectivity, will quickly realize that he/she can find more Chinese culture (be it folk culture such as religious and wedding ceremonies and beliefs etc or “real” (traditional) culture such bowing/nodding to each other politely while talking) in Taiwan, Hong Kong, Japan, Korea etc than in the mainland.

    Bottomline: What we have in mainland China now is *NOT* the real, traditional Chinese culture. It is a pure communist/maoist resulting “culture” of shameless survivors of the Cultural Revolution.

  35. Now you know Why they are selling business class at this price. Changsha is not the most civilized town in china, and even with Beijing/Shanghai , people act like this too. There is no hope for China/Chinese. They know all the rule but never observe them or care to observe them, just because now they are a little well off and thought the world’s economy depend on their GDP. So they do whatever they want.

  36. I flew CI extensively back in the late 80s and early 90s, and didn’t encounter any such behavior. So it’s not even a Chinese culture thing. I’d agree with John. True Chinese culture is best preserved in Taiwan.

  37. I should add that during the Chinese Cultural Revolution 文化大革命, they actively burnt all books by Confucius, Mencius and other philosophers etc that teaches morality and values, and replace them with Mao’s red book. And where did all the traditional Chinese morality and behavior and moral standards came from? That’s right, precisely from the teachings of Confucius, Mencius and other philosophers. So Confucius teaches “we should all be respectful to our parents, we should all be polite and give way to…..” <— all rejected as superstition and outdated and backwards etc. Tell me, how would a survivor of such an era be respectful to his parents, be polite and give way to….?

    And so, those Chinese who did not go through said Chinese Cultural Revolution, i.e. those that fled to Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia (South East Asia) etc retained the politeness and respect for their parents etc, that no longer exist on mainland China.

    But nope, such an analysis does not occur to the average mainland Chinese on this website or anywhere, because a critical relook at the historical impact of the Cultural Revolution has never been done by the Chinese authorities / education department!

  38. With regard to the effect of The Chinese Cultural Revolution 文化大革命, one obvious easily-seen example would be the behavior of Chinese women. If you want to find a “traditional” (or “stereotypical”, depending on how you view it) Chinese woman, with all its goods and bads points, go Taiwan, or Korea, or Japan, or to a lesser extent, Hong Kong.

    If you want to find the “westernized” (or “modern”, again depending on how you view it) Chinese women, yeah, look no further than mainland China!

    And why? Because according to the communist / Maoist teaching propagated extensively at its heights during the 1950s to 1970s, women can hold up half the sky and are the equal of men. And so, all these good (or bad) teachings or “over-compensation” (again depending on how you view it), shape the modern Chinese women.

    I will not go into the details of each point, but just mention one: “Chastity” (in its loose sense i.e virgnity, pre-marital sex with multiple partners, prostitution, the stigma of multiple divorce and re-marriage etc) – nevermind whether you find the transformation for the better or the worse – you will find women outside mainland china more on the traditional / stereotypical “chaste” side than those in mainland China who has become much more “liberal” in their behavior so mcuh so that I would say, maybe even more westernized than true-blue westeners from non-city areas.

  39. @john You’re argument is entirely absurd. You’re drawing tenuous connections between things that aren’t even related.

    I think we agree with on the bad behavior part, but the cultural revolution stuff is too far fetched to be true. If you’re going to believe this, you can probably make a similar argument from a million other things that are unique to China. (e.g. China is this way because China has pandas.)

    There’s so many holes in your argument that I don’t know where to start. I’ll just critique the first paragraph here:

    Quote: “the excuse of population density – China has always been been densely populated. Why didn’t they behave like that for thousands of years? Heck, why didn’t they behave like that before the 1970s? Heck, why didn’t the taiwanese and hong kongers who emigrated from mainland China before the 1970s behave like that? Wait, isn’t Hong Kong a very densely populated city?

    the excuse of first-time air-travel – Why didn’t first-time air-traveler from Taiwan, Hong Kong etc behaved like these mainlanders? What about first-time air-traveler from Japan? from Korea?”

    Do a simple search for Chinese population before 1970. That’s right, it is HALF of the current population. I think you’re underestimating the impact of exponential growth. This defeats your first argument.

    Comparison to HK, TW, Korea, Japan: You’re not comparing apples to apples here. You’re comparing emigres in HK/TW who are relatively well off (and yes they are emigres for a large part), to people in inland Chinese cities who have never been overseas. (And are these many first time air travelers in Japan and Korea these days? Are you sure you’ve met them?) Note that it is MUCH more difficult for a mainland Chinese to travel overseas than any of the regions you mentioned. The visa requirements for countries like the US can be very onerous, and due to these restrictions the ONLY way many can actually travel overseas is as part of a tour group.

    The real answer here is much more straightforward. It’s simple: mainland Chinese are much poorer, and partly as a result, less traveled. Unlike your conspiracy theories, this is backed by facts (just look up the per capita GDPs of the places you mentioned, and you’ll see that China is an order of magnitude poorer). This also explains why flights from first tier cities like Beijing and Shanghai have less of these problems, because those cities are richer.

  40. Lucky / Ben talked about the cover-mouth type of smile from female flight attendants when he reviewed Cathay Pacific and Eva Air. I bet he rarely, if ever, see such type of smile when he was in mainland China, be it on their planes or on the ground. That’s what I mean… Chinese women on mainland are more “westernized” than those outside the mainland. Not that it is a better or worse thing, just that there is this difference and that this difference resulted from the Cultural Revolution 文化大革命. And that this difference is just a small example of the much bigger cultural (or the lackof) behavior we see in mainland China’s air passengers!

  41. @Jim
    Like you, I will just pick on one of your points, for brevity sake. You wrote: “mainland Chinese are much poorer, and partly as a result, less traveled.”

    This is an excuse, because at some point in time, every country in Asia has people who are “much poorer, and partly as a result, less traveled.” For example, those Chinese descendents of mainland Chinese farmers / laborers who emigrated to South East Asia (Singapore, Malaysia etc) traveled for the first time in the 1970s and 80s. Did they behave like this? No! Likewise, the average Chinese in Hong Kong, Taiwan. At some point in the last century, they traveled on an airplane for the first time too. Did they behave like that? No! And none of them were from well-off background.

    A good point is the hoarding of airplane stuffs e.g. a fork, or a spoon with airplane logo. Practically every country’s first-time traveler try to take (i.e. steal!) one as souvenir. If you know of any veteran retired flight attendant, go ask them. The Singaporeans did it in the 1970s, as did the Malaysias, and likewise the Taiwanese etc. But when found out, they shamefully apologize and go red in the face. (Don’t take my word for it. Go ask those retired flight attendants).

    Well, what about mainland Chinese? Go google for it. One incident in recent years: when exposed by Cathay Pacific’s flight attendant for stuffing the entire culterly set (as opposed to merely taking one fork or spoon) into their hand-carry, the mainland Chinese passengers refuse to give up those utensils and chose to argue back that they have a right to take the entire plate etc with them!

    This, in Chinese terminology, is called “know shame”. And such lack of shame, came directly from the Chinese Cultural Revolution 文化大革命, where survivors survived precisely because they were able to shamelessly accuse their own parents and siblings of “crimes” that the latter have never committed, resulting in the latters’ sentencing to hard labor, and the fomers’ self preservation and survival! And oh, this importance of “know shame” is the teaching of great philosophers like Confucius, Mencius etc whose teachings are banished as superstitious and oudated by said cultural revolution. So what do you expect? One entire cohort of survivals who do not have, (Should I also add that the traditional chinese character for “shame” involved the “heart” on the right side, but was replaced by an irrelevant similiar-sounding radical in the simplified version invented by the mainlanders?)

    But yeah, you don’t get it, because this chapter in history has never been actively re-examined in mainland China.

  42. @john This is the last time I’m going to reply, because I don’t have the time for a never ending argument. But your basic premise is wrong. Again you’re not comparing apples to apples.

    You’re saying the other locations weren’t like this when they were poor, but the world was a very different place when they were poor. The airline industry was entirely different. Planes had shorter range, seeated less people. Flights as a whole were much more exclusive to the richer segments of society, for example.

    In addition, China has a population (not just density) that those other places cannot compare. You’re talking about Changsha here. What’s a comparable location in Taiwan? I dont know, Hualien? There will never be a flight to LAX from Hualien. Instead, what you see are flights out of Taipei. In which case, a more accurate comparison would be flights between PVG and LAX. Chinese tourists have a bad rep these days because there’s throngs of them everywhere, and the count is surely going to increase. This never happened with other countries because they simply don’t have this many people.

    And finally, people tend to have short memories, so what you remember now (if they really are your memories…) may be very different from what really happened decades ago.

    And btw, I’m very well versed in Chinese history, especially 20th century history. The fact that you’re picking this one event (Cultural Revolution) as representative out of the myriad of events in recent Chinese history tends to indicate to me that you didn’t learn much more than the standard textbook treatment of modern Chinese history.

  43. I just want to know what Loz/K thinks of the comments. I’d love to see him go on a rant about all you racist/imperialist gun waving racist red-necks making your comments. Or I guess an alarm only goes on his smart phone when the subject is about India?

  44. Perhaps strangely, the biggest takeaway I have from this story is that “…Immigration doesn’t open until 9am”. That says it all about US international airports. I’ve never flown into the USA and spent less than an hour in an immigration queue (LAX, JFK, Newark – all the same no matter what time I’ve arrived). My last visit in December had me in a massive queue at Newark for 90 minutes. What’s with the US immigration system only ever having 5 gates out of 20 open at any given time? It would probably be less frustrating if there were only 5 gates available because at least then it would look like someone cared.

    And the worst part is the attitude of the “gentlemen” in red coats handling queries. There were a number of people who had connecting flights who were told there was no express lane and they would “just have to wait”. The irony of this is the sign at the front of each booth that talks about how hard the immigration officials will work to provide friendly, expedient service – really?

  45. Skytrax is bizarre. Qantas and Air New Zealand only have four stars and I would be far more likely to want to fly them then Hainan (and having been on their business class versus this review it is definitely better!)

  46. Just a note on the tiny shrimp – they may be river shrimp, which is a Chinese speciality and quite the treat if prepared well!

  47. I found this curious.

    “Being off the plane over 90 minute early was awesome, though! I phoned up the limo service Hainan Airlines uses to inform them I had arrived so early, and they sent a driver within 10 minutes.”

    The car service doesn’t monitor flight arrivals and respond accordingly… you had to ring them, i.e. they were caught by surprise?

    That seems like a pretty big fail for the car service IMHO.

  48. Interesting read – I have audited this airline many times as well as their subsidiary companies like HX and some of their domestic carriers. I always think the catering though on HU is exceptionally good despite, like you it seems, I also experienced many food poisoning instances but more so in the 5 star hotels in China.
    Clearly the issues you experienced are generally the demographic of the passengers in your cabin which is consistent with CZ as well as CA – in my experiences from Y to F class on Chinese carriers, there is little difference with passengers having any discipline of class and respect of others- it a cultural thing that I have learnt over the years that they are actually not being deliberately obnoxious. Chinese in general are warm hearted people to westerners but they simply don’t yet have the attentiveness to understand when they are being rude and disrespectful. Every flight I have seen the pax jump up the minute the plane comes off the runway as well as the boarding being so chaotic- even when advising airlines of other countries the Chinese pax are the hardest for staff to maintain order in those procedures.

    HU though in comparison to other Chinese carriers, are by far a leagues ahead in terms of catering/product in the C class cabin. I am very surprised you did not receive the Pyjamas as they have quite a comfortable product and always had them on the US and European routes. I always find the staff go out of the way and the dexterity and skill of the body language that they are trained on is an area I find very noticeably stronger than majority of the other 60 airlines I have travelled on. However generally the ground product is weak but onboard I find them to be a very strong airline- I feel for them because they are the sole non government airline so they have many restrictions on routes compared to their competitors in China but they do well and better overall than the next closest airline CZ. I have had better experiences in business class in terms of the staff on HU than on SQ & EY, being far more friendly and proactive. Its shame you experienced the bad washrooms cleanliness issues, clearly staff should of been on top of this. In regard to the delay I have experienced huge delays due to the ongoing ATC issues that China suffers mainly as a result of the abundant military flights that take precedence over civil flights above. Flying out of Pudong for me, any airline European, American or Asian is always delayed due to traffic. I enjoyed reading your interesting perspective, since I have done much work with HU over the years.

  49. Thank you for your review. I’ll be taking the same flight in August and I’m even more excited about it after reading your blog.

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