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I wish Hainan Airlines were a member of Star Alliance. If they were, I would fly them all the time. Their ambition is admirable, and as carriers go, there are far, far worse.

It's not enough that they've announced new routes to Montreal, Tel Aviv, and Havana (via Montreal). Now Hainan is applying to fly to San Jose.

This is a really interesting and potentially exciting move. For those readers not familiar with the San Francisco Bay Area, it is served by two major airports: San Francisco International (SFO), which is an embarrassment to the city it serves, and San Jose International, about 70km to the southeast, at the southern end of Silicon Valley. San Jose is definitely the smaller of the two, in terms of both size and number of flights. However, that is its advantage: frequent passengers on the All Nippon Airways (ANA) Beijing-Tokyo-San Jose report that the Tokyo-San Jose leg is aboard a Boeing 787 Dreamliner (now with fewer battery fire problems). Once on the ground, the same frequent travelers said they've made it out of baggage claim and customs and to hotels in San Jose and nearby Cupertino and Mountain View in as little as 20 minutes.

Especially for Chinese travelers, this could be huge: non-US citizens face queues of an hour or more to clear immigration at SFO. Flying into San Jose would be a disadvantage for people visiting in San Francisco, but for business travelers heading anywhere in the Valley could save hours on the ground. Stay tuned, that route is pending approval. Frankly, it's amazing it hasn't happened earlier, given the links between Silicon Valley investors and Beijing technology start-ups. Then again they're probably flying private.

Popping the emergency exit door is now officially a trend on Chinese airlines, considering how often it has happened recently. Just this week a deranged passenger on a Changsha to Hohhot flight attempted to do it in flight, and was luckily restrained by crew and others on board. Here's my question: where is the cabin staff when this is going on? An exit door isn't easy to open, and the plane is on the ground. Why aren't flight attendants preventing this? I'm not even sure I want to hear the answer.

Speaking of Hainan and deranged passengers, a man flying on Hainan Airlines from Chicago to Beijing was arrested for smoking in the restroom three times. Take the train.

Photo: San Jose CA


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