Frequent Flyers of China, Unite!

China's got a lot of laws. Enforcing them is another story. Last week while waiting for my flight at Shanghai's Hongqiao airport, I witnessed an angry mob of passengers threaten and begin to attack gate agents after they found out they would not be compensated for their delayed flight. You can watch the video I shot of the mob after the jump.

Right before I started rolling, a petite Chinese woman in heels had her hands around the neck of a male gate agent twice her size, screaming at him. The police officer had to pry her off.

What's this all about? Starting last month, the China Air Transport Association required Chinese airlines to compensate passengers 200 RMB each if their flights are delayed for more than four hours because the carriers are at fault. These passengers knew this.

But the airline wasn't having it. It blamed the weather. It was a little foggy that day, scattered showers. Typical Shanghai weather. Nothing out of the ordinary. Thus, the angry mob.

Consumer associations in China have reported a 141 percent increase in the number of airline passenger complaints in the third quarter of 2010. Flight delays were the major contributor. With more people flying the 'friendly' skies above China, it's a good bet we'll see more of these incidents in airports around China.

If it happens enough, maybe more people will start looking into taking China's new network of bullet trains instead. I sure have.

I've been taking these 220 mph trains on trips to Wuxi and Hangzhou. The bullet train from Shanghai to Hangzhou has reduced a four-hour trip into a 38-minute one. The only problem was when we arrived to Hangzhou's dilapidated train station, we waited an hour for a taxi. It was an orderly line, though. No angry mob.

About the author

Rob Schmitz is Marketplace’s China correspondent in Shanghai.

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