The difference between our China-Tokyo flight and our Tokyo-Chicago one was obvious immediately when we boarded in Tokyo. This plane (an American Airlines mega-jet) was obviously a little long in the tooth, the seats not nearly as modern and comfortable.
The flight attendants, while friendly enough, were far less attentive than the Japan Air Lines women had been. Ma Lei asked why they were so old and unattractive, whereas Asian-based airlines all have young, beautiful flight attendance. "Probably," she said, "the Americans don't pay enough to get pretty girls to apply."
My Chinese isn't really good enough to explain that it's illegal to discriminate against the fat and ugly in an American company, but I think she understood what I was trying to say. It took a couple of tries, though, because that concept is so foreign to a Chinese mind. In this particular instance, I'm with China!
Then the babies started crying, then shouting, then howling, as babies inevitably do on miserably long flights. Ma Lei was first annoyed that someone would bring a small baby onto a plane — Chinese people seldom do that — then wondered why those parents don't smack them for crying — the Chinese often do that. At one point there were three babies wailing a syncopated reggae beat with voices like fighting cats.
There was very little sleep had by poor Ma Lei. She's never before been on an international flight, and was not prepared for the rigors of 11+ hours in one plane. She perked up as soon as we landed, but she's due for a good long sleep now!