Airline seats are narrower, less leg room, and stuffier than those in the west.  Be prepared, there is not much choice here.

Domestic air travel on major airlines is SAFE in China – due to sudden growth of the industry, the major airlines tend to use newer planes, and opt for A300’s or B747’s largely on most routes.  Airlines are reasonably good – but be warned on smaller city routes, delays and cancellations are the norm.

Remember your flight number, and listen careful to Chinese announcements referencing the number (in Chinese in smaller airports).

The “air corridor” between Shanghai and Beijing is heavily restricted with only 2 flight paths, that unfortunately intersect over a military training area near Qingdao – as a result, flights between the 2 cities are quite often delayed by 30 minutes to a couple of hours while they await clearance.

Enjoy the pre-flight announcements regarding “please do not throw coins into the airplane engines for good luck” and “please do not open the emergency exit doors on ground or during flight for fresh air” (sic).

Planes will be held in China for Government officials.  So if flying around National Day (October) or National Peoples Congress time (Jan-Feb each year), expect more delays than normal – particularly with flights to or from Beijing.

Air China 1st Class “Window” Seat. haha

Pack light and warm (remember domestic airline luggage limits of total of 20kg), Many times you’ll be forced to carry your luggage up & down stairs — for instance in subway stations and train stations.  If possible, consider ultra-light 4 way roller suitcase.

Airport Information

Check in at airports for domestic travel is a minimum of 1 hour prior to departure, but given the uncertainty of flight times and language barriers, 2 hours prior is better usually.  Once you are checked in, you need to process through provincial immigration (Public Security) where the police will scan your passport invalidating your previous hotel’s temporary registration permit, and giving you clearance to travel to the next city.

Official airport sites in English:

Beijing Beijing Capital International Airport
Shanghai Pudong International Airport
Guangzhou  Baiyun International Airport
Xi’an Xianyang International Airport

Note that most airport terminals in China are HUGE, and walking to your gate may be a 1km trek.  Be prepared, and look for travelators (if working), or if long distance walking is difficult, pre-book a wheelchair (a wheelchair will also expedite getting through PSB security points, by avoiding long line-ups.)

Also note that the lower star airlines, the further the walk (major airlines pay more for gate fees nearer security and the centre of terminals).  Also, some airlines opt for bus gates, which drive crowded busses to the steps of the plane.

Airport Terminal / Airlines Served

Pudong Intl. Airport (PVG)
上海浦东国际机场

PVG Domestic Departures
上海浦东国际机场国内出发站
PVG International Departures

上海浦东国际机场国际出发站

Beijing Capital Airport (PEK)
北京首都国际机场

PEK Domestic Departures
北京国际机场国内出发站
PEK International Departures
北京国际机场国际出发站

PVG TERMINAL 1

Air France
Air Koryo
China Airlines
China Eastern Airlines
Hainan Airlines
Japan Airlines
Juneyao Airlines
KLM
Korean Air
Royal Brunei Airlines
Sichuan Airlines
Spring Airlines
SriLankan Airlines
Tianjin Airlines
Zest Airways


Hongqiao Airport (SHA)
虹桥机场. 

SHA Terminal 1

Spring Airlines 9C
ANA NH
Japan Airlines JL
Asiana Airlines OZ
Korean Air KE
China Eastern Airlines (Int’l flights) MU
Shanghai Airlines (Int’l flights) FM

SHA Terminal 2

China Eastern Airline MU
Shanghai Airline FM
Air China CA
China Southern Airline CZ
Xiamen Airline MF
Shenzhen Airline ZH
Shangdong Airline SC
Hainan Airline HU
Tianjin Airline GS
Sichuan Airline 3U
Lucky Airline HO

PVG TERMINAL 2

Aeroflot
Aeroméxico
Aerosvit
Air Canada
Air China
Air India
Air Macau
Air Mauritius
Air New Zealand
AirAsia X
Airphil Express
All Nippon Airways
American Airlines
Asiana Airlines
British Airways
Cathay Pacific
Cebu Pacific
Chengdu Airlines
China Southern Airlines
Chongqing Airlines
Delta Air Lines
Dragonair
Emirates
Etihad Airways
EVA Air
Finnair
Garuda Indonesia
Hong Kong Airlines
Jin Air
Lucky Air
Lufthansa
Mahan Air
Malaysia Airlines
Mega Maldives
Orient Thai Airlines
Philippine Airlines
Qantas
Qatar Airways
Scandinavian Airlines
Shandong Airlines
Shanghai Airlines
Shenzhen Airlines
Singapore Airlines
Swiss International Air Lines
Thai Airways International
TonleSap Airlines
Transasia Airways
Turkish Airlines
United Airlines
Vietnam Airlines
Virgin Atlantic Airways

PEK TERMINAL 1

Beijing Capital Airlines
Grand China Air
Hainan Airlines
Lucky Air
Spring Airlines
Tianjin Airlines

PEK TERMINAL 2

Aeroflot
Vladivostok Air
Aerosvit Airlines
Air Algérie
Air Astana
Air France
Air Koryo
AirAsia X
Alitalia
Cebu Pacific
China Eastern Airlines
China Southern Airlines
Chongqing Airlines
Delta Air Lines
Ethiopian Airlines
Garuda Indonesia
Hainan Airlines
Hong Kong Airlines
Hong Kong Express Airways
Iran Air
Jetstar Airways
KLM
Korean Air
Malaysia Airlines
Mega Maldives
NordStar Airlines
Pakistan Int’l Airlines
Philippine Airlines
Shanghai Airlines
SriLankan Airlines
TAAG Angola Airlines
Tonlesap Airlines
Turkmenistan Airlines
Uzbekistan Airways
Vietnam Airlines
Xiamen Airlines

PEK TERMINAL 3C

Air China
Dalian Airlines
Juneyao Airlines
Shandong Airlines
Shenzhen Airlines
Sichuan Airlines

PEK TERMINAL 3E

Air Canada
Air China
Air Macau
All Nippon Airways
Air Nippon
American Airlines
Asiana Airlines
Austrian Airlines
Tyrolean Airways
British Airways
Cathay Pacific
China Airlines
Dragonair
EgyptAir
El Al
Emirates
Etihad Airways
EVA Air
Finnair
Japan Airlines
LOT Polish Airlines
Lufthansa
MIAT Mongolian Airlines
Qatar Airways
S7 Airlines
Globus
Scandinavian Airlines
Singapore Airlines
South African Airways
Swiss International Air Lines
Thai Airways International
Transaero Airlines
Turkish Airlines
United Airlines
Ural Airline

Booking Travel

See my notes on WHEN the best time to book airlines tickets to get the best price.   After you have booked, particularly for long-haul flights, consider your seat selection.

When booking, for domestic travel within China, I suggest using cTrip or eLong, and if choice, I recommend my personal ranking based on quality/experience based on first/business class:

HU – Hainan Airlines
海南航空
CZ – China Southern
中国南方航空
CA – Air China
中国国际航空
HO – Juneyao Airlines
吉祥航空