Cultural & Business Guide

Wings to China


The Chinese territory encompasses approximately 9,600,000 km2. Therefore, travelling by plane is the most convenient way to move around this vast area. In 2014, the total amount of passengers flow in China was 831.5 million, and according to The Twelfth Five-Year Plan Guideline (2010 – 2035), China is supposed to accomplish the construction of 122 airports, while the construction of a new airport in Beijing has been approved and will have been completed by 2018.

Flight Carriers

Most of the EU Countries have direct flights to the most important and biggest Chinese cities. The biggest hubs are concentrated in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Chongqing, but many second tier cities are developing international connections. Considering that China is one of the most interesting markets for tourism and business, European flight companies are opening new routes to cover the area for the market requests.

Nearly all the companies provide the same services, and economy class is normally crowded and has pretty narrow seats. Last but not least, when choosing to fly with Chinese domestic airline companies bear in mind that most of the passengers will be Chinese. That can be quite interesting when it comes to a true experience of Chinese habits and manners, but on long distance routes you may feel uncomfortable in such a small space over a long period of time because of the noises or smells (e.g. dried fish) or simply because you won’t find room in the overhead lockers because generally speaking, Chinese tend to bring along maximally allowable luggage, including huge items such as rice cookers, blankets, etc. In this case, board quickly to secure your own overhead locker and therefore avoid this kind of situation.

Links to the homepages of the most important Chinese airports (English version):

You may find it useful that 14 European countries have now direct flights to China:

  • Austria has direct flights to Beijing.
  • Belgium has direct flights to Beijing.
  • Great Britain has direct flights to Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Chengdu, and Guangzhou.
  • Denmark has direct flights to Beijing and Shanghai.
  • Finland has direct flights to Shanghai, Chongqing, Hong Kong, Guangzhou, and Xian (seasonal).
  • France has direct flights to Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Guangzhou, Hangzhou, Kunming, and Wuhan.
  • Germany has direct flights to Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Chengdu, Guangzhou, Nanjing, and Qingdao/Shenyang,
  • Greece has direct flights to Beijing.
  • Hungary has direct flights to Beijing.
  • Italy has direct flights to Beijing, Shanghai, Chongqing, Hong Kong, and Wenzhou.
  • Netherlands has direct flights to Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Chengdu, Guangzhou, Hangzhou, and Xiamen.
  • Poland has direct flights to Beijing.
  • Spain has direct flights to Beijing.
  • Sweden has direct flights to Beijing and Hong Kong.

Low Cost Carriers (LCC)

What if you need to travel to small cities? The biggest Chinese domestic airline companies reach minor airports. However, in China, just as in the EU the market of LCC (Low cost carriers) is gaining customer trust and therefore developing quickly, providing a wider array of services, There are 43 domestic airlines which belong to the most known airline companies can be considered “low Cost Carriers”. These smaller companies normally cover routes which are less frequent and, according to CNBC, Spring Airlines (founded in 2004) is the undisputed leader among China’s low cost carriers, followed by West Air and China Limited Airlines, 9 Air, China Express, and Air Asia.

For more details, we suggest you checkout this website:


Chinese airports were partially renovated for Beijing 2008 Olympics and Shanghai Expo 2010. All basic information in the biggest Chinese airports are both in Chinese and English and people are used to speak and understand English. So don’t panic. English is a common language used at the airport, so information about departures, arrivals and transfers will not only be found in Chinese but also in English.

Once you arrive, you will need to pass the passport control and be ready to show you passport and visa. Remember: you won’t be even allowed to board the plane if you do not have a valid visa, so please apply for it at the Embassy or Consulate within your place of residence. (

If you are a frequent flyer to China, it's a good idea to apply for a multiple entry visa and check the expiry date of your visa before buying the plane ticket.

Once you get over passport control, you will need to pick up your luggage at the luggage claim which is easily recognizable.

Definitely, you can also easily recognize the money exchange counter: if you intend to take a taxi or bus to reach the city centre, it would be better to have Chinese currency with you.

Does and Don’ts

According to the Inspection and Quarantine guidelines in China, it is forbidden to import fresh fruits and vegetables and - of course –weapon/bombs, humans/animal blood.

If there are no major infectious diseases at home and abroad, incoming passengers do not need to fill in the health declaration form.

Obviously, these are just few pieces of information about restrictions. For further information, you may check out the websites of the most important Chinese airports, also in English:

Tickets and Frequent Flyers

The easiest way to buy a ticket to China is to contact a travel agency, especially if you need to organize a journey which needs connections. Actually, any kind of website allows you to purchase air ticket at any price, but be sure to book it well in advance during national holidays.

Fares may vary according to the provider (tourist agency or website), but, to give an example, a fare from Beijing to Chengdu in low season, economy class would cost more or less 180€.

Do not forget, if you are a frequent flyer in China, to ask for your “fidelity card”: all Chinese companies allow yo to collect miles. Some of them belong to mileage programs that well-known European airline companies are part of, but even less known companies in Europe do have their own opportunities such as “Sky Pearl” (which refers to the more known “Skyteam program”) or “Dynasty Flyer”.

Business trip: some advice

When planning a trip to China, you will probably have many questions. We suggest some answers to the most common FAQs:

Transit visa

If you have planned a short visit in China, you may apply for a 72-Hour Visa Free Transit policy which is valid in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Chengdu, Chongqing, Shenyang, Dalian, Xian, Guilin, Kunming, Wuhan, Xiamen, and Hangzhou (

Visitors from countries which are part of the the Schengen agreement are eligible to apply for it.

A confirmed ticket and valid visa to a third country are needed for entry and passengers are required to leave from the same airport that they arrived at, except for Shanghai.

In order to apply correctly, you will need your valid passport and a visa for a third Country in addition to a duly filled in “Arrival/Departure Card” (with all relevant personal information and visa details). Generally speaking, inside each transit airport, there is a special counter or lane for 72-hour free transit, so passengers can go there directly by following the signs. Once you have the passport checked and stamped, remember to register at the local police station.

Remember that you are not allowed to leave the transit city during your short stay.


At the Chinese border control/ customs, the maximum amount of cash allowed to carry without declaration is 5.000 USD per person (or per family if travelling together).

ATA Carnet

ATA Carnet is an international customs and temporary export-import document, which is used to clear customs without paying duty and import taxes on merchandise that will be re-exported and not sold. As long as the goods are re exported within due time, no taxes are due, but if you fail to re export the goods (or even just a part of them), than you have to remit taxes or duty.

Carnets apply to three broad categories of merchandise: commercial samples, professional equipment and goods for use, as well as for exhibitions and fairs. The ATA Carnet is currently in force in 74 countries but in China it is only limited to fairs and exhibitions.


Jason Luo, “Getting Around China - A Guide to Taking the Bus, Taxi, Train, Plane, Private Car, and Driving in China”; Kindle Edition, 2013.

External links

Project 2014-1-PL01-KA200-003591