Traveling to China: Part 2—Getting Around China

Second only to Europe, China is a highly sought after destination for business aviation operators. Which means understanding the subtleties of traveling there is important to smooth operations. In Part 1 of our series, we provided some key points to consider when traveling into China. If you haven’t read that post, you might consider doing so before reading on. These tips on moving around once you’re inside China build on many of the same ideas expressed in the first post.

  1. Budget Wisely—Don’t be surprised if you are paying higher than usual fees per mile flown, Compensation Fees (around $3,000 per permit with domestic sector) to help make-up for lost airline revenue, and VIP handling fees (optional, but worth it). These are just a few of the costs that will be on top of the normal operating expenses required for your trip to China.
  2. Unpublished Airports—While the idea of unpublished airports is not unique to China, their role in getting passengers close to destinations inside China’s 3.7 million square miles is noteworthy. As with other countries, there are additional steps to take if you plan to land at an unpublished airport. First, you need a sponsor letter (in Chinese) from the organization that will be visited during the trip. That will need to be approved seven working days in advance. Second, expect to pick up a Chinese navigator to help you find your way into your field of choice.
  3. Plan For Up To Five Locations—You are allowed to visit up to five locations upon entering China before you must leave. Usually, this is more than plenty for a single trip. If your itinerary includes more than five stops, simply plan to exit China (don’t go to Taiwan) and reenter the country again on a separate permit. You’ll have “reset” for another five stops.
  4. Pack Extra Patience—China’s larger airports are prepared to welcome you and your passengers and will expedite things like customs, tech stops, etc. Smaller interior airports may not be as adept and their pace will be slower. China’s airspace routing is more sparse than the rest of the world’s and your trip may not be as direct as you like. Flying odd hours? Your airport of choice may not even be open when you need it to be. Don’t take anything for granted. Allow extra time and set passenger expectations.
  5. Day Trips Can Be Complicated—At some of China’s more high-activity airports, you may be limited to one takeoff OR one landing during the peak 13-hour period between 09:00 and 22:00. Passengers wanting a day trip to these airports need to land before peak hours if they want to depart during them. Or, wait until peak hours end if they need to land during (see the “Patience” point above). If you find yourself playing the peak time game, be sure to keep an eye on crew duty times. More than one pilot has been stranded at an airport because duty and peak times didn’t reconcile.
  6. Cabotage—It’s allowed in China, and there are no fees attached with cabotage specifically. However, you’ll be required to pay a Compensation Fee of around $3,000 per permit for a domestic sector flight to compensate for lost revenue to the airlines.
  7. Plan for FL410 or Lower—Business and general aviation aircraft aren’t allowed above 41,000 feet. You can save yourself some time—and a valuable permit revision—by planning for FL410 or lower. While it won’t save operating costs, it might save you some angst and help set early expectations for passengers.
  8. Keep Ground Traffic in Mind—China’s urban centers are as jam-packed as any in the world. Traffic will be an issue for your passengers. Combine that with China’s strict adherence to their approved permit specifications, and you have more than enough reason to pad the timing on your flight plan. Even if everything runs perfectly, waiting an extra hour or two at an FBO is better than an extra day or two while new permit applications are being approved.

The key to successfully circumnavigating China is education and, ultimately, experience. And that goes for both crew and passengers. Passengers who like to operate on their own schedules and change destinations on a whim will need some extra education when it comes to operating in China. And, that begins with a flight operation that understands China’s idiosyncrasies.

If you’re a first-timer heading to China, you don’t travel there often enough to keep up with the ever-changing rules, or you don’t have the time/resources to manage all the details of travel into and around China, an international trip planning partner like Jeppesen is a wise investment. We’re helping operators just like you plan trips to China every day. Learn more about how we can help with your next trip to China, or anywhere on the planet, by contacting your trusted Customer Service representative directly, emailing or calling (800) 353-2108.

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