10 things to know about air travel in China

Jonathon Kao, managing director of Greater China operations, BCD Travel

China’s business travel market is the fastest growing in the world, according to research from the Global Business Travel Association. Managing corporate travel there is just different from most markets. Unique cultural and operational challenges affect airline routes, service configurations, payment solutions and more. BCD Travel’s Jonathon Kao, managing director of Greater China operations, shares 10 air insights for travel managers supporting travelers in the region.

  1. TravelSky eTerm is the main global distribution system (GDS) for China. TravelSky reports it processed 524.2 million bookings on domestic and overseas commercial airlines in 2016, an increase of 11.4% over 2015. Abacus (Sabre), Amadeus and Travelport are primarily used for hotel and car bookings.
  2. Another GDS difference: eTerm does not hold traveler profile information. Travel management companies must use back-office systems to capture corporate travel data requirements, e.g., cost center codes and employee ID numbers.
  3. China’s three largest airlines are Air China (CA), China Eastern (MU) and China Southern (CZ). Their main hubs are Beijing (north), Shanghai (east) and Guangzhou (south), respectively.
  4. China’s top five busiest airports (ordered by total passenger traffic in 2015) are:
    • Beijing Capital International Airport
    • Shanghai Pudong International Airport
    • Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport
    • Chengdu Shuangliu International Airport
    • Shenzhen Bao’an International Airport
  5. The maximum fare price for domestic routes is controlled jointly by the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) and the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC).
  6. Domestic airline tickets are valid for one year from the day of issuance. Once expired, an airline ticket may not be rebooked or refunded.
  7. Beijing to Shanghai is China’s most popular domestic route, with over 50 flights per day departing roughly every 20 minutes. This route links the country’s political center to its financial center.
  8. Check-in closing times for domestic flights vary by airport but are usually 30-45 minutes before departure.
  9. China’s domestic airlines seldom offer route deals; they may provide a uniform percentage discount based on full published fares on all routes.
  10. Low-cost airlines are not prevalent in China, representing only 7% of total flight capacity.

Want to know more? Discover why applying U.S. air market knowledge to Chinese market data won’t maximize savings.