When departing China, it’s a process. If patient, it’s simple…
- Arrive at airport, and double check/enter the correct doors of the correct terminal building — often there will be an advance bomb detection security screening of your luggage at the terminal doors.
- Once inside the terminal, find the appropriate checkin counter area (displayed on monitors just inside the terminal building)
- At checkin counter area, look for your class of service (economy or business/first) — if gold level or higher in the airline frequent flyer program, you can typically use the business/first counters. The Business/First often have a separator rope/stantion line with a little red carpet.
- Get in line — sometimes, this can often be for an hour.
- At checkin present your passport and itinerary or eTicket and use simple words to describe where you are going, what seat your would prefer, and check your frequent flyer points are in the computer… for example:
” Ni Hao, I fly to Toronto today. Here is my passport.
I have one bag to check. I would prefer a window seat,
and please check my Air Canada frequent flyer number is in the system “
- Then put your suitcase on the scale/belt…
- Once they check you in, and BEFORE you receive your boarding pass/passport, your suitcase will be automatically scanned for contraband items (any batteries, lots of fake items, weapons, etc..) — if the red light goes off during the scan, you will be told to go to the baggage room, typically at the end of the counter area where they will open you suitcase to inspect. Once that is done to customs and security satisfaction, you will be told to return to the check counter you were just at to obtain your boarding pass and passport.
- DOUBLE CHECK your boarding pass to ensure your frequent flyer information is printed on it, otherwise, have the check in person re-issue.
- With your passport and boarding pass now walk (often long distance) to the international departures area. Note Hong Kong & Taiwan departures are sometimes different international departure area than the rest of the world.
- At the entrance to the international departures area, your passport and boarding pass will again be checked by security.
- At this point, ensure you have no water, soft drinks, liquids over 100ml or cigarette lighters on you or in your carry on bag.
- Ensure you have completed a Departure Card. If not, they are available at the desks surrounding each pillar in the departure waiting area.
- Now you will get in line for EXIT Public Security processing — this is where the Police will take your completed Departure Card and check that your residence permits and stay in China was valid to your visa, and that you have no Chinese company suing you, and no government action against you. If you did not register with the PSB at your hotel or private accommodation, or if you overstayed your visa, or if a Chinese company is suing you (unpaid bills etc), expect you will not catch your flight, you will pay a fine for each day, and in worst case, held in detention until the matter can be resolved. If you get approval to leave China, sometimes, you may be asked to again put your fingerprints on a scanner, and have your photo taken. IF they approve your exit from China, they will stamp your passport with a departure stamp adjacent to your arrival stamp, and you continue on.
- Now go through security screening to ensure you have nothing illegal or against Chinese Civil Aviation regulations on you or your carry on bag (usually lighters, over-sized liquids, over-capacity battery chargers and weapons) — you may have to remove your belt and shoes and empty pockets accordingly.
- Once security cleared, you are now in “no mans land” — the terminal waiting area that is legally outside China — look at the monitors for your gate location — sometime this can be a 20-30 minute walk from security (cheaper airlines get the far ends of the terminal, or even “bus gates” where you take a bus to your plane on the tarmac — more expensive airlines paying higher airport fees for gates get middle gates closer to security).
- If you have a lounge access card (flying business/first, of gold or higher in status), you can visit the lounge for free snacks and drinks and (slightly) better/quieter waiting area – often the lounges are located near security, still requiring long, long walks to your actual gate, so be observant of the gate.
- Typically very verbose announcements will be made (too) regularly about flights boarding in Chinese and broken English. Best to always stay alert and be at your gate well ahead of time for boarding.
- There is a ton of localized and “duty free” shopping (all at extremely high prices) to pass the time — but be aware, often and typically prices are at least 25% more than outside airport.
- At the actual gate, they will typically have 2 lines — 1 for economy and 1 for business/first. Keep an eye on the lines, Chinese are notorious for a mad scramble and push to get on board. Often gate staff do NOT announce anything in English, they just open the gate and it’s a flood of people trying to get their boarding passes scanned and passports double checked. Be aware.
- On some flights (particularly those to the USA or Middle East), there may be an additional baggage screening on the jetway before you get on the place — now mainly looking for liquids you have have purchased in the terminal.
- Once on board the airplane, relax, and hope the plane will actually be cleared for takeoff, otherwise, they deplane everyone back to gate.
Airport Terminal / Airlines Served
Pudong Intl. Airport (PVG)
PVG Domestic Departures
PVG International Departures
Beijing Capital Airport (PEK)
PEK Domestic Departures
PEK International Departures
PVG TERMINAL 1
China Eastern Airlines
Royal Brunei Airlines
Hongqiao Airport (SHA)
SHA Terminal 1
Spring Airlines 9C
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
PEK TERMINAL 1
Beijing Capital Airlines
Grand China Air
PEK TERMINAL 2
China Eastern Airlines
China Southern Airlines
Delta Air Lines
Hong Kong Airlines
Hong Kong Express Airways
Pakistan Int’l Airlines
TAAG Angola Airlines
PEK TERMINAL 3C
PEK TERMINAL 3E
All Nippon Airways
LOT Polish Airlines
MIAT Mongolian Airlines
South African Airways
Swiss International Air Lines
Thai Airways International
e-channel at China Immigration
For those who have crossed the border here a few times have noticed about half the border are these pods or plexiglass glass gates people are walking through. It’s a way to “skip” filling out the immigration form, talking to a customs official by simply placing your passport on the scanner, the door opens, and you then go inside the “pod”. In the pod they take your thumbprints and scan your face. Once they see this matches you on the file, the door to enter (or leave) China is complete. No stamps, no talking to a customs official, no customs forms, and normally no line or a very fast moving line.
Frequent traveling foreign passport holders with Z visas can apply to use the e-channel (the one with the Plexiglas gates) to speed through immigration lines upon returning to China.
The primary prerequisites for obtaining this permission is to have an “e-passport” enabled with a microchip and a valid visa and residence permit with at least six months of validity.
You have to sign up when arriving on an international flight. When you get to the immigration area, go to the e-channel lanes. One of the booths next to the E-channel lanes is for E-channel registration. Talk to one of the officers and they’ll get you setup. There is no fee, and the form is in Chinese and English. The application form is essentially a consent form permitting the registering officer to collect “biodata,” (photo & thumbprints).
Using the e-Channel
At the e-channel terminal, travelers are required to scan the passport photo page at the receptacle. This will open the door to the e-channel. Inside, a scan of one’s face will be taken as well as of the thumbs on a fingerprint scanner. Once successfully scanned and proven a match, the exit doors will open, and the traveler can proceed over the border. In case of any problems at the e-channel, the normal border crossing channel will need to be taken. The entire process takes about 10 seconds.
One of the problems with the e-channel is that you don’t have a stamp in your passport and so while it may make your airport experience easier and faster to go through the ec-hannel, there are many aspects of life in China that we still need to prove that entry stamp, such as local police registration for the temporary certificate (when renting an apartment, etc); at the bank for certain transactions; at a hotel, etc.
New Visa – Need to Re-Apply
If you get a new China visa, you need to re-apply to the e-channel. You need to take a new photo, new fingerprints, and wait for it to activate – same as if I applied for the first time.
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