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.