Buying Flights to China

Buying flights to China has become exceedingly challenging, due to Chinese government regulations which limits the number of international flights permitted to enter China and due to 

new Chinese testing regulations make it very difficult to transit anywhere, since you need to have a covid PCR and IgM test performed and certified by the embassy in  the country of transit. China also has a circuit breaker policy in place, where it will cancel flight routes if a certain number of passengers entering on that route test positive, so any flight route can be subject to cancellation. For these reasons, we have the following recommendations when booking flights to China:

  1. Buy directly from the airline site. Third party sites often sell unapproved flights which will later be cancelled. 
  2. Ensure that your flight route is an approved route that is currently running. Some airlines (ahem Air Canada) are selling not yet approved flights which will be cancelled. You will then have to fight them for a refund, and they will take their time getting your money back to you. This has happened to many of our group members already. The table below lists the currently approved direct flights from Canada to China.
  3. Buy a direct flight from Canada to China, since transiting in a third country now is incredibly difficult. See Transiting in a Third Country, below.

This list is up to date  as of November 15, 2020. Subject to change at any time. We will try to update the list regularly but we make no guarantees this list is accurate or complete. Also, if you know of any changes or inaccuracies, please let us know.

Confirmed Airline Routes from Canada to China

AirlineRouteFlight NumberDays of the Week / Time
China SouthernVancouver to GuangzhouCZ329Wednesday 11:10
Toronto to GuangzhouCZ312Friday 14:30
Xiamen Air
Vancouver to XiamenMF806Tuesday 00:55  and Friday 00:55
Air ChinaVancouver to Zhengzhou (Beijing)*
*flown for free to Beijing after two weeks quarantine in Zhengzhou, sold as Vancouver to Beijing
CA998Saturday 13:00
Vancouver to BeijingCA992Sunday 13:00
Air CanadaVancouver to Shanghai*
*With a technical stop in Incheon, South Korea for a crew change. You do not disembark and this does not count as a transit.
AC025Friday 11:50 and Sunday 11:50
Hainan AirToronto to BeijingHU7976Wednesday 16:10 and Sunday 16:10
China EasternVancouver to NanjingMU216Tuesday 10:00
Toronto to Shanghai (seems sold out)MU208Saturday 15:25
Sichuan AirlinesVancouver to Chengdu3U8502Wednesday and Saturday 12:45

Looking Up Flights

Here are two websites I recommend to look up flights: Aviability and Google Flights. Google Flights allows you to filter search results by airline, or non-stop flights only, and you can also use the dates calendar to then see what days the airline is flying that route. 

Transit in Canada

Air China and Air Canada are part of Star Alliance, so it will be easiest to book connecting flights between them and check your luggage right through. Xiamen AIr, China Eastern, China Southern and West Jet are part of SkyTeam Alliance, so again it will be easiest to connect, and book your luggage through if you fly WestJet in Canada and are flying with one of those airlines to China. People seem to get to the airport and line up very early for their flights to China, even five hours before. Since the added health checks, temperature checks etc. can make the process longer, and no one wants to miss their flight to China, we recommend at least three hours transit time between a Canadian domestic flight and your flight to China. 

Transit in Other Countries

Transit in third countries is now exceedingly difficult, since China now requires RT-PCR nucleic acid and IgM antibody covid testing performed and approved by the embassy of the third transit country as well. Since very few countries have airport testing facilities, and many countries have entry restrictions/fourteen day quarantine for people entering, this can be exceedingly difficult. Two airports have testing facilities that meet China requirements, Helsinki-Vantaa Airport and Frankfurt am Main, with the Frankfurt am Main Airport having testing facilities catering for Lufthansa passengers headed to China. Most US states now also do not have any quarantine or entry restrictions for Canadians, so that is also a possibility to spend a night or two getting tested there. However, there are many direct flight options from Canada, and we highly recommend you book one of those. 

Transit in China (after 14 days quarantine)

You will be required to quarantine for 14 days at your first port of entry into China. For example, if you have a flight booked from Vancouver to Shanghai to Shenzhen, you will be quarantined first in Shanghai for fourteen days, after which you can take your flight to Shenzhen,  After which, you will be able to travel to your destination city. If you booked your entire journey at once, with a transit in China, you can contact the airline once you know what time you will be released from quarantine and they will rebook your flight for that day free of charge. You will be able to also just book a separate flight for when you are done quarantine to your destination city. However, if you booked the two flights together, you will benefit from the greater luggage allowance of your international flight for your domestic Chinese flight at no extra cost. If you don’t want to pay for extra luggage or weight on your domestic Chinese flight, you can always ship your luggage with SF Express. Another option, depending where you want to go, is to take a high speed train. For example, I found taking a high speed train from where I was quarantined in Xiamen to my home in Shenzhen was much more convenient, with a lot more options for times, cheaper prices and less luggages restrictions for a tiny bit longer of a journey. 

Required Testing

Lastly, once you have booked your flight, you will need to make sure you can get an IgM antibody and RT-PCR covid test within 48 hours of your flight, as per Chinese regulations. We have assembled a list of Canadian testing locations here.


Diana is from Montreal, but is currently living in Shenzhen. When she is not doing synthetic biology research in the lab at SIAT, she enjoys performing very amateur stand up comedy in the bars of Shenzhen and sailing in Dapeng or Hong Kong.

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