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Air fares in China and how easy is it to get seats?

Air fares in China and how easy is it to get seats?

Mar 12th, 2010, 08:54 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jul 2006
Posts: 80
Air fares in China and how easy is it to get seats?

Just in case we are unable to get two soft sleepers on the Z train from Beijing to Xian (and maybe the Xian to Shanghai segment as well, if I can persuade my wife), I would like to find out what the air fares are like on these two segments, and how easy it is to get seats 2-3 days before departure. I am being quoted $ 367 per person in the US for these two segments, and I read that fares are significantly lower if bought in China.
huntley is offline  
Mar 12th, 2010, 09:19 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
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I've no idea of your dates, but the real prices for Chinese flights are never available more than about three weeks ahead, your typical US agent won't even know of most Chinese domestic flights as they don't appear on computer systems, and really doesn't have a clue that almost no one pays the airline published price.

Looking two or three days from now Beijing to Xi'an is being offered at the equivalent of about US$61, and a couple of days after that at US$45. Xi'an to Shanghai is US$73, although some flights are cheaper. Even taking the higher prices that means a saving 65%, and you may find the tickets even a little cheaper when bought from agents at the point of departure (I'm merely looking at an on-line Chinese booking site which usually gets very near the street price.)

Not only are there large numbers of flights, but of course you can also add dozens of possibilities changing planes en route. In short, the chances of not getting to your destinations on the date you want (except at certain times around Chinese New Year, and at the beginnings and ends of certain national holidays) are slim.

However, success in independent travel comes form not micro-managing your itinerary in advance, and from not locking yourself into a position where you MUST travel on a certain date and no other, except of course insofar as you need to be in a certain city by a certain date to catch your flight home.

Peter N-H
PeterN_H is offline  
Mar 20th, 2010, 08:58 AM
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Posts: 80
Many thanks, Peter, for your very helpful response on this, as well as my other query on trains. Thanks also go to other readers.

I have since come across two sites that ostensibly allow one to book domestic flights, i.e., english.ctrip.com and elong.net. These sites list schedules and fares, some of them enticingly low. Not having had any prior experience with these sites, I would appreciate any feedback you as well as other readers might have on this issue. Any insights on booking on airlines that appear to have just 1 or 2 flights a day would also be much appreciated. Finally, it is not clear as to whether these sites take foreign (US) credit cards. We plan to leave Xian for Shanghai on April 15th pm or 16th am.
huntley is offline  
Mar 20th, 2010, 09:42 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
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These two sites are both regularly used both by foreign visitors and foreign residents (for whom dealing with them is a little easier). There are pros and cons, the pros being that their prices get down towards what you can get over the counter in China, and tickets can be booked before you arrive. The cons are that there are often hiccups with foreign credit cards (or extra administration and surcharges), low prices are often advertised before the reality can be known, and there can be problems with bait-and-switch.

You'll find news about foreign credit cards on the sites themselves. When last seen both were accepting foreign cards, but faxing a photocopy of the card's front and back was required, and in the case at least of eLong there was a surcharge to pay.

The last time I called Ctrip and eLong neither actually had tickets at the prices they were advertising on their websites, and I found the tickets I wanted from a local agent more cheaply. In general it's best to look for tickets and purchase on arrival, but if you can't deal with this norm of China travel, Ctrip and eLong are your next stop.

Peter N-H
PeterN_H is offline  
Apr 2nd, 2010, 11:57 AM
Join Date: May 2003
Posts: 417
I didn't encounter having to send card copy, but I'm sure I overpaid, since I bought a $179 ticket Shanghai to Beijing to join a tour group. Would hotel concierge be able to obtain tickets for you?
We encountered a cancellation on one flight, and I was glad to for once being on an escorted tour so she could go fight to get us on another flight.But I did find that flights appeared to be frequent to all major tourist destinations and there was little difference between airlines for local flights
Aleta is offline  
Apr 4th, 2010, 08:00 PM
Join Date: Dec 2008
Posts: 15
On my last trip to China, I used


to book my domestic flights. Upon my first purchase, they did inquire about my card issuer, bank, and country. But once I answered them, my e-ticket was emailed to me and my flights went smoothly. Also, unlike Ctrip and Elong, Travelzen doesn't have a foreign credit card fee.
random1 is offline  
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