The main international gateways to mainland China are Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou. Almost every sizable city will have an international airport, but options are usually limited to flights from Hong Kong, neighbouring countries such as South Korea and Japan, and sometimes Southeast Asia.
Transiting Hong Kong and Macau
If arriving in Hong Kong or Macau there are ferries that can shuttle passengers straight to another destination such as Shekou or Bao'an Airport in Shenzhen, Macau Airport, Zhuhai and elsewhere without actually "entering" Hong Kong or Macau. A shuttle bus takes transit passengers to the ferry terminal so their official entry point, where they clear immigration, will be the ferry destination rather than the airport. Please note that the ferries do have different hours so landing late at night may make it necessary to enter either territory to catch another bus or ferry to one's ultimate destination. For example, it would be necessary to clear immigration if going from HK Int'l Airport to Macau via the Macau Ferry Terminal. The most recent information on the ferries to Hong Kong can be found at the Hong Kong International Airport website. (http://www.hongkongairpor...)
While many major airlines now fly to Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Hong Kong, budget seats are often scarce. For good offers, book as early as possible. Tickets are particularly expensive or hard to come by at the beginning or end of summer when Chinese students abroad return home or fly back to their universities around the world. As with other travel in China, tickets can be difficult to get and will be expensive around Chinese New Year.
If you live in a city with a sizable overseas Chinese community such as Toronto, San Francisco, Sydney or London, check for cheap flights with someone in that community or visit travel agencies operated by Chinese. Sometimes flights advertised only in Chinese newspapers or travel agencies cost significantly less than posted fares in English. However if you go and ask, you can get the same discount price.
See also: Discount airlines in Asia
Airlines and Routes
China's carriers are growing rapidly. Airbus estimates the size of Chinaâs passenger aircraft fleet will triple from 1,400 planes in 2009 to 4,200 planes in 2029.
They are also working hard at becoming highly competitive in both service and pricing. Airlines include China Southern (http://www.cs-air.com/en/), China Eastern (http://www.chinaeastern.co.uk/), Air China (http://www.airchina.com.c...), and Hainan Airlines (http://global.hnair.com/).
Fliers may prefer Asian airlines as they generally have more cabin staff and quality service. Hong Kong based Cathay Pacific (http://www.cathaypacific.com) is an obvious possibility. Other candidates include Singapore Airlines (http://www.singaporeair.c...), Japan Airlines (http://www.jal.co.jp/en/), and Garuda Indonesia (http://www.garuda-indones...). Korean Air (http://www.koreanair.com) often has good prices on flights from various places in Asia such as Bangkok via Seoul to North America. Connecting flights may be cheaper than direct flights so keep this in mind. Korean Air also flies to more than a dozen Chinese cities, including Shanghai.
North America: Delta Air Lines (http://www.delta.com) serves Hong Kong, Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou through its hub at Narita and directly from Detroit, Boston and Seattle. United (http://www.united.com/) has the most nonstop flights, serving Hong Kong, Beijing, and Shanghai from Chicago, San Francisco, Newark, and Washington. American (http://www.aa.com/homePage.do) flies nonstop to Shanghai, Beijing and Hong Kong from Chicago. Air Canada (http://www.aircanada.com/) serves Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong from Toronto and Vancouver.
Australia: Qantas (http://www.qantas.com) offers direct flights from Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth to Hong Kong. Qantas also flies to Beijing and Shanghai from Sydney but only offers a code-share service to Shanghai from Melbourne. There may be cheaper flights via Southeast Asia; some of the discount airlines there fly to Australia. China Southern Airlines now offers direct flights from Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne to Guangzhou with ongoing connections to the major cities.
New Zealand: Air New Zealand (http://www.airnz.co.nz) is the only direct option to Mainland China. They offer direct flights to Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong.
Southeast Asia: Singapore has arguably the best connections, due to its large ethnic Chinese population, with flights to all the major cities as well as some regional centers such as Xiamen, Kunming and Shenzhen. Besides Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok and Manila offer good connections. Tiger Airways (http://www.tigerairways.com), Jetstar (http://www.jetstar.com), Air Asia (http://www.airasia.com), and Cebu Pacific (http://www.cebupacificair.com) offer low-priced flights from Southeast Asia Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and Manila to various destinations in southern China, including Xiamen, Jinghong, Guangzhou, Haikou and Macau.
Europe: Most of the major European airlines, including Air France (http://www.airfrance.com/...), British Airways (http://www.britishairways...), and Finnair (http://www.finnair.com/fi...) have direct flights from their hubs to Hong Kong, Beijing and Shanghai; several fly to Guangzhou as well. A few have links to other Chinese cities. For example KLM (http://www.klm.com/travel...) direct from Amsterdam to Chengdu and Lufthansa (http://www.lufthansa.com/...) flies a Frankfurt to Nanjing route.
Taiwan: Regular direct flights between Taiwan and Mainland China resumed in 2008, after a 59 year ban. There are now daily direct flights between Taipei and major cities in China.
Flights between Europe and China
|Airline||From||To||Flight time||Departure Days||Econ Seat P/W||Notes|
|Finnair||Helsinki HEL||Beijing PEK||7:50||MoTuWeThFrSaSu||32" / 18"|
|Finnair||Beijing PEK||Helsinki HEL||8:30||MoTuWeThFrSa||32" / 18"|
|Finnair||Helsinki HEL||Chongqing CKG||8:40||MoWeFrSa||32" / 18"||Service starts May 9, 2012|
|Finnair||Chongqing CKG||Helsinki HEL||9:25||TuThSaSu||32" / 18"||Service starts May 9, 2012|
|Finnair||Helsinki HEL||Shanghai PVG||9:05||MoTuWeThFrSaSu||32" / 18"|
|Finnair||Shanghai PVG||Helsinki HEL||10:15||MoTuWeThFrSaSu||32" / 18"|
|Hainan Airlines||Berlin TXL||Beijing PEK||9:25||WeFrSu||32" / 19"|
|Hainan Airlines||Beijing PEK||Berlin TXL||10:20||WeSu||32" / 19"|
|Hainan Airlines||Budapest BUD||Beijing PEK||9:20||MoFr||32" / 19"|
|Hainan Airlines||Beijing PEK||Budapest BUD||10:10||MoFr||32" / 19"|
|Hainan Airlines||Brussels BRU||Beijing PEK||9:40||TuThSaSu||32" / 19"||Also on Fr from Apr2012, Mo from Jul2012|
|Hainan Airlines||Beijing PEK||Brussels BRU||10:35||TuThSaAu||32" / 19"||Also on Fr from Apr2012, Mo from Jul2012|
|Hainan Airlines||Brussels BRU||Shanghai PVG||32" / 19"|
|Hainan Airlines||Shanghai PVG||Brussels BRU||32" / 19"|
|Hainan Airlines||ZÃ¼rich ZRH||Beijing PEK||10:00||TuThSu||32" / 19"|
|Hainan Airlines||Beijing PEK||ZÃ¼rich ZRH||10:45||TuThSu||32" / 19"|
|KLM||Amsterdam AMS||Chengdu CTU||9:25||31" / 17.5"|
|KLM||Chengdu CTU||Amsterdam AMS||10:35||31" / 17.5"|
|Lufthansa||Frankfurt FRA||Qingdao TAO||13:10||MoWeFr||32" / 17.5"||Stopover in Shenyang|
|Lufthansa||Qingdao TAO||Frankfurt FRA||14:25||TuThSa||32" / 17.5"||Stopover in Shenyang|
|Lufthansa||Frankfurt FRA||Shenyang SHE||10:15||MoWeFr||32" / 17.5"|
|Lufthansa||Shenyang SHE||Frankfurt FRA||11:15||WeFrSu||32" / 17.5"|
China can be reached by train from many of its neighboring countries and even all the way from Europe.