Domestic and International Chinese Airlines

All Chinese airlines are quite comfortable and have good safety records. On domestic flights, they all make the effort to broadcast announcements in English when there are foreigners on board (though it’s often indecipherable). There seems to be no rhyme or reason as to whether meals are served on domestic flights or not, but you can count on receiving a meal on the majority of flights.

The big three airlines in China are Air China, China Southern Airlines and China Eastern. They offer the most extensive range of domestic flights and also fly internationally. Shanghai Airlines and Hainan Airlines also operate on a large number of domestic routes and Shanghai Airlines has some international flights. Generally you’ll find yourself taking one of these five airlines, or one of their subsidiaries, when traveling by air.

Air China

With its headquarters in Beijing, this is China’s flagship airline and the country’s second largest. With hubs in Shanghai, Chengdu and Guangzhou, it services all major cities in China. In terms of safety, Air China has had one accident involving fatalities since its inception in 1988.

Air China has direct flights to international destinations including New York, LA, San Francisco, Vancouver, Sydney, Melbourne, London, Frankfurt, Paris, Madrid, Rome, Vienna, Copenhagen, Stockholm, Helsinki and Moscow. Bookings can be made through Air China’s international website:

China Southern Airlines

China’s largest airline in terms of fleet size and passenger traffic is based in Guangzhou. It services all major destinations in China and has had a few fatal accidents since its birth in 1989.

China Southern is soon to launch direct flights to numerous destinations in North America and Europe and currently has direct flights to Amsterdam, Paris and Los Angeles as well as a range of Asian destinations. Bookings can be made through China Southern’s international website:

China Eastern Airlines

China’s third biggest airline is based in Shanghai with an extensive network of domestic flights.

They have direct international flights to Los Angeles, Vancouver, Melbourne, Sydney, London, Paris, Frankfurt, Madrid and Moscow as well as a range of Asian destinations. Bookings can be made through China Eastern’s international website:

Shanghai Airlines

Also based in Shanghai, this airline is making a real effort to appeal to foreigners on its flights. Founded in 1985, it is also the only major airline in China that has had no accidents and is China’s fifth largest airline in terms of fleet size.

Shanghai Airlines offers a limited range of international flights within the Asian region. Destinations include Japan, South Korea, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia and Russia (Vladivostok only). Bookings can be made through Shanghai Airlines’ website:

Hainan Airlines

Based in the very south of China in Haikou, the capital of the island province of Hainan, this is China’s fourth largest airline in terms of fleet size. With bases in Beijing, Xian, Taiyuan, Guangzhou and Urumqi, it services more than 90 domestic destinations and has a safety record comparable to the big three airlines.

Hainan Airlines website: