ABACE 2016 Special: BizAv Ops to Shanghai – Part 2: Permits, CIQ and Local Area

ABACE 2016 Special: BizAv Ops to Shanghai - Part 2: Permits, CIQ and Local Area

This is a post by author Jimmy Young. Jimmy serves as country manager for Universal Aviation China, which has aircraft ground handling facilities in Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou. Jimmy is an expert on business aircraft operations in China and can be contacted at jimmyyoung@universalaviation.aero.

This business aviation blog post continues from our article last week, entitled “ABACE 2016 Special: BizAv Ops to Shanghai – Part 1: Airport Considerations.

Landing permits for China are being processed faster than they were just a few years ago, and the application process is now easier with sponsor letter requirements no longer in place for most operations to the country. Still, it’s important for operators to be mindful of operating restrictions, such as limitations on permit revisions and adherence to departure slot times.

For business aircraft operators attending the 2016 Asian Business Aviation Conference & Exhibition (ABACE) on April 12 – 14, the following is an overview of what you need to know:

1. Chinese landing permits and slots

Landing permits and airport slots are issued by the Civil Aviation Authority of China (CAAC). Each landing permit allows a maximum of five stops in the country. While no documentation needs to be submitted with the permit requests, you’ll need to provide a full schedule, a business contact, and your routing into/out of the country. Note that in the case of larger aircraft – a Boeing BBJ or Airbus ACJ and above – you must submit a certificate of airworthiness and aircraft layout. Normal CAAC hours are Monday-Friday 0830-1630 local with after-hour permit processing only possible for air ambulance and emergency flights. Note that landing permits may only be requested up to four business days prior to the estimated time of arrival. Any requests made more than four days out will likely be rejected by the online system. When CAAC receives a landing permit request, they’ll normally process and approve it 24-48 hours prior to your operation, although approvals may be issued earlier at their discretion. For operations to either ZSSS or ZSPD it’s important to abide by approved slot times, particularly on departure. If you deviate too much from your slot time you may need to obtain a new slot, causing a potential delay of up to two hours.

2. Business contacts

Sponsor letters are no longer needed for China landing permits, when operating to airports of entry (AOEs). Up to five stops in country are allowed per permit and as long as you’re stopping at AOEs no sponsor letter will be needed. In the case of operation to domestic airports, or when making demo flights, the sponsor letter mandate remains in place. Keep in mind that a local business contact must be provided for any flight to China. In the case of ZBAA only, your business contact must also provide a “customs letter” to local customs authorities. You may not use your 3rd-party provider to assist in this process.

3. Schedule revisions

When operating to and within China it’s best to avoid schedule and airport slot revisions. In most cases, you’ll be permitted a maximum of two revisions to an approved schedule. Additional revision requests, including route or destination changes, will likely require application for a new permit.

4. CIQ considerations

Custom, immigration, and quarantine (CIQ) processing at ZSSS is normally done within the fixed-base operator (FBO). CIQ at ZSPD is processed via the main terminal, but passengers and crew don’t need to physically go to the terminal building. Upon international arrival, CIQ comes out to the aircraft, collects passports and inspects the aircraft. Passengers are then taken to a VIP lounge where they’ll wait for passports to be processed and returned, a procedure that takes 15-20 minutes. The clearance process at ZSNJ is similar to ZSSS, within a general aviation terminal (GAT), while at ZSHC you’ll clear in the main terminal.

5. Visa requirements

Crew must normally have “C” type visas to operate to China with general aviation (GA) aircraft. The exception is that crew may enter China at ZSPD with many types of visas, so it’s recommended to check with your ground handler in advance. Passengers must have required visas on arrival except at ZSSS, ZSPD, and ZBAA if they qualify for 144 hour visa-free entry and are flying on to a third country within the 144 hours.

6. Leave doors closed

When operating to any airport in China it’s important to leave aircraft doors closed until CIQ gives you approval to open them. If you open a door without approval, your aircraft will be searched, and you may be fined. Repercussions for not observing this rule vary from airport to airport, but fines can be quite heavy at certain locations such as Tianjin (ZBTJ).

7. Hotels and local transport

Airport area crew hotels are somewhat limited at Shanghai airports. While ZSPD has a 4-star hotel on the airport, accommodation choices close to ZSSS are generally just 2- and 3-star. Most crews choose to stay in the downtown area where ABACE evening events take place and hotel options are plentiful. For crew staying at ZSNJ or ZSHC there are many good hotel and transport options to consider. For local travel in the Shanghai area we recommend crews use prepaid transport (car with driver), and there are many choices available.


Ensure that appropriate landing permit requirements are met, and it’s important that you understand the limitation regarding the number of stops permitted in the country as well as the number of allowed revisions. It’s always important to confirm crew and passenger visa requirements prior to operation to China. What is allowed or not allowed, in terms of crew visa types and visa free entry for qualifying passengers, can vary from airport to airport. CIQ processes differ by airport, so it’s best to check on these processes in advance.


If you have any questions about this article or would like assistance planning your next trip to China, contact Christine Vamvakas christinevamvakas@univ-wea.com.