Business Aircraft Operations to Shanghai – Part 2: Permits, Slots & CIQ

PT 4 M minute read
Business Aircraft Operations to Shanghai – Part 2: Permits, Slots & CIQ

This is a post by author Jennifer Cai. Jennifer serves as the Operations Supervisor for Universal Aviation China in Shanghai. Universal Aviation China has aircraft ground handling facilities in Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou. Jennifer can be contacted at

This business aviation blog post continues from our article last week, entitled “Business Aircraft Operations to Shanghai – Part 1: Airports, Curfews & Parking.

For business aircraft operators, the landing permit process for China has become easier and quicker over recent years and airport slots are generally not a significant issue or operational impediment. Meanwhile, customs, immigration and quarantine (CIQ) clearance is a relatively quick and straight-forward process.

The following is an overview of what you need to know:

1. Permits and airport slots

Landing permits for China officially take three business days to process but, in some cases, can be obtained in about 24 hours. Airport slots are approved and assigned along with your landing permit. Slot time availability for Shanghai airports is reasonable flexible-certainly much easier than for Hong Kong (VHHH) and generally easier than for Beijing (ZBAA). For Shanghai, general aviation (GA) slots are more challenging at Hongqiao (ZSSS) as they’re only available for one hour each morning and three hours each evening. But, the success rate for getting preferred slots at ZSSS is currently running over 70%.

2. CIQ processing

Clearing CIQ at ZSSS’s fixed-base operator (FBO) is generally a quick 15-20 minute process, depending on passenger/crew count. CIQ is usually notified of international arrivals 24 hours prior and should be updated if the estimated time of arrival (ETA) changes by more than about one hour. At Pudong (ZSPD) you’ll always clear in the main terminal, via separate dedicated lines, and should plan on 30 minute clearance time plus 15 minutes transport from your aircraft to the clearance area. Note that ZSPD has a VIP clearance option available, but use of this is restricted.

3. VIP clearance at ZSPD

There’s a VIP clearance facility ZSPD, where passengers wait in a main terminal lounge while passports are taken in for processing. To access this facility you’ll need special approval and an invitation letter from China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. While there’s no additional charge for this service, only certain passengers with special relationships qualify to use the VIP option. Note that your ground handler is not permitted to assist in applying for this invitation letter as it’s something operators need to do on their own.

4. CIQ ramp inspection

Upon international arrival in China it’s important to remain aboard your aircraft, with all doors closed, until an immigration officer arrives. CIQ will give you approval to open up the aircraft doors and will then inspect your aircraft, either before or after passengers deplane. In some cases they’ll verify passenger and crew passports and visas while onboard. However, note that they’ll never clear passengers/crew airside as they do not bring the necessary stamps with them.

5. Tech stops

For international tech stops in Shanghai, full CIQ clearance may be required, with all passengers/crew potentially needing visas unless an exemption is requested at least 48 hours prior to landing. For exemption requests CIQ reviews aircraft registration and all passenger/crew nationalities to make a determination if clearance and visas will be required or not. If your stop in Shanghai is under 24 hours, and CIQ approves your request, a visa free stop/stay may be possible.

6. Accessing your aircraft prior to day of departure

While it’s technically possible for crew to get back into their aircraft prior to the day of departure, it’s not practical. Should you leave a computer or favorite pair of sunglasses onboard the aircraft, your handler would need to arrange for special crew access to the ramp – a process:

  • Four business days to gain ramp access in ZSPD
  • One business day for ramp access approval in ZSSS

Be mindful that if you ask your handler to go into the aircraft to retrieve an item they may not be qualified to deal with opening and closing the aircraft door.

7. In-flight catering and decatering

Your handler will, with a recommended 24-48 hours’ notice, assist in sourcing required catering from either inflight caterers or local hotels/restaurants. There are no issues with bringing catering from outside restaurants/hotels through airport security. Your handler can also assist with any onboard catering you wish to retain for the next flight leg. Both Shanghai airports have refrigeration facilities on-airport where left over catering may be kept during the length of your stay.

8. Additional Reading: Shanghai operations – Series Index

Note: Links will be updated as articles are published.


Landing permits are a straightforward process for travel to China. When the permit is confirmed, so will the airport slots for your travel into and out of Shanghai airports. Note that at these airports, CIQ clearance is not available onboard the aircraft. It’s always recommended that you advise your passengers of the clearance destination in advance. Before you lock up and leave our aircraft at Shanghai ensure that you and your passengers have left nothing behind that maybe needed during the stay.

Stay tuned to Part 3, which covers pets, weapons and visas when traveling to Shanghai.


If you have any questions about this article or would like assistance planning your next trip to Shanghai, contact me at

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