Navigating Local Culture in China: 6 Tips for Your First Business Aviation Trip
China is a welcoming and safe operating environment for flight crews and passengers. Hotel quality at major centers is excellent. In outlying areas, however, hotel choices will be limited. As always, when traveling the world, practice cultural sensitivity. For newcomers and seasoned operators alike, operating to China can present challenges. However, the following tips, in addition to having an open mind when it comes to the local culture, will help ease those challenges.
1. Be aware of holiday periods in China
The country can effectively shut down for business purposes during major holiday periods, including National Day – early October – and Lunar New Year, which varies each year, but begins January 23rd in 2012 and February 10th in 2013. During these major holiday periods, business activity slows down for a week or more, so be prepared.
2. Book hotel accommodations in advance
We recommend that flight crews stay at internationally recognized hotel chains in China. Hotel availability, quality and price is generally good, but better 4- and 5-star hotels in major centers can be fully booked during busy periods. At outlying stations and less-developed areas there may be a very limited selection of Western-style hotels, and you may have to stay at a less-than-3-star facility. Be very clear about exactly which hotel you are booked into. Don’t assume that if you are in Beijing, for example, and you ask your driver to take you to the Beijing Marriott, you will be taken to the correct hotel. There are six Marriott hotels in Beijing . If you jump in a taxi and just say, ‘Take me to the Marriott,’ you may end up at the wrong location. For this reason, we recommend that you get the full name of the hotel in English and Chinese. Also remember that last-minute trip changes impact more than just flight operations. If the change requires an extra overnight stay, you will have to change hotel accommodations, and possibly require additional catering and transportation services. This should all be considered when managing costs.
3. Advise passengers and crew on congestion in major cities
Familiarize yourself with your destination cities pre-trip. If you’ve never been to Beijing, you may not know that it may take an hour or more to travel from the city to the airport (ZBAA). Educate passengers on potential of traffic delays and the need to plan ground transportation to arrive ahead of the flight. Many corporate flights have been delayed in China as a result of passengers encountering unexpected traffic congestion.
4. Consider pre-trip vaccinations
We recommend hepatitis A & B vaccines when traveling to China. Consider additional vaccinations when travelling to topical areas as major outbreaks – including H1N1 and dengue fever – have occurred in the past. Another source of information for requirements and suggestions is the United States Centers for Disease Control.
5. Consider health issues at your destination
Stay up-to-date on current health issues at your destination. In addition, be careful of water quality throughout the country. Food at major hotels tends to be safe, but be mindful of smaller restaurants.
6. Don’t feel you have to automatically tip ground handlers on the ramp
Tipping a ground handler in China – particularly when away from major airports – can be frowned upon and is not expected. At Beijing (ZBAA) and Shanghai (ZSSS and ZSPD) airports this is changing as ground handlers are exposed to more and more foreign pilots. Whenever tipping, it’s always important to take into consideration any potential compliance issues and ensure you are not violating international laws and regulations. If you are unsure, ask your ground handler. They will have a working relationship with the authorities to expedite service as much as possible, in compliance with all laws and regulations.
If you have any questions about this article or would like assistance planning your next trip to China, contact Christine Vamvakas firstname.lastname@example.org.