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Trip Report: Traveling between Beijing and Guangzhou During COVID-19 and Olympics

Air China 777 Taxing to the runway from Beijing Capital Airport Terminal 3

I traveled between Beijing and Guangzhou during this week, and the trip was unique since now is approaching the opening of the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympic Games, and Covid-19 was reappearing in China. Overall, the experience was still efficient, and airports and airlines did everything they can to ensure a smooth travel experience.

Domestic travel in China is still vibrant, unlike international travel in and out of China. However, the situation is highly dependent on the Covid-19 development around the country. Recently, China saw Covid-19 reappearing in multiple cities around the country, adding nearly 1,000 cases. Luckily, no new death is reported due to the pandemic.

New Policies

The State Department of China will issue travel advisories for each city and county, based on their current Covid-19 situation. However, each city has its epidemic prevention policies. For Beijing, the city requires negative nucleic test results within 48 hours before departure; for Guangzhou, it is not mandatory to have a nucleic test before boarding. However, for passengers departing from a mid or high-risk region for Guangzhou, it is mandatory to take a nucleic test upon arrival. You may leave the airport after finishing the test.

First Leg

The first leg of my travel is from Guangzhou’s Baiyun International Airport to Beijing’s Capital International Airport onboard Air China’s CA1352. The aircraft was a Boeing 777-300ER, Air China’s intercontinental flagship. Because of the strict requirement to travel to Beijing, all check-ins have to be done at a counter before departure. The check-in process is still very simple, only added the part for you to show the nucleic test results. The whole check-in took less than one minute to complete.

Air China Lounge at Guangzhou (Photo: Lei Yan)

At security, Guangzhou’s Baiyun airport opened a lane specifically for passengers bound for Beijing’s Capital Airport and Daxing airport. At the front of the lane, passengers’ nucleic test results were checked again. Travelers are very familiar with the policies in place, and no one at the scene was stopped due to a lack of a nucleic test result.

At the boarding gate, each passenger’s temperature will be checked. Everyone is required to wear face coverings throughout the entire flight, except during the time of drinking and eating. The flight experience was routine, not seemed to be disturbed by the changing policies.

Beijing’s Daxing Airport from above (Photo: Lei Yan)

The aircraft was parked at an apron stand after we arrived, and passengers need to take a shuttle bus to get to the terminal. Seven PM at Beijing’s Capital Airport looks a bit lonely at the time, considering this was once the second largest airport in the world. No additional checks for nucleic test results after arrival, as the airports are all coordinated to minimize passenger’s efforts.

Empty Arrival hall at Beijing Capital International Airport (Photo: Lei Yan)

Departing Again

After I finish my business in Beijing, I hopped on my second flight back to Guangzhou. Terminal 3 of Beijing’s Capital Airport has a portion of the building blocked as the close loop to serve for Beijing’s Winter Olympic Games. People in the close loop will not be required to quarantine after arriving in China. Checking in and getting through security was very easy, just like the normal operation. The process did not take long.

Close Loop Area at Beijing Capital International Airport (Photo: Lei Yan)

I am taking a red-eye flight, Air China’s CA1329, operated by a 10+ years old Airbus A330-200. The carrier will retire 12 Airbus A330 series from its fleet in 2022, and the one I flew would be one of the 12.

The occupancy rate of this flight is around 30%. As it was a late-night flight, only snacks and dim sum were served on board. Air China was innovating on its in-flight meals and recently rolled out this “fly with me” goodie bag for passengers on short flights and night flights. This new product was highly acclaimed by travelers.

Air China’s “fly with me” Goodie Bag (Photo: Lei Yan)

Covid-19 Tests Situation

Because of the recent Covid-19 cases found in Beijing, Guangzhou now requires all Beijing-originated passengers to take a nucleic test before leaving Guangzhou’s Baiyun Airport. All passengers are transported to concourse 3 west after disembarking the aircraft, where we will go through a mandatory nucleic test. The scene was very ordered, with a very short line. I got off the plane at 12:35 a.m., and got in a taxi at 12:52 a.m., after completing my test.

COVID-19 Testing Line at Guangzhou Airport (Photo: Lei Yan)

Peak Season

At this moment, China is in the peak season of traveling before the Chinese New Year. The State Department issued several policies to make sure the travelers are not interrupted by the arbitrary policies posted by local governments. Guangzhou and Beijing have set good examples for cities to learn how to strictly carry out the pandemic prevention policy, while still giving passengers the agility to get through airports efficiently.

Lei Yan


  • Lei Yan

    Lei is from Inner Mongolia, China, and now lives in Guangzhou. He grew up in an aviation family, where his passion began. During his time at Penn State University, he studied Industrial Engineering specializing in operations research, and he graduated with an honor’s thesis on airport gate assignment optimization. Now, he is a Purchasing Manager with Procter & Gamble. In his free time, he enjoys flying, reading, and wandering around the city.

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