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Trip Report: Flying Out of Shanghai After the Covid-19 Lockdown

Shanghai’s Pudong Airports after lockdown (Photo: AirlineGeeks | Lei Yan)

As the lockdown-induced Covid-19 outbreak starts to relax, I took my first trip out of Shanghai in the past two and half months. I flew out on a Juneyao Airlines flight HO1015 from Shanghai’s Pudong International Airport to Hohhot, China’s Baita International Airport, my hometown airport. The route is nothing special during normal times, even a bit mundane. However, the lockdown made the trip from an ordinary flight into a convoluted journey.

Dragging Lockdown

For the past two months, Shanghai has been in lockdown amid a new Covid-19 outbreak. The city has been through a rough time with broken supply chains and isolations. Even the supply of food ran into bottlenecks to reach everyone. The city once had two airports that counted themselves among the largest in the world — Shanghai’s Hongqiao International Airport and Pudong International Airport. Both airports served over 130 million passengers in 2019, and they are crucial nodes for the city to stay connected to the rest of China, and to the world during this time of uncertainty.

During the past two months of lockdown, Shanghai only sees a handful of cargo flights and international flights out of the city. Starting the week of May 22, a couple of domestic flights started to resume, and more are planned to resume starting June 1. I was lucky enough to buy a ticket home before it sold out.

Preparing to Fly

As required by the government of Shanghai, passengers need a negative PCR test within 48 hours of the flight, and a negative Antigen self-test within 24 hours of the flight. After getting those test results, passengers will need to book their transport from the city to airports and train stations, as the public transportation is still not fully resumed. The hotline to book a taxi is always jammed. Lucky. for me again, I managed to find a taxi on the night before my trip.

On the day of the trip, I planned to depart for the airport five hours before my flight. On normal days, I would only reserve at most two hours before my trip to leave my apartment, as there are maglev services from downtown Shanghai to Pudong International Airport. It can get you there in only 8 minutes.

Lonely Trip

The streets of Shanghai look scarily quiet. We did not encounter any cars, let alone any traffic, on my way to the airport. The scene is unimaginable during normal times in Shanghai.

Shanghai’s Pudong Airports after lockdown (Photo: AirlineGeeks | Lei Yan)

After arriving at the airport, you need to register your identity, show the PCR test and Antigen test results, and show the agent at the entrance your ticket before making a step further into the terminal. Inside the terminal, the airport looked nothing like one that once served 76 million passengers. Closed concessions, closed check-in counters, and only a handful of passengers. The gigantic terminal has never been lonelier.

Shanghai’s Pudong Airports after lockdown (Photo: AirlineGeeks | Lei Yan)

Shanghai’s Pudong Airports after lockdown (Photo: AirlineGeeks | Lei Yan)

The plane of the day was a seven-year-old Airbus A321. Tickets were all sold out for the flights. In-Flight services were minimal, and the passengers were too tired to care about any services, as most of us were up since 4 a.m.

After landing at Hohhot’s Baita International Airport, we were transported to a corner of the airport to claim our baggage, and all passengers took another PCR test. Before the results came out, we waited in a quarantine hotel. Finally, at 11 p.m. of the night, I was able to go home on a government vehicle and commenced my 7-day home quarantine.

The year 2022 reminded me of the time when Covid-19 was surging at the beginning of 2020. After that wave of lockdown, the traveling took a hard turn to the upside almost immediately. I hope this will be the case for this wave of Covid-19, and we can soon get our normal, even a bit mundane travel experience back.

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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