Flight Delays in China: Useful & Mindboggling Facts, Stats and Tips

Flight Delays in China: Useful & Mindboggling Facts, Stats and Tips
Feb 07, 2015 Translated by eChinacities.com

Editor’s note: If you’re a frequent flyer in China you’ve surely realized by now that delays are an inevitable reality of air travel here. However, that fact was made official (and public) recently when a worldwide survey conducted by American aviation statistics website FlightStats, revealed just how bad China’s flight delay record is. The stats from this article were published in a pretty infographic on sohu.com, the data of which was compiled from reports by the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC), Xinhuanet.com and people.com.cn. Next time you take a flight in China, you may want to consider bringing along that ipad, laptop or novel after all as it may become your best friend while you sit around for hours in the departure hall, or worse yet, stuck on the runway on permanent take-off standby (because not everyone is lucky enough to be on the same flight as the Philadelphia Orchestra).

Waiting, growing impatient and flipping out have become all too common at airports in China. While causing a scene due to frustration over a delayed flight should not be condoned, thousands of air passengers in China are demanding to know why passengers can’t be notified sooner when a flight is delayed or cancelled, or why airline staff can’t tell passengers how long the flight will be delayed for. The reality is that China has the worst record in the world for flight delays (so bad in fact that some air hostesses have taken to worshipping “on-time shrines”.   

Some embarrassing statistics

According to statistics, Beijing Capital Airport is the worst for delays with an overwhelming 81.7% of all flights delayed. That means only 18.3% depart from China’s capital on time. To think of it in a different way, out of every ten flights in Beijing eight are delayed!

Shanghai is only marginally better, with 71.3% of all flights delayed which is the equivalent of seven out of ten flights. Now let’s compare that to Japan: flights departing from Tokyo Haneda Airport are on time 95% of the time. Now that’s a big difference.

Some interesting facts about flight delays in China

•  In Flightstats.com’s definition of a delay, flights that take off 15 minutes behind schedule are considered delayed. In China, that margin is just a little bit longer, double as long to be specific: only flights that take off 30 minutes after the scheduled departure time are considered delayed. 

•  With that distinction in mind, in 2012 China claimed that 74.83% of flights took off on time – quite a different picture to that portrayed by FlightStats. Even so, that still means that one in four flights was delayed last year. 

•  200 million hours were wasted by delays in 2012. That, according to the sohu.com infographic, works out to 570,000 hours wasted per day or an average delay of 40 minutes per person.

•  In China, civilians use 20% of airspace resources while the military uses 80%; meanwhile in the US, civilians use 85% of airspace resources while the military only uses 15%.

•  Chinese airlines lose a minimum of 5 billion RMB each year because of delays. 

Reasons for the delays

There’s got to be a reason for all these delays, right? According to sohu.com, there are 26 reasons in total to explain the delays, but five in particular are the main culprits:

1) Airline operations management: 40%
2) Air traffic control: 25% (linked to government officials taking flights. When an official from a provincial department or higher takes off, their flight is given priority)
3) Bad weather: 21:6%
4) Airport security: 3.7%
5) Incorrect criteria assessment

Flight delay compensation – yes, there is such a thing!

The Civil Aviation Administration of China and the Civil Aviation Association issued guidelines on how to compensate passengers in 2004 and 2010 respectively. However, each Chinese airline has their own set of rules and standards related to financial compensation:


Delays on booked flights

Luggage delays


Air China

300 RMB for every four hours delayed (max. 600 RMB)

500 RMB for every eight hours delayed (max. 1000 RMB)

300 RMB

China Southern

300 RMB for every four hours delayed

500 RMB for every eight hours delayed


China Eastern

600 RMB if delayed by more than four hours

1000 RMB if delayed for over eight hours


Passengers who choose to buy insurance while booking tickets online (normally costs 20 RMB), are entitled to aviation accident insurance and delay insurance compensation.

However, 80% of passengers don’t even know there is such a thing as delay insurance and 50% of passengers don’t bother claiming the compensation they’re entitled to. Oh yeah, but there’s a catch! Passengers who want to claim compensation for delayed flights must produce evidence of the delay (i.e. prove that the delay was caused by bad weather or traffic operations management etc.). Hmmm, that’s quite a challenge for just wanting back around 300 RMB. Now is it surprising that half the people just give up without getting a kuai?

Source: sohu.com

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Keywords: flight delays in China Chinese airlines


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trains are better and rarely fall from the sky

Mar 23, 2015 14:40 Report Abuse



The staff at Baiyun airport are very helpful

Feb 20, 2015 16:41 Report Abuse



Slow train, standing ticket is the only option left.

Feb 13, 2015 23:44 Report Abuse



Traveling during spring festival is a nightmare

Feb 13, 2015 23:37 Report Abuse



It is Chinese managed but it seems to be getting worse. Most of the articles here now are translated from Chinese news sources and are completely false. I'm still very surprised how much rubbish the Chinese are fed on a daily basis.

Feb 07, 2015 14:51 Report Abuse



Can someone explain this to me?? If 80% of people dont know they can make a claim then how does 50% actually make the claim?? I read that as only 20% of people are aware they can make a claim, and then half of those people actually do it??? So ten percent???

Feb 07, 2015 09:18 Report Abuse



Also, look at the first comments.... From August 2013.... Is echinacities recycling news stories??? Did someone go home for spring festival early??

Feb 07, 2015 09:20 Report Abuse



Hahaha... I think they recycled it with some changed numbers and perhaps a new picture. This site is Chinese managed you know.

Feb 07, 2015 13:46 Report Abuse



It says it's re-posted. They do that sometimes

Feb 09, 2015 10:36 Report Abuse



80% don't know and 50% of those who do know, don't claim, I assume.

Feb 09, 2015 11:24 Report Abuse



LOL Don't blame those for calling you a china rookie when you don't know CAAC (The Civil Aviation Administration of China) = China Airlines Always Cancel

Feb 07, 2015 09:02 Report Abuse



Well better to be late than never get to go... But, have you heard about the "Great Australian Visa Rort"? Well it's a scam the Australian Visa Offices in China run making Chinese people who wish to visit Australia for Business or Holiday apply and pay, apply and pay over and over. Most times they are denied, after making a complaint, sometimes they get through. If I was a Chinese person I would look for a more welcoming place to visit where the scamming of your money doesn't start before you leave home!

Aug 13, 2013 16:24 Report Abuse



That's b/s.

Feb 10, 2015 12:51 Report Abuse



Welcome to the modern word of airport efficiency and Chinese customer service...I have flown many times all over China and I haven't had any issues with late planes...now taxis lines are a bitch!

Aug 02, 2013 14:43 Report Abuse



Come on mate, fair suck of the sav... If you've flown, you've been delayed. Full stop. If you're Chinese, you don't stand in a line.

Feb 10, 2015 12:49 Report Abuse



gov’t officials? military use 80% airspace and its not even wartime? this is just beyond absurd. I assumed inefficiency was the culprit, but of course its only a small part of the shitshow that is China.

Aug 02, 2013 12:28 Report Abuse



Civilian flights are probably restricted to certain air corridors, with the rest deemed military only. China is a big country, 20% of it is still massive.

Mar 25, 2015 22:57 Report Abuse



Well whats the point building huge airports......if the planes dont fly out on time.....i have seen delays everytime i catch a flight and throws my entire schedule off the cliff........best time to catch a flight is in the evening....so you can plan your trip next day onward...

Aug 02, 2013 11:14 Report Abuse



Yes the flights are mostly delayed by at least half an hour. Besides, checking in always take forever the Chinese are soooooo inefficient.combine that with their poor level of English and you will know what I mean.

Aug 02, 2013 07:53 Report Abuse