I'm going to Japan next summer, and the cheapest flight by far is 15 hours from where I am to Shanghai, a 4 hour layover (which I know will be censored), and a 3 hour flight to Tokyo (which doesn't have internet in the first place). Will I have to get a VPN if I want to do my normal internet use on the first flight?

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    Are you sure you will have internet access at all? I had a very similar flight plan to Japan with China Eastern and there was no Internet at all on board. Nov 12 '17 at 13:33
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    Most airlines, not just Chinese, operate some kind of content filtering to restrict bandwidth usage and transfer volume. I would not expect a VPN to work at all. Nov 12 '17 at 19:10
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    If this is a flight SFO-PVG or LAX-PVG, relax - there's no Internet on those flights at all unless they upgraded those planes in last six months.
    – George Y.
    Nov 12 '17 at 22:50
  • @Tor-EinarJarnbjo you can mask a VPN connection as TLS to get around pretty much any proxy detection system: blog.zorinaq.com/my-experience-with-the-great-firewall-of-china
    – JonathanReez
    Nov 23 '17 at 11:49
  • @Tor-EinarJarnbjo Qantas has content filtering, but totally allows VPNs.
    – Mark Mayo
    Dec 14 '17 at 20:02

Apparently the sign in process on board is very convoluted, so you may wish to familiarise yourself with that first, as it may require registering in advance ;)

However, from the same review:

the typical “great firewall of China” also applies on China Eastern, as you’d expect.

So yes, you will run into limitations.

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