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I was interested in booking a flight from Sydney to Tokyo. It stops over in Shanghai and asks for a change from Pudong airport to Hongqiao airport, in 4h.

This is a through ticket - but reading online it seems that this time frame can be a bit tight for the transfer between airports.

If I was to miss it, because customs takes a long time for example, will I be put on the next flight for free? The airline in question is China Eastern.

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    Are you sure this is a connecting flight? Typically AFAIK there’s no change of airport unless it’s a self-connection
    – Traveller
    Sep 4, 2023 at 10:54
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    The airline's FAQ says "Q: What shall I do to catch up the second segment after arriving Shanghai? A: You may contact staff from Transfer Dept. of China Eastern Airlines in Pudong Airport. They will help you complete the formalities, check-in the luggage and issue the boarding pass for the second segment. If you take China Eastern Airlines' onward flights in Hongqiao Airport, our staff will also help you in catching the Shuttle Bus between the airports." This suggests such transfers are regular practice, but no info on what happens if you miss them.
    – Stuart F
    Sep 4, 2023 at 11:08
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    @Traveller: not necessarily. United often offers award tickets that include an airport change (example EWR<->JFK) but they put the liability on the passenger. China Eastern appears to be an exception. Apparently in Shangahi they operate all domestic flights out of SHA and all international ones from PVG so it looks like they have a process and coverage for it. The airports are on opposite sides of town, so it's at least an hour's ride and Shanghai traffic can make this a bit of a nail biter
    – Hilmar
    Sep 4, 2023 at 11:35
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    I would expect the airline to take care of you if delay was through no fault of your own but not if you took the opportunity to do some sightseeing or shopping and that was the cause of your delay. The difficulty is to determine which is the case, of course, but the airline will usually be aware of most of the possible causes for the former (notably if your incoming flight is late). Still, it's IMHO always best to avoid such transfers, if only because of the hassle it involves even if everything is right on time.
    – jcaron
    Sep 4, 2023 at 12:01
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    A friend I was due to be meeting in Guilin was in exactly this situation and missed his connection in Shanghai. China Eastern sorted him out with a hotel and a seat on the next available flight, and were perfectly happy to accommodate his request for a flight to Kunming instead of Guilin as we were due to have moved on by then. The fact he spoke no Chinese was no problem. Obviously it was annoying for him to miss the first day of the holiday, but otherwise it worked out very well indeed. Sep 5, 2023 at 8:37

2 Answers 2

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I can't speak for PVG-SHA connections specifically, but this is common in Tokyo which has two major airports with international flights (NRT, HND) and consequently has lots of connecting flights between the two.

The rule of thumb is, if the incoming flight is delayed, the airline will take responsibility and get you on the next available flight if you can't make the connection. But if the flight is on time and you still miss the connection, it's on you. The minimum connecting times (are supposed to) account for customs clearance, so if you get stuck you're likely out of luck, although you can always try pleading your case to the airline.

For what it's worth, if traffic is a concern, you can avoid it entirely by taking Shanghai Metro Line 2 directly from PVG to SHA. However, this is a commuter subway, not an express train, so it takes about 90 minutes end to end with a lot of stops in between, vs 45 min by car if there's no traffic. If schedules are in your favor you can shave about 30 min off the journey by first taking the maglev (top speed over 400 km/h!) to Longyang Road and continuing from there by metro though.

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  • What if the plane lands on time, but I get caught up with customs for ages because they want to give me a nice long search or the line is really long? Is that still my fault? I'd rather not have to plead with their staff as my Chinese isn't great.
    – John Hon
    Sep 5, 2023 at 11:25
  • @JohnHon The actual passport or customs inspection has never taken more than 10 seconds for me, it's the line to get to that point that can chew up an hour. YMMV. Sep 5, 2023 at 11:42
  • @JohnHon But at the end of the day, the reason your connecting flight is cheaper than flying direct is because you're getting a discount for the hassle and risk. In practice you're likely fine with four hours though. Sep 5, 2023 at 11:44
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A couple of comments first.

  • It is probably not a connecting flight, but two separate itineraries on a single invoice, even if it is with the same airline. Did you buy it from a travel agency or the airline?
  • Customs, ie luggage inspection, shouldn't take too much time. Immigration, ie passport control, and luggage pickup, OTOH, could be indeed an issue.

Depending on the time of arrival, Pudong to Hongqiao can take anywhere from 45 mn to 1.5 hours by taxi. You can cut down on this by taking the Maglev to downtown. But then you'll have to catch a taxi, and that could be iffy, again depending on the time.

Next comes checking in again and passing through security, which can take quite a bit of time. All in all, 4 hours may be doable, but even someone like me who knows his way around Shanghai, I wouldn't try it.

As for whether you'll be put on another flight, it will all depend on the type of ticket you purchased. Better ask China Eastern...

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  • While less common than same-airport connections, trips requiring a change of airports on a single ticket do exist, mostly in places where some different types of flights (domestic v. international for instance) use different airports. This is frequent for Air France in Paris for instance, where if you try to book a HKG-PTP flight you will have to get from CDG to ORY. This sometimes also happens (or used to) for BA between LHR and LGW, or in New York between JFK, LGA and EWR. Some airlines have detailed instructions for this on their websites or inflight magazines.
    – jcaron
    Sep 10, 2023 at 11:51
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    No this was booked with the China Eastern on one ticket. We didn't just make it up.
    – John Hon
    Sep 11, 2023 at 12:20

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