Beware of cheap international flights going through China
Ross McLaughlin and Sandra Hermiston, CTV Vancouver
Published Monday, February 12, 2018 6:00AM PST
If you're looking for deals on international flights, beware of connections that will take you through China. You could show up for your flight and be told you're going nowhere.
A Tofino, B.C. couple learned that lesson the hard way after booking with a flight on China Eastern airlines through FlightHub.ca.
For just $1,200 Cierra Hart and Lauchlin Kinney bought two roundtrip tickets from Vancouver to Chiang Mai, Thailand. According to their itinerary, the flight had a 20 hour and 50 minute layover in Kunming, China.
“I expect the itinerary to be correct,” said Hart, “We talked to FlightHub and they specifically told us no [visa required] under 24 hours.”
They thought they were good to go, but they were turned away at check-in on the day of their flight because China Eastern airline said they did need a visa.
The problem was their flight actually had two stops in China. The first stop was in Nanjing, which was not indicated on their itinerary, followed by a domestic flight to Kunming, before the connection in Thailand.
Two stops in China and slightly more than 24 hours on the ground in the country would require a visa.
“During the morning of they [FlightHub] kept saying this isn't our responsibility. This is all on you guys you should have figured this out," said Kinney.
Now when they log into FlightHub they see NKG indicating Nanjing as a "stopover" - meaning more than 4 hours. It’s a different screen they say from their original itinerary they were sent.
Ross McLaughlin contacted FlightHub and after an hour on hold was told Hart and Kinney’s situation is under investigation. The employee told McLaughlin a representative from the company’s head office would reach out to him the next day.
That call happened on Jan. 18 and FlightHub has still not contacted CTV News.
More than 550 complaints have been filed against FlightHub on the Better Business Bureau’s website.
“They’re an F rating with the BBB right now,” spokesperson Evan Kelly said. “As far as we're concerned they have not addressed those issues and they continue to amass complaints."
Hart and Kinney feel they have learned a valuable lesson. To navigate through China you need expert advice. With the rules always changing, it’s best to visit the Chinese consulate in Vancouver. And you can also visit Travel Canada for visa requirements.
However, the airlines aren’t always up to date with China's visa requirements, which can change overnight, so it may be in your best interest to show up with a visa in hand rather than get to the check-in counter and be turned away and left disappointed.
To complicate things even more, some regions in China have created their own rules making short visits exempt from visa requirements, meaning you get a waiver at the destination airport for visits up to 144 hours. But the Chinese consulate told CTV News sometimes it doesn’t even get those updates in a timely manner.
A single entry China visa costs $145, but if you’re travelling a lot it might make more sense to pay $200 and get a multiple entry tourist visa that would last 10 years.