What It Looks Like Flying Out Of Shanghai Right Now

I’ve written about Covid lockdowns in China, and the struggles people have had getting food. China’s zero Covid policy isn’t producing zero Covid now that the virus spreads so efficiently. And lockdowns aren’t being used as a bridge, to buy time for effective vaccines and treatments. They licensed but didn’t use the BioNTech vaccine, preferring home grown ones, and haven’t placed big orders of Paxlovid.

But China is where it is now, and has banned criticism of government Covid policy. Xi Jinping needs to keep dissent under control and disaster at bay until later this year, when he’s expected to be re-elected to an unprecedented third time at the Twentieth People’s Congress.

One face of the lockdown is what it’s like to travel, for those few people who can. Residents in a locked down city can’t simply go to the airport. They aren’t allowed to move freely. You have to have a Covid travel permit to cross districts. If someone in your building tests positive the whole building is locked down. And if you can get to the airport, the road to international departures has frequently been closed.

With capacity out of Shanghai down by two-thirds and passengers far more limited than that, Shanghai Pudong airport is a ghost town.

Make no mistake, though, there are passengers at Shanghai Pudong.

Asian flight crews normally attract a lot of attention from passengers. Even so these uniforms are eye-catching.

On Tuesday Rochester Hills, Michigan Mayor Bryan Barnett shared to social media about some of his family making it out of Shanghai. Not all of them, though. They passed along photos from their trip. Here’s crew from their trip:

Credit: Bryan Barnett

Bear in mind of course that the virus primarily spreads through aerosols rather than fomites. I’d bet they aren’t changing their gloves nearly enough in any case.

As long as there’s any contact with the outside world, and make no mistake these flights entail contact, there will be Covid entering China even if they’re able to stamp out current waves. China needs a plan for better vaccines and better treatments. Otherwise, while they may just squeak through the Party Congress, they’ll find themselves still vulnerable to Covid despite the sacrifices imposed on their people.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. China is the next world superpower because Xi Jinping knows what he is doing and his predecessors knew what they were doing.

  2. These silly and harmful lockdowns continue not because Xi is guaranteed a third term but precisely because he isn’t. He and his cronies have a lot invested in this strategy and it will be very difficult to back down now without looking like an incompetent fool – as it’s starting to appear anyway. When the harm to the economy threatens stability and his re-election more than Covid, we will see this quickly reverse – unless he first gets the same tap on the shoulder that the Gang of Four got when their time was determined to be up. There is likely drama playing out behind the scenes that we won’t know about until after the fact.

  3. Regardless of all the geopolitical propaganda, the staff at PVG is world class …

    In January 2018, while flying Asiana business, we were given access at PVG’s Air China lounge. This is where I lost my iPhone. Three days later, a knock on my door in Orange County, California by FEDEX to deliver my lost iPhone that was returned to me shipped all the way from PVG!!!

    True story!

  4. They have trapped themselves with no exit. They can’t admit their vaccines are substantially inferior. And lacking either effective vaccination or natural immunity, there is nothing but these draconian measures to forestall a catastrophe that could be worse than anything the world has seen yet.

  5. I wonder why the family of the Rochester Hills, MI Mayor were in Shanghai? Who would go there? Why would China let them in?
    Film at 11?
    Looks like Stormtroopers invading LAX. Why are there so many of them?

  6. On the one hand I feel bad for people being subjected to this there. On the other hand I remember that the entire hell we have endured for over two years originated in China and was allowed to spread across the world due to their cover ups and squashing of information. I personally think they should be isolated until this all settles down. They can trade with Russia and see how that goes. China needs a good ol’ time out from global society.

    Still can’t believe that we fight with each other in our own countries over Covid but few will ever really discuss or talk about where the blame and the penalties need to occur. One thing we should unite on is that China owes the world a humble and deep apology.

  7. This is simply unsustainable in the long term. Time for China to start vaxxing with mRNA vaccines, stock up on Paxlovid and other therapeutics, and get back to normal. From what I’m reading, even the farmers in China haven’t been allowed to plant their crops for next season. I’m afraid it’s going to get worse there before it gets better.

  8. @KimmeeA — I don’t know how to break this to you, but there are no Covid mitigations that work — especially the vaccines. I guess nobody tells you this because it’s incredibly embarrassing to the ruling class, but you can go to Walgreens website and get the data yourself. Vaccinated people now are far more likely to come down with Covid than the unvaccinated.
    The only thing China (or anyone else) can do about Covid is live with it. Everyone gets infected. Almost everyone is OK — except the very elderly and infirm. China will eventually figure this out but if America refuses to accept reality, you can imagine it might not be that quickly. The ruling classes hate to be spectacularly wrong.

  9. @chopsticks Every dashboard I’ve seen shows infection rates among the unvaccinated running between 3 and 9 times that of the vaccinated (depending on state). I suspect you are looking at the positivity rates on walgreen’s tracker — that’s the percent who tested positive divided by the percent who tested at all. That says nothing about actual infection rates among the population, and given the failure of states to set up consistent reporting for home rapid tests, the utility of positivity as an indicator of pandemic control is substantially diminished.

    And to all those who think Dr Fauci would love this sort of nonsense, at this point we know how the disease spreads and what doesn’t work. A hazmat suit and gloves unchanged for 14 hours is not going to please anyone who works in public health. Vaccines work. But the western vaccines work better than the Chinese ones, so the Chinese people will suffer.

  10. @DaveS “They have trapped themselves with no exit. They can’t admit their vaccines are substantially inferior.”

    I’ve seen one commentator on TV that constantly harps on this, but I see absolutely no evidence for it. The lockdowns are insane in large part because Covid has done so little harm, and so few people have died. I don’t see any reason to believe that the inferiority of Chinese vaccines – even if true, which is far from clear to me – has any basis for the fiasco of what’s going on in Shanghai. The vaccines dispensed in much of Europe and the US (Jensen, Astra-Zeneca) are pharmacologically similar. This has nothing to do with the vaccines (or health more generally). It’s politics.

  11. @Andy:

    You are reading government propaganda…. the TRUE dangerous misinformation.

  12. This just makes me wonder if the Chinese know something about the Covid virus that no one else has figured out?

  13. @Amazing Larry
    Yes, government propaganda started by the original government fool Chump who proclaimed it will magically just disappear. The only thing to just disappear was Chump.

  14. @Chopsticks
    After more than 2 years of this people would think you would have learned something from this, but apparently not!

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