Whine Wednesday: Crazy Requirements To Reserve A Seat On China Southern Domestic Flight (Request To Submit The Passport)


This weeks Whine Wednesday is about China Southern Airlines crazy regulation to reserve seats on domestic flights within China which requires to submit your passport for that purpose.

For an upcoming CZ flight from Shanghai to Shenyang I contacted the airline to add my SkyTeam frequent flyer number and reserve a seat, no assuming that this is a huge affair for them.

Purchasing flights within China is always a special (awful) experience if you do so with foreign credit cards and no local phone numbers, especially on the airlines own website. Unfortunately the low priced tickets are only available through domestic websites or the travel agencies such as CTRIP and ELONG where foreigners can also pay with overseas credit cards in a simplified booking process. Overseas websites including the airlines individual country pages only sell full fare tickets for the respective routes.

Example: I’m traveling from Shanghai to Shenyang next month and the price was

  • China Southern / CTRIP China: 470 CNY (US$70)
  • China Southern USA / Orbitz: US$ 217

First I tried to purchase via China Southern and was immediately shot down by the requirement of a local Chinese phone number to receive a ‘security SMS’. The website also doesn’t accept American Express as it seems and neither can you enter any Frequent Flyer Number’.

Booking via CTRIP was easy and fast, it was possible to pay with Amex but the option to add a frequent flyer number other than China Southern itself was missing.

The tickets were issued promptly (within seconds actually) and delivered to my email. I then contacted the U.S. based hotline that was transferred to China to make the proper adjustments (mileage number and seating) which was easily done giving my SkyTeam Elite membership. when it came to the seats however I thought I’m dreaming when the agent said they could only reserve a seat when submitting my passport to them.

My usual method in such a case: Hang up and call again! But even the second call resulted in the same request. Obviously I’m not going to send my passport to some obscure email address in China (John recently has an interesting find of a few hundred passport copies at a hotel business center in India).

I ended up calling yet another China Southern office in Japan and they were able to reserve the seat without any of this nonsense.


Requesting a passport copy for a seat reservation is simply crazy and makes no sense whatsoever. The website is also completely useless and doesn’t allow to access the bookings in any way, resulting in an error message.

Reserving seats is imperative for domestic flights in China as people without local ID often receive error messages when trying to check-in online. We had articles before about how horrible Chinese airlines websites are when it comes to the purchase and check-in process. Unbelievable how this can go on in 2017!

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