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Flying from YVR to China could cost more than $22,000

Prices for flights to China continue to skyrocket after the Chinese embassy tweaked the visa requirements for Canadians travelling for business, work and family to China.

Prices for flights to China continue to skyrocket after the Chinese embassy adjusted the visa requirements for Canadians travelling for business, work and family to China.  

Google Flights shows that, by the end of June, the average price for a one-way ticket to Mainland China will cost around $7,000. At the higher end, tickets can be more than $22,000. 

Benjamin Liu, who emigrated from China to Richmond 14 years ago, said the price is “insanely expensive.”

Liu told the News that, before the pandemic, the cheapest roundtrip flight ticket he could get was as low as $800 and the average price was about $1,500.

“The average annual salary in Vancouver is about $50-60,000,” said Liu, “If a one-way ticket could cost $22,000, that’s almost a third of the annual salary for ordinary people!”

“How much money will be left after they buy roundtrip tickets?”

Ticket prices continued to spike after the Chinese Embassy in Canada released a statement on June 16 saying it’s adjusting the visa requirements.

According to its website, starting June 20, foreign nationals could apply for Commercial and Trade (M) or Visitor (F) Visas with an official invitation letter issued from Chinese authorities. In terms of a Work (Z) Visa application, an invitation letter will no longer be required. 

Canadians who have immediate family members residing or working in China can now apply for Family (S1/S2 and Q1/Q2) visas. However, tourist visa applications are not open yet.

According to the Chinese Visa Application Centre, visas issued after these recent changes will normally be a one-entry visa valid for only three months. People who hold a valid multiple-entry visa issued before March 2020 are unable to use it to enter China - meaning they will need to apply for a new one. 

It has been more than two years since China suspended entry by foreigners holding valid visas or residence permits and stopped accepting new visa applications for non-emergent purposes.

Before the recent changes this June, Canadians who had family members in China could only apply for a visa if there was a “humanitarian emergency,” such as a dying family member. But these applications were not guaranteed to be accepted. 

The recent policy means they will finally be able to plan a family reunion after a two-year separation. 

“Even if the tickets’ price is skyrocketing, people will buy it if they have emergencies in their family in China and have to return,” said David Lin, president of GS Travel, a Richmond-based travel agency that used to cater to the Chinese market. 

Lin told the News the heart problem of skyrocketing tickets is supply-demand imbalance. 

The pent-up demand to return to China for family visit purposes is huge, but China has demanded airlines to suspend flights or limit seat capacities if more than five passengers are confirmed with COVID, which has made flight tickets to China even rarer and more expensive.

The strict international flight restrictions are implemented to maintain China’s “dynamic zero COVID” approach. According to a recent announcement from the Civil Aviation Administration of China, since 2020, a total of 1679 international flights have been canceled

“I choose to stay in Richmond this year,” said Liu, "Hopefully I can go back to China to visit my family next year if the ticket price could return to normal."