China's airports went to Security Level 2 last week in a sudden move that stranded some passengers and pi$$ed off pretty much everyone else.
The heightened security is allegedly in response to finding knives during security checks at Urumqi's airport. The results were predictable: long lines, delays and grumbling (via the safety of Weibo).
The new level of security checks add the following to journeys from airports (especially Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Hangzhou, Chengdu, Chongqing and Urumqi:
shoes and belt will most likely be removed
carry-on luggage has a 50% chance of being opened and checked
pat downs for everyone (yay!)
Doesn't sound like much, but when two out of four carry on bags get checked and everyone is scrambling for shoes and belts while one dude takes his sweet time getting patted down by a cute lil security girl, well then delays are inevitable and the advice is: Turn up two hours in advance of your flight time. (Continues after the jump... )
Don't worry, be happy
But this is China folks, not the USA. So this "strike hard" campaign will most likely peter out at some point and the security checks will return to the arbitrary, half-hearted searches we knew and loved before. The old exceptions will crop up once more: rich guys, fiery old women, confused laowai, super-hot women...
Something beautiful about China is the irreverence to rules that gathers and grows over time. It seems like a paradox in such a regimented society (it is actually a paradox), but the more sudden the rule and the more annoying, the quicker everyone starts skirting the rule. Within reason of course: if you react in anger to the pat down/belt confiscation, then expect a relapse of iron fist security checks. That's just how it works, don't ask me why.
Stay calm, stay smiling and show up two hours before your flights with a book, smartphone or iPad and spend the wait time checking out some new handy China travel iPhone apps so the rest of your journey runs more smoothly.
You can book China flights on Ctrip, but unfortunately we don't have any more get-out-of-security-check-free cards. I sold 'em all already...