Review of Tibet Airlines flight Chengdu Shenzhen in Economy

Airline Tibet Airlines
Flight TV9901
Class Economy
Seat 36A
Aircraft Airbus A330-200
Flight time 02:15
Take-off 23 Sep 23, 14:20
Arrival at 23 Sep 23, 16:35
TV 1 reviews
Published on 9th November 2023

Bigger, better, bolder

Hey guys and welcome to another Flight Report!

This is FR number 4 of my recent trip through Asia and will see me take my last domestic flight within China from Chengdu to Shenzhen following my flight on the C919. For those who haven't read my previous FR, I'm travelling from Jinan to Shenzhen with a detour across China to Chengdu purely to fly the C919. While that flight is the highlight of the whole trip, I'm also super excited for this one too as it gives me an opportunity to fly a lesser known airline (and on their widebody as well). 

Tibet Airlines is an airline headquartered in Lhasa (the capital of the Tibet Autonomous Region) and while the airline also uses the city's airport (Lhasa Gonggar Airport) as a hub, they also have a secondary hub in Chengdu Shuangliu airport, funneling passengers to/from Lhasa from Chengdu and then onwards to other destinations. It also gives people like me an opportunity to fly with them without ever touching Tibet. The airline is mainly a domestic airline however it has flown to international destinations like Russia, Thailand and a short lived route between Jinan, Shandong and Helsinki. 

As for price, I paid CN¥1000 ($140) for a one way ticket. Like I mentioned in previous FRs, while the price may seem high from an European/NA perspective, these are fairly normal prices for Chinese domestic flights although it's worth mentioning that the cheapest fare between Chengdu and Shenzhen was around CN¥800 ($110), so I did pay a bit more to fly on Tibet. As a side note, the price for this flight when I checked back in July/August was CN¥2800 ($390), which was absolutely insane. The price was discounted around 2/3 a few weeks before and it becomes pretty obvious why looking at the load factor (~35%). 

Travelling to Tibet? This is just a reminder that the Chinese government requires all foreigners to apply for a Tibet Travel Permit before travel. The Tibet Travel Permit can be only applied through a licensed local travel agency with a pre-booked Tibet tour package. Check with your local Chinese Embassy for more information. (As of 09 November 2023)

From 2023, I aim to offset all of my CO2 emission from flights. All emissions are calculated using the ICAO Carbon Emissions Calculator and I will be funding projects approved by The Gold Standard. The CO2 output for this trip is:
CTU-SZX: 114kg
Total for 2023 (so far): 2920kg

video report

Here's the video version of this FR, it's got pretty much the same thing content wise. 

Chengdu shuangliu airport (ctu)

Shuangliu airport is much closer to the city than Tianfu airport (TFU), taking just 30 minutes on the metro (compared to over an hour for TFU). However travel time is very much dependent on where you're coming from (Chengdu is a massive city, after all). 

The main check-in area.  

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Departures for the afternoon.  

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There's also few souvenir shops available before security.  

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The queue for check-in. I forgot to mention that like a lot of smaller airlines in China, Tibet has a fairly awkward website to use and navigate (and it's all in Chinese). Online check-in is possible (but not if you booked with a third party) and seat selection is available online but it's on a separate area of their website (according to the signs near the counters). It's all quite confusing and after a while I just gave up and just asked for a window seat while checking in. 

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With check-in done, it's time to head through security. 

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Security only took 5 minutes and with an hour to go until boarding, lets have a walk around the terminal. 

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Here's one end of the terminal.  

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And here's the other. Our plane will actually depart from gate 176 but it's not arrived yet. 

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In between there's quite a lot of shops and restaurants. 

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However, a lot of the 'stores' (or at least the spaces for them) was boarded up, clearly there's an issue with attracting enough vendors, which is quite unusual for an airport (especially in China). 

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In my last report, I mentioned that I call Chengdu the 'cutest city in the world'. Why? Pandas!!! Sichuan is home to most of the giant panda population and is a fairly popular tourist attraction in the province and its capital. The giant panda forms a huge part of Chengdu's national (and international) identity and can be seen with references to the animal everywhere, including in its airports with pandas in charging stations… 

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… pandas in restaurants… 

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.,.. and panda stores!

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See the yellow sign above the shelf? It says: "爱熊猫, 爱生活", which translates as: "love pandas, love life". It's honestly just Chengdu summed up in a phrase haha. 

the flight

Flight time to Shenzhen is about 2 hours and here's our route: 

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Sadly no photo of our plane, but you can see her nose sticking out on the right.  

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Some info about our plane:

Type: Airbus A330-200
Registration: B-8420
First flight: 25 May 2016
Age: ~7 years
Config: C12/W32/Y235

One of 5 A330s in Tibet Airlines' fleet, she was delivered to Tibet Airlines brand new in June 2016 and has remained with the airline ever since. 

Boarding started around 15 minutes late and here are the seats on the A330. 

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The IFE and tray table.  

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As you can see, the tray table did come with a cup holder but it's been removed for some reason. 

The legroom - fairly tight but it's alright especially for a domestic flight. 

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First views outside the window.  

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A security announcement was played before the flight. I've never seen this before in China or elsewhere.  

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Pushback around 15 minutes late… 

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… which is incredibly lucky, considering that this was the on-time performance of this flight for the past week (average delay was over an hour):  

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Taxiing past the remote stands. 

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Takeoff! Bye bye Chengdu!  

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Views of the city right after takeoff.  

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Climbing through the clouds.  

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A little while after takeoff, a video started playing on the IFE explaining common occurrences while flying like turbulence (all in Chinese). I think it's a great thing to have (especially for nervous flyers) and more airlines should have it.  

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Lets have a look at the contents of the seatback pocket, which includes: 

- A safety card 

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- A pair of headphones for the IFE. 

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- An air sickness bag.  

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- And an inflight magazine (largely all in Chinese). 

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It's quite nice that they included a program for their IFE.  

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Fairly nice weather now that we've left the mountains of Sichuan behind. 

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Shortly after the crew came around with lunch. 

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There was a choice of chicken or beef. I chose the chicken option. The main course is Kung Pao chicken (宫保鸡丁) - a Sichuan dish with diced chicken, vegetables and cashew nuts alongside some rice. In the snack box is red bean paste bun, two slices of oranges, some sort of preserved/pickled vegetables and a packet of biscuits… except it's spicy. Only in Sichuan will you get hot and spicy biscuits haha. 

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All in all, a very nice meal, (apart from the pickled/preserved vegetables). I have no idea how you're supposed to eat that, it's so salty. I guess maybe with the rice? I know some people that do it but I never liked it. 

Anyway, with lunch done, let's have a look at the IFE. Like with all IFE systems, there's a USB port on the bottom along with a double headphone jack -something that's getting more and more uncommon, although I still carry an adaptor with me just in case. 

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In terms of actual content, it's not great (as I expected for a smaller airline). There's like a total of 12 or so movies (pretty much all Chinese) and a grand total of 2 episodes of the same show. There's actually an alright range of music (all Chinese) and games. Honestly, for the routes that Tibet fly on, any form of IFE is a bonus so I don't really care if it's good or not (although I'd hate it if they decided to fly long-haul again). 

There's also a non-interactive map, which is always nice to have.  

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I know this is really random, but the pattern on the winglet really reminds me of the flag of Seychelles. The colors and pattern is identical (just arranged in a different order). Now that I've seen it, there's no way I'm unseeing it haha.  

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Shortly after, we're starting our descent into Shenzhen.  

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First views of the city.  

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Honestly, it's only when you see it in the air that you realize just how huge Chinese cities are - it just stretches to the horizon… and beyond. 

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On final approach.  

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Welcome to Guangdong! We landed 30 minutes late (which isn't too bad considering how bad delays in China can get).  

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Views of the terminal building.  

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Parked at the gate.  

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Shenzhen Bao'an airport (SZX)

Heading to baggage reclaim. 

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View of the apron outside.  

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The baggage reclaim area. Bao'an airport only have one terminal that was opened in 2013 (and replaced all the other terminals). It follows the general rule China have when it comes to infrastructure: bigger, better and bolder. 

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The domestic arrivals area.  

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And here is the arrivals concourse.  

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To put into perspective how huge this place is, there's like 18 different exits depending on where you're going and your preferred mode of transport. You can choose from taxis, ride-hailing apps, local buses, airport express coaches, intercity coaches (including to Hong Kong), metro, intercity high-speed trains and even an airport ferry. As for me? I'll probably go with the boring option and take a taxi haha (although I'm really curious what the ferry terminal's like). 

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Anyway, that concludes my last domestic flight within China. My next FR will see my fly to Eastern Asia (where I'll be spending the next two weeks). See you there!

See more


Tibet Airlines

Cabin crew10.0

Chengdu - CTU


Shenzhen - SZX



A nice flight with Tibet Airlines. Cabin is fairly worn with broken cup holders and limited legroom however the seats are fairly comfortable and the (very limited selection) on the IFE is always a bonus. Catering is really nice (especially the hot meal) and the crew overall are very nice and professional. All in all, Tibet offers a very similar level of service to the 'Big Three' airlines in China, which is really good for a smaller carrier.

Chengdu Shuangliu International Airport: A nice airport with a lot of spaces for restaurants/shops but not a whole lot in reality. Still, there's enough for most people and the airport as a whole is quite modern and clean.

Shenzhen Bao'an International Airport: Another airport that follows China's trend of building huge airports with tons of space. An absolute ton of transport options to the city (and the surrounding area including Hong Kong and Guanzhou). Very clean and fairly efficient and very nice airport to fly in/out of.



If you liked this review or if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to post a comment below !
  • Comment 639229 by
    KévinDC TEAM SILVER 6573 Comments
    I'm really loving following your trip to China and all these little-known carriers (in the West) and new aircraft types. Tibet Airlines seem like a little gem...the A330 cabins are spacious and comfortable and would be modern if not for the wear-and-tear, which is not surprising considering the high number of cycles these frames do flying mostly short-haul vs widebodies in the West flying mostly long-haul. Once again the meal looks fantastic for a 2h flight! Now I'm hungry, haha

    Yes, Chinese carrier websites are super clunky, even the big carriers! But yes, the smaller carriers are not very tourist-friendly because they're usually only in Mandarin, as you mentioned, and using Google Translate to translate the page usually doesn't work very well because it makes searching for a flight nearly impossible as typing in a city name in English doesn't necessarily translate correctly and makes for a big old mess, forcing using 3rd party site to book, which I don't like to do. I've been looking at a trip to Mainland China, but the flight search aspect has been somewhat discouraging. Nevertheless, I looove seeing reviews on these smaller carriers as it's fun to travel vicariously within China without all the hassle of actually doing it, HAH!

    Thanks so much for sharing!
    • Comment 639434 by
      Lia_K SILVER AUTHOR 55 Comments
      Hi Kévin, thanks for reading! I'm glad to hear you're enjoying these FRs on random Chinese airlines/flights. Aviation in China is such a quirky thing with all of its domestic airlines and subsidiaries and they're all so woefully under-reported, although that's not surprising considering how hard it is for foreigners who don't speak Chinese to book these flights (as you mentioned). And yeah, Tibet Airlines really surprised me with their service. Honestly, I wasn't sure what to expect going into this flight considering that they are a small domestic airline with a terrible website but they are really nice.

      As for websites, it's not just airlines but Chinese sites in general are just clunky and weirdly laid out. I do believe it's a cultural thing though (and what people there are used to) - you can tell that quite easily when you compare the differences between a Chinese website and its foreign counterparts (like China Eastern's). Sadly you'll most likely have to use 3rd parties if you want the most flight options - I'd suggest (the foreign version of Chinese travel agent Ctrip), it's got most of the domestic airlines in China (that a lot of times foreign sites don't have). Ctrip is also what the most Chinese people use for flights too so they're at least not gonna completely scam you (although I'm not sure how good their customer service is).

      Thanks again!
  • Comment 639250 by
    starvelk BRONZE 33 Comments
    Thanks for sharing! It's interesting how Chinese airlines have been sticking to the A330ceo variants well into right before covid. I suppose for Tibet Airlines though, it's more about obtaining certifications for flights into Lhasa.
    Interesting how they installed the same seats as Cathay Pacific did on the A330s - though the seats definitely seem more upright & straight compared to CX!
    Definitely agree with you on the delay part - I once had a KA flight from PEK-HKG which was delayed for 6 hours due to ATC delays, 30 minutes isn't all that bad considering all the delays I've had when flying to/from Mainland China in my lifetime!

    Agree with how these airlines have pretty horrible websites - pretty much impossible to navigate with if you can't read Chinese. Larger airlines tend to be better in this regard, but even English websites on MU, CZ etc sometimes miss translations/translate phrases incorrectly, so I imagine it must be difficult for foreigners to book a ticket on a Chinese airline!
    • Comment 639438 by
      Lia_K SILVER AUTHOR 55 Comments
      Hi Starvelk! Yeah, the A330ceo is really popular for domestic flights in China. It's nothing fancy but it gets the job done on those high demand routes. Oh, I didn't know the seats are the same as the ones on CX (although I expect them to have maintained it much better than Tibet). As for delays, I've been really lucky this trip with this flight being the only one that didn't arrive on time. It's usually much better in the mornings but I usually account for at least 6-7 hours of delay when planning a trip. I find it really helps to look up the flight on FR24 before booking to see the average delay.

      And yes, websites in China are terrible. Chinese cities are littered with (often hilarious) mistranslations and that's also true for websites too. Speaking of horrible translations, the English announcements on the Jinan Metro was so bad it sounded closer to German (terrible word choices and bizarre pronunciation). It made me cringe every time I had to ride it haha. Anyway, the terrible website (and lack of English translations anywhere) is probably one of the main reason most foreigners opt to take a tour.

      Thanks for reading!

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