A Beginner’s Guide to: Surviving ABACE


Not only is ABACE the first event of the year alphabetically, but Asia’s premier aviation conference and exhibition is also the earliest one chronologically. It’s held every year in Shanghai China.

The good news though, if you’ve been to the NBAA in the past, is that the exhibition’s halls and static display of aircraft are right next door to each other. In fact, if you’re visiting the static display you’re going to have to walk through the halls to get there.

The event is held at Hongqiao Airport which is commonly, and incorrectly, referred to as Shanghai’s domestic airport. Whilst it is true that the majority of services are to or from mainland China, you can also fly directly to some regional destinations are well.

This is good news if you’re flying in from elsewhere in China, Hong Kong, Macao, Seoul, Taipei or Tokyo, as you’ll be able to turn right when you exit the terminal and walk to the exhibition site within a few minutes. If not, you’ll be flying into the rather large Pudong Airport, which is on the opposite side of Shanghai to Hongqiao.

To get to Hongqiao from Pudong you have a few options: You can catch a cab, hop on a coach, brave the metro or you can choose our favourite option, the Maglev and then the metro. The Maglev, just in case you didn’t know, is a train. Well, it resembles a train, but instead of having a carriage on wheels, it hovers slightly above the tracks thanks to a series of magnets. It is also fast – really, really fast, although it only runs at maximum speeds during part of the afternoon.

Getting to the show site from the airport is relatively straightforward. Arrival by air or Metro at Terminal One means that you can walk to the site within a few minutes. During a recent show it rained quite a lot, so bring a raincoat and umbrella a there’s very little cover for the walk.

If you arrive at Terminal Two, your best bet is to take the NBAA shuttle bus. These also run from selected hotels surrounding the airport. And, unless you want to stay close to the airport, staying in central Shanghai is always an option, especially as taxis are relatively cheap. The Shanghai metro system is one of the world’s largest. It’s inexpensive, clean and safe, although it can be busy during rush hours. Best to avoid interchange stations like People’s Square or Century Avenue, unless of course you don’t mind being pushed and shoved out of the way a lot.

If you take a taxi it is always best to ask the hotel front deck to write down your destination in Chinese before you leave. This will avoid any potential confusion when getting into a taxi, as often taxi drivers here speak little if any English. Fortunately, in most cases your hotel room access key will have the name and address of the hotel written on the back in Chinese, if not, get the hotel to write it down somewhere for you.

It might also be a good idea to pick up a local SIM card when you arrive at the airport. The process of getting hold of one is relatively quick and painless, and should cost no more than $35 dollars for a decent data package. That should also give you some local air time as well as texts, but as everybody in China uses WeChat anyway, a data bundle is more probably more important.

Before you get into the site, which is in the Shanghai Hawker Pacific hangar, you’ll have to go through a security check. This is usual airport style, where you’ll have to empty out your pockets, have your bag scanned and then walk through a metal detector. If the alarm goes off, then you’re going to be patted down by the nearest security guard, male or female.

If you are a smoker, there is an area you can use, but this is outside the security area, so you’ll need to re-clear security every time you pop out.

In the evenings a lot of the functions are held either in airport hotels or the city centre. Getting into the city is as easy as catching a cab or hopping back on the metro, and shouldn’t really take more than 30 minutes whichever mode of transport you choose.

Shanghai itself is a sprawling megacity with a population of just over 25 million and is the most westernised city in China.

What is now Shanghai used to be a small agricultural village, until the advent of the Qing dynasty when it was turned into one of the most important trading ports in the country. But it is the 192’s and 1930s that people mostly associate with the city, years when the grand architectural buildings on the Bund were either being built or renovated.

If you’ve never been before you’ll probably be keen to sample the best that the city has to offer. A walk along the Bund and stopping somewhere along the Hangpu river for the obligatory Shanghai tourist picture of the Pudong skyline with the Oriental TV Tower as the centrepiece is a must. Shopping is good in the city, especially on the East Nanjing road which is a short distance from the Bund. Or, for a more authentic Chinese shopping experience, you can head to SciTech, a sprawling market underneath the Shanghai Science and Technology Museum. Be careful down there though, as it’s also home to many of the fake goods that Shanghai is known for.