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May weather in Beijing

woman leaving on holiday

It seems to be a well known joke that the weather plays a large part in British communication. Actually though even if they don’t make it their talking point centre piece, the weather does actually play a huge part in everyone’s lives. And in many, many cases around the world, is responsible for the termination of them. Lives we mean.

May is also the month where many Chinese choose to travel during their long Labour or May Day weekend. This year, it was the first opportunity for unrestricted travel since the Covid travel rules were relaxed in China. This year the weather was, more or less, favourably inclined towards travel and millions of Chinese took to rail, road and air to take advantage of it. We covered that below:

However, back in May 2021, things were not so pleasant, as this segment from Caixin Global explains:

On Saturday — the first day of a national holiday that runs until May 5 — more than 30 high speed railway trains from Beijing to Wuhan, Xi’an, Changsha and further afield were delayed, and a further 16 cancelled.

So the pride and joy of China railroad, the envy of many other countries, was, despite all its hi tech paraphernalia and gizmo’s, brought to its knees by none of the than: the weather! High winds created a power failure in a critical electrical sub station. Punters were not amused!
All pain no train– another Caixin photo gallery captures the situation.

However, mother nature seems to be a few weeks ahead of herself this year. Shrubs, trees and flowers that do not normally bloom till early May were out braving the weather back in mid April. Beijing has also been lashed by electrical storms recently – which usually do not make their presence felt until early summer, still a few weeks away.

Travellers beware

And so, an advanced warning. As the season matures and summer takes control, Beijing’s winds do tend to gather in strength. Become fickle, unpredictable. Which probably means the same. These can create nasty cross winds at Beijing’s airports. The end result is either a stomach churning, white knuckle, less than smooth landing, a wave around to try again or diversion to the other Beijing airport or Tianjin. But wait – there’s more!

Summer in Beijing also introduces the rainy season. More precisely, precluding precipitation, ’tis the season of electrical storms. Not great news for fliers. Those using aircraft we mean. For a few weeks during this time, Beijing Airports close down from time to time as storms blow in – and blow out. Can be a few times a day.

Ok, yes, modern aircraft can handle electrical storms. The close down is for personnel safety; baggage handlers, those restocking galleys and, especially refuelling. Several thousand litres of high octane jet fuel, a big mass of metal tin can and lightening bolts ain’t the best combo.

Ever stacked a series of dominoes on end? And then knocked one over? Yeah, the Domino Effect. That is roughly what happens when Beijing closes for even a relatively short time. It is not just those waiting to depart Beijing for other points who are delayed. But also those waiting to depart for Beijing. So if you are sitting in Shanghai, waiting for the all clear – you are lucky.
If in Changsha, a smaller city, not so lucky.

Why is that Bic?
Well, our guess is, based on several hundred hours cooling our heels in small airports, it is an hierarchy thing. Once the all clear is given, priority seems to be given to international flights, followed by the bigger cities and, eventually, if you are lucky, the small city you’re waiting in.
Of course, there is every likelihood your flight will have been cancelled!

However, let’s end this on a spark of good news. Since Beijing opened major airport #2 in South Beijing your chances of being stuck in a smaller city are reduced. As Beijing is such a massive, sprawling mega city, storms over Beijing Capital (northern) Airport tend to be localised, or regionalised. It can be raining here, yet our friends in the south west of Beijing are enjoying fine weather. And vice versa. In short, you have to be darned unlucky for both Beijing airports to be shut due to weather.

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