Changes in buying tickets for this year’s Spring Festival travel

Changes in buying tickets for this year’s Spring Festival travel

  13 Jan 2024

Passengers wait at the ticket gate of the waiting room at Guangzhou East Railway Station in South China’s Guangdong Province, January 10, 2024. /CFP

Passengers wait at the ticket gate of the waiting room at Guangzhou East Railway Station in South China’s Guangdong Province, January 10, 2024. /CFP

For many in China opting for train travel during the Spring Festival holiday, today marks the anticipated start of ticket sales for the first day of the Spring Festival travel rush. Spanning from January 26 to March 5, this 40-day travel period, also known as Chunyun, represents the largest seasonal migration in China.

Coinciding with the Chinese Lunar New Year, Chunyun is a time when millions embark on journeys across the country. Many move from urban employment centers to their rural hometowns, all in the spirit of reuniting with their families during this festive season.

To make the ticket acquisition experience more convenient and user-friendly for passengers, China’s railway department has upgraded the “12306” platform, the official railway ticket-booking platform of China, across both its website and mobile app. So there are some new changes for passengers buying train tickets this year.

Starting from January 11, the waitlist ticket purchasing function within the system has been upgraded. This function is activated when the desired ticket is sold out, placing the order in a waitlist. If a cancellation occurs that matches the waitlist order, the system will automatically process the purchase. After the upgrade, the maximum number of waitlist orders a passenger can submit has been increased from 2 to 6, and each order can now accommodate up to 9 passengers.

Following the upgrade, passengers now have more flexibility in their travel planning. During the pre-sale period, they can select any three travel dates and choose from up to 60 “date + train” combinations. For each train, there are multiple seating options available, including business-class, first-class and second-class seats. This refinement in the booking process broadens the range of travel choices available, catering to diverse preferences and needs.

In 2022, the deadline for confirming waitlist orders was adjusted from 6 hours to 2 hours before departure. This year, the time frame has been further reduced, now allowing for confirmation up to just 20 minutes before departure. This adjustment provides passengers with greater flexibility to set the confirmation deadline based on their specific needs.

Complementing these enhancements, starting January 15, the railway department will implement optimized regulations for ticket changes. Passengers will now have the flexibility to modify their tickets on the days leading up to the train’s departure, as well as on the day following the train’s departure.

Passengers purchase train tickets for the Spring Festival travel at the train station, Changzhou, east China's Jiangsu Province, January 12, 2024. /CFP

Passengers purchase train tickets for the Spring Festival travel at the train station, Changzhou, east China’s Jiangsu Province, January 12, 2024. /CFP

Passengers purchase train tickets for the Spring Festival travel at the train station, Changzhou, east China’s Jiangsu Province, January 12, 2024. /CFP

Alongside system enhancements, the 12306 app has introduced new features to streamline and expedite the ticket purchasing process for passengers.

One notable feature is the ticket purchase requirement pre-fill function. On the day tickets become available, passengers can use the app to pre-enter their desired train and seating options. Once the pre-filling is completed, the chosen train will appear at the top of the ticket availability list page. This allows for quick order submission when sales open, speeding up the purchasing process. The pre-filled information remains valid for 30 minutes after the tickets go on sale, and passengers have the flexibility to modify this information at any point within this time frame.

Another feature caters to passengers needing to purchase tickets outside the pre-sale period. To help them avoid missing the ticket release time, the app now includes a subscription reminder function. This allows passengers to set multiple reminders in advance, aligned with the ticket sales start time, ensuring they can place their orders promptly. Once a reminder is set, passengers will receive notifications before the tickets become available for sale, enhancing their chances of securing a booking at the desired time.

To support the travel needs of students and migrant workers during the Spring Festival, the 12306 app has launched a designated section for these specific groups to facilitate their ticket reservations and purchases. Through this special feature in the app, students and migrant workers can easily book and buy round-trip train tickets for their travel during the festival period.

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