Airlines in China add new routes and increase volume to pre-pandemic levels

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28th March 2023 – (Beijing) Airlines in China have started their summer-autumn flight season, which kicked off on Sunday. The Civil Aviation Administration of China reported that carriers are adding new routes and increasing flight volume to surpass pre-pandemic levels. During the 217-day flight season that lasts until late October, 169 domestic and foreign carriers plan to schedule 117,222 passenger and cargo flights each week, up 20.8 percent from 2019.

Air China has scheduled an average of 1,547 flights each day, which is 51 percent more than in 2019. Meanwhile, China Southern Airlines has scheduled more than 3,000 flights a day, linking 216 airports at home and abroad. China United, a budget airline, has opened 14 new air routes in addition to restoring seven ones that were canceled during the pandemic-induced travel slump.

The summer-autumn season is crucial for airlines in terms of revenues, which can account for about 60 percent of the annual earnings. Fan Qingsong, a strategic executive officer with budget airline China Express, said the jump in flight volume is a telltale sign of an industry-wide recovery, and many carriers are laying a great deal of emphasis on this change of season by arranging more services.

The CAAC reported that 38 carriers have added 726 exclusive routes in the new season, with a weekly average of 6,659 flights linking cities such as Ordos, Zhanjiang, and Guilin with regional transportation hubs including Chongqing, Dalian, and Guiyang. Han Tao, a researcher with the China Air Transport Association, said the additions are mainly “branch airways” featuring short-distance flights commuting between smaller cities. The routes help carriers tap small-town and rural markets. Data showed that the number of overseas flights has also witnessed an upsurge.

Xie Zhinan, an official with Beijing Capital International Airport, said it is handling around 76 international passenger flights each day, or 50 percent more than the winter-spring season, in the new season. These flights are to and from 54 airports in 41 countries on five continents. The airport’s management told state broadcaster China Central Television that there will be at least one flight daily to cities such as Frankfurt, Moscow, and Sydney in the new season starting Sunday.

The restoration of international flights came ahead of a slew of Chinese public holidays in the next couple of months, such as Qingming Festival on 5th April, International Workers’ Day on 1st May, and Dragon Boat Festival on 22nd June. Experts said that carriers operating on the mainland have seized the twice-a-year shift in flying schedules, to expand routes as passengers venture out of their homes with the cutting of many pandemic-related restrictions.