Hubei airports see passenger rebound, but air carriers face load burden

By Tu Lei Source:Global Times Published: 2020/3/30 19:18:40

Workers unload aid materials from a cargo plane of China Postal Airlines at the Wuhan Tianhe International Airport in Wuhan, central China's Hubei Province, Jan. 29, 2020. From Jan. 24 to 29, Wuhan Tianhe International Airport received a total of 4,895 medical workers and 44 chartered airplanes of aid materials to Wuhan, according to Hubei Airports Group Company Co., Ltd. (Xinhua/Xiong Qi)

Airports in Central China's Hubei Province, the worst hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, resumed business as of Sunday, but the task of improving load factors remains a challenge ahead for air carriers.

Data from information provider VariFlight showed that on Monday, there were 96 flights in and out of the province, but the load factor was about 50 percent. There were about 8,000 passengers in and out of the province, while seats totaled more than 16,000.

Media reported that there were 98 aircraft movements at the airports on Sunday, the first day of resumption, taking about 7,000 passengers.

"The low load factor in Hubei is still about 10 percentage points below the average demand for the domestic market, but demand could recover soon," Zheng Hongfeng, CEO of VariFlight, told the Global Times on Monday.

A source from Shenzhen Airlines told the Global Times on Monday that 80-90 percent of tickets in recent days from Xiangyang in Hubei to Shenzhen were sold, but the tickets sold from Shenzhen to Xiangyang were "so-so".

Shenzhen Airlines took 151 passengers from Xiangyang to Shenzhen at 6 am on Sunday, the first commercial flight after a shutdown of 64 days for the local airport. The carrier now operates three or four flights per day to two cities in the province.

The province has reopened more than 30 routes to cities in China, and the carriers include China Southern Airlines, Fuzhou Airlines and Shenzhen Airlines.

Chinese domestic passenger flights have shown more signs of improvement, as China has lifted coronavirus restrictions.

Load factors that hit a low of 40 percent on sharply reduced operations during the lockdown of key areas of China in February have climbed to 60 percent and more flights are taking to the skies, according to the International Air Transport Association last week.

From April 8, the government will restart domestic flights to Wuhan Tianhe Airport, the last one to resume operation in the province. 


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