China's domestic aviation market sees steady recovery
Steady recovery continues amid airline promotions, nationwide efforts to resume work
Published: Jul 02, 2020 06:58 PM

An aerial view of Shanghai Photo: VCG

China's domestic aviation market is taking off on a steady recovery amid nationwide efforts to resume work, yet the situation of overseas flights remains gloomy, industry data showed. 

The average flying rate in June jumped to about 75 percent of its normal level, according to a report sent by information data provider VariFlight to the Global Times on Wednesday. But overseas flights remain in a gloomy situation, with a flying rate of 18.3 percent of normal capacity.

In June, average landing and takeoff volumes at domestic airports increased 18.8 percent compared to May, with maximum daily volumes nearing 2016 levels, the report said.  

The average passenger load factor was 66.85 percent of normal capacity, a 3.17 percent increase from May. The number of domestic flights taking off and landing in China now exceeds that of the US by about 21.5 percent, data showed. 

Civil aviation operation data for June Graphic: GT

Two airports, Chongqing Jiangbei International Airport in Southwest China's Chongqing Municipality and Sanya Phoenix International Airport in Sanya, South China's Hainan Province, led the recovery, with their numbers of outbound flights bouncing back to over 80 percent of last year's volumes, according to the report. 

Insiders said the rising momentum is strongly connected to China's control of COVID-19 and work resumption across the nation.

The first quarter of this year was the "darkest moment" for various airlines across the country. Six listed airlines lost a total of more than 20 billion yuan ($2.83 billion), and the industry suffered total losses of 40 billion yuan. Carriers are scrambling to save themselves from further heavy losses. 

China Southern Airlines said that flights between major cities have resumed and it has flown 1,310 flights each day on average since June, about 70 percent of flights it operated at the same time last year. The air carrier expects its traffic in the third quarter to further jump to about 76 percent of last year's level. 

To woo customers, carriers are looking for different ways to boost the aviation market. 

China Eastern Airlines met with an enthusiastic response after it launched a program to allow passengers to pay 3,322 yuan to "fly freely" across China on the weekends, with tickets valid until the end of the year.

The company said on Saturday that more than 65,000 tickets were exchanged via the China Eastern Airlines app on Saturday and Sunday, the first weekend after the program was launched.

HNA Group said on Wednesday that its 12 airlines will join the "fly freely" program, with packages priced from 2,099 yuan per person. 

The Chinese aviation market's performance is in line with a report from the International Air Transport Association (IATA), which said China's carriers posted a 49.9 percent year-on-year decline in traffic in May, significantly improved from the 64.6 percent drop recorded in April. 

However, further improvement has recently been interrupted by flight cancellations to and from Beijing amid an increase in the number of new infections in the city, IATA said.

The VariFlight report notably said that outbound flights from Beijing Capital International Airport were just 30 percent of last year's level in June due to COVID-19 prevention measures following a spike in cases in Beijing in late June.

But a number of foreign airlines including Lufthansa and Air France have restarted China flights. 

United Airlines recently announced its schedule for resumed services between San Francisco and Shanghai, with twice-weekly flights starting from July 8, according to a release from the airline.

United is the second US carrier after Delta Air Lines to resume flights between Seattle and Shanghai in the period from June 25 to October 24.

The US and China will allow four weekly flights between the two countries, the US Transportation Department said last month. 

Xiamen Airlines said on Tuesday that it is applying to open more routes and increase frequencies in the US in August. It aims to fly from Fuzhou to New York three times per week, and from Xiamen to Los Angeles with a stopover at Qingdao three times per week. It also hopes to increase the frequency of flights from Xiamen to Los Angeles. 

It currently operates just one weekly flight from Xiamen to Los Angeles.