Anti-COVID restrictions on international flights to end from January 8: CAAC
Published: Dec 28, 2022 09:41 PM
Passengers wait to check in for the first direct flight between Shanghai and Athens at Athens International Airport, Greece, on Dec 22, 2022. Photo:Xinhua

Passengers wait to check in for the first direct flight between Shanghai and Athens at Athens International Airport, Greece, on Dec 22, 2022. Photo:Xinhua

The Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC), the country's civil aviation regulator, said on Wednesday that it will lift COVID-19 travel restrictions from January 8, vowing to restore international passenger traffic, subdued for three years due to the pandemic. 

The new policies, posted on the official website of the CAAC, said that it will stop designating inbound high-risk flights, and call an end to the 75 percent ceiling for passenger capacity on inbound flights. Also, Chinese and foreign airlines will arrange scheduled passenger flights in accordance with bilateral agreements.

The CAAC said it also gradually resume applications for chartered international passenger flights by Chinese and foreign airlines, and it will also cancel measures affecting inbound flights such as closed-loop management of domestic and overseas crews, entry nucleic acid testing, and mandatory quarantine.

The new policies are part of the move by the country to optimize anti-COVID management, as the government downgraded management of COVID-19 to Class B, and cancel quarantine requirements on inbound travelers from January 8, 2023.

The new travel policy announced by the government is a positive step forward and a welcome development, said the International Air Transport Association (IATA) in a note sent to the Global Times on Wednesday. 

It is also crucial for the entire aviation value chain in China to get prepared and adequately resourced to handle an expected surge of air travelers, and avoid the travel disruptions and problems seen elsewhere in the world when borders reopened, IATA said. 

Hong Kong-based Cathay Pacific welcomed the Chinese mainland's new travel policy, by calling an end to the mandatory quarantine targeting inbound travelers and imported cargo, and to enhance the management of Chinese and foreign personnel travel, effective on January 8.

"We will continue to communicate with relevant authorities and to increase our passenger capacity to and from the Chinese mainland as much as possible," according to the note the company sent to the Global Times on Wednesday.  

More international carriers are actively restoring flights to China. Turkish Airlines said that it will resume the Istanbul-Shanghai route from January 13, and the number of flights to China will increase to three flights per week. Qatar Airways will resume flights between Doha and Shanghai Pudong International Airport from January 15.

Etihad Airways said on Tuesday that it is set to strengthen air connectivity between the UAE and China next year, starting with an additional weekly frequency on its route between Abu Dhabi and Shanghai.

Subject to regulatory approval, from February 2023, the airline will fly to Pudong International Airport two times per week using modern Boeing 787 and 777 aircraft.

China's civil aviation has passed the "darkest hour," Qi Qi, an independent market watcher, told the Global Times on Wednesday. China's civil aviation traffic in 2023 is estimated to witness a strong rebound, surpassing 2020 or even approaching the passenger traffic volume of 2019, he said.

In an industry outlook released by IATA in early December, it anticipated 2023 passenger traffic in the Asia-Pacific region to reach 70 percent of 2019 levels, IATA said.