AirAsia and other intl carriers see orderly resumption of flights in China, plan to add new routes in 2023
Published: Feb 27, 2023 09:19 PM
Beijing airport Photo: VCG

Beijing airport Photo: VCG

Malaysia-based low-cost carrier AirAsia has expressed strong confidence and ambition for the Chinese market by planning to exceed the pre-COVID level in terms of routes and flight numbers by the end of this year, with new routes being planned.

The company is also one of an array of overseas carriers that are ramping up flights in China in recent days in tandem with China's cross-border travel recovery.

Karen Chan, group chief commercial officer of AirAsia, revealed on Monday during a press conference that the firm is planning to run over 340 flights per week in China by the fourth quarter this year, compared with about 320 in 2019.

They are also hoping to open new flight routes between China and Indonesia along with China and Cambodia this year to bring the total to more than 40, compared with 39 in 2019, she said, adding that the new routes are subject to government approval. 

The company, like many other international carriers, has focused its efforts on resuming flights in China following coronavirus management optimization and normalization of cross-border travel.

So far, the firm has resumed many flights from Chinese cities to Bangkok or Kuala Lumpur. It expects to increase the weekly frequency to 130 flights by April. 

"What you are seeing now in March is not a reflection of our capacity to fly. We are basically responding to the demand of the markets," Chan told the Global Times on Monday. 

A number of foreign airlines are working hard to restart flights serving the country as China has lifted the travel ban, which has triggered a fast recovery of demand.

Singapore Airlines said that it plans to gradually increase the frequencies of fixed passenger flights to China from March 1.

It will increase the number of flights between Beijing and Singapore from the original three flights a week to one flight a day. Flights between Shanghai and Singapore will gradually increase from the original four flights a week to two flights a day, and flights between Guangzhou and Singapore will increase from the original three flights per week to a daily flight.

KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, a subsidiary of the Air France-KLM Group, said it will increase the frequency of flights connecting to China starting from March 26. It plans to have three flights from Amsterdam to Hong Kong, and to start six direct flights per week to Beijing and Shanghai on the same day, and increase service to a daily flight from May. 

Air France plans to increase the frequency of flights between Paris and Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong to one daily from July.

The number of fixed international passenger flights stood at 795 with 98 carriers from home and abroad from February 6 to 12, covering 58 countries and regions, the Civil Aviation Administration of China said earlier this month.

Chan from AirAsia mentioned some headwinds for the industry, including surging jet fuel prices, foreign exchange fluctuations, manpower shortages and fewer available slots. 

"All these things, like any country that's opening up, will take time to ramp up," she said, adding that the recovery for international flights is only about 20-30 percent now.

But she still expressed strong confidence that the Chinese market will overcome these difficulties quickly with the rapid recovery of the economy, as about 20 percent of the company's revenues come from China. 

"We are very confident that with the efficiency of the Chinese government and all these gradual openings, those things will be resolved by May or June," she said.