Chinese airlines beefing up preparations to increase capacity for May Day holiday travels
Published: Apr 26, 2023 07:54 PM

Passengers line up in the Beijing Capital International Airport on April 26, 2023. Photo: Tu Lei/GT

Passengers line up in the Beijing Capital International Airport on April 26, 2023. Photo: Tu Lei/GT

Chinese airlines are beefing up efforts to increase capacity to meet the travel peak expected during the upcoming May Day holidays, per data provided by the airlines and airports. 

Beijing Capital International Airport (BCIA) said on Wednesday that it is expected to welcome 831,900 passenger trips, equal to more than 160,000 passenger trips each day. The daily passenger flow peak is expected to be on April 29 and May 3, the airport said. 

BCIA said domestic flights have increased significantly, with the total flights exceeding the level of the same period in 2019, or 118 percent of that level recorded in that year. Online searches for outbound flight tickets for this period have reached 150 percent of 2019 levels.

Beijing is not alone. China Eastern Airlines said on Wednesday that for the holidays from April 29 to May 3, the airlines, together with Shanghai Airlines and China United Airlines is scheduled to operate 13,900 flights, offering a total of 2.37 million seats. 

China Eastern Airlines said the tickets for the popular hot-destination routes were sold out by the middle of April, such as those from Shanghai to Lijiang in Southwest China's Yunnan Province, Zhangjiajie in Southwest China's Sichuan Province and Xiamen in East China's Fujian Province. 

China Southern Airlines Group said it plans to fly about 22,000 flights between April 27 and May 5, with an average daily flight volume of over 2,600, and it will deploy jumbo wide-body aircraft such as A350 and Boeing 777 for popular routes such as from Guangzhou to Shanghai, Hangzhou and Ningbo. 

The sharp increase of expected passenger flow for the coming holidays is just part of story as the Chinese aviation market experiences an accelerated recovery as COVID barriers are removed. And the May Day holidays, the first holidays lasting for five days after China first piloted 60 countries for outbound group tours in the post COVID era, has also been a booster for the outbound travel.  

Hua Rui, an official from BCIA told the Global Times that the airport has connected to 55 international destinations, covering 41 countries in five continents, with an average of 75 flights per day. Cities such as Frankfurt and Moscow resumed one or more flights per day, and major cities including Bangkok, Dubai and Tokyo have recovered to two or more flights a day.

Industry data also shows that international tourist destinations such as Thailand, Singapore, Japan and South Korea are among popular tourist markets for the holidays. 

China Southern Airlines said it has opened routes from Guangzhou to Bali, Sabah and Chiang Mai during the May holidays, and increased the number of flights to Singapore and Bangkok.

The number of outbound passenger routes operated by China Eastern Airlines in mid-April has reached 70; with average weekly inbound flights recovering to 844 flights. Weekly flight volume has increased by 60 percent compared with March this year.

Demand for overseas flights is expected to see a three-year high over the coming May Day holidays, according to data from industry information provider VariFlight, and it said current single-day passenger volume on overseas flights is already approaching 1,000, which is more than 30 percent of the level in 2019.

Although there is still a big gap compared to that before the epidemic in terms of international flights, travel data provider Cirium said that African market has become the only intercontinental market with capacity above pre-pandemic levels for China, which is up 2.4 percent compared to May in 2019.