Airlines see significant recovery in bookings

By ZHU WENQIAN | China Daily | Updated : February 20, 2024


Passengers seen at Beijing Capital International Airport during the Spring Festival holiday. AP

The eight-day Spring Festival holiday that lasted from Feb 10 to Saturday, coupled with relaxed visa polices of several countries, has significantly boosted travel demand and fueled further growth of the air travel market.

During the holiday period, the total number of air passengers handled in China, including via domestic and international flights, reached 17.99 million. The daily average number of passenger trips handled hit 2.25 million, setting a new high, said the Civil Aviation Administration of China.

Over the festival period, the total number of flights operated in China reached 137,000, up 4.9 percent compared with the same period of 2019, or before the COVID-19 pandemic. The figure jumped 33.2 percent year-on-year, the CAAC said.

"Domestically, Guangzhou Baiyun, Shenzhen Bao'an and Chengdu Tianfu international airports were the busiest airports during the holiday," said Zheng Hongfeng, founder and CEO of VariFlight, an aviation data and solution service provider.

For international and regional routes, the number of flights operated during the festival period reached 15,000, which rebounded to nearly 70 percent of levels seen in 2019, with the figure surging 364 percent year-on-year, VariFlight found.

During the period, a total of 13.52 million Chinese and foreign travelers entered or exited the country, an increase of 2.8-fold compared with the holiday period last year, and the number resumed to nearly 90 percent of 2019 levels, said the National Immigration Administration.

With more flights connecting China and Southeast Asia becoming available, an increasing number of passengers from Southeast Asian countries traveled to or transferred through China during the festival period.

Shanghai-based China Eastern Airlines operated more flights to Southeast Asian island destinations to meet growing travel demand from China. During the holiday, the carrier operated more than 2,300 round-trip flights between domestic cities and Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok.

"The visa-free policies of multiple countries and accelerated recovery of international flights have further stimulated Chinese visitors' enthusiasm for traveling abroad," said Fan Dongxiao, director of short-haul outbound tours at Tuniu Corp, a Nanjing, Jiangsu province-based online travel agency.

"The number of orders for trips to Southeast Asia, ice and snow tours in Northern Europe, and off-season tours in Australia and New Zealand have all experienced significant growth," Fan said.

In addition, Guangzhou-based China Southern Airlines operated some 25,400 flights during the holiday, up 20.95 percent over the same period of 2019. The carrier handled 4.17 million passenger trips, up 23.25 percent over 2019.

For domestic flights, the number of passengers departing from Ningbo and Yiwu in Zhejiang province, Jieyang in Guangdong province, Changsha in Hunan province and Beijing showed a significant increase compared with the same period of 2019.

Domestic tourism cities such as Lijiang and Dali in Yunnan province, Haikou and Sanya in Hainan province, and Changbaishan and Yanji in Jilin province were popular destinations, China Southern said.

Internationally, passengers departing from Frankfurt, Moscow, London, Tokyo, Singapore and Kuala Lumpur during the holiday showed an apparent increase compared with 2019, the airline said.

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