(Yicai Global) March 2 -- China’s international flights in the past two weeks have returned to only 20 percent of the level in the same period of 2019, according to industry data, despite the country having relaxed Covid-19 controls since December.
Malaysian low-cost airline AirAsia operated 39 routes in China before the pandemic, but has only resumed 20 so far. Chinese budget carrier Spring Airlines had 162 flights a week to Thailand before Covid, while the figure is just 62 now. It plans to increase the number of weekly flights to Thailand to 82 by the end of this month.
One reason the volume of outbound flights is growing slowly is that many overseas airports are short-staffed after three years of the pandemic, Wang Yu, chairman of Shanghai-based Spring Airlines, told Yicai Global.
Karen Chan, chief commercial officer of AirAsia, said “staff need to be recruited and then trained again, especially pilots, which means the recovery still needs time.”
The negotiations and review process for air traffic rights also take a lot of time because airlines do not decide to increase the number of flights on their own, Wang noted.
The chief executives of six Southeast Asian airlines, including Thai AirAsia, a joint venture between AirAsia and Thailand’s Asia Aviation, recently visited China for talks with the country’s civil aviation regulator and Trip.Com on how to speed up the recovery of flights to pre-pandemic levels.
Meanwhile, internet searches for outbound air tickets in the past two weeks hit about 80 percent of the same period of 2019, according to data from online travel agency Trip.Com Group.
Japan, South Korea, and a number of other countries yesterday eased restrictions on travelers from China, including mandatory polymerase chain reaction tests before departure and on arrival. Many airlines have begun to prepare for a substantial increase in international flights.
Wang Junjin, chairman of Shanghai-based Juneyao Airlines, is very optimistic. He expects international air routes to fully recover as soon as this summer. By the fourth quarter of this year, AirAsia will run 40 routes and 340 flights per week to and from Chinese cities, Chan predicted.
Editors: Shi Yi, Futura Costaglione