Chinese domestic air travel recovering, international routes still restricted

Chinese domestic air travel is expected to gradually begin recovering, according to travel analytics company ForwardKeys. The news comes as Beijing lifted its 14-day quarantine requirement on April 29 on travel between the city and low-risk areas in China.

Chinese domestic air travel bottomed in mid-February, from which point it has been slowly recovering.

In the week of February 23 to 29, coinciding with a gradual restarting of the economy and an increase in domestic air capacity, the country’s domestic air travel grew 62.9% compared to the week prior.

It has gradually grown since then, with a 19.5% increase between the first week of March and the third week of April.

Destinations leading the recovery are commercial centers, including Guangdong, Zhejiang, Shanghai, Sichuan and Yunnan. Travel to Beijing has been extremely weak because the of the strict travel restrictions.

Travel to Shenzhen, one of the China’s first Special Economic Zones, and to Hainan island, China’s popular holiday destination, is likely to be indicative of the recovery trends, ForwardKeys says.

In both Shenzhen and Hainan, flight arrivals picked up in the third week of February. However, the base was much lower for Hainan, considering it is a holiday destination, while Shenzhen is a commercial center.

China is still enforcing restrictions on international flights, and recovery in the sector is not expected soon, ForwardKeys says. Chinese airlines are currently allowed to only maintain one route per country and one flight per week.

In addition, foreign airlines are allowed only one route to China and one flight per week. It is estimated that there will be only 130 international flights to China per week, and a maximum of 5,000 people per day entering and leaving the country.

ForwardKeys Insights vp Olivier Ponti said: “We can confirm tiny green shoots of recovery in China’s domestic aviation market. […] However, whilst it is encouraging to see air travel increasing within China, there is currently no indication that anyone outside China can yet look forward to the return of Chinese tourists. So, if you are a luxury-goods retailer, seeking to sell to the Chinese market, the reality is that the only places to do so will be in China.”