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Air travel records healthy performance

By WANG XIAOYU | China Daily | Updated: 2020-10-10 08:47
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Passengers wearing face masks line up to check in at the Beijing Daxing International Airport ahead of Chinese National Day holiday, in Beijing, on Sept 25, 2020. [Photo/Agencies]

Air travel during the combined National Day and Mid-Autumn Festival holiday period put on a surprisingly strong performance, signaling a healthy recovery for local tourism, the national aviation authority said on Friday.

A total of 13.26 million airline passenger trips were made during the eight-day holiday, compared with 12.8 million airline trips during the seven-day holiday in 2019, said the Civil Aviation Administration of China.

"Daily air passenger trips during the holiday equaled 91 percent of last year's daily air travel over the same period," it said.

The total number of commercial flights during the holiday was about 117,300, with about 94 percent of those being domestic flights. Last year, the country operated about 114,500 flights during the holiday, said the administration.

While the number of daily passenger flights-domestic and international-was 90 percent of last year's level, the number of daily domestic flights rose by nearly 13 percentage points over the period, said the administration.

"Because of the effective control of the COVID-19 epidemic in the country, people have demonstrated a markedly stronger desire to travel during the holiday," it said.

"Bookings and the passenger load factor for flights in and out of popular cities in China for tourists have neared or reached last year's level, signaling a strong recovery in terms of demand for domestic tourist destinations," it added.

On Sept 30, the day before the holiday began, over 1.7 million individual air passenger trips were made-the highest for a single day since COVID-19 appeared late last year.

Airports in Shanghai, Beijing, Chongqing, Chengdu in Sichuan province, Xi'an in Shaanxi province and Guangzhou and Shenzhen in Guangdong province were among the busiest during the holiday.

The overall passenger load factor, especially in Lhasa in the Tibet autonomous region, Tianjin, and cities in Zhejiang and Guangdong provinces, also increased during the holiday and averaged about 78.6 percent, the administration said.

Due to a boost in domestic travel and restrictions on international trips caused by the global pandemic, the administration said it had focused on managing domestic flights over the holiday.

More than 12,000 domestic flights were added from Sept 30 to Friday to meet the requirements of travelers while ensuring safe and smooth air travel, it said.

Thanks to effective control of the viral outbreak in China, the country's domestic air market is accelerating its pace of recovery. In August, the number of domestic passenger trips already reached 80 percent of the figure reported in August of last year, according to the administration.

Li Xiaojin, a professor of aviation economics at the Civil Aviation University of China, said the boost in air travel during the eight-day holiday has exceeded expectations.

"Domestic air passenger travel volume during the holiday was expected to reach 80 percent of last year's level based on advance booking information, but it turned out to have recovered to about 90 percent compared to the same period last year," Li said.

He said part of the reason is that the epidemic situation continues to be stable in the country, prompting more people who originally did not intend to travel to change their plans and make new bookings.

"In addition, the higher-than-expected demand shows that air travel prices are now deemed reasonable by customers," he added.

Li said that in the near future, if the epidemic remains subdued in China and the development of vaccine progresses well, a full recovery to pre-pandemic levels in terms of air traffic volume is highly likely.

"However, imported cases from overseas and the spread of the virus globally will continue to affect air travel, especially for international flights," he said.

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