During the Dragon Boat Festival holidays from June 25 to June 27, China’s civil aviation industry posted a load factor of 69%, having carried a total of 2.68 million passengers, according to data released by the Ministry of Transport on Saturday.
In a report about the operation of China’s civil aviation from January to May 2020 released recently by a leading airline data platform in China Flight Master, the passenger throughput for January to May was said to have declined 56.54% year-on-year to 117 million. By May, the number of passengers increased by 54.54% month-on-month, and the passenger load factor of the five major Chinese carriers climbed to above 60%.
As the rapidly recovering passenger air travel was dampened by a new wave of coronavirus cases in Beijing in early June, Flight Master estimated that China’s air passenger number for the first half of 2020 would be about 44% to 48% of the level in the same period of last year.
In 2019, the top 5 airports that had the highest passenger traffic in China were: Beijing Capital International Airport (over 100 million), Shanghai Pudong International Airport and Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport (each 70 million), Chengdu Shuangliu International Airport and Shenzhen Bao'an International Airport (each 50 million).
In January this year, due to the coronavirus outbreak, the passenger numbers of the five airports plummeted to about just one million each.
In March, Chengdu Airport rebounded the fastest and had the highest passenger traffic among mainland airports till May, while Shanghai Pudong International Airport and Beijing Capital International Airport fell to fourth and fifth respectively in March and April, as the former that had a higher proportion of passengers on international routes and latter that had imposed stringent epidemic prevention and control measures were more severely impacted by anti-pandemic lockdown measures.
At the end of April, Beijing eased its quarantine policies and the monthly passenger throughput of Beijing Capital International Airport increased by nearly one million, which was ahead of Shanghai Putong airport but still lagged far behind the airports in Chengdu, Shenzhen and Guangzhou. However, the resurgence of the epidemic in Beijing is expected to depress the passenger number of the Capital airport again.
Shanghai Putong International Airport has been ranked as the largest airport in mainland China for years in terms of international and regional cross-border passenger throughput, which accounts for more than 50% of its total passenger number.
From January to May, Pudong Airport put through 3.6 million passengers traveling on international routes, representing a 72.8% decrease year-on-year, making it the most severely hit airport in China due to the pandemic. In June, with the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) easing restrictions on international flights, the passenger flow of international routes at Pudong Airport is expected to bounce back.
As the carrier with the largest passenger number in China, China Southern Airlines fell behind in February due to the impact of COVID-19. But it soon resumed its top position in March and carried two million more passengers, up by 51.8% compared to the previous month.
In February, the passenger load factor of most carriers fell to 50% as the coronavirus spread. But China’s low-cost carrier Spring Airlines was quick to adjust its flight operations and boosted its load factor to above 60%.
Since the virus outbreak, airlines have taken various positive measures to address the challenge, including organizing charter flights and optimizing route configuration, in a bid to improve aircraft utilization.
At the same time, some carriers have also seized opportunities to innovate products and marketing methods. For example, China Eastern Airlines has launched the first “weekend-unlimited” flight passes in early June.