China's "Big Three" airlines cap off 2020 with lower passenger traffic results
01/18/2021|4:58:54 PM|Flightglobal

China’s three largest carriers reported year-on-year declines in their full-year traffic results for 2020 as the coronavirus outbreak impacted travel demand, particularly in their international networks.

However, a strong domestic recovery for most of the second half of the year helped the "Big Three" — China Southern Airlines, China Eastern Airlines and Air China — offset any steeper plunge in full-year passenger traffic. 

Chinese carriers ended 2020 with lower traffic figures, as the coronavirus outbreak impacted travel demand.

In separate traffic results released on January 15, the three carriers saw full-year passenger numbers drop by around 40% year on year. Overall capacity and traffic, measured in ASKs and RPKs respectively, also saw declines — of between 38 to 52% — compared to full-year results from 2019. 

China Southern carried 96.9 million passengers for the year across its network, a 36% year-on-year drop. Overall RPKs shrank 46%, while ASKs fell by 38% year on year. 

On the domestic front, the airline carried 93.9 million passengers in 2020. Compared to 2019, it represented a 27% drop. Domestic RPKs fell 28%, while ASKs saw a 18% decline year on year. 

Compatriot China Eastern carried 74.5 million passengers in 2020, a 43% year-on-year decrease. The SkyTeam carrier reported a 52% fall in RPKs, and a 44% drop in overall ASKs, compared to 2019. 

China Eastern carried 71.9 million domestic passengers for the year, which was a 34% decrease compared to 2019. Domestic RPKs shrank 33%, while ASKs slipped 22% year on year. 

As for Air China, it carried 68.7 million passengers in 2020 across its networks, a 40% decline year on year. Overall RPKs fell 53%, while ASKs across the network decreased 46% year on year. 

The airline carried 65.8 million domestic passengers in 2020, a 29% drop compared to 2019’s numbers. Domestic RPKs fell nearly 30%, with ASKs slipping 19% year on year. 

Across the three carriers, full-year international traffic numbers recorded steep plunges, due to international travel restrictions imposed to curb the spread — and importation — of the coronavirus. 

The "Big Three" saw passenger numbers plummet around 87% year on year, with international ASKs falling around 81% and RPKs plunging about 86% compared to 2019. 

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