Light at the end of the tunnel for China’s aviation industry

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China’s domestic passengers are starting to once again take to the skies according to IATA figures. 

IATA chief economist Brian Pearce sees a turning point could be in sight for airlines in the world’s second biggest economy behind the USA. 

From January 23, when the city of Wuhan was locked down, China’s aviation industry has been dealing with the biggest collapse in its history. 

The civil aviation market dropped by around 80% between January 23 and the middle of March, according to IATA figures. Nearly 500,000 domestic and international flights to and from China were cancelled. 

But now the first tentative green shoots of a recovery are emerging, as domestic passenger numbers in China begin to show signs of a potential turnaround. 

Mr Pearce says, “China is now returning to work and relaxing domestic travel restrictions. We’ve seen a slow resumption of domestic air services. Load factors of 60% (from a low of 40%) show that passenger confidence is returning too, albeit slowly. 

Signs of recovery are confined to the domestic market as China has imposed even tighter restrictions on international flights. From March 29 Chinese airlines will be allowed one flight per week to any country with a maximum 75% load factor. 

Chinese officials also removed restrictions to support ‘unimpeded’ internal cargo flights and urged the rest of the world to follow suit.  

Ma Tao, IATA’s regional vice president for North Asia, says, “The last two months has been very challenging for China and the airline industry in particular. The good news is that the government recognizes the importance of having a strong aviation industry, including air cargo.  

We welcome and appreciate the relief measures implemented by the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) to support the Chinese and foreign airlines. While the outbreak in China has come under control, the risk now is imported cases, and the government is taking firm action.  

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