China's aviation market is experiencing an accelerated recovery on the back of upward flights volume, and a rising domestic summertime ticket bookings. Market watchers have predicted that China is witnessing a turning point as more cities are moving to lift travel bans.
Domestic summer air ticket bookings in the third week of June rose nearly 300 percent from the previous week, with air ticket searches growing by more than 70 percent, according to travel platform qunar.com.
Increased demand has also driven up flight prices. The average price of domestic passenger flight tickets was only 494 yuan ($73) in March and 685 yuan in June, an increase of about 39 percent in three months, qunar.com told the Global Times on Tuesday.
The increase is also an echo for rising travel demand in airports, sparked by relaxed travel restriction across a number of provinces such as Qinghai, Ningxia and Hubei on the eve of the traditional summer holiday season.
Huang Xingwen, vice general manager of Shanghai-based Spring Airlines, predicted that the number of the domestic flights would return to pre-pandemic levels in the middle of July, as the number of passengers keeps on growing.
At present, the company is operating 8-10 flights a day at Shanghai Hongqiao Airport and 4-5 flights at Shanghai Pudong Airport, well below pre-pandemic numbers, Huang told the Global Times, but he said that flight numbers will quickly recover in the future as the summer travel peak approaches.
Daily takeoffs and landings have remained above more than 400 since May, with daily passengers having exceeded 40,000, according to an official from Chengdu Shuangliu Airport in Southwest China's Sichuan Province, CCTV reported.
Other airports, such as Harbin in Northeast China's Heilongjiang Province, also said that daily passenger volume has recovered to 60 percent of normal levels prior to the epidemic.
China's travel market "welcomes its turning point as more cities in China gradually lift travel restriction crossing provinces," qunar.com said.
As Hainan relaxes restriction for people from low-risk areas in Shanghai and Beijing, the number of passengers flying to the island over the past weekend from June 25 to 26 was almost double that of the weekend prior.
Of which the number of tickets to Sanya in South China's Hainan Province, often referred to as China's Hawaii, increased by 93 percent from the previous weekend, the number of tickets to Haikou increased by 92 percent, and tickets from Shanghai to Sanya saw a near 1.5-fold increase.
Hotel bookings across the country over the last weekend exceeded than the same period of 2019. Hotel bookings in Changsha, Central China's Hunan Province increased by 58 percent over the same period in 2019, while Sanya had almost returned to 2019 levels.
Chinese airlines are also busy mapping more aircraft to entice back passengers.
Daily flights over the past three days ending Sunday breached more than 10,000, a recovery of about 60 percent against pre-epidemic levels, reflecting a strong recovery momentum.
Data from the Civil Aviation Administration of China showed that the number of civil aviation flights has continued to decline since March and that daily flight volume at its lowest point was only about 18 percent of the normal period before the epidemic.
With the implementation of several rounds of support from the government and the improvement of national epidemic prevention since May, the operation of civil aviation has gradually recovered, and the pace of recovery has picked up in June, when the number of single-day flights increased from 6,489 at the beginning of the month to a maximum of 10,609, and single-day passenger traffic increased from 445,000 to a maximum of 896,000.
On Tuesday, China moved to rewrite its COVID-19 prevention and control playbook, by cutting short quarantine time for close contacts and international travelers from 14 days to seven days, which will inject momentum to the market. China is also negotiating with more countries to lift travel restrictions put in place over the past two years.
Etihad Airways, the national airline of the United Arab Emirates, said it will resume direct passenger flights between Abu Dhabi and Beijing from Wednesday, with the company claiming to be the first regular direct international passenger flight to recommence services to Beijing, under the latest mandate of the Joint Prevention and Control Mechanism of the State Council.