The Chinese aviation regulator has stated it would gradually be resuming international passenger flights this month.
China is one of the most important markets within the Asia-Pacific region. Unlike the majority of its peer markets, the country has continued to impose the world’s strictest pandemic border regime.
t is only just beginning to gradually reopen, perhaps signifying a period for finally moving on from the pandemic. And for the first time in over two years, Beijing is welcoming back scheduled international commercial flights.
Civil Aviation Administration of China
Following the coronavirus outbreak, the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) banned direct international flights from coming to Beijing in early 2020. Passengers looking to head to Beijing had to first land at one of several pre-approved cities, where they would be needed to quarantine before traveling onward to the capital. Aside from the hassle of getting to Beijing, traveling to China and moving around the various towns proved difficult due to its varying quarantine rules.
Eventually, China faced isolation from the rest of the world as anyone looking to journey to the country faced a long list of varying needs and possible disruptions. Inbound flights became constrained by a rule that limited airlines to just one international flight a week. There were also travelers caps and the opportunity of complete flight suspensions under the country’s circuit breaker for detected positive COVID cases among comings.
- Highlighting the dramatic effect such regulations have had on China, less than a hundred international flights were inbound and outbound from China on July 26th this year, down from 2,883 on the same day back in 2019.
Still, China’s aviation recovered rather quickly at first due to its large domestic market. However, the government’s zero-COVID policy saw sweeping lockdowns in the wake of the Omicron variant affecting the rebound. In April, the entire number of daily flights worked domestically stood at about 2,000 to 3,000, less than one-quarter of the flights recorded in the same month of the year time. However, as major hubs begin opening up, numbers are back up to over 8,000.
Meanwhile, sensing that China cannot stay closed and rely solely on domestic flights forever, the CAAC stated earlier this month that it would continue gradually restarting international commercial aviation. Starting with the airports in Beijing, the CAAC stated it would continue ramping up negotiations with certain countries to boost flight services.
With the reopening of Beijing to the rest of the world, Chinese carriers are, in all possibilities, excited about resuming their international route networks. Air China is scheduled to restart several international routes to cities in Asia and Europe, including the direct service from Beijing to Paris and its popular Beijing to Dubai route.
China Eastern Airlines
On the other hand, Xiamen Airlines declared its intention to restart several international routes and gradually boost flight frequencies. China Eastern Airlines has prepared for a major international comeback as it intends to operate more than 130 international flights per week. Hainan Airlines has resumed flight services from Beijing to Belgrade and is planning to add new international routes, including Beijing to Moscow and Beijing to Tokyo.
Sharing the excitement of the Chinese carriers are the foreign carriers, which have been just as busy mapping out flights to Beijing. Japan’s All Nippon Airways has restarted weekly flights from Tokyo-Narita to Beijing fairly recently, scheduled for every Monday. The Japanese carrier then plans to restart flights from Tokyo-Narita to Beijing to make the route a round-trip and will subsequently increase the frequencies to include Thursdays in the schedule.
- IndiGo Sharjah-Hyderabad flight makes emergency landing in Karachi due to technical issue
- Azerbaijan Airlines announced to start flights from Baku to New Delhi on 10th August
- Canada Jetlines will launch its first flight, In three weeks
Air France has also restarted one weekly flight from Paris to Beijing, enhancing connections between the 2 capital cities. Following its inaugural flight from Abu Dhabi to Beijing on March 23rd, 2020, Etihad is ready to return to the Chinese capital with regular weekly service, flying every Wednesday from Abu Dhabi and working by the Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner.
“Etihad continues to deliver on its commitment to facilitating a resilient and prosperous air bridge between the UAE and China. This maintains passenger and cargo movement and supports economic and political exchanges between both nations.”
Beijing’s reopening to the world arrives at a decent timing, just as the Asia-Pacific region is seeing robust improvements in international passenger numbers, which are unfortunately still far below pre-pandemic levels.
With the inclusion of passengers from China, the recovery within the region will undoubtedly accelerate further. And as China continues to open more, it is even possible that the region could be close to pre-pandemic levels by the end of this year.
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