A widebody A330-200 aircraft of China Eastern is set to take off from Shenzhen Baoan International Airport in Shenzhen, Guangdong province. (Photo by Liu Yi/For China Daily)
China's civil aviation authority has examined applications for the resumption of international flights by Chinese and foreign airlines after China's recent optimization of its COVID-19 management, an official from the Civil Aviation Administration of China said on Tuesday.
International travel is expected to accelerate in the second half of this year, said Liang Nan, director of the Department of Transport for the Civil Aviation Administration of China.
"If the market recovers well, the number of international flights by the end of the year is expected to reach about 80 percent of the level before the epidemic, with about 7,300 flights per week," she said.
Liang made the remarks during a policy briefing in Beijing, which was organized by the International Department of the Communist Party of China Central Committee to brief international business executives on the optimization of the country's epidemic control policies.
"Chinese and foreign airlines are optimistic about the resumption of international flights, with nearly 40 domestic and overseas carriers having submitted applications to schedule about 700 passenger flights every week to and from 34 countries," she said.
Most flights are scheduled to resume operations in late January and early February. The administration is processing the applications in accordance with procedure, she added.
Meanwhile, the administration has resumed accepting applications for international passenger charter flights to meet the needs of business travelers, she said.
China has also taken other steps recently to promote international travel.
It ended special flight control measures — the "circuit breaker" and "five ones" policies — for inbound international flights on Monday. It also eliminated the categorization of high-risk flights as well as a restriction that limited flights to 75 percent passenger capacity.
Furthermore, closed-loop management, quarantines and nucleic acid testing are no longer required for inbound flight staff.
Liang also noted that the resumption of international flights will be slower than domestic ones.
"It (the international market) will take longer to recover, considering that the resumption of international flights is affected by multiple factors such as market demand, transport capacity arrangements, time coordination and approval from domestic and foreign civil aviation authorities," she said.
Moreover, after the impact of the epidemic over the past three years, it will still take time for passengers to prepare to travel abroad again, Liang said.
This week, there were 563 international flights scheduled, she said. That number is expected to increase to 1,000 per week by the end of February, and by late March, to 1,300 to 2,300 every week.
The administration will maintain communication with Chinese and foreign airlines to ensure they understand the updated policy, Liang said.