Tourists disembark from a plane at the airport of Jiuquan, Gansu province. (PHOTO by ZHANG XIAOLIANG/FOR CHINA DAILY)
The upcoming five-day May Day holiday is likely to see a rapid rise of Chinese people's travels both domestically and overseas after three years of COVID-19 hindrances, with the wanderlust surge expected to help commercial carriers see improved business performance, said industry observers.
Since China's air travel market began bookings in earnest for the summer and autumn flying season late March, the number of passengers taking both international and domestic flights on a daily basis has grown steadily. The number of daily domestic flights operated in and out of Beijing Capital International Airport has reached 118 percent of levels seen in the same period of 2019, prior to the pandemic, the airport said.
"With the approaching May Day holiday, the volume of arriving and departing passengers at the airport has been rapidly increasing, and the search volume of flight tickets departing from BCIA has reached 150 percent of the 2019 level," said Hua Rui, an official at the aviation business department of the airport.
"Popular destinations are mainly domestic cities and some Asian cities, such as Chengdu in Sichuan province, Shanghai, Guangzhou of Guangdong province, Hong Kong, Macao, Tokyo, Bangkok and Singapore," Hua said.
Tokyo has seen increasing popularity as an overseas tourist destination, and the search volumes of flights from Shanghai to Tokyo have surged recently, according to Flight Master, an intelligent travel services platform in China.
On Sunday, the number of international passenger flights connecting China and overseas destinations reached nearly 1,000, representing more than 30 percent of levels seen in the same period of 2019, said TravelSky Holding Co Ltd, a Beijing-based State-owned travel information provider.
Carriers have been ramping up efforts to increase their international flight capacity to meet growing travel demand. Starting May 1, Air France will add two more weekly flights and operate three weekly flights between Beijing Capital International Airport and Paris. The flights will be operated by Boeing B787-9 aircraft.
Meanwhile, as part of the local government's 'Hello Hong Kong' initiative, over 500,000 free round-trip airline tickets are available for grabs for global travelers. These gratis air tickets are sponsored by Hong Kong International Airport and exclude taxes and surcharges, and the hope is they will attract more visitors to the city.
"Chinese mainland visitors have been serving as an important component of travelers who visit Hong Kong, and we have reserved 140,000 flight tickets especially for Chinese mainland visitors," said Fred Lam Tin-fuk, chief executive officer of the Airport Authority Hong Kong.
During the May Day holiday, some 600,000 travelers are expected to visit Hong Kong, and 80 percent of them will be independent travelers. The travel flow is forecast to reach 60 percent of pre-pandemic levels, according to the Travel Industry Council of Hong Kong.
For the domestic air travel market, the daily average number of domestic passenger flights so far in April exceeded 12,000 and surpassed the same period of 2019.During the May Day holiday, the number of daily flights operated is expected to reach 13,000, up 10 percent over 2019 levels. Prices of domestic flight tickets will be 30 percent more expensive than 2019, according to VariFlight.
"This year, domestic airlines and airports are likely to see a continuously improving business performance, and the industry is expected to experience a gap between growing demand and supply shortages, and prices of flight tickets will also rebound significantly," said a research report by Sinolink Securities.