Air travel in nation takes off again

2023-08-03 08:18:10China Daily Editor : Li Yan ECNS App Download

An Air China plane takes off from Beijing Daxing International Airport. (Photo by Zou Hong/China Daily)

China's air travel market has performed highly positively since the country optimized its COVID-19 response measures, the International Air Transport Association said.

There is also huge potential for future growth, the association added.

Thanks to the reopening of China's borders, IATA has raised its profit forecast for the global aviation industry.

It said in June that airline industry profits are expected to reach $9.8 billion this year, more than double its previous forecast of $4.7 billion in December last year.

Chinese airlines have a strong reputation and comprehensive route network globally. They are highly competitive and are expected to embrace huge growth opportunities in the international market, said Willie Walsh, director-general of IATA, during a news conference in the Chinese capital.

Walsh had come to Beijing from London on a flight operated by Air China earlier this week.

"This is my 25th visit to Beijing. China remains an attractive destination for international travelers, and many people are excited about visiting China after the pandemic. China's visa-on-arrival policy is also convenient and attractive for many foreign tourists," he said.

In 2019, China's domestic flight market accounted for 9.8 percent of the global domestic market for air travel. In 2022, it dropped to 6.4 percent, but during the first six months of this year, the number rebounded to 11 percent, exceeding the pre-pandemic level, IATA said.

In the first half of the year, China's civil aviation transport maintained its recovery momentum, almost returning to the level seen in 2019 before the pandemic, according to the Civil Aviation Administration of China.

From January to June, about 284 million air passenger trips were handled, reaching 88.2 percent of the level recorded in the first half of 2019, CAAC said.

Meanwhile, passenger demand for international travel continues to be strong globally. The performance of premium travel, or the segments of first class and business class, has recovered faster than that of the economy class, IATA said.

"This trend has been consistent with all the major markets across the world, and IATA will continue to be very optimistic about the future growth of the aviation industry," Walsh said.

The number of direct passenger flights between China and the United States has remained low. One challenge is that Russia has closed its airspace to US carriers, and flights to China with route diversions from Russia take longer and inflate costs.

In addition, the delayed delivery of some widebody aircraft due to production capacity constraints has been another factor that hindered the recovery of long-haul routes such as the US-China flights, IATA said.

"Such a phenomenon is benefiting carriers in the Middle East, as many people choose to transfer flights in the region. Air traffic in the Middle East has been recovering much faster than other regions, and passenger demand recovery between Asia and the Middle East was one of the fastest," Walsh said.

Meanwhile, airlines have faced challenges in recruiting and retaining talent in the post-pandemic era, and the job market for aviation personnel has become more competitive than before, IATA said.

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