China’s Air Passenger Traffic Recovers to 70% of Capacity

After nearly three years of Covid restrictions, travel in China is picking up again, and air passenger traffic is back to 70% of its pre-pandemic level as people return to their hometowns for the Lunar New Year holidays.

China Southern Airlines, one of China’s three largest airlines, saw a 72.7% increase in January passenger loads, according to exchange filings. That’s a significant increase from the 63% recorded one year ago. During the same time period, Air China’s passenger load factor was 69.9%, while China Eastern Airlines’ was 68.1%.

Passenger load factor is the percentage of seats on a plane that have been filled and is a measure of profitability.

The increase can be attributed to, after nearly three years of Covid restrictions, people were finally able to travel back to their hometowns to spend the Chinese New Year with their families.

According to the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) official statement last month, China anticipates a 15%-25% increase in international flights by the end of March, compared to the levels seen before the outbreak.

CAAC official Liang Nan said that the international flight recovery has been slower than the domestic service recovery due to airlines taking longer to organize capacity and restart routes and some passengers’ unwillingness to fly abroad.