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China’s Domestic Air Travel Rebounds to 2019 Levels

Analysts say capacity in Chinese market projected to be 5.7 percent higher than during the final week of August 2019

August 30, 2020

Year over year data shows domestic air travel in China is returning to its 2019 levels, according to travel data analytics company ForwardKeys. In the second week of August, domestic arrivals at Chinese airports reached 86 percent of 2019 levels and bookings hit 98 percent of 2019 levels.

According to projections for the final week of August, domestic airline capacity in China was set to be 5.7 percent higher than it was during the same period in 2019. By contrast, international travel to and from China remains deeply depressed, due mostly to the Chinese government’s rigorous restrictions on international arrivals.

This is a highly significant moment, according to Olivier Ponti, vice president of insights for ForwardKeys, because it is the first time since the start of the COVID-19 outbreak that a major segment of the aviation market anywhere in the world has returned to pre-pandemic levels. ForwardKeys analysts credit China’s ability to get the pandemic under control as the reason for the market’s recovery.

The big question, Ponti said, is whether airlines will need to continue heavy discounting to maintain the recovery or whether the industry will return to profitability during China’s upcoming Golden Week holiday in October.