Aviation Recovering Quickly: China Now Has More Domestic Flights Than Before Covid-19

China was hit by the SARS-CoV-2 virus first. Their government mishandled it for weeks and actual cases were likely 40 times the number they reported but moved hard to contain the virus by going ‘full Wuhan’ which included even sealing people inside of homes, which in some cases became tombs.

Now though they’ve mostly had the virus under control in most of the country for some time. There are regions with over 100 million people that haven’t seen a case in six months. It’s odd, then, that the U.S. continues to ban most travel from China due to virus risk.

While there are huge limits on international travel, domestic travel in China is now back to pre-pandemic levels.

  • Domestic flights are actually up 3.5% year-over-year to 371,000 flights in September
  • Domestic passengers hit 98% of prior year volumes, or 47.75 million travelers for the month.


China Eastern Boeing 737

Even if China’s numbers are optimistic they still paint a picture that’s directionally headed towards recovery, though average fares are much lower and near-giveaway deals abound. Despite the reported recovery in air traveler numbers, hotels haven’t fully rebounded.

While China’s airlines are generally majority-owned by state investment vehicles, making the distinction between public and private blurry at best. But the U.S. has subsidized airlines more than most other regions of the world – the subsidies though haven’t required flying full schedules at giveaway fares.

Nonetheless, controlling the spread of the virus makes travel possible at levels approximating what they were pre-pandemic and it can do so quickly. Domestic flights recover before international because the virus isn’t controlled on a worldwide basis.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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