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China’s Domestic Aviation Market Appears To Be Entering A Renewed Slump As Chinese New Year Approaches

China’s domestic aviation market appears to be entering a renewed slump as the February 12 Lunar New Year approaches, raising the prospect of sharply curtailed travel demand over the holiday period.

The seven-day rolling average for daily domestic passenger jet services flown fell to just over 8,600 on January 25. This was down almost a third from the peak of over 12,600 flights recorded in early October 2020 – which marked the pinnacle of the dramatic recovery from the downturn caused by the first wave of Covid-19 infections at the start of the year – and was higher than the pre-pandemic peak of 2019. The latest reduction in activity was spread across all major operator groups.

Many hundreds of millions of people who would normally travel to visit relatives to celebrate Chinese New Year have reportedly been told by officials to stay at home. An increase in Coronavirus cases in Hebei province around Beijing, together with other isolated outbreaks in the country, meant that holiday travel overall is expected to be 40% down on 2019, according to China’s transport ministry.

At January 25, Cirium classified just under 300 passenger jets with Chinese operators as being in storage, with nearly 3,500 remaining in service. On this date, just over 2,400 aircraft were tracked operating at least one domestic flight – 15% down on the equivalent day last year – while average flight hours per active aircraft were down 14% year-over-year at just over 6.1.

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