The Civil Aviation Administration of China says it expects international flights to and from China to hit 80 per cent of pre-pandemic levels by the end of 2023 after Beijing lifted nearly all travel restrictions on Sunday.
After nearly three years, most travellers heading to China only need to have proof of a negative COVID-19 test before departure. Mandatory quarantine, health monitoring and declarations have been scrapped after China suddenly lifted the majority of its draconian COVID-19 policies.
China’s civil aviation regulator says it is now reviewing applications for the resumption of international flights that have been paused since early 2020 or scrapped altogether.
“If the market recovers well, the number of international flights (to and from China) by the end of the year is expected to reach about 80 per cent of the level before the COVID-19 pandemic, with about 7,300 flights per week,” CAAC director Liang Nan told state-sponsored publisher China Daily.
“Chinese and foreign airlines are optimistic about the resumption of international flights,” Nan continued.
However, the agency concedes that international flights are going to recover slower than China’s domestic market. Nan said multiple factors could slow down the restart of international flights, including a capacity crunch and uncertainty about demand.
The resumption of international flights is also being held back by lingering pandemic rules and ‘countermeasures’ that Beijing is deploying against some countries.
Earlier this week, China suddenly stopped issuing certain visas to travellers from Japan and South Korea – the government said the measure was in retaliation for pandemic border policies that Japan and South Korea had imposed on travellers from China.
As it stands, Beijing is stopping short of slapping ‘reciprocal’ measures on other measures that are requiring travellers from China to obtain a negative COVID-19 test before departure – whereas Japan and South Korea are also requiring travellers from China to take a second test on arrival.
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has slammed the latest wave of pandemic border restrictions with its director general, Willie Walsh calling the new measures a “knee-jerk” reaction that had “proven ineffective” during the course of the pandemic.
Airlines will, however, be constrained in how much capacity they can add to China given how suddenly restrictions were lifted.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.