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Record period for world’s biggest travel market

The lure of cheap airfares along with restrictions on international travel is proving a tempting proposition for travellers in China, as the country gears for a record number of domestic flights during China’s Golden Week holiday period.

According to online travel information and booking site, Qunar, between 1 and 8 October, the total number of internal flights in China is forecast to reach more than 15 million, a record that reflects 10% growth on 2019 numbers. 


According to the South China Morning Post (SCMP), Qunar says Chinese mainlanders who would have travelled overseas prior to COVID-19 have boosted fresh demand for domestic flights, perhaps also encouraged by airfares that remain 10% lower than those in 2019. 



Based on pre-bookings for the same period last year, Qunar says airfares have fallen to a five-year low of 895.55 yuan (US$132). 


“Ticket price is at a low level due to discounts amid oversupply,” said Lin Zhijie, an expert at Aviation Think Tank. 


“In previous years, it was full price or at most less than 20% discount. The lower price stimulates travel demand, but puts pressure on the balance sheets of airlines as overall revenue declines.” 


The country with the highest travel and tourism expenditure, China has largely controlled the coronavirus pandemic. 


Consequently, capacity at major tourism attractions across the country has gradually risen over the past few months, with China’s domestic tourism industry growing 11.7% over 2019, SCMP reported. 


Parallel to this, Chinese airlines have also seen a steady recovery in recent times, as China experienced the largest monthly domestic passenger volume in August since the outbreak of the pandemic, according to the Civil Aviation Administration of China. 


Overall, air traffic has recovered to more than 80% of 2019 levels, as capacity is transferred from international networks to domestic routes within China.


But Institute for Aviation Research founder and president Lei Zheng says China’s National Day holiday, which this year precedes Golden Week “will serve as a key indicator for airlines”. 


“Compared with last year, we need to look at yield – the average revenue collected per passenger-kilometre,” Zheng said. 


“If this increases, Chinese airlines will have turned the corner, otherwise it indicates that a full recovery is still some time away.”


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Written by: Mark Harada
Published: 21 September 2020

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