CAAC aims to restore air traffic to 70 percent of pre-pandemic levels by January 6

Since the government announced new rules dealing with Covid-19 on December 6, domestic flights have almost trebled to 8,000 a day from fewer than 3,000.

Photo by Kuang Da

Photo by Kuang Da

By XUE Bingbing


Air traffic in China will be back to 70 percent of the 2019 level by January 6 2023 and gradually increase after that, the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) said on December 14. Since the government announced “ten new rules” to ease Covid restrictions on December 6, the number of domestic flights has increased to 8,000 a day from fewer than 3,000 at the beginning of the month.

There will be three stages of recovery, according to the CAAC. To give airlines enough time to hire and refresh crew, there will be no more than 11,280 daily flights before January 6. From then to the end of January, air traffic will gradually increase to a maximum of 13,667 flights a day. The aviation industry will be in a "stable recovery period" in February and March.

To ensure safety, airlines must have enough capacity to keep up with the increase, CAAC said. The guidelines include detailed requirements on who can pilot what kind of aircraft. Pilots who have done fewer than three take-offs and landings in 90 days, for example, must be retrained before getting back to work. If a captain has flown no more than 12 flights in the past 180 days, he must co-pilot two flights before serving as captain again.

CAAC also revoked mandatory Covid test requirements for crew members on Friday.

A pilot from China Eastern Airlines told Jiemian News that many pilots would not meet the flight hour requirements in the new guidelines due to low volumes in the past few months. But, he said, it won’t take long to get their qualification back. “Most airlines have established processes to retrain pilots,” he said.

The number of passengers increased 124 percent in the first two weeks of December, from around 350,000 to 780,000. Although in most cases, negative Covid tests and green health codes are no longer needed to travel around the country, demand hasn’t bounced back as quickly as supply. Many would-be travelers are still cautious, especially in big cities with surging case counts.

“Airlines have enough capacity,” the China Eastern Airlines pilot said. “The key is how fast demand catches up.”

Plane tickets are cheaper after “ten new rules” than before. The average price has dropped 11 percent in December since the highs in the first week of the month.