Spring Festival rush lifts spirits of civil aviation

Workers from China Railway Nanning Group Co Ltd inspect overhead electric cables in Nanning, Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region, on Monday. The workers will regularly check cables and related infrastructure to ensure smooth and safe rail services during this year's Spring Festival travel rush. (ZHANG AILIN / XINHUA)

Amid China's recently optimized COVID-19 management policy, the Spring Festival travel rush is buoying the country's civil aviation sector, which had been hit hard by the pandemic in the past three years.

During the 40-day holiday travel period, which began on Saturday and is expected to continue till Feb 15, more flights are planned, services onboard and at airports will be improved and routine disinfection carried out for better epidemic control.

About 11,000 flights have been scheduled on average each day of the holiday travel period, about 73 percent of the volume during the same period in 2019, according to Wan Xiangdong, chief pilot of the Civil Aviation Administration of China.

Spring Festival starts on Jan 22, and the travel rush is expected to peak before and after the seven-day celebrations, as well as after Lantern Festival, which falls on Feb 5.Popular flight routes include Beijing to Sanya, Hainan province; Beijing to Shanghai; Beijing to Haikou, Hainan; Shenzhen, Guangdong province, to Kunming, Yunnan province; Shenzhen to Chongqing; Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, to Kunming.

Airline companies are being encouraged to schedule more domestic flights, if possible, to meet the increasing demand for travel on routes such as Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou, to Sanya, Haikou, Chengdu, Sichuan province, and Chongqing, Wan said.

As of Thursday, he said, the civil aviation administration had approved the addition of 10,313 domestic flights for the holiday travel period. A total of 3,459 flights, which is about one-third of the volume of added services, will cater to the needs of passengers flying to and from Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou.

Wan said the flight schedules will be adjusted according to passenger demands and changes in weather to reduce inconveniences caused by flight delays and cancellations.

For effective epidemic control, service providers and airport authorities will urge passengers to avoid crowds, offer contact-free services, boost health management of staff and regularly disinfect key areas. Services will be improved for passengers with special needs, the elderly and unaccompanied minors at airports and onboard flights.

Passenger trips are expected to surge during the festival period. On Saturday, Sunday and Monday, the first three days of the Spring Festival travel rush, the civil aviation sector respectively handled 976,000, 1.07 million and 1.06 million passenger trips, year-on-year increases of 24.9 percent, 34.5 percent and 30.3 percent, according to the Ministry of Transport.

The numbers were still respectively 41.3 percent, 36.1 percent and 39.3 percent lower than the passenger trips recorded during the same period in 2019, the ministry's data showed.

Beijing Capital International Airport, one of the busiest in China, is expected to handle 4.83 million passenger trips and 39,000 flights during the holiday travel period. Peak days are expected to fall on Jan 20 and 27, with about 146,000 and 142,000 passenger trips.

The airport has set up more channels at the security gate to improve efficiency and reduce waiting times, especially for passengers with special needs. More than 4,000 USB charging points have been installed in the waiting lounge at Terminal-3.

Beijing Daxing International Airport will resume international flight operations on Jan 17. These have been suspended since March 2020 due to COVID-19. The airport is following all epidemic control and passenger safety protocols.

Air China plans to operate more flights during the holiday period. The airline will provide 58,633 flights to ease the travel rush, up 75.9 percent compared with last year.

Optimized COVID-19 travel measures, which include lifting of quarantine and testing requirements, have boosted the civil aviation sector's confidence. Last year, the sector handled 250 million passenger trips, roughly 38 percent of the volume in 2019.