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Chinese aviation data offers possible hope for global aviation

written by Dylan Nicholson | April 8, 2020

Consultancy firm ICF has analysed data from Flightradar24 to examine the slow rebound of Chinese aviation as the country slowly comes out of the coronavirus crisis giving hope to the global aviation industry.

The data shows that while international travel is still severely restricted, domestic travel within China has seen an uptick in the last couple of weeks as lockdowns are eased and people begin moving around the country again.

The graph can be seen here from Flightradar24’s Twitter:

Previous data from Flightradar24 found that global commercial flights were down by 28 per cent on last year’s figures at the same time.

However, more recent data suggests China may be beginning to reverse the trend as domestic flights recommence.


ICF used data from the 100th confirmed case in each market to 29 March during this recent report, which showed that 20 days after its 100th case, China’s aviation activity was reduced by 60 per cent of 2019 levels.

Compared with China, European data showed a much slower decline after 100 cases, possibly due to the initial clustering of cases in northern Italy. It was 23 days before greater restrictions on travel had occurred and greater reduction were seen.

Domestic flights in Europe had been marginally less impacted than international flights and as of the 29 March, declined to 35 per cent of the 2019 level, compared with 16 per cent of their 2019 level for international aviation. However, this is expected to continue to decline as cases and deaths continue to increase across Europe.

After the strict measures initially imposed by China, the number of domestic Chinese flights has made tentative increases since the beginning of March, rising slightly to around 50 per cent of 2019 volumes.

A China Southern Airbus A380.
A China Southern Airbus A380.

However, with travel restrictions gradually lifting, the Chinese Civil Aviation Authority notably resumed civil aviation flights from Hubei province at the end of March.

This recovery has not been seen in international markets yet as cases continue to spiral. As of the 29 March, the total number of US flights has declined by 44 per cent compared with 2019, while Europe is down by 77 per cent compared with 2019.

US travel is expected to continue its downtun as it becomes the new epicentre for the virus with the number set to overtake Europe in the near future.

While this decline may take longer to recover from due to the increased scale of the virus in the US and Europe, the situation in China with the slight rebound may give hope to the aviation industry.

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