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China reports largest travel slump amid Delta spread

written by Isabella Richards | August 10, 2021

Airbus A330s are a regular feature in Australian skies, with this from China Eastern an example. (Rob Finlayson)
Airbus A330s are a regular feature in Australian skies, with this from China Eastern an example. (Rob Finlayson)

China’s travel industry has dropped the most since early in the COVID-19 pandemic as the Delta variant spreads rapidly.

According to aviation specialist OAG, Chinese airline capacity dropped 32 per cent in one week from the outbreak, which began at the end of July.

China’s domestic recovery was leading the way before the increase of infections – similar to the US – but recent advice has slumped it yet again.

In the last week of July, China grappled with its worst outbreak since the beginning of the pandemic, currently dealing with almost 2,000 active cases, many from the recent spread.

“The data is beginning to point to a recovery being further away than we had perhaps hoped a few weeks back,” said John Grant, chief analyst of OAG.

“In the next few weeks, airlines will begin to look long and hard at their winter 2021-22 programs, and many of the data points would suggest that capacity will not be much better than last winter.”

Chinese officials have called for mass domestic travel restrictions, and immigration authorities said they will “strictly restrict non-urgent, unnecessary cross-border travel”, according to CNN.

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More than 30 airlines, including Air China, China Eastern Airlines, and others cancelled flights after the Civil Aviation Administration of China said people could apply for ticket refunds until 31 August.

“The soaring risk of the epidemic across the country, coupled with the ticket-refund policy of CAAC, has brought the summer travel season to an early end,” Lin Zhijie, a market watcher, told The Global Times on Thursday.

The delta variant has swarmed throughout most countries, first detected in India, and now global airline capacity is at 64 per cent of pre-pandemic levels, Bloomberg said.

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Since the latest outbreak, China contributed to 6.5 per cent of the weekly downturn of global capacity.

Numerous tourist destinations have also been closed since the outbreak and the airport at Nanjing has suspended all flights until mid-August, further stunting domestic travel.

Zihjie added that while the first half of the summer season recovered, the outbreak would see airlines return to “loss making territory”, similar to 2020.

Other nations, such as the US, are also seeing major shifts since the Delta variant has spiralled, following airlines mandating staff vaccinations and tightening travel rules.

Over the weekend, United Airlines and Frontier Airlines announced employees must be double-jabbed in an effort to combat the spread.

Frontier, a US budget carrier announced it was the first time it had seen “softening” bookings since the outbreak, as travel began to rise during summer prior.

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