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Air Travel Within China Is Nearly at Pre-Pandemic Levels

Domestic air travel in China has nearly returned to normal levels, according to data released on Wednesday, a significant milestone for the country where the coronavirus pandemic started.

Airline bookings in China reached about 98 percent of last year’s levels in the second week of August, according to ForwardKeys, a company that tracks travel reservations globally. And domestic arrivals stood at 86 percent. Based on current trends, China’s domestic aviation market should fully recover by the beginning of September, the company said.


“This is a highly significant moment because it is the first time since the start of the Covid-19 outbreak that a major segment of the aviation market anywhere in the world has returned to pre-pandemic levels,” Olivier Ponti, vice president of insights at ForwardKeys, said in the statement.


The achievement comes as most of the world’s airlines prepare for a long, painful recovery. In most countries, domestic travel has recovered first, while international flying has lagged far behind, thwarted by travel restrictions and people’s unwillingness to go on long trips. In the United States, domestic travel is down about 44 percent, according to Airlines for America, an industry group, as airlines prepare to cut tens of thousands of jobs if Congress does not extend aid to the industry.


China’s success at curbing the pandemic was largely responsible for the relatively quick recovery of its aviation business — and its economy. Travel has also been boosted by the start of the school year and lower ticket prices have encouraged people to overcome any reluctance they may have had to get on planes, according to ForwardKeys.


Since hitting bottom in February, China’s airlines have slowly built back their businesses with the help of tourists and group tours, according to ForwardKeys. It also helped that the Chinese government was able to contain a surge in infections this summer in Beijing. About 1 in 15,000 people in mainland China have been infected since the pandemic began, compared to 1 in 56 people in the United States.


American officials’ inability to control the virus hindered a recovery in air travel, which stalled last month as infections spread across the country. In recent weeks, travel has picked up again, and about 30 percent as many people passed through airport security checkpoints in recent days as a year ago.


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Originally published: https://www.nytimes.com

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