Special: Fight against the novel corona virus
China’s aviation authority has decided to ease rules on suspending overseas flights due to COVID-19, a move many believe will boost inbound traffic.
Beginning Sunday, any flight with five detected COVID-19 cases will be suspended for a week if confirmed cases account for four percent of all cases onboard, and for two weeks if confirmed cases account for eight percent, the civil aviation authority said China (CAAC) on Sunday with.
The rule does not mention policy settings for flights with fewer than five confirmed cases.
“The move aims to promote Chinese and foreign travel exchanges and scientifically and accurately do a better job of epidemic prevention and control,” the CAAC said.
CAAC said the relevant policies will be timely adjusted to meet epidemic prevention needs.
Previously, flights with more than five but fewer than 10 confirmed COVID-19 passengers were suspended for two weeks. For flights with 10 passengers infected with COVID-19, airlines must suspend their operations for four weeks under the rules in force since May 1, 2021.
Market observers said entry requirements are to be eased.
For example, a Boeing 777 capable of carrying 305 to 440 people is allowed to carry 228 to 330 passengers under the 75 percent capacity requirement set by CAAC, so if the number of infected is 4 percent of the people on board, the flight is suspended for a week , a significant relaxation of the previous requirement, Wang Yi, an executive in charge of airline ticket data at industry information provider VariFlight, told the Global Times on Sunday.
“In the past, the rule attached great importance to the number of confirmed cases when it reached five, but not now,” Wang noted.
The new rules have halved the suspension period, which will help international flights to China resume, particularly long-haul intercontinental flights from Europe and the United States on wide-body aircraft, Lin Zhijie, an independent market watcher, told the Global Times on Sunday.
VariFlight data showed that the average usage rate of widebody aircraft was 1.16 hours per day in July this year, compared to 10-11 hours in 2019.
In 2020, China adopted the “Five One” policy to curb imported cases, which allowed Chinese airlines to operate only one one-way flight per week on a route to any country, and foreign airlines to operate only one flight per week to China .
The country has suspended 768 international flights so far this year to curb transmission of the virus, Kong Fanwei, an official with the CAAC, said at a news conference May 23 this year.
But the policy has slowly been adjusted and the regulator is now allowing more airlines, both domestic and international, to resume international flight service.
The CAAC said in June it was negotiating with some countries to gradually increase its regular international passenger flights to meet staff exchange needs.
In July, CAAC officials said China will improve communications with countries to increase the number of international flights in the second half of this year.
Meanwhile, the country also halved the collective quarantine period for international arrivals to seven days from the previous 14 days, giving new impetus to the outbound travel market.
Outbound international passenger flights from China are expected to grow more than 200 percent monthly in August, VariFlight data showed, and flights to the United States in particular are expected to increase four-fold.