Since October, several major Chinese airlines have announced plans to resume international flights.
As announced in May by Premier Li Keqiang, the Chinese State Council will “orderly increase the number of domestic and international flights while taking convenience measures for the travel of foreign company staffers.” Since the outbreak of COVID-19 in early 2020, many of these routes have been suspended, and are only now picking back up, over 2 years later.
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CAAC, the Chinese regulator for civil aviation, announced in July that it would “continue to negotiate with other countries to expand international flights gradually.” In addition, CAAC also added that scheduled international passenger flights would resume steadily in order to meet the needs of overseas Chinese students.
Additionally, there will be increased international routes restored, added, or newly opened for the upcoming winter-spring season by China’s big three airlines (Air China, China Eastern, China Southern). For example, Air China has announced the routes will be resumed: Beijing and Manila, Jakarta, Tokyo, Warsaw, Athens, Vancouver, Los Angeles, and Toronto.
As of October 17th, China Eastern Airlines announced its latest international flight plan on its official Weibo page, including 108 weekly international flights by the end of the month, doubling the current 54 international flights. These include Shanghai to Bangkok to Qingdao, Hangzhou/ Qingdao/ Nanjing/ Kunming to Tokyo Narita, and many more.
This month, Shanghai-based Spring Airlines will resume its regional services to Hong Kong, Macau, Osaka, Tokyo, Seoul, and Bangkok. Further, Juneyao Airlines has announced plans to resume its Nanjing to Seoul and Nanjing to Osaka flights, with many more airlines following their lead.
A large-scale suspension of international routes has caused ticket prices to skyrocket, but they are now beginning to fall significantly as international flights increase. Spring Airlines offers one-way economy-class tickets from Shanghai to Tokyo for CNY 3,382 (USD 467). Before, this ticket could easily cost more than CNY 10,000 (USD 1,383).
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Popular routes, such as London Heathrow to Shanghai Pudong, have seen their ticket prices significantly decrease since August when the route was reinstated. On November 17th, Air China is selling a direct flight from London to Shanghai for CNY 22,806 (USD 3,155 US dollars). Despite the transfer-transit process, the same ticket was easily sold for over CNY 70,000 prior to the resumption of direct flights. Still, this price point is more expensive than business class before the outbreak, and may be one of the various new ‘norms’ we will have to adhere to from the pandemic.