China-US direct flights soar as prices plummet, boosts travel prospects

The Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) reported a surge in direct passenger flights between China and the United States, marking an upward trend in connectivity. As of Thursday last week, the number of regular direct flights is set to rise from 48 to 70 per week during the winter and spring season of 2023 and 2024, Reuters reported.

Domestic carriers, including Air China, Eastern Airlines, China Southern Airlines, Hainan Airlines, and Sichuan Airlines, are contributing to this increase, with flights being resumed on popular routes such as Beijing-San Francisco, Shanghai-San Francisco, and Guangzhou-Wuhan-San Francisco.

The month of December is witnessing a noteworthy drop in airfare prices, with tickets from Guangzhou to San Francisco and Guangzhou to Los Angeles now priced at around 4,300 yuan (about $590) and 5,000 yuan (about $686), respectively. More people are expected to consider travelling abroad as a result of this cost reduction.

Industry experts are optimistic about the ripple effect of decreased airfare on the travel landscape. The lower prices are expected to alleviate the financial burden of transportation, making overseas travel more appealing to a broader audience.  

In response to this, the number of inbound and outbound air ticket bookings for November and December has exceeded 4.4 million, which is 7.5 times higher than the same period last year.

Beyond the China-US route, international passenger flights, in general, have been on a steady path to recovery throughout the year. The CAAC has granted approval to 116 airlines, involving 65 foreign countries and regions, for a total of 13,004 weekly international passenger flights.  

The planned volume for international passenger flights is estimated to reach about 70 per cent of the 2019 levels by the end of the new aviation season on March 30, 2024. Notably, China Eastern Airlines reported a weekly flight count of 1,084, rebounding to 78.6 per cent of the 2019 level.  

Reuters cited Shi Mengyao, an employee of China Eastern Airlines, who expressed confidence in the continued recovery, saying, “With the continued recovery in the new season, it is expected that by the end of 2023, the number of international flights handled by our company will rebound to more than 80 per cent of that in 2019.”

(With inputs from Reuters)

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