China facilitates inbound international travel

Special: Battle against the new coronavirus

China’s aviation regulator has decided to ease rules on the suspension of overseas flights due to COVID-19, in a move many believe will boost inbound travel.

Starting Sunday, any flight with five detected cases of COVID-19 will be suspended for one week when confirmed cases account for 4% of all passengers and for two weeks when confirmed cases account for 8%, the Civil Aviation Administration of China ( CAAC) said on Sunday.

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 aims to scientifically and accurately do a better job in epidemic prevention and control,” CAAC said.

CAAC said relevant policies will be adjusted in time according to epidemic prevention requirements.

Previously, flights with more than five but fewer than 10 confirmed COVID-19 passengers were grounded for two weeks. For flights with 10 passengers infected with COVID-19, airlines must suspend operations for four weeks under rules effective May 1, 2021.

Market watchers said requirements for inbound travel are set to ease.

For example, a Boeing 777, which can carry 305 to 440 people, is allowed to carry 228 to 330 passengers under the 75 percent capacity requirement set by the CAAC, so when the number of infected people is 4 percent of passengers, the flight will be suspended for a week, a significant relaxation of the previous requirement, Wang Yi, head of airline ticket data from 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 now it doesn’t,” Wang noted.

The new rules halved the suspension period, which will help restart international flights to China, especially long-haul intercontinental flights from Europe and the US with wide-body aircraft, said Lin Zhijie, an independent market observer. . the Global Times on Sunday.

VariFlight data showed that the average usage rate for widebody aircraft in July this year was 1.16 hours per day, compared to 10-11 hours in 2019.

In 2020, China adopted the “Five One” policy to curb imported cases, which allowed Chinese carriers to operate only one outbound flight per week on a route to any country and foreign airlines to operate only one flight per week. week in China.

The country has suspended 768 international flights so far this year to curb the spread of the virus, said Kong Fanwei, a CAAC official, at a press conference on May 23 this year.

However, the policy has slowly been modified and the regulator is now allowing more domestic and foreign airlines to resume international flights.

CAAC said in June that it was negotiating with some countries to gradually increase their scheduled international passenger flights to meet staff exchange needs.

In July, CAAC officials said China would strengthen 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 time for international arrivals to seven days from the previous 14 days, giving fresh impetus to the outbound travel market.

Outbound international passenger flights from China are likely to grow more than 200 percent month-on-month in August, VariFlight data showed, and flights to the US in particular are forecast to quadruple.

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