Flight Friday: What Impact Has China's Reopening Had So Far?

Travelers make their way through Shanghai Hongqiao International Airport ahead of the Chinese Lunar New Year holiday in January.

Credit: Hugo Hu/Getty Images

Flight Friday this week looks at the effects of China removing its “zero-COVID” policy.

In early December 2022, China announced it was abandoning its zero-COVID policy. This led to a large uptick in coronavirus infections, but also allowed the aviation sector to open up.

A traditional high travel period in China relates to Lunar New Year travel in late January and early February. Data shows that domestic flight time in China in January and February of 2023 was higher than the equivalent month in 2019. Domestic flight time was almost 23% higher in February 2023 versus 2019.



International travel by Chinese operators remains suppressed, with only 30% flight hours in February 2023 when compared to 2019. However, with a significant domestic market, operators are deploying their aircraft on domestic routes initially.

China was the last large market to remove COVID restrictions, and over the coming months and quarters it is anticipated that the international travel shall continue to rebound but will probably not reach 100% of 2019 levels until sometime in 2024.

This data was put together using Aviation Week’s Tracked Aircraft Utilization tool.

Daniel Williams

Based in the UK, Daniel is the Manager of Fleet, Flight and Forecast data for Aviation Week Network. Prior to joining Aviation Week in 2017, Daniel held a number of industry positions analyzing fleet data.