Published: 10:30, April 2, 2024 | Updated: 10:35, April 2, 2024
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More international flights for summer season
By Luo Wangshu

A China Southern Airlines plane takes off at the Beijing Daxing International Airport in Beijing, China, Jan 17, 2023. (PHOTO / XINHUA)

China's civil aviation sector is accelerating the resumption of international passenger flights, aiming to connect travelers with more destinations as the summer season kicks off.

The new season, which began Sunday and runs through Oct 26, will see over 12,600 weekly international passenger flights operated by 122 Chinese and international airlines. They will link China to 66 countries, representing a significant increase from previous periods.

More than 4,600 weekly freight flights, operated by 67 Chinese and international airlines and connecting 46 countries, have also been approved.

The number of international passenger flights is continuing to grow, with the recent restoration of flights to Ireland just one example.

The Civil Aviation Administration of China also said one additional domestic airline and two additional foreign airlines will be operating international passenger flights this summer. The passenger market in neighboring countries has also recovered significantly, with substantial increases in passenger flights to Vietnam, Japan, Laos and Russia.

Since the introduction of relaxed visa policies for travelers from both sides, flights to countries such as Hungary, Austria, Spain, Malaysia, Thailand and Singapore are expected to see significant increases during the new season.

The international cargo market is also expected to experience steady growth, with significant increases expected in services to European markets such as Spain, France and Belgium.

The administration said it will guide all airlines to continue increasing capacity and adding more flight routes between China and countries involved in the Belt and Road Initiative to meet travelers' needs and better serve national strategies.

Measures will also be taken to promote the accelerated recovery of international passenger flights.

China's international civil aviation market was badly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. The number of flights between the world's two largest economies — the United States and China — has been in the spotlight since China adjusted pandemic travel restrictions in January last year.

More direct flights between the two countries will be introduced during the new season.

Dai Jun, deputy director of the administration's operation center, said Chinese and US airlines will now be allowed to operate 100 round trips a week. At the start of the year there were just 63 a week.

At the start of the new season, 52 round trips a week are planned to be operated between Beijing Capital International Airport and various destinations in the United States: 18 to San Francisco, 10 to New York, eight to Los Angeles, four to Washington, six to Boston and six to Seattle.

Air China, the national flag carrier, has increased the number of direct passenger flights it operates between China and the US to 14 a week, up from 11, since Sunday.

"Compared to the pre-pandemic days in 2019, the number of flights between China and the US will return to about 20 percent," said Liu Peng from Air China.

With more international flights planned, more international passengers can travel to China and more Chinese can travel abroad.

Shi Zeyi, deputy director of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism's international exchange and cooperation bureau, told a recent news conference that the number of entries and exits of foreigners in January and February reached 2.94 million, an increase of 2.3 times compared to the previous two months, and has recovered to 41.5 percent of the level before the pandemic.

During the Spring Festival in February, the effects of China's visa-free policy became evident, with an increase in tourists from countries such as France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, Malaysia and Singapore, which had been recently added to the list of countries eligible for visa-free entry into China, Shi said.

The country will continue to take measures to attract more foreign visitors to China, he said.