Chinese domestic air passenger growth regains momentum in October and November

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International traffic to China may be down 9.7% but Hainan Airlines has already been celebrating the launch of twice weekly Beijing-Kiev flights which begin on February 10 (Tuesdays and Saturdays). This party at the China World Hotel, Beijing, took place in December.

Demand for air travel within China is growing once more with domestic passenger numbers up over 10% in October and November.

Chart: Chines airline passengers
Source: CAAC

However, international traffic is still in a slump with demand down between 15% and 20% in recent months. This is an improvement however on the previous three months when international demand was down over 20%, including during the build-up and hosting of the Olympics in Beijing in August.

Chart: Passengers
Source: CAAC

China’s seasonality profile shows the usual winter dip but also a dip in June. The negative impact of the Olympics on travel demand in August can clearly be seen. Year-to-date passenger numbers are now up just 2.9%, well below the 14% forecast last year. Domestic traffic is up 4.1% but international traffic is down 9.7%.

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Source: CAAC

Load factors on China’s airlines averaged around 76% in 2007. Up until April this year load factors had been comparable but since then they have been significantly lower, especially in August when they were down almost 10 percentage points. In October load factors were down just 2.1 percentage points on 2007 while in November the difference was 3.2 percentage points.

China’s three biggest airlines report annual traffic

China’s three biggest airlines have all reported their full-year traffic for 2008. China Southern saw passenger numbers grow 2.3% to 58.24 million. Domestic traffic was up 3.4% to 53.06 million while international traffic fell 6.7%. Passenger load factors were down 0.7 percentage points to 73.8%.

Chart: Route Launch
Kaohsiung harbour: Taiwanese President, Ma Ying-jeou attended December’s official ceremony to celebrate direct trade and air links with China. Improved relations between Taiwan and mainland China have seen direct flights operating since December.

China Eastern witnessed a 5.4% decline in travel demand to 37.05 million. At Air China passenger numbers also fell but by only 1.7% to 34.25 million driven by a 10.5% drop in international traffic. Domestic traffic was up marginally by 0.4% to 28.03 million passengers. The average annual passenger load factor fell by 3.6 percentage points from 78.6% to 74.9%.


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