China has imposed travel restrictions on international arrivals since March 2020, to curb the spread of new variants.
The global travel restrictions of 2020 vs. 2021 have widened net losses for airlines globally. As per publicly available financial reporting, of the three major Chinese carriers, Air China has been most affected, with a widening loss of 16% YoY (year on year) and a decrease in international passenger revenue of 63.88% YoY.
Figure 1: Financial Reports as of March 2022.
Fast forward to Q1 2022, and China’s international and domestic travel restrictions are still in place. This was particularly notable with Shanghai, the financial and logistical hub of the Chinese economy, accounting for 3.8% of China’s GDP.
VV Aviation’s Aircraft Activity data illustrates daily flights in and out of Shanghai. The impact of the travel restrictions can clearly be seen in the downward trend from the 25th of March, three days prior to the city’s restrictions.
Figure 2: International Inbound and Outbound Routes to and from Shanghai in 2022.
A longstanding air travel agreement between the U.S. and China allows the two countries to operate over 100 weekly flights between the two nations, however only a fraction of these have been operating since the pandemic began.
Since the start of the pandemic in March 2020, worldwide lockdowns in the escalating periods of Covid-19 have led to international flight restrictions and suspensions to minimise and stop the spread of infections.
Figures 3 and 4 below show the top 10 inbound and outbound routes serving Shanghai since the beginning of the year.
Figure 3: Top 10 Inbound International Flights to Shanghai Pudong International Airport.
According to VV data, the top two inbound journeys since the start of the year are from the US: Chicago O’Hare and Los Angeles.
Figure 4: Top 10 Outbound International Flights from Shanghai Pudong International Airport.
The top two outbound flights from Shanghai are to Los Angeles and Alaska’s Ted Stevens Anchorage International airport, serving as a robust freighter route.
Meanwhile, excluding the US, the top three routes combining inbound and outbound flights serving Shanghai were to South Korea’s primary airport serving Seoul: Incheon International Airport, Japan’s Tokyo Narita Airport, and thirdly Singapore’s Changi Airport, one of the largest airport hubs in Asia.
*Shanghai Hongqiao operates one outbound international flight to Sydney, which accounts for 34% of all outbound flights from the city of Shanghai to Sydney.
Shanghai based aircraft manufacturer COMAC will possibly face additional delays in the certification and delivery of its C919 Narrowbody airliner, following the recent restrictions. It was due to be delivered this year to COMAC’s launch customer, Shanghai based carrier China Eastern Airlines.
Furthermore, the reduction in flights will have a wider impact on Chinese lessors as the lessees will need to seek rental deferrals on their aircraft, due to the increase in operating losses. VV Aviation will continue to monitor events closely and provide insight as events unfold.