China’s domestic air travel market will fully recover from the impact of Covid-19 by next month, according to travel data analyst ForwardKeys.

Domestic arrivals at Chinese airports reached 86% of the 2019 level in the second week of August and domestic flight bookings hit 98%, ForwardKeys reported, with most bookings for travel this month.

The findings led ForwardKeys to forecast “a full recovery by the start of September”.

It attributed the recovery in China to the pandemic being “under control”, to domestic aviation capacity growing, to “school and university students travelling ahead of the start of term in September” and to “aggressive price promotions”.

ForwardKeys noted Chinese airlines had launched a variety of promotional offers since mid-June..

It reported China’s aviation market bottomed out in the second week of February and had “climbed slowly” since despite a second Covid outbreak in Beijing in June, spurred by the Labour Day holiday at the start of May and a resumption of group tours in mid-July.

The recovery has been such that the resort of Sanya, on Hainan Island in the South China Sea, saw 14% growth in visitor numbers year on year in the second week of August, helped by a new duty-free policy.

The cities of Chongqing, Chengdu, Shanghai and Shenzhen also saw growth year on year in August.

However, Chinese travel to Beijing remains almost 25% down on the same period in 2019.

Olivier Ponti, ForwardKeys insights vice-president, said: “This is a highly significant moment – the first time since the start of the Covid-19 outbreak that a major segment of the aviation market anywhere in the world has returned to pre-pandemic levels.”

Ponti said: “The crunch question is whether heavy discounting will still be needed to maintain the recovery or whether the industry will return to profitability during [China’s] upcoming Golden Week holiday in October.”

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