While China’s aviation industry was the first to suffer from the global health crisis a year ago, aggressive lockdowns and travel restrictions have enabled its airlines to resume travel and restore routes at a faster pace. One of the nation’s largest carriers, China Eastern Airlines, recently achieved a major milestone, claiming that its grounded aircraft fleet in Shanghai is now at zero.
Aircraft utilization on the rise
According to the Global Times, who received the news directly from China Eastern, the grounded fleet size at the airline’s Shanghai base has fallen to zero. While the airline has operations out of the two main airports in Shanghai – Hongqiao (SHA) and Pudong (PVG), it was unspecified which Shanghai base had ungrounded all of its aircraft.
Through some research based on data from Planespotters.net’s list of parked China Eastern aircraft, it looks like there are still a few jets ‘parked’ at both of the Shanghai airports. However, although now listed as parked, the jets had been flying as recently as February.
Regardless of the specific airport, the news is a general indication that the country’s aviation market is continuing to recover.
Passenger flight volume expected to rise
Global Times notes that China Eastern’s average daily passenger flight volume has now recovered to approximately 2,400. However, a surge is expected in the coming weeks, with the Qingming Festival taking place in April and May Day (Labor Day) holidays the month after.
The carrier reports that it has plans to add flights for this anticipated surge. The increased services will support travel between cities like Beijing, Guangzhou, and Chengdu.
China Eastern’s two Shanghai hubs
Looking at available flight data, it appears that China Eastern utilizes both Hongqiao and Pudong almost equally. With RadarBox.com’s “heat map” tool, we can see that Hongqiao has posted 198 aircraft movements a day, with Pudong close behind it with 181.4.
Using FlightRadar24.com’s routes tool, we can see how the airline uses the two airports in different ways. Shanghai Hongqiao is used exclusively for services within the country, while Pudong is used much more as a long-haul, transcontinental operations base. It is from Shanghai Pudong that the airline offers flights to North America, Europe, Oceania, and South-Southeast Asia.
According to COVID-19 data from Worldometers.com, it appears that, at least in the past few weeks, China has brought its new daily case count down to less than 20 per day. Some days, this number has been as low as five. Hopefully, the rest of the world can follow suit as vaccination programs continue to be deployed.
What do you think of China’s recovering aviation market? How long will it take for other countries to see similar results? Let us know your thoughts by leaving a comment.