China Now Has More Passenger Flights Than The United States

China has operated more passenger flights in a month than the United States for the first time. The milestone was reached as China’s aviation industry continues to recover ahead of the rest of the world.

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Chinese airlines operated more flights than their US counterparts in May. Photo: Getty Images

2020 has so far been a terrifying and bizarre year for the aviation industry. What was set to be a positive year was turned on its head with the outbreak of the current pandemic. Airlines and airports across the world have been suffering. Indeed, some major European airports saw fewer passengers in the whole of April, than they did in a day last year.

200,000 flights

While the month is not quite over yet, it looks almost certain that Chinese airlines will operate more flights than their United States counterparts this month. According to the travel data and analytics expert Cirium, up to and including May 27th, Chinese airlines operated almost 200,000 flights.

These flights were operated by widebody, narrowbody, and regional jets in a passenger configuration. United States carriers, on the other hand, operated fewer than 170,000 flights across their fleets. According to the below graph from Cirium, you can see that since early May, China has consistently operated more trips than the US.

Chinese Airlines, US Airlines, More Flights
Chinese airlines experienced a downturn much earlier than US airlines. Graph: Cirium

Two-month lag

It seems as though the majority of the world is operating on a two-month lag behind China. As the virus began to spread around China, cities began to be placed in lockdown around mid-January. However, in Europe and the US, the ramifications of the illness didn’t take effect until mid to late March.

Again looking at the graph above, you can see that the number of Chinese flights being operated started to fall from the end of January until early February. For the United States, this was the case from late March to early April.

As such, the recovery of Chinese Aviation is now around two months ahead of the United States. According to Cirium, Chinese airlines are currently operating at around 35% of the previous year’s capacity. Meanwhile, the United States carriers are slightly lower, at 26%.

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US airlines are operating around 74% fewer flights than last year. Photo: Getty Images

Some more positive figures

There is some positive news, however. US aviation does seem to be showing the green shoots of recovery. Indeed, according to the Transport Safety Administration, passenger numbers in the US are now regularly exceeding 300,000. At their lowest point, just 87,534 passengers moved through TSA checkpoints on April 14th. Of course, these numbers are still tiny compared to the roughly 2.5 million passengers per day recorded this time last year.

Cirium has also seen a decrease in the number of aircraft stored. The travel data and analytics expert told Simple Flying that just over 15,000 aircraft are now stored worldwide, equating to around 57% of the global aircraft fleet.

What do you make of these new figures released by Cirium? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!