The coronavirus has affected global aviation in a way that’s unlike anything we’ve seen before. This week, China Eastern beat out U.S. carrier Southwest for the title of the biggest airline in the world in terms of number of seats available.
The likely temporary title for China Eastern comes after low-cost giant Southwest grounded many of its flights, leading to a reduction of over one million seats, according to OAG analyst John Grant.
As airlines across the world are slashing route networks, or even stopping flights altogether, this week saw the number of seats drop from 109 million for the same week last year to just 26.6 million this year.
According to Forbes, the Shanghai-based China Eastern is planning to have resumed between 70% and 80% of flights by the end of June. As the airline begins to reintroduce more domestic flights, most of its routes will be operated by narrow-body aircraft.
On major routes with more demand like from Shanghai (SHA) to Beijing (PEK) and Shenzhen (SZX), the airline has already started flying A330-300s and will continue to do so on other busy domestic routes like Shanghai (SHA) to Guangzhou (CAN).
In China, as restrictions are starting to ease and travel ticks up, nearly 900,000 additional seats — often at a lower-than-average price — were added in the past week to tie in with the country’s national labour day holiday on Monday. According to data provider Airsavvi, China is back to around half its usual number of daily domestic flights — over 6,000.
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