Lunar New Year is usually a bonanza for Chinese airlines criss-crossing the country fully loaded with passengers. Not this year though, after the government took the rare step of encouraging people to stay at home as it tries to stamp out the coronavirus.
Chunyun, as the Lunar New Year travel season in China is known, is regarded as the world’s biggest annual human migration and can account for as much as a quarter of airlines’ annual profits, according to BloombergNEF analyst Luxi Hong.
The holiday this year falls on Feb. 11-17, but the travel period in China started in late January and runs to March. On Jan. 28, passenger traffic was 71% lower than the first official travel day in 2020, according to the Civil Aviation Authority of China. Ticket bookings for trains, normally packed, are almost 60% lower than usual, the railway authority said.
About 10% of flights have been canceled over the coming fortnight, according to a BNEF report dated Feb. 3, which said China Southern Airlines Co. appears most affected with almost one-third of flights scrapped.
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