Fewer travellers in China took to the skies over Lunar New Year, which is traditionally the country’s busiest holiday season. 

Air passenger traffic data released by the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) indicates a 45.16 per cent fall compared to the same period last year, when the pandemic had just begun.

This Lunar New Year, Chinese airlines collectively carried 3.57 million travellers over a seven-day period, with most flights a little more than half full in part due to travel restrictions. Passenger load factors averaged 57.51 per cent across domestic carriers.

Meanwhile, international cargo flights surged by 212.48 per cent year-on-year, reflecting the strong demand for consumer goods and continued shift to e-commerce.

Analysts are optimistic that travellers will return.

“With only one local infection case in China since February 7, we expect travel restrictions to be relaxed, with the pent-up demand leading to higher load factors before the final stage of the recovery – higher ticket prices,” Andrew Lee, equity analyst at Jefferies, told Reuters.

Scheduled domestic seat capacity is expected to rebound 65.5 per cent this week, compared with the week of February 8, according to Jefferies.