China Adds Flights From Japan and South Korea as Travel Curbs Ease
China allowed more scheduled passenger flights from Japan and South Korea as the Asian countries gradually ease coronavirus travel curbs. But finding affordable tickets is still difficult for many travelers as average prices are up nearly tenfold amid high demand.
There will be 15 passenger flights between China and Japan every week in August, up from 12 a week last month, according to the Japanese embassy in China and airline companies. That will be after Chinese airlines including Juneyao Airlines, Spring Airlines and China Southern Airlines expand services starting Thursday. The three Chinese carriers were allowed to increase flights for the China-Japan routes after they met disease control requirements set by China’s civil aviation regulators.
Weekly flights between China and South Korea are also increasing to 15 in August from nine in July, including eight operated by Chinese airlines and seven by Korean carriers. China and South Korea officials held discussions last month in hopes of soon increasing scheduled passenger flights to 20 a week, Caixin learned from the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC).
The increase in flights linking China with Japan and South Korea offers travelers more options for entering the country from elsewhere in the world as direct flights to China are still scarce from many countries including the U.S.
Employees of several Chinese airlines said tickets to China from Japan and South Korea have long been fully booked as many overseas Chinese, especially stranded students, seek to return from Europe and the Americas via transfers. A Juneyao Airlines staffer told Caixin that a rising number of passengers from Mexico, the U.S. and Canada are taking connecting flights in Japan to enter China.
High demand pushed up ticket prices tenfold. Flights from Japan and South Korea to China average more than 20,000 yuan ($2,864) for a one-way trip, compared with about 2,000 yuan before the pandemic. A one-way trip from Osaka to Nanjing Aug. 13 operated by Juneyao Airlines would cost 20,069 yuan for economy class, public records showed. A Japan Airlines ticket from Tokyo to Dalian the same day would cost 24,500 yuan.
While gradually reconnecting with the world by air, China is tightening virus screening of inbound travelers to block imported cases. In late July, Chinese aviation and customs authorities issued new rules requiring all international travelers to show a negative test result for Covid-19 dated within five days of embarking on their trip.
In July, an average of 11,941 flights were operated in China every day, 10.36% more than in the previous months, according to the CAAC. Passenger volume increased 20.4% from June to 37 million.
The CAAC in early June moved to ease months-long restrictions on international flights as the outbreak waned and pressures mounted from other countries to reboot global travel. Since March China has limited international flights to one by each airline per week while denying requests to restart services from foreign carriers that halted flights to China before March.
Under the June rules, airlines were allowed to resume international routes into China starting with one flight a week. Airlines that went three consecutive weeks without anyone testing positive for Covid-19 on their flights would be able to operate a second weekly flight into China. Conversely, airlines were to be ordered to suspend flights if more than five onboard passengers tested positive, according to the rules.
In July, Air China, China Eastern Airlines, Shenzhen Airlines and Japan Airlines were rewarded with extra weekly flights on China-Japan routes because of their virus control records. After the latest increase, a total of 10 airlines — seven Chinese and three Japanese — are operating flights between the two countries.
Contact reporter Han Wei (firstname.lastname@example.org) and editor Bob Simison (email@example.com)
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