China’s three largest airlines added back capacity in their international networks in March, as system-wide traffic continued to recover following the easing of pandemic curbs.

The ‘Big Three’ – comprising Air China, China Eastern Airlines and China Southern Airlines – reported their fourth consecutive month of recovery in March, led mostly by a surge in international travellers.

Airport board

Source: Shinelu/Shutterstock

Air China carried 9.4 million passengers during the month, up 6% against February, and also three times the number reported in the year-ago period. International passengers, in particular, rose nearly 80% compared to February at over 196,000 passengers. Domestic passenger numbers were up 4.5% month on month to around 9 million in March.

The Beijing-based carrier saw system-wide traffic increase about 6% against February, led by a 64% jump in international traffic. As for capacity, Air China saw a 13% rise system-wide month on month, with international ASKs up 62%.

China Eastern, meanwhile, carried 8.2 million passengers in March, more than three times higher year on year, and 5% higher month on month. International passenger numbers expectedly saw the largest jump, up around 59% month on month to around 180,000.

System-wide traffic rose 5% against February, with international traffic up 43% month on month. Capacity, meanwhile, grew 8.4% overall, led by a 46% jump in international capacity.

As for China Southern, it carried 10.5 million passengers in March, up 3.5% month on month. International passenger numbers were up 44% month on month to 369,000, while domestic passengers remained largely the same as February.

The Guangzhou-based carrier reported a 35% increase in international RPKs against February, which helped offset a slight dip in domestic traffic.

Traffic, meanwhile, grew 5% system-wide against February, with international ASKs up 30% month on month and domestic capacity inching up 2.9%.