China’s three largest carriers saw their domestic passenger traffic in June shrink for third time on a month-on-month basis, despite reporting decent gains compared to a year ago. 

The ‘Big Three’ — comprising Air China, China Eastern Airlines and China Southern Airlines — also saw overall traffic in the first half of the year grow compared to a year ago, when much of China was placed under strict lockdown at the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. 

China Southern China Eastern_wikimedia

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Air China carried 6.2 million domestic passengers in June, a 39% increase year on year. Compared to May, the Star Alliance carrier saw domestic passenger numbers slide 25%. 

Domestic traffic grew 42% year on year, but shrank early 27% compared to May. Capacity rose 31.5% compared to the same month in 2020, but fell nearly 23% month on month. 

The Beijing-based carrier reported a domestic passenger load factor of 72.5%, a five percentage point increase compared to 2020. However, this was 4.1 percentage points lower than May. 

China Eastern carried 7.97 million domestic passengers for the month, about 54% higher year on year. On a month-on-month basis, this represented a 14% drop. 

The SkyTeam carrier saw domestic traffic rise nearly 57%, while capacity grew 41% year on year. It reported a domestic passenger load factor of 74.3%, nearly 7.5 percentage points higher year on year. 

As for China Southern, it carried 8.4 million domestic passengers in June, 19% higher year on year, but a 28% decline compared to May. 

Traffic rose about 25%, while domestic capacity grew about 12.6% year on year. Domestic passenger load factor rose nearly 7.4 percentage points to 76.6%. 

Compared to May, the Guangzhou-based carrier saw domestic traffic fall nearly 28%, while capacity declined about 25%. Passenger load factor slid nearly 2.6 percentage points. 

On a half-yearly basis, the ‘Big Three’ reported respectable increases in traffic on their domestic networks. Air China carried around 38 million passengers in the six months to 30 June, representing a 69% rise year on year. 

China Eastern saw an 88% year-on-year increase, to 44 million domestic passengers, while China Southern’s domestic passenger numbers rose nearly 74% to 54.2 million. 

The Civil Aviation Administration of China said on 9 July that domestic recovery was stil “in line with expectations”. Its latest data shows that for the first half of the year, Chinese carriers flew 245 million domestic passengers, a 66% year-on-year increase. Compared to the same period in pre-pandemic 2019, it was a dip of nearly 24%.