China’s three largest airlines once again saw a significant surge in domestic passenger traffic in May, compared to a year ago — though traffic shrank slightly on a month-on-month basis. 

In traffic results for May, the ‘Big Three’ — comprising Air China, China Eastern Airlines and China Southern Airlines — carried about twice the number of domestic passengers compared to the same period last year. Domestic traffic and capacity similarly registered similar increases year on year. 


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Chinese carriers saw increases in domestic traffic in May, though at a slightly lower pace compared to the previous month.

However, the three carriers failed to surpass April’s traffic figures, where a pre-holiday traffic surge propelled them to staggering traffic growth. On a month-on-month basis, domestic passenger traffic dipped slightly — the second such decline in the year. 

In May, Air China carried 8.2 million domestic passengers, about twice the number of passengers it carried in 2020. Compared to April, it represented a 1.1% decrease. 

Domestic traffic jumped two-fold year on year, while capacity increased 91%. On a month-on-month basis, traffic and capacity dipped slightly, at 0.9% and 2.6% respectively. 

Compatriot China Eastern flew 9.3 million domestic passengers in May, more than twice the number it carried year on year. The carrier was also the only airline among the ‘Big Three’ to have reported a month-on-month increase in passenger numbers — albeit very minimal, at 0.1%. 

The SkyTeam carrier saw domestic RPKs more than double year on year, while capacity rose nearly 97%.   

Meanwhile, China Southern doubled its domestic passengers year on year, carrying 11.8 million passengers. Compared to April, however, it represented a 1.7% decline. 

Domestic traffic also doubled year on year, outpacing a 78% increase in traffic. On a month-on-month basis, traffic slipped 2%, while capacity shrank 3.5%. 

China’s smaller, privately-owned carriers also reported similar year on year jumps in traffic. Shanghai-based Juneyao Air, for example, carried more than twice the number of domestic passengers in the month, at close to 2 million. Beleaguered Hainan Airlines, meanwhile, carried 4.7 million domestic passengers, a 93% increase year on year.