China’s war on coronavirus continues to hammer China’s three largest carriers, causing domestic traffic in March to plunge sharply.

China, which has previously claimed success with stamping out Covid-19, is battling its worst-ever surge of infections, thanks to the more contagious Omicron variant.


The record rise in cases is despite the country’s dogged adherence to a zero-infection strategy, which has led to lockdowns and punitive travel restrictions. 

In traffic results for March, the ‘Big Three’ - comprising Air China, China Eastern Airlines, and China Southern Airlines - saw passenger numbers plunge to its lowest levels since the early days of the pandemic, which originated in the Chinese city of Wuhan. 

Beijing-based Air China flew just over 2 million domestic passengers in March, a 70% decline year on year. The figure is also nearly half the number of domestic passengers in February. 

It is the lowest since February 2020, when the carrier flew only 1.3 million domestic passengers. 

Domestic RPKs fell 71% year on year, with capacity plunging 65%. Against February, traffic and capacity fell 50% and 46% respectively. 

China Eastern, whose Shanghai hub is under a strict lockdown for weeks, also reported similar declines in domestic traffic. 

Passenger numbers in March plunged 71% year on year to around 2.5 million, the lowest since March 2020, when it flew 2.1 million domestic passengers. 

Traffic slumped 70% year on year, while capacity fell 63%. 

As for China Southern, it carried 4 million passengers in March, a 64% year-on-year decline. The figure is about 45% lower month on month, and is the carrier’s lowest passenger number since April 2020. 

Domestic RPKs fell 63% year on year, with capacity decreasing 57%. On a month-on-month basis, traffic and capacity fell 46.5% and 43% respectively.