Spring Airlines’ chairman has acknowledged that recovery will be a long-drawn process, given the severe impact the coronavirus pandemic has wrought on the Chinese airline sector.

Still, Wang Yu, who was speaking in an interview with Chinese state-owned broadcaster CGTN, says the low-cost operator is seeing “obvious” positive signs of a rebound since Beijing eased much of its ‘zero-Covid’ restrictions in January.

Spring Airlines A320

Source: Wikimedia Commons

A Spring Airlines A320 in 2013

Wang says there are around 14,000 flights in a day nationwide, a four-fold jump from three months ago, when Chinese carriers were flying only about 3,000 daily flights – nearly all of them domestic flights because at that time China’s borders remained shut.

Wang says the privately-owned Spring has recovered about 88% of pre-pandemic 2019 levels, noting that capacity and traffic “even surpassed” 2019 levels.

His comments echo sentiments among other Chinese carriers, whose January traffic results show a rebound in travel demand following the abrupt easing of restrictions. Wang adds that the airline’s international capacity has recovered to only around 24% pre-pandemic levels.

He told CGTN that the industry “was hit really hard” by the pandemic financially, stressing that the “recovery process will be slow”.

“But we have all types of support…those difficulties will be easier to overcome,” adds Wang.

China’s three largest carriers are expected to post record net losses for their full-year earnings in 2022, as the country’s ‘zero-Covid’ policy upended any meaningful domestic recovery.

Spring is China’s largest low-cost carrier, operating a fleet of 116 Airbus A320 family aircraft. According to Cirium fleets data, the airline has 25 aircraft on order: 18 A320neos and seven A321neos.

Story edited to clarify Wang’s comments on the number of daily flights.