China's April passenger numbers down 68.5% year-on-year: aviation regulator

FILE PHOTO: March 16, 2020 picture of people wearing face masks walk at Beijing Capital International Airport as the country tries to contain imported cases of coronavirus. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins

BEIJING (Reuters) - China’s passenger numbers fell 68.5% in April from a year ago, for a drop smaller than in March, the aviation regulator said on Wednesday, pointing to a fragile industry recovery from the coronavirus pandemic as other nations reopen economies.

The global tourism industry is closely watching trends in China for clues to travel patterns in other major markets as countries race to lift travel curbs.

Air passengers numbered 16.72 million in April, Xiong Jie, a spokesman of the Civil Aviation Administration of China, told an online news conference. That compared with a decline of 71.7% on the year in March, when passengers numbered 15.13 million.

China’s tourism sector showed encouraging signs of recovery over the May Day holiday with 115 million trips made, many by car and by younger people emerging from weeks of virus lockdown measures.

More than 30% of capacity has returned in the Chinese domestic market in the last two months, aviation data provider Cirium said on Tuesday.

But the number of passenger flights in China has not yet recovered to 60% of the levels seen in past years, Jin Junhao, another CAAC official, sadi during Wednesday’s conference.

China faces a growing risk of second-wave infections as the health authority reported a few clusters in the central city of Wuhan and the northeast, spurring reimposition of tough movement curbs in some parts of affected cities.

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Reporting by Stella Qiu and Se Young Lee; Editing by Himani Sarkar and Clarence Fernandez