China's daily air passenger numbers up 7.9% in April vs March -aviation regulator

FILE PHOTO: A man in a protective suit stands at Wuhan Tianhe International Airport after the lockdown was lifted in Wuhan, the capital of Hubei province and China's epicentre of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, April 10, 2020. REUTERS/Aly Song/File Photo

BEIJING (Reuters) - China’s aviation regulator said on Wednesday daily transported air passenger numbers rose 7.9% this month, as of April 21, from March, but was only at 29% of the level seen a year ago, in a sign of how the sector’s recovery remains fragile.

The country’s number of daily flights rose only 1% in April to 6,586, amounting to just 42% of daily flights before the coronavirus struck, the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) said.

The global tourism industry is closely watching trends in China for clues to travel patterns in other major markets once the virus is brought under control and curbs on movement are lifted.

The International Air Transport Association noted on Tuesday how the number of domestic flights in China had plateaued, after an early upswing from mid-February into the first week of March.

“Actual demand is expected to be significantly weaker as load factors on these flights are reported to be low. China accounts for some 24% of all domestic passengers,” it said in a statement.

The CAAC said it had almost doubled the number of weekly cargo flights to 1,989 during the week of April 20-26, from 1,014 flights before the epidemic struck. Of the 1,989 flights, 939 had been converted from civil flights, it said.

China last month said it would increase international cargo flight capacity and stabilize supply chains amid the coronavirus outbreak.

(This story has been refiled to add dropped words in paragraph 3)

Reporting by Stella Qiu, Lusha Zhang and Se Young Lee; Additional reporting by Brenda Goh in Shanghai and Jamie Freed in Singapore; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman