China air travel rebound offers hope to airlines

A faint glimmer of hope for airlines on Friday (March 26).

Airfares in China are recovering to pre-crisis levels as domestic travellers return.

With Europe and other markets still largely closed, the industry is focused on China for clues to what happens next.

Over the past year, the country’s domestic air travel market overtook the once-dominant U.S.

Now, with many restrictions lifted, average ticket prices during an early-April holiday period are back to 96% of 2019 levels.

Fares over the Labour Day holiday in early May are actually 11% above pre-crisis prices.

Those figures are according to data from travel company Ctrip.

2020 had seen airline capacity outstrip demand, depressing fares.

Now analysts say a return to fare growth is the last stage in a recovery.

There are signs that the U.S. is following a similar path.

Online travel agent Hopper says summer fares there are around 36% up on last year, albeit still down on 2019.

Europe, however, looks set for a second lost summer.

Travel there is hobbled by lingering lockdowns, and a reliance on cross-border traffic.

When restrictions are lifted there, one analyst said the market faces a ‘bloodbath’ as Ryanair and rivals compete to offer the lowest possible fares.