Chinese carriers slash Beijing flights after coronavirus spike

Chinese carriers have begun suspending flights to and from Beijing, following a rise in a number of new coronavirus cases in the Chinese capital. 

Among carriers suspending flights in and out of the city is Beijing-based Air China, which in a 17 June notice indicated “large-scale” cancellations. 

As of 10:00 on 17 June, the Star Alliance carrier had cancelled 295 flights in and out of its Beijing Capital airport hub. All affected flights are to points in its domestic network, including cities such as Guangzhou, Chengdu, Shanghai and Chongqing. 

Beijing airport - Air China - (C) Rex Shutterstock

Source: Shutterstock

Beijing Capital airport, where Air China is based at.

Compatriot China Southern Airlines, which also has a sizeable presence in Beijing, has yet to announce any cancellations. However, a check on flight schedules at Beijing Daxing airport, where the carrier is in the process of shifting operations, shows that the airline is cutting at least four flights on 17 June in its domestic network, to cities like Kunming and Chengdu. 

At Beijing Capital, China Southern has cancelled a larger number of domestic flights, including to Shanghai Hongqiao, Changsha, as well as its Guangzhou hub. 

Flight schedules on Beijing Capital’s website also indicate a significant number of flight cancellations by other Chinese carriers, such as China Eastern Airlines, Hainan Airlines, as well as Sichuan Airlines. 

Some foreign carriers, which have been allowed by the Chinese authorities to operate limited flights into the country, have also suspended their Beijing flights. Japanese carriers Japan Airlines and All Nippon Airways cancelled all their flights from Tokyo to China on 17 June. 

Chinese state media People’s Daily indicates that as of 17 June morning, more than 1,200 flights have been cancelled at Beijing’s two airports, with the number expected to grow as the capital is restricting outbound travel. 

Beijing reported 31 new coronavirus cases on 17 June, bringing the total tally of new cases to more than 100 over the past five days. The new surge in cases is believed to have originated from a major wholesale food market in the city. 

Beijing raised its disease alert level to Level 3 on 16 June, with communities in high-risk districts placed on lockdown to curb the spread of the disease. 

The flight cancellations come amid recovery in domestic travel demand in recent months. China’s three largest carriers – Air China, China Southern and China Eastern – have all reported consecutive month-on-month increases in domestic passengers carried.