Chinese airlines are offering tickets at what are known colloquially as “cabbage” prices as they start restoring seat capacity following drastic capacity cuts enforced by the COVID-19 outbreak.
A one-way direct trip from Shanghai to Chengdu on Juneyao Airlines Co (吉祥航空) on Saturday costs just 90 yuan (US$12.89) plus 50 yuan in taxes.
That is a three-and-a-half-hour journey, about the same as a flight from New York to New Orleans.
Chinese carriers are adding nearly 3 million seats back into scheduled services this week, primarily for domestic routes, OAG Aviation Worldwide reported.
“The dramatic capacity recovery has led to very low fares being made available,” analyst John Grant wrote.
China Southern Airlines Co (中國南方航空) is adding 684,000 seats and China Eastern Airlines Corp (中國東方航空) is increasing capacity by 566,000 seats, Grant said.
China’s overall capacity is still only about half the 16.9 million seats available as of Jan. 20, when there were only hundreds of reported COVID-19 infections.
Chinese airlines posted losses of more than 10 billion yuan last month as revenue fell 37 billion yuan, Sina.com (新浪) reported, citing industry estimates.
While the picture turns more positive for China, the South Korea and Hong Kong markets are still sharply reducing capacity, both by more than 20 percent this week, OAG reported.
Since Jan. 20, Hong Kong’s capacity has slumped 71 percent, with Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd (國泰航空) shrinking from more than 400,000 seats to 119,860, OAG said.
The International Air Transport Association on Feb. 20 said that the outbreak could result in a 13 percent drop in passenger demand for airlines in the Asia-Pacific region this year, translating into a revenue loss of US$27.8 billion.
The bulk of that would be borne by carriers registered in China, with US$12.8 billion in losses, it said.
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