The great escape is on for millions of Chinese holidaymakers this week as China’s highly anticipated Golden Week kicks off, providing a welcome boost to the domestic air travel industry.
Dubbed “the world’s largest annual human migration,” the holiday, which begins with the Mid-Autumn Festival and National Day on Thursday and runs to October 8, will see passengers fill more than 27.8 million domestic aircraft seats during the peak travel period of September 30 to October 11, according to September 23 data provided to AIN by aviation analytics company Cirium. That translates to more than 164,700 scheduled domestic flights, representing an increase of more than 11 percent compared with the same holiday period in 2019. Cirium data further estimates the busiest travel day to be October 7, when more than 13,800 scheduled domestic flights amount to a 9.6 percent increase over the busiest day in 2019 (October 6).
“This year the most popular Golden Week destination for domestic air travelers is Shanghai. The prosperous city's two airports—Shanghai Pudong International and Shanghai Hongqiao International— will welcome more than 10,800 flights between September 30 and October 11 and over 900 on October 7 alone,” Cirium told AIN in a note.
Beijing’s two international airports, Beijing Capital and the newly-built Daxing follow closely behind, with a total of some 9,840 scheduled flights during peak travel time, while Guangzhou Baiyun International appears set to become China’s busiest individual airport, with more than 7,280 scheduled flights arriving between September 30 and October 11 and more than 600 on the busiest day, Cirium said. China’s top holiday airports also include Chengdu, Shenzhen, Kunming, Chongqing, Xi’an, Hangzhou, and Nanjing.
To meet demand and scheduled capacity, Chengdu-based Sichuan Airlines added two new Airbus A320neo jetliners earlier this week, bumping its fleet to 165 aircraft. Chengdu Airlines welcomed its 22nd ARJ21-700 regional jet on Monday while Shenzhen Airlines took delivery of its 15th A320neo on Tuesday, expanding its fleet to 221 ahead of the national holiday.
From September 30 to October 8, China Southern Airlines plans to add more than 2,500 flights to accommodate passenger traffic expected to exceed 2.5 million. About 2,000 flights will stem from Beijing’s newly-built Daxing International to more than 40 major cities with a maximum of 220 flights per day. Despite the capacity increases, popular travel routes from Beijing Capital and Daxing have quickly sold out due to pent up demand and cheap airfares.
Meanwhile, China Eastern Airlines expects to average about 300 flights per day during Golden Week, representing an increase of capacity of roughly 10 percent over the same period last year. Air Changan, a subsidiary of the Chinese conglomerate HNA Group, plans to carry roughly 77,000 passengers to and from its main operating base Xi'an Xianyang International Airport, representing an increase of 8.5 percent year-on-year.
In a separate development, Daxing surpassed the 10 million passenger mark last Tuesday since beginning operations on September 25, 2019. According to state media, China Eastern Airlines has transferred 87 percent of its total flights to Daxing and has opened flights to 39 domestic cities, including Shanghai, Xi’an, Kunming, Nanjing, Wuhan, and Lanzhou. China Southern Airlines has transferred 80 percent of its flights to Daxing Airport with plans to transfer its remaining flights before October 24. Coming in third is China United Airlines, which accounts for roughly 41 percent of the total scheduled flights at Beijing’s new mega-hub.
Located some 28 miles south of downtown Beijing, Daxing International plans to handle roughly 72 million passengers annually by 2025. To date, 26 domestic and foreign carriers operate from the airport, including Air China, Xiamen Air, British Airways, and Finnair.