Virus sees China drop from third-biggest international market to 25th

February 18, 2020
China virus
China sees international capacity continue to fall.

China has slipped from the world’s third-biggest international aviation market to 25th as international capacity has continued to fall due to the coronavirus crisis.

A new analysis by routes expert OAG says the latest data from the week starting February 17 showed a further fall in international capacity of 270,000 seats.

OAG said this bought the overall capacity reduction since January 20 to about 1.7 million seats, a reduction of about 80 percent, and left China’s international market ranking just behind Portugal and slightly ahead of Vietnam.

READ: Cathay cuts capacity by 40 percent as virus hits home.

The OAG analysis found Japan, Thailand and Taipei were the biggest losers week over week with scheduled seats from Japan down 36 percent compared to a week earlier.

China’s domestic network had also been hit hard.

“Whilst the adjustments in international capacity are of interest and probably receive a greater share of attention, the domestic Chinese market will see some 10.4 million fewer seats operated than the week of the 20th January,’’ OAG’s John Grant said in his blog.

“Placing that in context, for every one international seat lost some six domestic seats have been removed from the market.

“And taking just one example, China Eastern Airlines will operate over 1.9 million fewer seats than five weeks ago; somewhere close to 271,000 fewer seats a day.”

Grant identified China Eastern and China Southern as the most heavily affected by the virus from an international perspective, with both airlines reducing capacity by more than 200,000 seats a week.

“Placing that in context, China Southern now operates some 800 more international seats a week than Air Astana and China Eastern (is) just ahead of Tunis Air in a global ranking in 113th place,’’ he said.

Although there was an expectation domestic capacity would bounce back, Grant said this more accurately reflected the daily management of the situation by locally-based airlines and OAG expected further capacity cuts this week.

A more pragmatic approach by overseas airlines had seen them take Chinese services out of their services until March.

“No event that we remember has had such a devasting effect on capacity as Coronavirus,’’ he said, noting this highlighted the importance of the Chinese market to aviation.

“Ultimately the market will recover we know that, but in the short term the damage to some airlines and the long-term impact on their growth may linger beyond the virus.”