International Flights Continue Returning to China


On October 12, Singapore Airlines announced that the carrier will resume another service to China, in the city of Xiamen, flight number SQ868/SQ869. After the resumption of this flight, Singapore Airlines Group, which includes Singapore Airlines, Silk Air, and Scoot Air, will provide as many as 14 weekly flights between Singapore and China. Chinese authorities are releasing the controls on international flights, and such action has attracted dozens of carriers to resume and open new routes in and out of China.

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In May, China reduced the mandatory quarantine period from 14+ days to 7 days. Since Aug, the Chinese authority changed the fusing mechanism for international flights, from the original absolute confirmed Covid-19 cases to a percentage of all passengers on a flight. The change significantly reduced the likelihood of a flight reaching the limit of triggering the fusing. Authorities also canceled the limitations of the “one country one flight” policy, welcoming more carriers and more international flights coming back to China. Although the total number of flights between China and another country is still controlled, the limitation has been significantly lifted compared to previous practices.

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In September, a number of international flights from China to Asia and Europe resumed operations. Emirates started its third and fourth operations between Dubai and Guangzhou; Japan Airlines and ANA announced multiple flights connecting Japan and Beijing, Shenyang, and Dalian, China. Moreover, Chinese carriers resumed flights to Central Asia, Europe, and more destinations as well.

Such rapid recovery quickly drove down the prices of flights in and out of China. Originally well over $5,000 one way ticket from Europe to China is now sometimes less than $1,000. The expanded passenger volume also drove the Covid-19 test price down. In October, the Helsinki Airport Covid-19 testing agency announced that it will reduce the price from 500EURO per test to 280EURO per test for transit passengers. Lowered prices are certainly an upside for passengers, however, the cost to quarantine after arriving in China is still largely the same.

As Hong Kong is releasing travel restrictions for international travelers, passengers are routing through Hong Kong to travel to China’s Mainland. Flights from Hong Kong to the Mainland has increased from a dozen flight a week to now well over 100 flights a week. However, traveling from Hong Kong to Mainland China will add a 3-day self-health monitor in Hong Kong before boarding a flight to the Mainland.

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The future opportunities for China to further release travel restriction is still unclear at this moment. The Chinese government is not hinting at any further actions or timetable for entirely removing all Covid-19 travel restrictions, and the authorities are still fixated on the failing Zero-Covid policy. Multiple foreign missions and international corporations have urged Chinese authorities to cancel the international flight fusing mechanisms, as well as the mandatory quarantine.

As the Chinese economy is sliding towards a recession with each day the Zero-Covid policy is in place, the authority may slightly release the restrictions to stimulate business activities.

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