Travel restrictions

Asian airlines welcome easing of China travel restrictions, but no schedule changes expected

Asian airline executives reacted positively to China’s move to ease inbound travel procedures, but said the announcement would not trigger immediate changes to their flight schedules.

“It’s always encouraging to get updates like this, especially from China, which is a big market for Malaysia. We hope the reopening momentum continues,” said Izham Ismail, CEO of the Malaysia Airlines group. TTG Asia.

Changes to travel restrictions in China do not inspire immediate and major restoration of flight capacity

Malaysia Airlines currently flies twice a week to Guangzhou with limited capacity and has long since redirected operations elsewhere in response to China’s strict travel restrictions.

As rescheduling flights requires time and careful planning, Izham said Malaysia Airlines will “stick to our plans”.

“We normally plan our capacity every summer and winter season, and the next change would not be until March 2023. Even if China reopens tomorrow, it is not possible for us to redirect our flights there” , he explained.

“However, the next season will coincide with our optimistic projection that China will resume international travel in 2Q2023,” he said.

Some airlines are also choosing to hold their horses for the time being, as updates to restrictions are seen as too light to inspire a spike in travel interest.

“While this is a step in the right direction, it is still not enough to move the needle for a major restoration of flight capability at this time,” said Mayur Patel, head of Asia, OAG Aviation.

When asked if Thai Airways International would move forward with plans to begin services to Shanghai and Guangzhou in China, Korakot Chatasingha, Commercial Director of Thai Airways International, only replied that “as long as China maintains its quarantine requirement for incoming travelers, it will not convince people to resume their journey to the country”.

The Thai flag carrier currently has 68 aircraft in service this year, across THAI and THAI Smile, with two aircraft ready for activation in China when the time comes.

Japan Airlines (JAL) will also not respond to China’s announcement on Friday with flight changes, only because it has maximized its slots to the country.

JAL, which operated 98 flights a week to China before Covid, just announced 15 flights to the country last week, including the resumption of services to the critical cities of Shanghai and Beijing.

Ross Leggett, JAL’s Managing Director and Assistant Senior Vice President – Route Marketing, International Relations and Alliance, said TTG Asia“If we could, we would fly more to China, but flight capacity is not our decision to make. The Chinese government always tells us which routes and how much we can fly. We have already gone from the five-one rule to 15 flights.

Although China travel updates are tiny compared to most parts of the world, where travel barriers have largely been dismantled, Leggett said “any (reopening decision) will drive more traffic , especially for Japanese businessmen wishing to visit China”.

Agree, Subhas Menon, chief executive of the Association of Asia-Pacific Airlines, said airlines could consider restoring flights to “interesting and important” Chinese metropolises, such as Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou. , where travelers would be willing to undertake a five-day quarantine and three-day home isolation just to reconnect with important business partners.