After China shortened the COVID-19 quarantine period for inbound international travelers on Tuesday, the volume of international flights booked online quickly surged and airlines are bullish about growth prospects.
Inbound travelers only need to undergo centralized quarantine at hotels for seven days, instead of 14 days, and then spend three days rather than seven days of self-quarantine at home, according to a document released by the State Council, the country's Cabinet, on Tuesday.
Just one hour after the new policy's release, online searches for international flights on Qunar, a Beijing-based online travel agency, increased dramatically, and actual booking volume jumped nearly 60 percent compared with the same period a week ago.
On Wednesday, booking volume for international flights remained almost at Tuesday's level, and Qunar did not witness a significant increase, the platform said.
"The required quarantine time for inbound travelers has been reduced by half, meaning that the reception capacity of designated isolation hotels will be enhanced, and this has provided a foundation for the potential increase in the volume of international flights," said Lan Xiang, data research director of Qunar.
"If the number of inbound flights increases next, it will be beneficial for passengers traveling internationally, and lead to a potential decline of flight ticket prices. International exchanges are expected to gradually resume orderly patterns," Lan said.
Compared with the situation in the past few months, the number of available international flights in July and August has increased significantly. Still, the launch of more international flights depends on the approval of the Civil Aviation Administration of China.
For instance, the administration reduced the number of international passenger flights in and out of China to just 408 per week for the period between Oct 31, 2021, and March 26 of this year.
Currently, the CAAC is in discussions with relevant authorities of some countries about gradually and steadily increasing international flights to meet passenger travel demand, Liang Nan, director of the transport department of the CAAC, said at a recent news conference.
United Arab Emirates-based carrier Emirates said it welcomes the further relaxation of China's contagion prevention policy, and it expects the gradual policy easing will better foster global travel, as well as spur economic, trade and cultural exchanges between China and the rest of the world.
"We look forward to a comprehensive victory in the fight against the pandemic so that people can gradually get back to normal lives, and more people can arrange travel as they like," said Adam Li, vice-president of Emirates' China unit.
"As an airline, we fully understand the importance of travel to people in their daily lives, and we are always ready and looking forward to more and more Chinese passengers to embark on journeys with Emirates again," Li said.
Meanwhile, Doha-based Qatar Airways, one of the few airlines that never stopped operating throughout the pandemic, said it is encouraged by the latest announcement about the relaxed measures.
"We have already resumed passenger services from Guangzhou, Guangdong province, and Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, to Doha, reestablishing connections between the Chinese mainland and Qatar. We continue to work closely with the Chinese authorities to ensure we are aware of the latest operational environment, and we look forward to further increasing our destinations and frequencies in China as local conditions permit," said Chan Cheong Eu, Qatar Airways senior manager for sales in North Asia.