COVID Related Flight Suspension for Intl. Flights Cut

Now Shenzhen   |   August 8, 2022

CHINA has shortened the suspension time for inbound international flights linked to COVID-19 cases starting yesterday to better promote economic development and international exchanges.

The Civil Aviation Administration, the country’s aviation regulator, said in a statement yesterday that once a flight has at least five passengers tested positive, it will be suspended for one week if the number of positive cases accounts for 4% of the total passengers on board, and two weeks if it accounts for 8%. The suspended flights will not be used for other routes.

“The adjustment aims to balance COVID-19 prevention and economic and social development, as well as promote cross-border exchanges and cooperation,” the statement said.

Early in April 2021, the administration updated its “circuit breaker mechanism” on regular inbound international passenger flights following the nation’s epidemic control and prevention policy.

According to the mechanism, the airline with five confirmed cases of COVID-19 infection on one single inbound passenger flight had two options to restrict its future operations.

It could choose to suspend the flight for two weeks from the fourth week after the flight entered the domestic airspace. The other option was to operate the flight with passenger load under 40% of its capacity for four weeks from the fourth week after the flight entered the domestic airspace.

For an airline with 10 confirmed cases on one single inbound flight, the flight was suspended from operation for four weeks from the fourth week after entering the domestic airspace. If the airline’s two consecutive inbound flights had 10 confirmed cases, the flight was suspended immediately for eight weeks.

If the confirmed cases on one single inbound flight reached 30, the flight was suspended immediately for four weeks.

Li Xiaojin, head of the Institute of Airport Economics, the Civil Aviation University of China, said the relaxed policy will reduce large passenger aircraft’s probability of being suspended and is especially in favor of long-distance international fights represented by those headed from European and U.S. cities because most large aircraft serve on these routes to meet robust domestic demand.

“For starters, the new policy slashes the suspension time by half for inbound international flights,” Li said. “Second, it measures the ratio of patients to the total passenger number on a flight instead of a fixed number of patients. In other words, it changes the odds that the bigger the plane is, the more likely it could be suspended. For example, for an A380 plane with 500 passengers, it needs to have 20 passengers on board tested positive for it to be suspended instead of the previous five.”

Qi Qi, vice head of the School of Economics and Management of Guangzhou Civil Aviation College, said the new policy will help stabilize the seat supply of regular international flights and facilitate essential travel by personnel between China and other countries and regions, and is a positive sign for China to gradually resume operations of regular international fights at full capacity.

ARTICLE FROM: Shenzhen Daily