The Chinese Roller Coaster: Air traffic in China during Covid-19
Air traffic in China dropped over 80% from the third week of January 2020 to the third week of February 2020, as the country locked down to prevent the spread of what we now call COVID-19.
But by October, domestic traffic had returned to pre-pandemic levels and total traffic was down less than 10%.
Flights remained mostly flat through November before beginning a steep descent that leaves traffic at China’ busiest airports down 55% from pre-pandemic levels and 50% from where it was just last October.
Air traffic in China made a robust recovery through the middle of 2020 led by domestic traffic growth, but China’s busiest airports are now back to levels not seen since April.
Below, we chart the 25 busiest airports in mainland China plus the recently opened Daxing Airport in Beijing from the end of 2019 through the beginning of February 2021. Beijing Capital (PEK) is highlighted in blue, while the red dashed line shows traffic at Daxing Airport (PKX).
Looking at just the 10 busiest airports in mainland China over the past year, it is possible to identify the unevenness of the recovery at the three busiest airports.