Officials strive to ensure sufficient overseas flights

China’s civil aviation authority has been stepping up efforts to ensure sufficient international flights to meet people’s travel and business demands amid the ongoing novel coronavirus outbreak.

“Though China has seen temporary flight bans to and from some countries and a decrease in flights, the country’s international air transport system remains stable,” said Liang Nan, director of international affairs department under the Civil Aviation Administration of China, at an online news conference on Wednesday.

Data from aviation statistics provider VariFlight showed some 90,000 flights were canceled between Jan 10 and Feb 3, and that about 10,000 planned flights on average have been scrapped each day since the start of February.

To ensure public demand is met for international flight services, earlier this month the ministry urged domestic carriers to continue flying international routes, except to countries with travel bans over the virus epidemic, as they consider cuts in response to a drop in demand due to the outbreak.

Currently, 77 domestic and overseas airlines continue to operate 710 international routes between China and 46 countries and regions, handling 2,610 passenger and cargo flights per week, she said.

Many domestic airlines still operate international routes to major hubs such as Tokyo, Seoul, Frankfurt, Paris, London, New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Sao Paulo and Johannesburg, she added.

The administration has also been working with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to notify civil aviation regulators in over 70 countries of China’s prevention and control measures on outbound flights, customs and quarantine.

Authorities in many countries and regions have expressed their trust that the measures are safe and effective and responded positively to the resumption of flights once the condition in China improves, she said.

However, some countries, despite World Health Organization recommendations and International Civil Aviation Organization bulletins, have still resorted to extreme restrictions such as suspending flights, and some Chinese nationals have ended up stranded overseas.

As of Sunday, the civil aviation administration has sent nine charter flights to bring back 1,107 Chinese citizens stranded in Thailand, Malaysia, Japan, Vietnam, the Philippines, Singapore and Indonesia.