Following rising Covid infections in Shanghai, China’s Civil Aviation Administration has decided to shut down Shanghai Pudong International Airport for incoming international flights for a six-week period. Starting coming Monday, March 21 and until May 1, international services will be redirected to other airports. Shanghai Pudong no-go airport for many international flights.

Compared to infection rates in most Western countries, those in China remain comparably low. Today, the National Emergency Office reported ‘just’ 3.602 new confirmed cases across China. Of these, only twelve were in Shanghai. But the total number is more than double that of the 1.437 on Monday or 1.938 on Sunday when confirmed infections surged from 588 on Saturday. On March 1, the numbers reached 200. The authorities, which follow a zero-Covid policy since 2020, blame the surge in infections on Omicron. They are worried that almost half of today’s infections are asymptomatic, so only confirmed after a test but without people having symptoms.

By redirecting internal services away from Shanghai, the civil aviation administration hopes to ease the pressure on this city. Although all passengers need to provide a negative PCR test upon traveling into China, all international travelers have to self-quarantine in a hotel for fourteen days. With rising infections, it is believed that demand for quarantine hotels would exceed capacity.

The latest advisory affects some 106 flights into Shanghai. On its website, China Eastern Airlines provides a list of flights from fourteen destinations that will be redirected to other cities. For example, New York-Pudong will be diverted to Fuzhou, flights from Toronto to Hangzhou, from Amsterdam to Chengdu, from Sydney and Tokyo to Kunming, and from Bangkok and Singapore to Nanchang. These airports are often hundreds of kilometers away from Shanghai. Other Chinese airlines operating from Shanghai Pudong are Juneyao Airlines, Air China, Spring Airlines, and Shanghai Airlines are not communicating on the upcoming changes on their websites.

February traffic lower for the Big Three

International traffic into China remains at very low levels. China Southern Airlines reported its February traffic numbers today, showing that international passengers carried were just some 39.000, down from around 42.000 in January. Revenue Passenger Kilometers were 21.6 percent down compared to January to 217.390. Domestic traffic was up, with passengers carried from 6.6 to 7.2 million but RPKs growing less quickly by 9.7 percent to 11.6 million.

China Eastern carried 5.6 million passengers in February, up from 5.0 million in January. Domestic passengers accounted for 5.5 million, international for just 14.690, and regional passengers for 37.690. RPKs were 8.0 million compared to 7.2 million in January, with a load factor up to 64.5 from 56.1 percent. Cargo in tonnes carried dropped to 58.6 million from 85.3 million in January. 

Air China saw 4.4 million passengers on board in February, identical to January, of 4.3 milion on its domestic flights and just 14.100 on international services. RPKs were 6.8 million, the load factor 64.4 percent. Cargo reached 67.2 million kilograms, down from 97.2 million.

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Richard Schuurman
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Active as journalist since 1987, starting with regional newspaper Zwolse Courant. Grand Prix reporter in 1997 at Dutch monthly Formule 1, general reporter Lelystad/Flevoland at De Stentor/Dagblad Flevoland, from 2002 until June 2021 radio/tv reporter/presentor with Omroep Flevoland.
Since mid-2016 freelance aviation journalist, since June 2021 fully dedicated to aviation. Reporter/editor AirInsight since December 2018. Contributor to Airliner World, Piloot & Vliegtuig. Twitter: @rschuur_aero.

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