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Signs of recovery in domestic air travel

CHINESE airlines carried 14.6 percent more passengers in the first quarter of this year than in the same quarter a year ago, amid a recovery in demand for domestic air travel.

Passenger volume rose to 52.43 million in the three months, with air traffic across the Chinese mainland climbing 18 percent to 49 million passenger trips. However, international traffic fell 18.8 percent to 3.43 million, the Civil Aviation Administration of China said yesterday.

"The reduction of ticket prices and fuel-surcharge redemption spurred tourism, which drove up domestic passenger volume in the first quarter," said Huang Yonglin, an analyst at GF Securities Co.

However, passenger volume on international routes shrank for the 11th straight month in March, dropping 14 percent year on year to 1.17 million, the CAAC said on its Website.

"The global economic crisis continues to reduce demand for international air travel," said Giovanni Bisignani, director of the International Air Transport Association.

Bisignani said the only glimmer of hope is that cargo demand has stabilized this month, albeit at a low level.

Cargo volume on international routes dropped 19.5 percent to 89,650 tons for Chinese carriers in March from a year earlier, compared with a 20.5 percent decline in February.

Domestic airlines carried 862,740 tons of cargo in the first quarter, down 13.5 percent from a year before, the CAAC said.

Air freight appears to have bottomed out but international passenger travel continues to shrink, particularly premium travel, it said.

Net losses for airlines across the world reached US$1 billion in the first quarter, in line with forecasts of a US$4.7 billion loss for the whole of 2009, the IATA said in a report.


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