Coronavirus puts major dent in China’s airport traffic, with projected 30% drop for 2020

As the coronavirus epidemic tightens its grip on the aviation sector, China’s airports are projected to face a 30 per cent drop in passengers in 2020, according to new data from Boyd Group International (BGI).

The aviation research firm’s report also indicated that China’s airports will handle 945 million arrivals and departures, down from almost 1.4 billion in 2019, and representing a reduction of over 413 million.

China’s airport traffic projected to drop 30%, with airline shutdowns and consolidation possible; Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport pictured

International traffic is forecasted to decline by over 22 million, while domestic travel within China will plummet by over 391 million, said BGI.

Furthermore, Beijing’s two airports will see more than eight million fewer international arriving and departing passengers, while Shanghai Pudong will experience a seven million drop.

“Even before this epidemic, annual growth rates had already been expected to shrink to eight per cent or less, but now traffic will be in a free fall at least through 2020 – assuming control of the contagion. This is not a short-term hit to air transportation in China. For example, foreign visitation will be nearly non-existent for at least the next 12 months,” noted Michael Boyd, president of BGI.

“Existing fleet capacity is way in excess of expected 2020 demand. Consolidation is in the cards, possibly some shutdowns,” he added.

Boyd also stressed that the coronavirus epidemic should not be compared to the 2003 outbreak of SARS. He said: “Back then, total China airport traffic was less than 20 per cent of that today, and the rapid spread of coronavirus across all parts of China is a fundamentally different situation. Traffic will not bounce back quickly.”

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