Air passengers to get full refund for Lunar New Year travel
Iphie Nie, a 30-year-old designer in Beijing who usually travels to visit family in her hometown of Shenzhen during the Lunar New Year has, like many Chinese, reluctantly decided against booking a flight for the mid-February holiday.
To limit the spread of COVID-19, the government has discouraged travel in what is normally the busiest time of the year. Those who are going anyway must present a nucleic acid test with negative results taken in the seven days before returning home.
The Civil Aviation Administration of China said on Tuesday that passengers who bought tickets for flights scheduled from January 28 to March 8 are entitled to full refunds.
Airline bookings made as of January 19 for Lunar New Year travel have plunged 73.7 percent compared with the holiday period in 2019, according to data from travel analytics firm ForwardKeys provided to Reuters. ForwardKeys did not provide 2020 data, saying the early days of the COVID-19 outbreak distorted the numbers.
Bookings had been down 57.3 percent from 2019 as of January 1, with the situation deteriorating due to outbreaks leading to tighter restrictions.
“Even though I’m in a low-risk area, people in my hometown would get a bit nervous when they hear that I just got back from Beijing. It’s just too much trouble,” Nie said.
Beijing has reported new COVID-19 cases for 11 consecutive days and nationwide case numbers, while tiny by the standards of most Western countries, are at 10-month highs. Many employees working for state-owned companies or government agencies have been told not to travel without management approval.
Some people who already bought air tickets are considering canceling. “I’ve already booked a ticket but I still haven’t made up my mind yet,” said Kathy Qi, a 29-year-old office worker in Beijing from Henan.
A report by aviation data provider Variflight predicts a reduction of 6 million trips over Lunar New Year as a result of the COVID-19 test requirement and home quarantine rules, with about 50 percent of travelers likely to cancel.
Ticket prices, normally at their peak during Lunar New Year, have plunged. As of January 25, flight tickets sold on Qunar.com, an online travel platform, averaged 651.36 yuan (US$100) during the holiday, the lowest level in five years, the Beijing-based company said on Monday.