Passengers with masks on a plane. Photo: China News Service / Du Yang

Chinese airlines were hit by a large number of flight suspensions and ticket refunds during the Spring Festival due to the Covid-19 outbreak.

Between January 20 and February 13, three aviation enterprises canceled 78,000 flights and refunded 13 million passengers, Ren Hongbin, deputy director of the State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission (SASAC) of the State Council, said in a Beijing press conference on Tuesday.

Occupancy and daily aircraft utilization rates were nearly halved during the period, Ren said, adding that the Spring Festival used to be the peak season for the aviation industry. 

He said the epidemic had definitely had a negative impact on production and operation businesses, especially in some sectors.

“Due to the epidemic, the total consumption demand was suppressed in February, compared with a relatively manageable situation in January,” Ren said. “Companies in the consumer industry were hard hit by the epidemic.”

Tourism enterprises shut down tourism sites, hotels and retail stores, with their businesses being seriously affected, Ren said. For example, the China National Travel Service Group Corporation closed 30 tourism sites, 19 hotels and 113 retail shops and suspended all cruises.

Overseas Chinese Town Enterprises closed 74 tourism sites, seven theme parks and 10 travel agencies.

Photo: Vision China

However, Ren said he believed that the impact of the epidemic on businesses would be temporary and limited to the aviation, tourism and retail sectors.

“We believe that when the epidemic is gone, the demand in the suppressed sectors will certainly rebound and gradually return to normal,” he said.

SASAC is going to improve the operations of the state-owned companies in several ways, he said. 

First, it will push forward an orderly resumption of production. According to preliminary statistics, the operating rate of more than 20,000 enterprises under the control of the central government has exceeded 80%. The rest failed to resume production as they are located in places seriously affected by the epidemic.

In the oil and petrochemical, telecom, power grid and transportation sectors, the operating rate has reached 95%, with some enterprises being fully utilized.

Ren said SASAC would strengthen its analysis of the situation in upstream and downstream industries, forecast potential risks and launch proper measures in time. He said enterprises should have a frugal mindset, reduce costs and expenditure, improve quality, increase efficiency and make every effort to offset the losses caused by the epidemic.

He also said SASAC would guide enterprises to make good use of the country’s financial, fiscal and taxation supportive measures, optimize and improve their business and meet the market opportunities in the late stage of the epidemic and after the epidemic.

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