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Civil aviation in China - statistics & facts

Civil aviation is one of China’s most rapidly growing industries. This industry has been a critical player in globalization by enhancing the flow of individuals, ideas, goods, and resources throughout the world’s different economies. Simultaneously, commercial aviation has been pivotal to China’s economic development in recent years. With a booming middle class, more and more Chinese nationals travel by air, making China's airlines and airports some of the world’s busiest.

Expanding industry, declining traffic

The arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 severely disrupted global aviation operations, and the Chinese civil aviation industry was no exception—as evidenced by the decline in key performance indicators for traffic handling. Total revenue in 2020 decreased by 41 percent year-over-year to 624.7 billion yuan. During the same year, the aviation sector in China registered a total profit loss of 94.7 billion yuan. In addition, passenger traffic fell 37 percent year-over-year to 418 million in 2020, and the volume of cargo and mail handled in that year dropped 10 percent from the prior year to 6.8 million metric tons.

Despite the significant decrease in traffic, China's civil aviation industry continued to expand. By the end of 2020, China's civil aircraft fleet increased to 6,795 aircraft, and the number of licensed pilots rose to nearly 69,500. China has been relying on the domestic market to drive the recovery of its civil aviation industry, with the number of domestic flight routes increasing to 4,686 routes in 2020.

China’s major airports and airlines

The number of airports in mainland China has been increasing, reaching 248 in 2021, which is still a relatively small number compared to many large-sized countries such as the United States and Brazil. However, China does not only have some of the world's busiest airports, such as Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport and Shanghai Pudong Airport, but also three leading airline groups, namely China Southern Airlines, China National Airlines Holdings Limited, and China Eastern Airlines. China Southern and China Eastern were ranked the fourth and tenth largest commercial airlines in the world, with sales of 13.5 billion U.S. dollars and 8.5 billion U.S. dollars, respectively.

Interesting statistics

In the following 4 chapters, you will quickly find the 32 most important statistics relating to "Civil aviation in China".

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