Civil aviation in China - statistics & facts

One of China’s most rapidly growing industries is civil aviation, especially commercially. This industry has been a key player in the process of globalization by enhancing the flow of individuals, ideas, goods and resources amongst the different economies of the world. Simultaneously, commercial aviation has been pivotal to China’s own economic development in recent years. With a booming middle class, more and more Chinese nationals have taken to travelling by air making China’s airports some of the world’s busiest.

The period between 2017 and 2019 saw over 500 million passengers travelling through China annually, a large share of whom chose to travel with a leading airline called China Southern, owned by China Southern Air Holding Group. Besides people, a huge quantity of cargo and mail, around 7.5 million metric tons, was also transported by air in 2019, a significant portion of which was via airlines owned by China National Aviation Holding Group.

China Southern, as a state owned airline, is one of the few airlines in the world that has the buying power to be able to purchase large passenger aircraft outright. Its current airplane fleet comprises of more than three thousand aircraft ranging from single aisle models to wide body planes, freight aircraft and regional jets. The number of operational civil airports rose above 200, with Beijing and Shanghai boasting the country’s leading airports. The number of licensed aviation personnel also accelerated in the time between 2018 and 2019 with nearly 68 thousand licenses having been issued in the latter year. Approximately 90 percent of them comprised of commercial pilot and airline transport pilot licenses.

As China has some of the world’s busiest airports, inevitably there are a higher number of occurrences of flight irregularities attributed to factors such as the weather, air traffic control, the airline itself or other miscellaneous reasons. However, 2018 saw a decrease in the rate of flight delays caused due to factors other than the airlines, in comparison to reports from 2017. The share of flight irregularities attributed directly to airlines increased by 84 percent between 2017 and 2018. Yet, a majority of flight delays were still a result of inclement the weather.

Forecasts predict the Chinese commercial aviation market will grow by leaps and bounds both in terms of market value and demand for new aviation personnel between 2018 and 2038. The overall market value of airplane deliveries was estimated to reach 1.2 trillion U.S. dollars by 2038. It remains to be seen how Beijing manages this vast industry to propel the nation’s economy further.

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Civil aviation in China

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