Australian airline Qantas is suspending Shanghai flights due to low demand

(Reuters) – Qantas Airways said on Tuesday it would suspend flights to Shanghai from July 28, citing low demand, nine months after the Australian airline resumed operations from Sydney in hopes of a boost Post-pandemic travel recovery.

International flights to and from China are about 70% of pre-pandemic levels and are recovering more slowly than other markets due to fewer tourists and a domestic economic slowdown.

“Since COVID, demand for travel between Australia and China has not recovered as much as expected. “In some months our flights to and from Shanghai were about half full,” said Cam Wallace, CEO of Qantas International.

Qantas planes on the Shanghai route will be rerouted to other destinations across Asia with higher demand or new tourism opportunities, the company said.

Qantas will continue to closely monitor the Australia-China market and will return to Shanghai once demand recovers, the airline added.

“Chinese visitors have been slow to return to Australia since borders reopened, despite increasing flight capacity,” said Margy Osmond, CEO of industry group Tourism & Transport Forum Australia.

She said arrivals from China, now the fourth largest source of international visitors to Australia, reached just 47% of pre-pandemic levels in March 2019. Before COVID-19, China was Australia’s top tourism market.

Qantas continues to fly from Sydney and Melbourne to Hong Kong and has partnerships with other airlines for onward travel within China.

The airline announced a new route from Brisbane to Manila as well as additional flights to Singapore from the end of October. The frequency of flights from Sydney to Bengaluru will also be increased.

China’s aviation regulator has said it expects international flights to return to 80% of pre-COVID levels by the end of 2024.

China’s domestic flight capacity recovered faster, surpassing 2019 levels in early 2023, shortly after the country lifted travel restrictions.

Flights between the U.S. and China were the slowest to recover but are increasing and are now at 16.5% of pre-pandemic levels, the International Air Transport Association said this month.

(Reporting by Aaditya Govind Rao in Bengaluru and Lisa Barrington in Seoul; Editing by Sherry Jacob-Phillips, Gerry Doyle and Jamie Freed)