BEIJING, April 29 (Reuters) - China’s three biggest airlines on Thursday reported wider losses for the first quarter when COVID-19 cases rose, but the industry’s quick recovery, helped by the country’s fast containment measures, is expected to bolster full-year results.
China Eastern Airlines recorded a net loss of 3.8 billion yuan ($587.50 million) in the first quarter, up from a 2.7 billion yuan loss in the previous quarter, while Southern Airlines saw losses deepen to 4 billion yuan from 3.4 billion.
Air China recorded a loss of 6.2 billion yuan, up from 4.3 billion in the fourth quarter, likely weighed by its investment in Hong Kong’s Cathay Pacific Airways.
A resurgence of COVID-19 cases in January caused a substantial setback for domestic travel, as the Chinese government called for people to not to travel for the week-long Lunar New Year holidays, usually the busiest time of year for the airlines.
The outbreaks were quickly brought under control and pent-up demand for travel has since been strong. The Ministry of Transport expects Chinese travellers to make about 265 million trips for the upcoming May Day holiday.
By mid-April, total flight tickets issued for travel over the peak May 1-5 period were 5.8% ahead of the same point in 2019, and bookings for the extended holiday period from April 28 to May 9 were 9.8% ahead, data from ForwardKeys showed on Tuesday.
However, outbound travel remains heavily restricted. Global air traffic will recover more slowly than previously expected from the COVID-19 pandemic, as vaccination delays and government risk aversion slows the reopening of routes, global airlines body IATA said earlier this month.
$1 = 6.4681 Chinese yuan renminbi Reporting by Stella Qiu and Ryan Woo; Editing by Kirsten Donovan