Macau air traffic to reach 50,000 passengers during holidays

Taipa airport is predicted to serve 50,000 passengers during the five-day Chinese New Year period, up 92.3% year-on-year, Macau Airport Company (CAM) said yesterday.

That traffic represents only 28% of the all-time high 180,000 passengers served over the equivalent period in pre-pandemic 2019 (5-10 February), according CAM.

Since Mainland China and Macau reopened their borders early this month, the airport has witnessed an accelerating resumption of flights.

According to Macau Daily News, CAM now serves 11 airlines flying to 29 destinations, including ten that were added recently. In addition to Air Macau, there are six airlines from the Mainland, two from Taiwan, and two from Southeast Asia.

More airlines are scheduled to resume flights in March, including Tigerair Taiwan, Hainan Airlines, Sichuan Airlines and Shenzhen Airlines. Charter flight operators are also planning to restart flights from Macau to overseas destinations such as Vietnam, Cambodia and Palau.

The Macau Government Tourism Office last week said that daily inbound tourist arrivals through all entry channels during the Lunar New Year period are expected to reach between 40,000 and 50,000.

Travel rush starts all over mainland China

The Chinese government expects over 2.1 billion journeys to be made during a 40-day travel period around New Year’s Day, which falls on Sunday, the Associated Press reported yesterday.

The relaxation of restrictions let loose a wave of pent-up travel desire, particularly around China’s most important time for family gatherings. Referred to in China as the Spring Festival, it may be the only time of the year when urban workers return to their hometowns.

Hairdresser Wang Lidan is making an emotional Lunar New Year journey from Beijing to her hometown in northeastern China — her first in three years after the government lifted its strict “zero-COVID” policy that kept millions of people at home and sparked protests.

“The restrictions are lifted, which made me relaxed. So I think it’s time to go home,” Wang said before heading into Beijing Train Station for a trip to Heilongjiang province.

In December, China abruptly dropped near-daily coronavirus testing and QR code monitoring of residents after public frustration boiled over into protests in Shanghai and other cities. This month, it dropped most remaining restrictions, including the demand that travelers from overseas must go into lengthy and expensive quarantine.

Many local governments had also imposed their own quarantine on travelers from outside the area, and it was those that Wang said had deterred her from leaving Beijing.

“If there was an outbreak in Beijing, I would have to be quarantined in my hometown. And when I came back to Beijing, I would be quarantined again,” she said.

“I would miss the Spring Festival and delay my return to work if I was quarantined twice. So inconvenient!”

While Lunar New Year has also become a popular time to travel overseas, airlines are still only gradually restarting international flights and government departments are just beginning to issue or renew travel documents.

Many countries have imposed testing requirements on travelers from China that the Foreign Ministry has protested, and worries remain about the spread of the virus in China since containment measures were lifted. MDT/AP

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