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China aviation sector chalks up record loss in February

Beijing

CHINA'S aviation industry suffered its biggest monthly loss in February after the coronavirus emptied planes and airports.

The industry lost 24.59 billion yuan (S$4.93 billion) last month with airlines accounting for 20.96 billion yuan of the deficit, Zhang Qing, an official with Civil Aviation Administration of China, said at a press conference in Beijing on Thursday.

Air-passenger volume slumped 85 per cent to 8.34 million in February as people avoided travel because of the outbreak, according to CAAC. Cargo transport by air fell 21 per cent from a year earlier to 297,000 tonnes.

Airlines began suspending flights around Jan 23 after the government locked down the virus epicentre Wuhan and other Chinese cities. The outbreak coincided with the Lunar New Year holiday, a typically busy time as millions of people travel home to see their families. Airlines carried only a quarter of last year's volume of passengers between Jan 25 and Feb 14, according to the transport regulator.

Still, passenger numbers show signs of recovery in March as the spread of the virus in China slows. BLOOMBERG