China’s aviation industry is facing a cabin crew shortage as airlines struggle to cope with increased travel demand. After a three-year pause linked to the pandemic, Chinese authorities decided to lift restrictions and started issuing visas again. Airlines have since noticed the urgent need to hire more staff.
According to data from the Civil Aviation Administration (CAAC), the total number of flight attendants in China fell by around 11,000, or an 11% drop from the pre-pandemic level of 108,955 in 2019. According to Reuters, companies such as Xiamen Airlines, China Southern Airlines and Spring Airlines are actively hiring. Hainan Airlines which plans to hire more than 1,000 flight attendants this year, has already received more than 20,000 applications, the airline told Reuters.
CAAC said it expects a strong recovery in international flights to and from China to reach 80% of pre-pandemic levels by the end of 2023. After nearly three years, most travelers to China need only have proof of a negative Covid-19 test before departure. Mandatory quarantine, health surveillance and declarations were removed after China lifted most of its policies against Covid-19.
CAAC announced it is currently reviewing applications to resume international flights that have been halted since early 2020 or abandoned altogether. The agency admits that international flights will resume more slowly than the Chinese domestic market.
“If the market recovers well, the number of international flights (to and from China) by the end of the year is expected to reach about 80% of the pre-pandemic Covid-19 level, with about 7,300 flights per week,” CAAC Director Liang Nan said. “Chinese and foreign airlines are optimistic about international flights.”
Nan said several factors could slow the restart of international flights, including a shortage of capacity and uncertainty about demand. According to data from Flight Master, China’s domestic capacity surpassed 2019 levels from mid-March, International flights, however, have recovered to just 30% of pre-pandemic levels.