An Air China plane takes off from Beijing Daxing International Airport on Sept 25, 2019. [Photo by Zou Hong/]

China’s air transport industry will recover faster than other major foreign markets, as China has made remarkable achievements in the prevention and control of COVID-19, the Aviation Industry Development Research Center of China said in a report released Thursday.

It is estimated in the next 20 years, China will need 8,854 passenger aircraft, including 1,804 wide-body aircraft, 5,991 single-aisle planes and 1,059 regional aircraft. The size of the freighter fleet will reach 645. In addition, in order to enhance competitiveness, airlines need to eliminate aging aircraft. In the next two decades, 2,358 aircraft are expected to be retired in China.

By the end of last year, China had 3,818 commercial airplanes, including 3,645 passenger aircraft and 173 freighters, the report said.

In the first half of this year, China’s air traffic dropped sharply due to the sudden outbreak of COVID-19, and a large number of planes were grounded. In September, the number of flights operating daily resumed to the level seen in the previous year, as the contagion had been effectively brought under control in the country.

In addition, the report found a large number of routes in China have low passenger flow and low flight frequencies, and they are mainly operated by single-aisle aircraft. Next, these routes are expected to use more regional aircraft to increase passenger load factors.

From 2020 to 2039, China will build more small and medium-sized airports, and the growth in the number of new routes and the expansion of networks will drive the growth of China’s regional aircraft fleet in size, the report said.

The general aviation market in China is also on track to sustain faster growth. By 2035, the flying hours in general aviation are expected to reach 6.3 million, and flight training will account for half of the total hours.

Individual leisure flying will keep growing in the years ahead, and that demand is expected to drive the growth of the general aviation sector in China. By 2035, the development of short-distance transportation, business travel and tourism by general aviation aircraft is foreseen to reach the level seen in developed countries.

“The consumer market of general aviation should be the mainstay and most appealing segment of China’s general aviation sector, and consumer demand needs to get further stimulated,” said Gao Yuanyang, a professor at Beihang University. “It is expected to help make a breakthrough in the growth of the industry.”