• Tom Jordan

Wuhan Airport finally reopens to commercial air traffic

The Xiamen Air Boeing 737 aircraft that operated this initial arrival flight to Wuhan. Photo by Jay Lee | AeroNewsX

After a full ten weeks of complete lockdown by the Chinese Government, the airport at the initial epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak, Wuhan’s Tianhe International Airport (WUH) today finally reopened to commercial passenger flights. This comes after the airport's abrupt January 23rd closure to try and curb the spread of coronavirus in China.

Wuhan-Tianhe Airport, serving a city of 11 million people, is a significant transport hub for the province of Hubei, as well as an operating base for Air China, China Eastern Airlines and China Southern Airlines, three of the country’s biggest and most influential carriers with several intercontinental routes stemming from the city of Wuhan. At its operating peak, prior to the coronavirus outbreak, the airport was handling up to 600 daily flights from all major Chinese carriers, as well as other airlines from around the world including Air France, Maldivian and AirAsia X.

However, on January 23rd 2020, the airport was sent into crisis management mode and immediately suspended all flights following the declaration of a coronavirus epidemic by the Chinese health authorities. While the airport has sat idle for the past ten weeks, significant progress has been made to combat the coronavirus and on Wednesday the Chinese government officially declared the pandemic in Wuhan was over and the strict lockdown of the population would be lifted. This was soon followed by an announcement that public transport systems into Wuhan, including Tianhe Airport, would be reopened at midnight on the 8th April 2020.

The first commercial flight to depart Wuhan today, China Eastern Airlines Flight MU2527, departed Tianhe Airport bound for Sanya Airport (SYX) on Hainan Island carrying a load of 42 passengers this morning. Further flights departed Wuhan today as the airlines and airport authorities work tirelessly to return their operations to normal.

In spite of the airport's reopening, Wuhan-Tianhe Airport will only initially operate at a capacity averaging 60 flights per day, down from the 600 daily flights that were occurring prior to the coronavirus outbreak. The airport will also be limited to domestic flights only for the time being as China tries to prevent the virus from re-entering its borders via international flights. But optimism is still in the air and Wuhan’s city authorities expect demand for domestic flights to and from the city to explode over the coming weeks as the airline and travel industry within China returns to normal.

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