Plane ticket bookings double in hour as China eases Covid rules

Bookings for flights into China doubled in the hour after the government announced an easing of restrictions for inbound travelers, including shorter quarantine, Ctrip.com said.

Inbound reservations on the online travel agent’s platform were twice as high as the same hour Thursday, while international flight searches increased 200%, according to a statement Friday.

Among other measures, mandatory hotel quarantine will drop to five days from seven, sparking the rush, though China’s National Health Commission didn’t say when the rules would take effect. A system that suspends airlines if they bring infected passengers into the country is also being scrapped.

“The further easing reflects a balance between Covid control and economic development, and prepares for more opening up of the travel market,” Ctrip said in the statement.

Expectations for a loosening of curbs have been building, with searches for international flights rising 122% from Oct. 31 to Nov. 11 compared with the same period last year, according to Ctrip. China’s biggest airlines had also announced plans for more flights. Ctrip said the international flight schedule is now 1,300 a week, up 30% from the end of October.

After China’s announcement, Hong Kong’s Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd. said it will increase flights to the mainland. The company’s shares jumped as much as 5.2% Friday, the biggest gain in four months. Other airlines and travel-related stocks also rallied on the news, along with Asian equity markets more broadly, as well as the yuan. – BLOOMBERG