Airlines are bringing students home for winter break after semester is cancelled

As Chongqing adjusts to eased COVID-19 controls, domestic airlines have operated charters to help university and college students return home for their winter vacation.

On December 5, 177 students flew West Air from Chongqing to Tianjin Municipality, and 133 students flew Xiamen Airlines to Xiamen in Fujian Province. On December 6, 176 students flew on a West Air flight to Jinan in Shandong Province.

Other airlines such as Chongqing Airlines and Sichuan Airlines will offer flights for the company’s students and employees to major cities in China, local media reported.

Chongqing, a municipality of 32 million people in southwest China, had reported more than 90,000 infections at the peak of its latest outbreak, which began on November 1. Most cases were detected in 11 counties in central urban areas.

Many domestic flights had been suspended because of the outbreak.

Starting this month, Chinese cities have adjusted their COVID-19 responses to help people get back to work and regain a sense of normalcy in daily life.

Demand for travel is recovering, particularly from university students in major cities looking to return home for the winter break, which started earlier than usual this year due to unpredictable virus outbreaks.

Due to the cancellation of many domestic flights in Chongqing, students have found it difficult to get tickets home, said Li Zhihong, a spokesman for West Air, a low-cost airline based in the municipality.

“When we learned of the students’ difficulties getting tickets, we immediately contacted local colleges and universities to provide them with customized flight schedules,” he said.

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Chongqing Jiangbei International Airport also set up a special express channel for the students taking charter flights to ensure the process goes smoothly.

The airline will provide tailored services to the government, businesses and schools as needed, he added.

Airlines in other cities have also recently offered such services.

China Southern Airlines, one of China’s three major airlines, will operate 16 charter flights from Dec. 6 to ensure university and college students can return home for the winter break.

More than 1,100 students from Jilin University in Jilin Province, Harbin Institute of Technology in Heilongjiang Province and North Minzu University in Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region have flown home to Xi’an in Shaanxi Province; Xining, Qinghai Province; Changsha, Hunan Province; chongqing; Chengdu, Sichuan Province; and Guiyang, Guizhou Province, began operating China Southern Airlines customized flights earlier this month.

On Wednesday, the Joint Prevention and Control Mechanism of the State Council released a circular outlining 10 new measures to optimize disease control and prevention. It said centralized quarantine for COVID-19 patients was made voluntary and the rule requiring a negative nucleic acid test result for domestic travel and entry to public places was scrapped as the country takes “small but steady steps” to look after itself adjust the disease.

A link to the circular was shared widely on social media, sparking a surge in online searches for flights on various travel booking websites.

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