China Southern Airlines on Monday launched its first flight between Beijing and Macau and said it plans to add 17 international routes, in a sign it expects a pick-up in international travel this year. 
The airline said at an event in Beijing the routes would be launched in the coming months before Oct. 26. The new routes would include Amsterdam, London, Doha, Riyadh and Tehran, executives from the airline said.
Macau, a special administrative region of China, is a popular tourist spot and the world’s biggest gambling hub. China’s international airline industry has recovered only slowly following the lifting of pandemic restrictions in early 2023, struggling to match gains in domestic travel as consumers remain price-sensitive in a sluggish economy.
China Southern’s international route network has to date recovered to 80% of 2019 levels, and the airline hopes the new routes will help take it to 85% by the end of this year, Chen Ling, a deputy manager in China Southern’s north China marketing department, told reporters.
China Southern, one of China’s three state carriers, last Wednesday reported an annual loss of 4.1 billion yuan, which it attributed to weak consumer spending power, jet fuel costs, supply chain problems and the depreciation of the yuan.
Hopes are high however that international travel out of China can turn a corner this year. China’s aviation regulator said in January it expected the number of international flights to and from the country to reach 6,000 per week by the end of this year, or about 80% of pre-COVID levels.

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