Air China — Flights, Punctuality & Cancellations in 2021

Discover the latest and most comprehensive operational assessment of Air China. We analyzed available data and assessed Air China's flights, punctuality, and cancellation rates in 2021. Here are the results!

Air China – Flights, Punctuality & Cancellations in 2021

Today, we continue the analysis of Asian airlines. After China Eastern Airlines and India’s IndiGo, we take a look at Air China. What to expect? Well, we took a deep dive into one of China’s most prominent airline and checked flight rankings, punctuality reports, and cancellation rates. Moreover, we benchmarked Air China’s flight performance against regional and global averages. So get prepared to get some insights about one of the world’s biggest airlines. Here’s what’s contained in detail:

Flight Analysis
Monthly Flight Overview
Global & Asian Ranking By Number of Flights
Pre-COVID Benchmark

Flight Punctuality
Monthly Punctuality Overview
Global & Asia Ranking By Punctuality

Flight Cancellations
Monthly Cancellation Overview
Global & Asian Ranking By Cancellation Rate

Air China – Flight Analysis

Let’s kick off the analysis with details about Air China flights from February to June 2021. Then, we also provide information on the carrier’s share in Asia traffic on top of the overall numbers. Moreover, we compare the airline’s ranking to other Asian and global airlines. Finally, and as the icing on the cake, we set Air China’s flight performance in 2021 into relation to pre-COVID results from 2019 — and we can already promise some exciting results!

Monthly Flight Overview

Compared to many other carriers from Europe (for example, Ryanair, Lufthansa, or British Airways), Air China had an excellent start into 2021. In February, the Chinese airline already operated more than 26,000 flights. However, March marked the month when Air China skyrocket its operations. Based on a flight growth of 50%, Air China operated more than 40,000 flights in March. Moreover, the carrier was able to increase the numbers in April and May steadily. Unfortunately, June was difficult for Air China, and traffic declined by 10%. Therefore, it will be interesting to see if Air China can rebound in July.

MonthNo. Flightsvs. prev. Month
February26,793
March40,37550.6%
April42,0814.2%
May43,7213.8%
June39,24310.3%
Avg. ’2138,442
Air China – Number of Monthly Flights February – June 2021

The below charts illustrates Air China’s traffic volume. Therefore, the chart on the right simply shows the plain traffic figures. On the other side, the chart on the left puts Air China’s traffic volume in relation to overall Asian traffic volume. Again it is impressive how Air China increased its share from below 7.5% to 10% in May.

Air China's Share Concerning Total Asia Flights Feb - Jun '21
Air China’s Share Concerning Total Asia Flights Feb – Jun ’21
Air China's - Number of flights per month Feb - Jun '21
Air China’s – Number of flights per month Feb – Jun ’21

Domestic, Asian & Globa Ranking By Flight Volume

The table below shows Air China’s ranking by the number of flights related to domestic, Asian, and global airlines. Worth mentioning at that point that China Southern Airlines is not contained in the data set used. Accordingly, Air China constantly ranks second on a domestic level, with China Eastern Airlines ahead. From an Asian point of view, China Eastern and in some months IndiGo performed more flights. However, the big U.S. carriers (American Airlines, United Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Southwest Airlines) operated more flights when looking at the global level.

MonthDomestic Rank Asia Rank Global Rank
February238
March226
April226
May226
June337
Average ’21226
Air China – Domestic, Asian & Global Ranking By Flight Volume
Air China Average Monthly Flights in 2021

Pre-COVID Benchmark

When comparing Air China flight volume to a pre-Covid level, the results look entirely different to many other airlines (e. g. Lufthansa, Emirates, or KLM). Unlike many other airlines, Air China managed to operate more flights than pre-COVID in April and May. However, in June, Air China’s traffic again dropped below the pre-COVID level.

MonthFlights 2021Flights 2019’21 vs. ’19 (abs)’21 vs. ’19 (%)
February26,79338,20111,408 29.9%
March40,37540,911536 1.3%
April42,08140,1611,920 4.8%
May43,72142,2891,432 3.4%
June39,24341,3422,099 5.1%
Avg. ’2138,44240,5802,138 5.6%
Air China – Number of Monthly Flights Compared to Pre-COVID
Air China amount of monthly flights in 2021 compared to 2019

Air China – Flight Punctuality

In the following chapter, we take a deeper look at Air China’s flight punctuality. Again, we benchmark the Asian and global averages and provide a domestic, regional, and international ranking.

Monthly Puncutality Overview

Air China had a relatively good start in terms of on-time performance and achieved 81.5% in February. However, afterward, the Chinese carrier seemed to have some serious issues. As a result, the punctuality level constantly dropped to a low of 61.9% in May. On average, Air China achieved an on-time performance of 72.5%. Accordingly, the carrier performed 3.2 pp below the Asian and 7.4 pp below the global average.

FebruaryMarchAprilMayJuneMonthly Average ’21
Air China81.5%77.5%72.7%61.9%68.8%72.5%
Asia Average74.9%77.8%76.8%74.3%74.6%75.7%
Global Average77.7%82.5%81.9%80.9%76.8%79.9%
Air China – Punctuality for Flights February – June 2021
Air China Average Punctuality in 2021

Air China Flights — Domestic, Asian & Global Ranking By Punctuality

As a result of the weak performance, Air China ranks in the last quarter of analyzed airlines for most of the analyzed months. However, February marks the only month where Air China secured a midfield position. Accordingly, the airlines achieved sub-optimal rankings related to Asia and a domestic level.

MonthDomestic RankAsia RankGlobal Rank
February537102
March447158
April250170
May354183
June551180
Average ’21448159
Air China – Domestic, Asian & Global Ranking By Punctuality

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Air China – Flight Cancellations

In the last chapter of this report, we take a detailed look at flight cancellations. Similar to the previous chapter, we put results in relation to regional averages and provide rankings.

Monthly Cancellation Overview

Light and shadow — probably the easiest way to describe Air China’s performance in terms of flight cancellations. The carrier achieved solid results in February, March, and April. Although the cancellation rate is still high compared to top airlines in that field, it was below the Asian and global average. However, in May and June, the flight cancellation rate exploded to 7.5% and above 11%. Nevertheless, on average, Air China’s cancellation rate is still 2.9 pp below the global average and 8.5 pp below the Asian average.

FebruaryMarchAprilMayJuneMonthly Average ’21
Air China2.0%1.4%1.2%7.5%11.1%4.6%
Asia Average13.8%11.3%11.2%13.9%15.4%13.1%
Global Average8.7%6.1%6.3%7.7%8.9%7.5%
Air China – Cancellation February – June 2021
Air China Flight Cancellation Rate in 2021

Air China Flights — Domestic, Asian & Global Ranking by Cancellations

MonthDomestic RankAsia RankGlobal Rank
February548155
March328104
April229105
May443161
June549183
Average ’21439142
Air China – Domestic, Asian & Global Ranking By Cancellations February – June 2021

Used Data

The shown information is based on OAG data and internal data sources. Rankings only included airlines that operated more than 300 flights in the respective month. However, the global benchmark includes all tracked flights. On average, 210 airlines are included in each month’s analysis. Whenever stated, EMEA refers to airlines based in Europe, the Middle East, or Africa. China Southern Airlines was not part of the analyzed airlines.

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About the author

Benjamin Walther

CEO, Frankfurt

Benjamin is Information Design's CEO and a proven content-maniac. Besides running a successful business and developing pioneering ideas, he's dedicated to writing blog posts and creating content.

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