MIAMI – COVID-19 took a toll on major state-owned Chinese carriers Air China (CA), China Eastern Airlines (MU), and China Southern Airlines (CZ).

The period after September 30 marked the end of the summer travel season, which is normally at its highest. However, for “reasons that will remain unknown,” according to, none of the three carriers provided a detailed breakdown of their quarterly performance in comparison to past years.

Air China, based in Beijing, reported a third-quarter attributable net loss of RMB 3.54BN, significantly larger than the RMB 508.4 million net loss in the same quarter of 2020. The airline’s revenue increased 5.2% year over year to RMB 19.8bn.

The attributable net loss for Shanghai-based MU was RMB 2.95bn, more than treble the RMB 563m net loss for the same quarter the prior year. The three-month revenue increased by 3.6% to roughly RMB 17.8bn.

China Southern Airlines, based in Guangzhou, announced an RMB 1.43bn attributable net loss in the third quarter of 2021, reversing an RMB 711m attributable net profit in the same time last year. Revenue increased by 2% year on year to RMB 26.9bn.

China Eastern Airlines Airbus A330-300. Photo: LiamFunnell/Airways

The Fallout of COVID-19 in China’s Skies

The COVID-19 pandemic, increased fuel costs, and volatility in the Chinese yuan were all blamed for the carriers’ poor performance.

However, CZ was the most forthright about the impact of COVID-19 on air travel demand, stating, “the COVID-19 epidemic broke out in various regions, causing a long-term impact on summer travel peak.” Last August, all three companies released further information in their half-year reports.

While both MU and CZ did not provide any comment for their nine-month results, CA says it will work towards mitigating the impact of COVID-19.

“The Group will continuously strengthen market research and judgement, keep abreast of the changes in demand, dynamically adjust the deployment of transport capacity and implement strict cost control, all in an effort to reduce the impact of the pandemic on the operation,” says CA.

China Southern Airlines Boeing 737. Photo: Luca Flores/Airways

Air China B-7800 Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner. Photo: Alberto Cucini/Airways