“I didn’t expect to be able to get on the hot search list in my life.” After stranding for two days in Ethiopia, Xu Jian, an international student, arrived in Shanghai on March 31 with a special flight approved by the local Chinese embassy.
When Xu Jian set off from the U.S. capital Washington, D.C. on March 27, transited through Addis Ababa Baoli International Airport in Ethiopia, due to the temporary cancellation of subsequent flights returning home on the evening of March 28, he and more than 200 other transit passengers Of Chinese students were forced to stay together for two days.
Some international students openly asked for help on Sina Weibo. “Ethiopian students stranded” became a hot topic and caused widespread concern. On March 31, under the coordination of the local Chinese embassy, international students returned to Shanghai on special flights. At present, Xu Jian is being isolated in a hotel in Shanghai.
For those students who are still stranded overseas, these international students who have returned from Ethiopia and returned to China are considered lucky. On March 31, Liu Jin, Director of the International Cooperation and Exchange Department of the Ministry of Education and Director of the Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan Office of the Ministry of Education, introduced at a press conference held by the Joint Prevention and Control Mechanism of the State Council said that the number of Chinese students studying abroad was 1.6 million, and about 1.42 million are currently abroad.
According to Caijing reporter, of the 1.42 million international students who are still overseas, there is not an individual who needs to return to China. However, due to the large reduction in flights, most of them are temporarily unable to return to China. Regarding charter flights to return international students or release more flights, the call has been high among international students and parents for many days.
In response to the urgent return needs of Chinese students stranded overseas, such as international students, on March 30, Jin Junhao, the second inspector of the Transportation Division of the Civil Aviation Administration of China, said at a press conference of the joint prevention and control mechanism of the State Council that there are some concentrated needs and flight destinations. For cities with receiving support capabilities, the Civil Aviation Administration will activate major air transport support mechanisms as appropriate to ensure the provision of temporary flights or charter flights in a timely manner.
A reporter from Caijing contacted the Global Consular Protection and Service Emergency Call Center of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The staff of the center said that they do not know the charter policies of specific countries or cities. It is recommended to pay attention to the announcement information of the Chinese Embassy in the country, if there are charter arrangements, they will be released uniformly.
The above staff stressed that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of China attaches great importance to the development of the epidemic abroad. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs will actively consider taking necessary measures to assist and arrange the return of Chinese personnel to the country according to the situation, and it is recommended that foreign personnel cooperate with local epidemic prevention and control measures to strengthen protection.
In the context of many foreign airlines choosing to the ground due to cost issues, the Civil Aviation Administration of China requires that domestic airlines operate only one route to any country, and temporary flights or charter flights have become the hope of returning students and Chinese.
The middle level of a business jet airline in China revealed to the reporter of Caijing that the previously tightened approval of inbound business jets had been released.
From the perspective of You Tianlong, a doctor of law and sociology at Arizona State University, who studies immigration issues, the statement of the civil aviation department is still difficult in practice, because Chinese students studying abroad have reached a million levels, and because of work visas or The number of people visiting relatives who are temporarily unable to return to China is even greater.
You Tianlong analyze to Caijing reporter that there were multiple dilemmas of reason and emotion in the decision to withdraw overseas Chinese.” For example, when a Chinese citizen and a U.S. citizen get married, will he bring children and spouse, or not? If bring, there were too many people, if not, it will be a tragedy. If China does not allow foreign spouses and children to evacuate, or repeat this issue, the International perception will be poor. “
More importantly, where do you receive these returnees?
Civil aviation expert Lin Zhijie told a reporter from Caijing that the key to the availability of charter flights is the approval of the Civil Aviation Administration, local government, and the organization of charter flights. For airlines, chartering missions generally keep variable costs in check.
“There are too many overseas students, the capacity of existing isolation facilities will be broken if China makes charter flight organization.” Professor Wang Weibing, deputy director of the Department of Epidemiology, School of Public Health, Fudan University, told the reporter of Caijing.
Number of international flights is 1.2% before the epidemic outbreak
Jin Junhao introduced that from March 29 to April 4, the planned number of international passenger flights was reduced to 108, which is equivalent to 1.2% of the total international passenger flights before the outbreak.
In order to curb the high risk of imported coronavirus pneumonia epidemics abroad, the Civil Aviation Administration of China requested on March 26 that, based on the “International Flight Information Conference (Phase 5)” on March 12, each domestic airline operated to any National routes can only retain one. Each route shall not operate more than 1 weekly.
Each foreign airline operates only one route to China, and the number of operating flights per week must not exceed one. The flight adjustment plan will be implemented from March 29.
Taking Air China (601111.SH/00753.HK) as an example, Air China flew to New York and Los Angeles, for two routes, originally, now has only maintained the Los Angeles route and operates one flight per week.
At the same time, in order to prevent over-concentration of passengers on board and reduce the risk of infection, the Civil Aviation Administration of China requires Chinese and foreign airlines to ensure that the international air load factor for arriving and departing China cannot be higher than 75%.
After the above measures are implemented, the number of international flights entering China every week will drop to about 130. The Civil Aviation Administration of China has estimated that the number of passengers arriving by air every day will drop from 25,000 to about 5,000.
At the same time, airline crews need to be isolated for 14 days after flying high-risk flights. A source from a large airline company told Caijing that all crew members had to be quarantined for 14 days after completing a high-risk flight. The company arranged a quarantined hotel, and he was also in quarantine.
The reduction in international flights has worried Zhang Ye, who is studying in the UK. On the day that China Eastern Airlines (600115.SH/00753.HK/NYSE: CEA) adjusted its London route, Zhang Ye found that he did not have a “winning lottery”-the flight he had previously purchased was not the one that would run every week next. When she made the change, she found that all the April flights were sold out and she could not change.
Originally, in order to reduce the risk of transit, Zhang Ye who chose to fly non-stop had to consider a transit plan. It was difficult to buy a Malaysia Airlines flight back to China via Malaysia, but the flight from Malaysia to China was canceled many times, Zhang Ye is currently stranded in Britain.
Compared to Zhang Ye, Xu Jian, who is studying in Washington, DC, is more fortunate. In early March, his university began taking online courses. In addition, the US epidemic tended to worsen. He decided to return to China but was stranded unexpectedly in a transit country.
When Xu Jian set off on March 27 and was transiting through Ethiopia’s Addis Ababa Baoli International Airport, due to the temporary cancellation of subsequent flights returning home on the evening of March 28, he and more than 200 other Chinese students in transit were forced to stay for two days. On March 30, under the coordination of the local Chinese embassy, the international students have returned to Shanghai on a special flight.
Can’t pick up without accepting places
Not everyone is as lucky as Xu Jian. Wang Hua, whose daughter is studying in Italy, has formed a group of more than 250 students. Wang Hua told Caijing that most of these international students were younger than a sophomore, with a strong desire to return to China, from all parts of the country, and low mental capacity.
In order to help these students return to China, Wang Hua, on behalf of the parents of the students, submitted a joint letter to the Chinese Embassy in Italy last week, hoping that the embassy in Italy could arrange commercial charter flights to send these students back to China.
At the same time as Wang Hua contacted the embassy in Italy, China Eastern Airlines and Air China obtained charter flights from Milan to Wenzhou. Air China staff members told Caijing that Air China’s charter flights were chartered by the Wenzhou government.
The staff of the embassy in Italy also revealed to Wang Hua that the Wenzhou government is responsible for airport pick-up and other matters for the Milan-Wenzhou flight, and where more than 250 international students organized by Wang Hua fly to China, it is a question of where to pick them up.
Specifically returning to China, the stumbling block is that if there were enough places for international students back home. It is understood that the cities where international students and their families originally lived were not natural passive recipients, and international flight arrival cities have recently undergone a lot of adjustments. Some airports only accept temporary docking, and the local area may not be able to digest more immigrants.
On March 25, Jiangxi Province found 15 passengers with fever, cough, sore throat, diarrhea and other symptoms on the inbound Jiangxi flight from Sihanoukville, Cambodia, and subsequently announced that all entry and exit will be suspended from midnight on March 26. The international passenger flights in Jiangxi Province are suspended for 14 days, which is convenient for the physical examination of all the personnel of the above flights on March 25 and the treatment of symptomatic passengers.
According to Wang Hua’s understanding, the charter flight from Milan to Wenzhou was presented by the Zhejiang Chamber of Commerce in Italy, contact Zhejiang government, Zhejiang Province was willing to accept people from Zhejiang who are interested in Italy.
On March 30, Chen Guangsheng, executive deputy director of the Zhejiang Provincial Prevention and Control Leading Group Office and deputy secretary-general of the provincial government, stated that Zhejiang Province has effectively strengthened its concern and care for overseas Chinese and students from Zhejiang. Through the organization of epidemic prevention materials, medical expert groups, and opening of online hospitals, it provides overseas tourists with emergency rescue from their hometowns. In order to facilitate the travel of overseas Chinese and overseas students who really need to return to China, a temporary flight from Milan, Italy to Wenzhou is opened, and old, weak, pregnant and other people are given priority to return to Zhejiang.
At the same time, the Zhejiang Overseas Chinese Anti-epidemic Care Fund was established. The fund will focus on assisting overseas Chinese and overseas student groups in 10 countries, including Italy, Spain, France, and Germany, where Zhejiang personnel are concentrated.
Caijing reporter was informed that on April 1, Air China will temporarily open the CA082 Milan to Wenzhou flight, passengers are limited to Chinese citizens. Priority is to sell tickets to old, young, pregnant and international students. Older people over 70 years old or young children under 10 can be accompanied by a family member. Relevant personnel needs to carry proof of foreign student visa and other information after purchasing tickets.
The adult fare in economy class is 2,660 euros (about 20,450 yuan) per person, the adult fare in business class is 3,625 euros (about 27,870 yuan) per person, and the adult fare in first class is 7,575 euros (about 58,240 yuan) per person, child fare is about 75% of the adult fare, infant fare is about 10% of adult fare.
Therefore, only if the localities have the ability and determination to accept, it’s feasible for a charter flight.
Isolation facilities have limited capacity
On March 31, Liu Jin, director of the Department of International Cooperation and Exchanges of the Ministry of Education and director of the Hong Kong, Macao, and Taiwan Office, introduced at a press conference held by the Joint Prevention and Control Mechanism of the State Council that the number of Chinese students studying abroad was 1.6 million, and about 1.42 million are currently abroad.
“There are too many overseas students, and the state has organized opportunities to break through the capacity of the existing isolation facilities.” Professor Wang Weibing, deputy director of the Department of Epidemiology, School of Public Health, Fudan University, told the Caijing reporter that the return of charter flights is theoretically a manageable risk. International flights or the risk of airport infection is relatively low, the uncertainty mainly comes from the implementation of domestic isolation and the movement of people in domestic transshipments.
In large cities such as Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, and Shenzhen, the number of passengers who need to be segregated is growing at a rate of thousands each day. Wei Min, deputy director of the Guangzhou Municipal Bureau of Commerce, introduced the news conference on the prevention and control of the epidemic in Guangzhou on March 23rd. In recent days, the number of quarantine in Guangzhou has increased by the rate of thousands of new people every day. The city’s isolation sites were adjusted, and the number of isolation hotels in the city has increased from 40 to 76.
Wang Weibing believes that even withdrawing overseas Chinese, it should be implemented in batches within the capacity of the isolation facility. However, isolation capacity can also be continuously expanded. The current pressure is mainly in several large cities, and the country’s capacity can be expanded.
The presence of the embassy is also very important. There are about 15,000 undergraduate students studying in the UK. Liu Xiaoming, the Chinese ambassador to the United Kingdom, said that the Chinese Embassy in the UK has found 3 institutions to accept young students, but it is far from enough. The embassy is communicating with the country to arrange temporary flights to solve the problem.
The Chinese embassy in the United States has sent a message on March 25, asking Chinese students studying in primary and secondary schools in the consular district under the age of 18 to report information.
However, You Tianlong believes that evacuation faces many practical problems. “Even if everyone is eligible, it will be an embarrassing question who gets on the plane first and who gets on later. In the end, once evacuation begins, it may lead to runs, and people who do n’t want to leave may squeeze in.”
(Anonymous Xu Jian, Zhang Ye, and Wang Huai)