Flight cancellations present logistical challenges for Olympic committees headed to Beijing – Toronto Sun
China’s increasing efforts to control COVID-19 outbreaks have Olympic and Paralympic committees the world over scrambling to move people and cargo to the Games in Beijing.
Hundreds of passenger flights into and out of the Chinese capital’s two main airports were cancelled on Friday, according to a report by Agence France-Presse. Cancellations affected about half the normal traffic.
And Reuters reported that the Civil Aviation Administration of China will cut the number of weekly international flights to and from the country to 408 through March 2022, down from 644 during the summer season. That’s a drop of 21 per cent from last year.
The report also said scheduled international flights, which could be reduced by further cancellations in the near future, would amount to just 2.2 per cent of pre-COVID numbers.
These new flight cancellations for Beijing align with other COVID-19 control measures being instituted in China — including border closures, three-week quarantine periods for all visitors and targeted lockdowns for citizens — as the country gears up for the Olympics in February and the Paralympics in March.
A so-called “closed loop system” has been established for each Games. Fully vaccinated participants can skip the 21-day quarantine period and enter the closed loop, in which they will be subjected to daily health monitoring and testing. Closed loop inhabitants will also have their movements restricted to permitted destinations, such as Games venues and accommodations, in dedicated Games vehicles.
“We appreciate that the Beijing 2022 Organizing Committee and the Government of China are doing their best to bring the world together while keeping the people of China and visitors safe,” said David Shoemaker, chief executive officer of the Canadian Olympic Committee.
“Planning for these Games has been challenging due to COVID-19, and, as with Tokyo, we are dealing with a dynamic situation. Travel to and from the Games on commercial flights is currently an issue. However, the COC has an incredibly skilled logistics team, and we’re confident that Team Canada will arrive at the Games on time and ready to compete.”
A source said the COC has briefed national sports organizations on the issue and is currently organizing charter flights, so it is likely Team Canada will travel “in groups” to the Games.
And an International Olympic Committee spokesperson said in an email that “air travel to Beijing will be made possible through charter, temporary and commercial flights. Beijing 2022 and the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) encourage Chinese and foreign airlines to operate temporary flights to and from Beijing Capital International Airport. Beijing 2022 will assist stakeholders to book temporary and charter flights. Commercial flights can be booked following the usual airline procedures.”
Booking a commercial flight to China is certainly easier said than done at this point. Earlier this week, many Air Canada flights to Beijing booked for late January were cancelled.
Asked what Air Canada would be doing to help Team Canada get to the Games, an email from the airline’s media office said “we remain a proud supporter of our Canadian athletes and will be finalizing travel details in due course.”
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