Across China: Italian pilot observes air travel rebound from front-row seat
CHONGQING, Feb. 19 (Xinhua) -- Few people feel the strength of China's aviation industry rebound as keenly as Fabio Farinon, an Italian pilot who experienced a surge in flying hours last month.
"I flew for some 80 hours in January, a significant increase from my previous monthly flying time of only 25 to 30 hours," said Farinon, a 40-year-old captain with West Air, an airline based in southwest China's Chongqing Municipality.
Behind his hectic schedule is a steady rebound of civil aviation transport in China, as the country has optimized its COVID response and demand picked up during the Spring Festival travel rush.
More than 39.77 million air passenger trips were handled last month, surging 34.8 percent year on year and recovering to 74.5 percent of the level in the same period of 2019, according to the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC).
During the 40-day Spring Festival travel rush, which ended Wednesday, 55.23 million air passenger trips were made, CAAC data showed.
West Air said it handled a total of 882,600 passenger trips during this year's holiday travel peak, up 13 percent year on year.
Hailing from Bergamo in Italy, Farinon has been a pilot for 19 years. He met his wife, Chongqing native Huang Ting, in Singapore, and settled in Chongqing after their marriage in 2018. They now have two daughters.
Farinon has observed significant development in China's civil aviation sector over recent years.
"I saw the country had built more airports and bigger terminals, and I firmly believe the civil aviation industry will continue to grow rapidly," he said.
China has long been a popular destination for expatriate pilots like Farinon, thanks to the prospects of its civil aviation industry and its unique culture.
By the end of 2025, China will have over 270 civil transport airports, which will handle a total of 17 million takeoffs and landings a year, according to a plan released by the CAAC.
The civil aviation sector will handle 930 million passenger trips and 9.5 million tonnes of cargo and parcels annually by 2025, the plan said.
The process of pursuing a pilot career in China is quite demanding. West Air, for example, has strict standards for the recruitment of foreign pilots, including passing multiple technical exams, simulator tests and physical checks.
Farinon cherishes the opportunity he has received. He said he looks forward to seeing more airports open in China, and flying more routes that connect not only major cities but also smaller ones.
He has fallen in love with living in China, he said. With a new fondness for an idyllic life, he has rented a farmhouse in the Chongqing countryside and intends to renovate it to live a more down-to-earth life there.