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Travelling During Chinese New Year: The Numbers Behind the World’s Largest Migration


The largest annual migration in the world is days away from starting – and this year, more than 2.8 billion journeys will take place in China as people travel for the Lunar New Year.

When is Chinese New Year?

The Year of the Goat begins on 19 February. This Spring Festival travel season, known as ‘Chunyun’, started on 4 February and goes on until 16 March – lasting a total of 40 days.

Who are all the people travelling?

The country has more than 250 million migrant workers, and it is traditional for families to spend New Year together – meaning a huge annual migration. The Chinese government estimates there will be 47.5 million air journeys, 295 million by train and 2.4 billion road trips.

What about people coming in from abroad?

As well as people travelling across the country, more than 700,000 expats and travelling family members are also expected in to fly to China during the festival season, according to security risk firm International SOS.

What kind of impact will this have on airports and train stations?

Due to the number of people making their journeys home, travellers can expect long delays and are being advised to set aside more time to make a journey. Long queues and big crowds can be expected at the security checks of railway stations, while major airports will experience bigger crowds and longer waits for immigration and security.

Song Jianguo, the spokesman for Beijing Railway station, said the peak period is expected between February 13 and 18, with a record of 230,000 passengers to use the station daily.

“During the travel rush, we will handle 204 train arrivals and departures a day, meaning a bullet train arrives every four minutes and a regular train every five minutes,” he said.

What about the impact on other countries?

The impact of the Chinese New Year holidays isn’t just going to impact travel in China. Up to two million passengers are expected to pass through the Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok, Thailand, during Chinese New Year, working out at a massive 165,783 passengers per day – with a large proportion of arrivals coming in from China.

The total number for international passengers through the airport is expected to be 1,820,094 people, which is 20% more people expected than over last year’s festive period.

The total number of flights to the Thai airport during the Chinese New Year will reach 12,034 flights, or approximately 926 flights a day, which is a 4.18% increase from the same period last year.

How will the Thai airport cope with this massive influx?

The airport’s director has revealed that an extra 563 charter flights are scheduled to land at the airport over the 40 day festivities, in addition to regular flights. Most of these charter flights are from China.

To accommodate the passenger increase, the airport will increase immigration staff, ground service assistance staff at the baggage claim areas, and Chinese language interpreters at passport control.