Airlines are cashing in after thick fog over Hainan Province left many Spring Festival holiday travelers stranded on the island.
Flight tickets from Sanya, a popular tourist destination because of its tropical climate, to Shanghai were either sold out or selling for as much as 10,000 yuan ($1,576).
All economy class tickets for today and tomorrow on online travel sites Ctrip and Tongcheng were sold out — a rarity as the holiday ended on Wednesday. Economy class tickets for Sunday were selling for 9,950 yuan, with ticket prices for Monday ranging between 7,560 and 9,950 yuan.
An economy class return ticket between Shanghai and London usually costs around 7,000 yuan.
On Wednesday night, heavy fog shrouded the Qiongzhou Strait, a major gateway to China's southernmost island, leading to suspension of shipping services. There was a backlog of vehicles and over 100,000 passengers were left stranded. Services had resumed yesterday.
Sanya received 966,900 tourists during the seven-day holiday with tourism revenue put at record 9.7 billion yuan.
Grace Wang, a tourist from Shanghai who spent the holiday in Hainan, had intended to return on Wednesday, the last day of the holiday, but was put off by flight prices. She is now traveling on Monday, after adding her three-day annual leave, which worked out cheaper.
"When I booked the tickets — a week before the holiday — the price was 1,750 yuan. Now the cheapest ticket is 7,560 yuan," she said.
Meanwhile, Shanghai's two airports handled over 2 million passengers during the holiday — 6 percent more than last year, the airport authority said.
The Pudong and Hongqiao airports handled about 300,000 passengers daily during the holiday period. The largest number of passengers came on Tuesday and Wednesday, or the fifth and sixth days of Chinese New Year, as students returned for the start of the new semester, the airport authority said.
A record 218,200 passengers arrived at Pudong on Tuesday, while the largest number of passengers, totaling 115,700, came to Hongqiao on Wednesday.
The high number of passenger turnout is expected to continue for a week, China Eastern Airlines said.
The two airports are expected to handle 12.6 million passengers during the travel peak that began on February 1 and will last until March 12.
China's migrant population returns home for the traditional family reunion during the Spring Festival.