(Bloomberg) -- China’s airlines flew a record number of people in the first quarter, amid government efforts to boost the nation’s tourism sector and strong demand for holidays at home.

Total air passenger traffic reached almost 180 million trips in the first three months of 2024, state broadcaster CCTV said Tuesday, citing data from the Civil Aviation Administration of China. That’s the most ever for such a quarter and represents year-on-year growth of 37.7%.

While air traffic for the first quarter of 2023 was relatively subdued considering China only threw off the last of its strict Covid controls in January of that year, those figures are still 10.2% higher than 2019.

Read more: China New Year Travel Hit Record With Most Trips Made by Car

China’s most important holiday, Lunar New Year, typically falls in the first quarter. The celebration, which was in February this year, sees hundreds of millions of people return to their home towns for family reunions. An unprecedented 83.5 million trips were made via air during this year’s 40-day holiday travel rush, an increase of 51% from 2023 and 14.5% from 2019, according to CAAC.

For the three-month period, air passenger traffic on domestic routes was 160 million trips, a 14.3% increase from 2019, while a total of 14.1 million trips were taken on international routes, 78% of 2019 levels. Regional routes to places like Hong Kong and Macau comprised the rest.

The nation’s big three carriers also released their monthly performance data for March on Monday. Air China Ltd. reported March passenger traffic that was up 50% while China Southern Airlines Co. filled 82.3% of its seats, the highest passenger load factor among the trio. Its passenger traffic increased 36.1%.

China Eastern Airlines Corp.’s passenger traffic rose 55.9%

Although those year-on-year growth rates are slower than in February, that’s not surprising especially for domestic and regional routes due to the Lunar New Year holiday travel boost, Bloomberg Intelligence analyst Tim Bacchus said.

(Adds China Eastern passenger traffic. An earlier version corrected China Southern’s passenger traffic figure.)

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