Shenzhen still waiting for long-haul flights despite handling almost 30 million passengers in 2012

Shenzhen’s attractions may not be widely known outside of Asia but its airport handled more passengers in 2012 (almost 30 million) than either Boston Logan or Moscow Domodedovo.

The Pearl River Delta on China’s south coast is home to five airports serving a total of around 140 million passengers in 2012. Shenzhen’s Bao’an International Airport, located less than 50 kilometres from Hong Kong’s Chek Lap Kok airport (56.5 million passengers in 2012), and less than 100 kilometres from Guangzhou airport (48.3 million passengers in 2012), handled almost 30 million passengers last year, up almost 5% on 2011. Shenzhen has been developed by the Chinese authorities as a Special Economic Zone and is now home to one of the world’s top 10 skyscrapers, the Kingkey 100, designed by UK architecture firm Terry Farrell & Partners.

Shenzhen Airport 2000-2012 Annual passengers (millions) and year-on-year growth

Source: CAAC

Passenger numbers have grown spectacularly from less than seven million in 2000 to almost 30 million in 2012, making it slightly busier than Boston Logan Airport (29.3 million) and Moscow Domodedovo Airport (28.2 million).

Shenzhen Airlines leads the way

The airport’s busiest airline based on current seat capacity is Star Alliance member Shenzhen Airlines (which is a subsidiary of Air China), accounting for around 30% of all flights and seats. China Southern Airlines, which dominates at nearby Guangzhou, has around one-quarter of all capacity, while China Eastern Airlines, Air China and Hainan Airlines each have a further 10%.

Airline Frequency share Capacity share Routes (Dom/Int)
Shenzhen Airlines 30.8% 28.6% 47 (44/3)
China Southern Airlines 25.1% 24.9% 39 (37/2)
China Eastern Airlines 10.1% 11.0% 14 (14/0)
Air China 9.3% 10.5% 10 (10/0)
Hainan Airlines 9.4% 10.0% 21 (21/0)
Source: OAG Max Online for w/c 4 March 2013

Intense competition on leading domestic routes

The airport’s route network is dominated by domestic destinations. Eleven of the airport’s top 12 routes are served by at least four different airlines, with only Zhengzhou served by as few as three airlines. On none of the top 12 routes does any single carrier have more than 45% of weekly frequencies, ensuring that passengers have a healthy choice of airlines to choose from.

Shenzhen Airport's top 12 routes Weekly departures by airline

Source: OAG Max Online for w/c 4 March 2013

Comparing OAG schedule data for March 2012 and March 2013 indicated that 17 new services have been launched during the last year, of which 14 were domestic. Thai AirAsia transferred flights from Bangkok’s main airport (BKK) to its secondary airport (DMK), China Southern began twice-weekly flights to Da Nang in Vietnam, while Shenzhen Airlines resumed daily flights to Singapore.

No long-haul flights yet at Shenzhen

The airport’s international route network currently comprises just nine cities in six Asian countries. The AirAsia group of airlines has a notable presence, operating daily flights to Bangkok, Kota Kinabalu and Kuala Lumpur.

Destination Country Airline (Weekly Frequency)
Bangkok (DMK) Thailand Thai AirAsia (7)
Da Nang (DAD) Vietnam China Southern Airlines (2)
Kaohsiung (KHH) Taiwan China Airlines (2)
Kota Kinabalu (BKI) Malaysia AirAsia (7)
Kuala Lumpur (KUL) Malaysia AirAsia (14)
Seoul Incheon (ICN) Republic of Korea Asiana (4), Korean Air (4), Shenzhen Airlines (7)
Singapore (SIN) Singapore Shenzhen Airlines (7), Silkair (4), Tiger Airways (5)
Taichung (RMQ) Taiwan Uni Airways (2)
Taipei (TPE) Taiwan China Airlines (5), China Southern Airlines (6),
Shenzhen Airlines (8), Uni Airways (5)
Source: OAG Max Online for w/c 4 March 2013

So far there are no signs of any long-haul services to the airport, which is almost unheard of for an airport that handles close to 30 million passenger per annum.

A map of China's Pearl river delta region, showing airport locations.

Shenzhen Airport is one of five major airports serving the Pearl River Delta in southern China. Last year the five airports handled in excess of 140 million passengers. However, unlike at nearby Hong Kong and Guangzhou there are no long-haul flights yet from Shenzhen.


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