Sichuan Airlines now China’s sixth biggest domestic airline; #2 carrier at Chengdu and Chongqing

Premier of Victoria, Ted Baillieu (pictured third left) welcomed China’s Sichuan Airlines on its inaugural flight from Chengdu to Melbourne: “I am delighted Sichuan Airlines has chosen Melbourne for its first direct service to Australia, with Melbourne its second long haul international destination after Vancouver. Their presence is symbolic of the strengthening relationship between Sichuan Province and Victoria.”

Last year, Sichuan Airlines, one of many fast-growing Chinese airlines, carried almost 14.5 million passengers, mostly on domestic flights. Just 10 years ago, the airline, which began operations in July 1988, carried just over two million passengers annually. Since then it has grown rapidly and now operates a fleet of 67 Airbus A320-series aircraft, as well as four widebody A330s. At least 14 more new A320-series aircraft are still to be delivered to the airline from Airbus.

The airline’s international presence is growing slowly, having launched its first route to Australia last month, flying non-stop, three-times weekly from its main base in Chengdu to Melbourne. The airline’s other major long-haul destination is Vancouver in Canada, which it began serving last June from Chengdu via Shenyang.

Sichuan Airlines 2003-2012 Annual passengers (millions) and year-on-year growth

Source: ICAO via OAG

Sichuan Airlines is 40% owned by the provincial government, with China Southern Airlines (39%), Shandong Airlines (10%), Shanghai Airlines (10%) and Gingko Restaurant (1%) being the other shareholders. It currently ranks as the sixth largest airline in the Chinese domestic market with just over 5% of weekly seat capacity.

China's Top 12 domestic airlines Share of weekly seat capacity

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

Second biggest airline in Chengdu and Chongqing

Sichuan Airlines’ biggest base is Chengdu (China’s fifth busiest airport with over 30 million passengers in 2012), where it is the second largest airline, after Air China, with around 24% of weekly seat capacity. The local airline operates over 500 weekly departures to over 50 destinations, including seven outside of mainland China. The airline has a secondary base at Chongqing, where it is also the #2 carrier, again after Air China, with around 15% of weekly seats.

Airport Weekly departures Routes (Dom/Int) International routes served non-stop
Chengdu (CTU) 518 52 (45/7) Hong Kong (HKG), Malé (MLE), Melbourne (MEL), Seoul Incheon (ICN), Phuket (HKT), Taichung (RMQ), Taipei (TSA)
Chongqing (CKG) 265 30 (28/2) Phuket (HKT), Taipei (TSA)
Kunming (KMG) 142 15 (14/1) Taipei (TPE)
Beijing (PEK) 98 4 (4/0) -
Xi’an (XIY) 93 13 (13/0) -
Source: OAG Max Online for w/c 4 March 2013

Sichuan Airlines’ other international destinations are Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam and Jakarta in Indonesia (both served from Nanning), Saipan in the Northern Mariana Islands (both served from Guangzhou and Shanghai), and Vancouver (served from Chengdu via Shenyang). The airline’s A330s are used on the routes to Australia, Canada, the Maldives and Saipan, as well as on the domestic route between Chengdu and Haikou.


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