Air China grows international capacity by 13% per annum since 2013; US is biggest market by ASKs, Japan routes have most seat capacity

Air China’s most recent international route launch was on 1 September. The Star Alliance member introduced its first ever US service (to San Jose in California) from Shanghai Pudong. In addition, Air China serves seven US airports from Beijing, making the US market the airline’s biggest international market as measured by ASKs.

After growing its international seat capacity by, on average, just 4% per annum between 2006 and 2013, in the last three years, Air China’s international capacity has grown by an average of 13% each year. The Star Alliance member is this year offering close to nine million seats on international services departing from Chinese airports. After capacity increases of around 15% in 2014 and 2015, growth has slowed to around 8% this year.

Chart: Air China 2006-2016 Annual international seats (millions) and yearly change

Source: OAG Schedules Analyser.

Japan still #1 for seats; US #1 for ASKs

Analysis of the airline’s schedules for 2016 reveals that the leading country market in terms of weekly seats remains Japan, with 50% more capacity than the next biggest country market, South Korea. The US is third for seat capacity. However, if we use ASKs (Available Seat Kilometres) as a measure, which takes into account sector length, then the US is now by far the leading country market. In the first week of August, Air China flew seven US routes from Beijing to Honolulu, Houston Intercontinental, Los Angeles, New York JFK, New York Newark, San Francisco and Washington Dulles. Five of these are served with at least daily flights, the exceptions being Honolulu and Washington. On 1 September, Air China launched its first US service from Shanghai Pudong, selecting San Jose in California as the milestone route.

Chart: Air China's top 15 international markets Seats from all Chinese airports in 2016 (Changes versus 2015)

Source: OAG Schedules Analyser for w/c 1 August 2016.

Japan ranks only third for ASKs overtaken by Germany. Air China serves fellow Star Alliance member Lufthansa’s Frankfurt hub from Beijing, Chengdu, Shanghai Pudong and, since 20 May 2016, also from Shenzhen. South Korea slips to 12th in the ASK rankings. France, Italy, Canada, the UK and Australia fill positions four through eight when measured by ASKs. This year, Air China serves 37 international country markets with non-stop flights, compared with 36 in 2015. The newest country market is Poland. Flights between Beijing and Warsaw are planned to launch on 21 September.

Air China now operates over 100 international routes

On 2 April 2016 Air China began serving Dubai thrice-weekly from Chongqing. The UAE hub was already served five times weekly by Air China from Beijing.

Over 100 international routes; more growth to Australia and Europe

Air China’s international network of non-stop flights has passed the 100-mark during the last 12 months. In August 2015 the carrier offered 95 international routes which has grown to 109 a year later. Measured by ASKs, the airline’s biggest international route is to Los Angeles, which it serves thrice-daily from Beijing. Six of the top 11 routes are to the US, while European destinations feature three times, Canada once (Vancouver) while Singapore is the highest ranked Asian destination.

Chart: Air China's top 15 international routes Weekly one-way ASKs (millions) in August 2016 [Weekly flights]

Source: OAG Schedules Analyser for w/c 3 August 2016.

Apart from the new Warsaw route, Air China is also launching new services to Rome (from Chengdu via Urumqi) to grow its presence in Europe. Also starting before the end of the year are two new services to Australia; Shenzhen to Melbourne (starting on 31 October) and Chengdu to Sydney (starting on 11 November). As our recent analysis of the China-Australia market revealed, Air China ranks only third in this market behind both China Southern Airlines and China Eastern Airlines.

On 12 December 2015 Air China launched direct flights from Chengdu to Paris CDG. This service will be of great benefit to French airline and airport delegates attending the upcoming World Routes conference in Chengdu from 24 to 27 September.


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