Shanghai’s traffic tops 50 million mark; China Eastern leading carrier at Pudong and Hongqaio

Image: Continental launched daily New York Newark – Shanghai services on 25 March
Continental launched daily New York Newark – Shanghai services on 25 March. The airline’s President Jeff Smisek cut the ribbon with the Chinese liaison to New York and a number of other dignitaries.
Image: Shanghai GP
Shanghai hosts the third round of the Formula 1 world championship this weekend.

As China welcomes the global grand prix circus to Shanghai for this season’s third round of the world championship this week takes a look at the city’s two major airports. Shanghai’s Pudong (PVG) and Hongqiao (SHA) airports rank third and fourth in China and between them handled just over 50 million passengers in 2008. Handling over 17 million international passengers in 2007 made Shanghai Pudong the country’s leading international airport, ahead of even Beijing.

Since Pudong airport opened in 1999 traffic at Shanghai’s two airports has more than trebled from under 15 million in 1999 to over 50 million for the first time just eight years later. For a variety of reasons air traffic in Shanghai fell by just under one per cent in 2008. The outbreak of SARS in the region in 2003 has been the only other blip in the city’s rapid rise in the aviation world.

Chart: Shanghai airport traffic 1999-2008, Annual passengers (millions)
Source: Shanghai Airport

China Eastern leading carrier at both airports

Analysis of schedule data for this summer reveals that China Eastern is the leading carrier at Pudong with around one-third of all flights and available seats. It operates non-stop to over 50 destinations including 22 in China, 14 in Japan and five in Korea. No other airline has more than a 10% share of capacity.

Airlines at PVG Frequency share Capacity share Number of routes
(Dom. / Int.)
China Eastern 34.1% 33.5% 54 (22/32)
China Southern 11.3% 9.6% 18 (15/3)
Air China 9.8% 8.9% 19 (12/7)
Shanghai Airlines 12.6% 8.8% 26 (16/10)
Dragonair 4.1% 5.7% 1 (0/1)
Source: OAG Max Online for w/c 30 March 2009

Dragonair ranks fifth despite operating just one route to Hong Kong. It operates 91 weekly departures on the route helping to facilitate flights to Chinese Taipei via Hong Kong though this market is being eroded gradually by an easing in relations between the two countries which has seen the introduction of a number of regular direct charter and scheduled flights between the two countries.

Airlines at SHA Frequency share Capacity share Number of routes
(Dom. / Int.)
China Eastern 35.8% 35.9% 35 (33/2)
Shanghai Airlines 19.4% 18.0% 25 (23/2)
China Southern 12.4% 14.2% 13 (13/0)
Air China 7.2% 9.3% 7 (7/0)
Xiamen Airlines 6.6% 4.8% 3 (3/0)
Source: OAG Max Online for w/c 30 March 2009

Hongqiao is used almost exclusively for domestic flights with only services to Seoul Gimpo and Tokyo Haneda breaking this rule. Both of these airports are also known as primarily domestic airports but exceptions appear to have been made to facilitate faster city centre to city centre connections between these more convenient airports serving major industrial centres in the region.

USA is leading non-Asian market

Domestic flights (44.7% of seat capacity) and just three other countries, Hong Kong (12.3%), Japan (11.5%) and Korea (6.5%) account for three-quarters of all seat capacity at Pudong. The USA ranks sixth in country market terms and is the leading non-Asian market with 3% of all seat capacity. China Eastern operates non-stop to New York JFK and Los Angeles while United has the most seat capacity with its daily non-stop flights to Chicago O’Hare and San Francisco. American also serves O’Hare non-stop, while Delta serves Atlanta and Continental has recently added daily flights to Newark. Northwest plans to start non-stop services to Detroit from the beginning of June.

In Europe Germany is the leading market with Lufthansa offering daily services from both Frankfurt and Munich, while Air China and China Eastern also serve Frankfurt daily. France is the second biggest European market (Air France and China Eastern both serve Paris CDG) while the UK has to make do with British Airways (five weekly services) and Virgin Atlantic (daily) operating from Heathrow.

Other European airports with direct services to Shanghai Pudong include Amsterdam (KLM with 12 weekly flights), Helsinki (daily with Finnair), Milan Malpensa (five times weekly with Air China), Moscow Sheremetyevo (daily with Aeroflot) and Zurich (daily with Swiss).

Emirates, Qatar Airways but no sign of Etihad

Emirates operates 13 weekly flights to Pudong while Qatar Airways flies five times weekly from Doha. Gulf Air offers four weekly flights to Bahrain but Etihad does not currently serve Shanghai from Abu Dhabi though it does fly to Beijing. One of the more curious routes available from the airport is a twice-weekly service to Tijuana in Mexico with AeroMexico. Flights to India are currently limited to just Delhi, served by both China Eastern Airlines and Air India with a combined frequency of just seven weekly flights.


  1. Arthur Dent says:

    China Eastern has previously been operating from Shanghai to London Heathrow (versus BA and Virgin) but appears to have taken a break. I understand that thrice-weekly flights may resume in June 2009.

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