China’s airlines report 17% jump in Q1 traffic; Beijing moves to become world’s busiest airport; American coming soon

Beijing Capital Airlines was launched on May 3 in a lavish ceremony within the Forbidden City hosted by major national TV celebrities, Tao Zhou and Gang Wang. The new carrier, led by led CEO Yi Liu (also pictured), is centred on a re-named Deer Air, part of the Hainan Airline Group, with added new investment from the city authorities.

The first quarter of 2010 has again seen demand for air travel in China booming. Passenger numbers on Chinese airlines in the period January to March rose by 16.7%, with domestic demand rising 15.9% to almost 57 million passengers and international traffic up 27.8% to 4.4 million. International traffic was up over 40% in February though it should be noted that last February international traffic was down 25%. As a result, international traffic was only up 5% compared with 2008 while domestic traffic was actually up 37% compared with February 2008. For March, the corresponding figures are 13% and 38%.

Chart: Chinese airlines development - Year-on-year change in monthly passengers: 1/07 to 3/10

Source: CAAC

Load factors have also risen with the CAAC reporting that average load factors in March were above 81%.

Beijing sees rapid growth in new services from Chinese carriers

With Beijing having its sights fairly set on becoming the world’s busiest airport in the next few years, it is worth examining how the airport’s scheduled services have developed so far this year. A comparison of OAG data for Beijing airport for January and May reveals a range of new or changed services.

Beijing Capital Airlines is the new name for Deer Air, an airline with a fleet of over 20 A319s that is part of the Hainan Airline Group. The local government in Beijing has decided to invest in the carrier and as a result it has been renamed. According to OAG the airline now operates at least daily on six domestic routes from Beijing to Baotou (BAV), Erenhot (ERL), Hailar (HLD), Hohhot (HET), Jixi (JXA) and Lijiang City (LJG).

Air China has also apparently launched six new routes so far this year to Chaoyang (CHG), Dunhuang (DNH), Manila (MNL), Song Pan (JZH), Ulanhot (HLH) and Zhanjiang (ZHA). With the exception of Manila these are all domestic services. China Eastern has added Changchun (CGQ) and Jeju (CJU) in Korea, while China Southern has added Anshan (AOG) and Xian (XIY).

Other new routes added from Beijing by Chinese carriers are daily services by Hainan Airlines to Wu Hai (WUA) and Xining (XNN), Shenzhen Airlines to Wuhan (WUH) and Zhengzhou (CGO), and Tianjin Airlines to Hailar (HLD).

Foreign carriers tweak services; American’s O’hare flights to start soon

Among non-Chinese carriers, the former Northwest service to the airline’s mini-hub at Tokyo Narita is now rebranded as a Delta service, while United re-started non-stop Washington Dulles flights at the end of March after a five month suspension. Etihad’s non-stop service from Abu Dhabi now carries on to Nagoya in Japan, while Garuda’s previous one-stop service from Jakarta via Singapore has now become a non-stop service.

Finally, after some apparent last minute issues regarding its slots at the airport, American Airlines now plans to start non-stop flights from Chicago O’Hare to Beijing on 25 May. Initially, the service will be operated four times weekly rising to daily from the beginning of July. The airline won the right to operate the route as long ago as 2007, but has now finally taken the opportunity to start the route.


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