China’s airports handled 564 million passengers in 2010

Most of the top airports in China grow faster than the airports of equivalent size in Europe. It was not enough for London Heathrow to gain a Gothenburg service with BA, Rome Fiumicino a Kenya Airways service and Brussels from Icelandair flights. The European airports were still outperformed by Beijing, Shanghai Pudong and Hangzhou. The most notable exception is Istanbul Sabiha Gökçen, which at over 70% passenger growth grew faster than Qingdao in China.

China’s growing appetite for air travel appears to be showing no signs of slowing down. Last year the country’s 175 airports handled 564.3 million passengers, up 16.1% from 2009. As recently as 2006 these airports processed just 332 million passengers, meaning that in just four years the number of passengers has increased by 232 million. To put that in perspective, Europe’s biggest air travel market, the United Kingdom, saw all of its airports handle 213 million passengers in 2010.

In 2010 domestic passenger numbers increased by 14.8% to almost 248 million while international passenger numbers on Chinese airlines surged by 30.9% to 19.3 million. In the first two months of 2011 domestic traffic has grown by a further 11.3% while international traffic is up a very healthy 17.5%.

Source: CAAC

Source: CAAC

Beijing now ranked second in world

Last year saw Beijing’s international airport climb from fourth to second in the world rankings with just under 74 million passengers. A total of 51 airports across China handled more than one million passengers in 2010, with 30 of them handling over five million annual passengers.

Source: CAAC

Source: CAAC

Thirteen of China’s top 15 airports grew by more than 10% last year, with both of Shanghai’s airports growing by more than 25%. The above graph ranks the top 15 airports and shows for the sake of comparison which European airport is closest in size based on 2010 passenger statistics.

Airport (Code) WS April 2010 WS April 2011 % change Services*:April 2010 / April 2011
Beijing (PEK) 889,407 933,137 +4.9% 307 / 335
Shanghai (PVG) 472,795 543,907 +15.0% 221 / 261
Guangzhou (CAN) 508,202 533,053 +4.9% 211 / 231
Shanghai (SHA) 332,741 393,671 +18.3% 129 / 162
Shenzhen (SZX) 292,330 323,667 +10.7% 148 / 158
Chengdu (CTU) 282,297 307,447 +8.9% 162 / 182
Xi’an (XIY) 212,093 253,594 +19.6% 128 / 159
Kunming (KMG) 215,562 235,226 +9.1% 132 / 146
Hangzhou (HGH) 204,360 218,123 +6.7% 122 / 127
Chongqing (CKG) 171,728 204,245 +18.9% 116 / 138
Xiamen (XMN) 159,910 191,787 +19.9% 104 / 124
Nanjing (NKG) 149,858 163,320 +9.0% 98 / 107
Qingdao (TAO) 150,862 161,185 +6.8% 106 / 110
Changsha (CSX) 152,366 158,826 +4.2% 113 / 119
Wuhan (WUH) 149,549 146,675 -1.9% 103 / 108
Source: OAG Max Online for w/c 12 April 2010 and w/c 4 April 2011
WS: Weekly departing seats
* Services are defined as an airline operating a non-stop to another airport. If several airlines all operate to the same destination these are all counted separately.

High-speed rail stunts Wuhan growth

Across all Chinese airports weekly seat capacity is up 12.1% while the number of aircraft movements has risen by 14.4%. As a result, the average aircraft size has fallen from 155 seats to 152. The only airport to show a reduction in available seat capacity is Wuhan, which is currently at the centre of China’s rapidly expanding high-speed rail network. Weekly seat capacity to Shanghai Pudong (the airport’s second busiest route) is down 30% this summer. However, some of this capacity has been re-directed to Shanghai’s Hongqiao airport. Capacity to Hangzhou (which is not too far from Shanghai) is down 22%, and the number of daily flights to Enshi, less than 500 kilometres from Wuhan, has fallen from six to two.

China Southern leads international expansion this summer

Noteworthy new international routes to and from China starting this summer include:

  • Air China: Beijing to Milan Malpensa, three weekly flights from 15 June.
  • Alitalia: Rome Fiumicino to Beijing, four weekly flights from 1 June.
  • American Airlines: Los Angeles to Shanghai Pudong, daily.
  • ANA: Tokyo Narita to Chengdu, daily from 19 June.
  • China Eastern: Shanghai Pudong to Rome Fiumicino, four times weekly.
  • China Southern Airlines: Guangzhou to Amsterdam, three flights per week from June.
  • China Southern Airlines: Guangzhou to Auckland, three times weekly.
  • China Southern Airlines: Guangzhou to Vancouver, three weekly flights from 15 June.
  • Ethiopian Airlines: Addis Ababa to Hangzhou, five flights per week.
  • Hainan Airlines: Hangzhou to Phuket, twice weekly.
  • Hainan Airlines: Beijing to Zurich, three flights per week from end of May.
  • Spring Airlines: Shanghai Pudong to Macau, daily.
  • Transaero: St Petersburg to Beijing, weekly.
  • United Airlines: Los Angeles to Shanghai Pudong, daily from 20 May.

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