Taiwan’s airports benefit from growth in “cross-straits” traffic

January 11 – the latest cross straight routes are launched by Hainan Airlines with services to Taipei from Lanzhou (Gansu Province) and Sanya (Hainan Island). Monthly traffic has risen 10-fold since direct services were opened up in 2008 and will exceed 500,000 one-way seats for the first time in January.

Since our previous analysis of the Taiwanese air transport market, the most significant development has been the on-going opening up of direct air services between Taiwan and Mainland China, often referred to as “cross-strait” traffic. Back in late November 2008, this market was less than 50,000 one-way seats per month. This January, according to OAG data, this market will exceed 500,000 one-way seats for the first time.

Cross-straits capacity growth Monthly one-way scheduled seat capacity

Source: OAG Schedules iNet

Analysis of OAG data suggests that the cross-straits scheduled market has grown from zero in 2007 to around nine million annual seats in 2011.

15 carriers currently operating cross-straits flights

Of the 15 carriers currently offering scheduled services between Taiwan and Mainland China, six are based in Taiwan (shown in light green), and account for just under 55% of the total market.

Top 15 airlines on 'cross-straits' routes Monthly one-way seat capacity in January 2012

Source: OAG Schedules iNet

Of the top 20 airport-pairs, 18 involve Taipei Taoyuan Airport on the Taiwanese side of the route. The busiest route is from Taipei Taoyuan to Shanghai Pudong Airport, with almost 80,000 monthly one-way seats. This is more than twice as much capacity as is currently provided on the Beijing – Taipei and Shenzhen – Taipei routes.

Taipei Taoyuan passes 25 million in 2010; small decline in 2011

Thanks to the surge in “cross-strait” traffic, Taipei’s international airport Taoyuan handled a record 25 million passengers in 2010, as the country’s airports combined to handle just under 40 million passengers. Figures for 2011 indicate that Taipei Taoyuan’s traffic has fallen by under 1% to just under 25 million, while across the country around 41.4 million passengers will have passed through airports in 2011.

Taiwan airport traffic 1995-2011 Annual passengers (millions)

Source: OAG Schedules iNet

However, this is well below the record set back in 1997 of over 56 million airport passengers. Since then passenger numbers have fallen as a result of improved domestic rail services, which saw domestic demand drop from around 18 million passengers in 1997 to just one-third that number a decade later. The opening of high-speed rail links in 2007-08 has further eroded domestic traffic.

China Airlines and EVA Air expanding long-haul networks

Apart from routes to Mainland China and other new regional routes to Hong Kong and Japan, Taiwan’s two major airlines have also each started a couple of long-haul routes in recent years. At the start of the 2010 summer season, China Airlines launched non-stop flights to London Heathrow, but after two years of operation these twice-weekly flights appear to be ending this March. The carrier also introduced flights last November to Auckland in New Zealand, via Brisbane in Australia.

Meanwhile, local rival EVA Air launched non-stop flights to Toronto in March 2010, and four-times weekly flights to New York JFK last October, utilising a 777-300ER. The only two US carriers present at Taipei Taoyuan airport, Delta and United, operate one-stop flights to the US via Tokyo Narita.


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