US-China market quadruples since 2006; Chinese carriers account for 60% of the 300+ weekly flights; 16 new routes in last two years

San Jose has welcomed two Chinese services in the last two years. On 1 September 2016, the Californian airport welcomed non-stop flights to Shanghai with Air China, while back in June 2015 Hainan Airlines began services from Beijing. In the last two years the number of services linking US and Chinese airports has grown by almost 50% from 33 to 49.

Non-stop air services between the world’s two busiest aviation markets, the US and China, have grown rapidly in recent years. Between 2006 and 2016 the number of seats on services between the two countries has grown almost fourfold from 1.2 million to almost 4.5 million. In eight of the last 10 years, capacity has increased by more than 10%, with growth surpassing 20% in 2014 and 2015. As a result, capacity has grown by an impressive 80% in just the last three years. In addition, the number of services offered by airlines has grown from 11 in August 2006 to 46 in August 2016 and 49 in October 2016.

Chart: US-China 2006-2016 Annual seats (millions) and year-on-year growth

Source: OAG Schedules Analyser.

The 49 services involve nine airlines (four US and five Chinese) operating across 13 US airports and 11 Chinese airports. The newest airline to connect the two global superpowers is Xiamen Airlines which began operating non-stop between Shenzhen and Seattle-Tacoma on 26 September.

United Airlines and Air China vie for #1 ranking

The leading airline in terms of weekly flights between the US and China is currently United Airlines with 65 weekly flights, just beating its Star Alliance partner Air China with 63. With a total of 128 weekly departures the Star Alliance carriers just beat the combined total of 115 from the SkyTeam carriers (China Eastern Airlines, China Southern Airlines, Delta Air Lines and Xiamen Airlines). The only oneworld carrier in the market is American Airlines which operates just 30 flights per week. United Airlines also leads the way with the most routes, 11. Of the 311 weekly connections between the two countries 188 (60%) are operated by the five Chinese airlines

Chart: US-China leading airlines Weekly one-way flights in October 2016 (Number of non-stop routes flown)

Source: OAG Schedules Analyser.

California connections

The leading US airports for Chinese connections are San Francisco and Los Angeles in California, while New York JFK and Chicago O’Hare are fighting for third place. A total of 13 US airports have direct service to China. Notably missing from the list are Atlanta, the world’s busiest airport, Denver, and any airports in Florida. Las Vegas is another airport not currently featured, but Hainan Airlines recently announced that it would start a thrice-weekly service from Beijing to the gaming capital of the world at the beginning of December.

Chart: Top US airports for Chinese routes Weekly departures to Chinese airports

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

Beijing and Shanghai dominate

Although 11 Chinese airports have non-stop service to a US airport, only three of the airports have more than three flights per week. Beijing and Shanghai Pudong account for 83% of all flights to the US from China, with Guangzhou getting a further 10%.

Chart: Top Chinese airports for US routes Weekly departures to US airports

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

16 new routes in the last two years

In the last two years the number of non-stop services offered has increased by almost 50% from 33 to 49. A summary of the 16 new routes launched in the last two years is provided in the following table. Exactly half of these new routes have been launched using the 787, a quarter using variants of the 777 and the remaining quarter using A330-series aircraft. Three-quarters of the routes have been launched by Chinese carriers, while just four routes have been launched by US airlines, two by United and one each by American Airlines and Delta.

Launch Airline US airport Chinese airport Aircraft (WF)*
16 December 2014 China Southern Airlines San Francisco (SFO) Wuhan (WUH) B788 (3)
7 May 2015 American Airlines Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW) Beijing (PEK) B772 (7)
15 June 2015 Hainan Airlines San Jose (SJC) B788 (5)
20 June 2015 Boston (BOS) Shanghai (PVG) B788 (3)
22 June 2015 Seattle-Tacoma (SEA) A330 (4)
China Southern Airlines San Francisco (SFO) Guangzhou (CAN) B787 (4)
30 June 2015 China Eastern Airlines Los Angeles (LAX) Nanjing (NKG) A332 (3)
9 July 2015 Delta Air Lines Shanghai (PVG) B77L (7)
26 October 2015 Air China New York Newark (EWR) Beijing (PEK) B773 (4)
21 January 2016 Hainan Airlines Los Angeles (LAX) Changsha (CSX) B788 (2)
18 March 2016 China Eastern Airlines Chicago (ORD) Shanghai (PVG) B773 (7)
8 May 2016 United Airlines San Francisco (SFO) Xi’an (XIY) B788 (3)
13 July 2016 Hangzhou (HGH) B789 (3)
1 September 2016 Air China San Jose (SJC) Shanghai (PVG) A330 (3)
26 September 2016 Xiamen Airlines Seattle-Tacoma (SEA) Shenzhen (SZX) B788 (3)
29 September 2016 China Eastern Airlines San Francisco (SFO) Qingdao (TAO) A332 (3)
Source:’s New Route Database.   *Aircraft type and weekly frequency when launched.
US-China market quadruples in size since 2006

On 26 September Xiamen Airlines became the ninth carrier (and fifth from China) to offer non-stop flights between China and the US when it began thrice-weekly non-stop flights between Shenzhen and Seattle-Tacoma.


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