Chinese airlines growing twice as fast on domestic routes in 2017 than international services; 28 airports seeing 10+ million annual passengers

Chinese airlines

Tibet Airlines launched flights between Chengdu in China and Kathmandu in Nepal on 8 August. For the first five months of 2017, Chinese airlines have reported an average monthly increase in traffic of 7.1%. However it is the domestic sector which is booming for home grown carriers, with passengers on average growing by 14% a month during the same period when compared to the first five months of 2016.

Passenger traffic statistics from the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) indicate that for the first five months of this year, Chinese airlines in the domestic market are reporting a 14% average monthly increase in traffic when compared to the same period of 2016. In contrast, the international sector for home grown carriers is showing an average increase of 7.1%, half that being seen on domestic routes. The numbers clearly indicate that the domestic sector is picking-up pace in relation to passenger movements, as during the first five months of 2016 traffic on intra-Chinese routes achieved an average monthly rate of growth of 9.1% versus the same period in 2015, showing a five percentage point spike in growth this year. While the domestic sector is thriving, the same cannot be said for the international market. While it has reported respectable growth for January to May, its 7.1% achievement is dwarfed by the 27% average monthly rise it registered during the same period of 2016. The slowdown in international growth for Chinese airlines can clearly been seen in the graph below. 


Source: CAAC.

Overall when we combine both international and domestic markets together, Chinese airlines are reporting an average monthly increase in traffic for the first five months of 2017 of over 13%, this is up from the 10% it recorded in the same period last year. So with combined operations Chinese airlines are growing at a faster rate this year in relation to total passengers carried. 

Zhengzhou is China’s fastest growing airport in the top 15 

Zhengzhou, China’s 15th largest airport, was the fastest growing among the nation’s top 15 airports, with it seeing its traffic increase by 20% to 20.76 million passengers in 2016. Among the top 15 airports, seven reported double-digit growth in traffic last year, with Nanjing (up 17%) and Changsha (14%) following Zhengzhou to complete the top three airports for growth among the nation’s leading hubs. 

Chinese airports

Source: CAAC.

With Zhengzhou’s impressive growth, it has knocked Urumqi out of the top 15, with the latter airport falling two places to 17th. Despite its fall, Urumqi still produced a 9.2% rise in passengers during 2016 to see it grow to 20.20 million passengers, the first time it has passed the 20 million barrier. The remaining order of China’s top airports is unchanged when compared to the results recorded at the end of 2015. 

In 2016 a total of 28 airports handled over 10 million passengers. This is up from 26 at the end of 2015 and up from the 24 recorded in 2014 and 2013. The two new airports that are now handling over 10 million passengers this year are Jinan (11.62 million passengers in 2016; up 22% when compared to 2015) and Lanzhou (10.90 million; 36%). With Taiyuan seeing 9.85 million passengers in 2016, and traffic up 11% when compared to 2015, it is likely the next airport to join the 10-million club in China.  

Sichuan Airlines Jinan

Sichuan Airlines at the end of last year launched flights between Jinan and Los Angeles. The Chinese airport was one of two new airports to join the 10 million club last year, with it handling 11.62 million passengers, up 22% when compared to the 9.52 million it processed in 2015. China now has 28 airports handling over 10 million annual passengers.


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