New airline routes launched (29 January – 4 February 2019)

Thai AirAsia’s Chiang Rai base opening

Thai AirAsia, Chiang Rai

There were launch celebrations at Chaing Rai on 30 January as Thai AirAsia based its first aircraft at the airport and launched four new routes. Pictured here at the new base opening were: Marnop Wongpraewit, Chiang Rai Station Manager, Thai AirAsia (fourth from left); Witchunee Kuntapeng, Director of Ground Operations, Thai AirAsia; Paskorn Boonyalug, Vice Governor, Chiang Rai; Titiporn Manenate, Executive Director of East Asia Region, Tourism Authority of Thailand and Karuna Dechatiwong, Director Chiang Rai Office, Tourism Authority of Thailand.

  • Thai AirAsia opened its seventh base at Chiang Rai (CEI) on 30 January. The LCC has based one A320 at the airport and subsequently opened four new routes. Witchunee Kuntapeng, Director of Ground Operations, Thai AirAsia, said: “Chiang Rai has great potential to be one of the top tourism destinations in Thailand, with its unique Lanna culture and hill tribe way of life recently gaining global attention. We believe it is a great time to promote Chiang Rai to travellers and are pleased to see that our four new routes between Chiang Rai and Phuket (HKT), Macau (MFM), Singapore (SIN) and Kuala Lumpur (KUL) have been well received. We’d like to thank the local community for their wonderful support.” The average sector length across the four new routes is 1,702 kilometres. Thai AirAsia now operates six routes from Chiang Rai in total. The LCC was already operating links to Chiang Rai from Bangkok Don Mueang and Hat Yai, before opening its base. 
Launched From To Aircraft (WF) Competition (WF)
30-Jan Chiang Rai (CEI) Macau (MFM) A320 (3)  
31-Jan Kuala Lumpur (KUL) A320 (4)  
Singapore (SIN) A320 (3)  
01-Feb Phuket (HKT) A320 (3) Thai VietJet Air (7)
Source: OAG Schedules Analyser w/c 5 February 2019. WF = Weekly frequencies.

Juneyao Airlines Shanghai Pudong to Singpaore

Juneyao Airlines, Singapore

Singapore celebrated the arrival of its latest carrier on 1 February, the day in which Juneyao Airlines introduced a direct link from Shanghai Pudong. Cutting the ceremonial cake to launch the new route were: Wang Han, Juneyao Group Director (fourth left); Wang Junhao, Juneyao Group President (fifth left); Lim Ching Kiat, MD for Air Hub Development, Changi Airport Group (centre) and other airport and airline partners. Flights will operate daily using 787-9s.

  • Juneyao Airlines added Singapore (SIN) to its route network on 1 February when it introduced a new daily connection from Shanghai Pudong (PVG). It will deploy its brand-new 787-9s on the 3,803-kilometre connection, with showing that it currently has three of the type in its fleet. The carrier faces direct competition from a number of incumbent carriers on its Singapore service. OAG Schedules Analyser data shows that China Eastern Airlines (28 flights), Singapore Airlines (28) and Spring Airlines (7), will offer 63 weekly departures combined on this airport sector during the week commencing 5 February. Singapore will see scheduled services from 30 Chinese airports during W18/19 according to schedule data. 

The rest of this week’s new routes (A – Z by airline)

Air China Yinchuan

Air China launched a direct service between Yinchuan and Hong Kong on 31 January. Initially the Star Alliance member will operate a twice-weekly (Tuesdays and Thursdays) service between the two airports, while from 23 February a third weekly (Saturdays) rotation will be offered. No other airline currently flies between the two cities.

  • Air China launched flights from Yinchuan (INC) in North China to Hong Kong (HKG) on 31 January. Initially the Star Alliance member will connect the two airports twice-weekly (Tuesdays and Thursdays), while OAG schedules indicate that from 23 February a third weekly (Saturdays) rotation will be added. No other airline currently operates non-stop services on the 1,949-kilometre sector, with Air China scheduled to operate the airport pair using its fleet of 737-800s. According to data, Air China presently operates 116 737-800s, as well as 14 737 MAX 8s and 17 737-700s. Based on MIDT data, over 7,000 passengers flew indirectly between the two airports between October 2017 and September 2018, with the top connection point for passengers being Xi’an, with 40% of the connecting traffic.

China Eastern Airlines Japan

China Eastern Airlines launched flights between Shanghai Pudong and Iwate-Hanamaki in Japan on 30 January, a route that the airline will operate twice-weekly. The Japanese airport had a ribbon cutting ceremony to officially open the route. Based on OAG Schedules Analyser data, this is China Eastern Airlines’ 16th route to Japan from Pudong.

  • China Eastern Airlines launched flights between Shanghai Pudong (PVG) and Iwate-Hanamaki (HNA) in Japan on 30 January. The SkyTeam member will operate the 1,975-kilometre route twice-weekly (Wednesdays and Saturdays) using its fleet of A320s. Based on OAG Schedules Analyser data, no other airline currently connects the two airports. This becomes China Eastern’s 16th route to Japan from Shanghai Pudong this winter, with it already connecting the airport to Fukuoka, Hiroshima, Kogoshima, Komatsu, Matsuyama, Nagasaki, Nagoya, Niigata, Okayama, Okinawa, Osaka Kansai, Sapporo Chitose, Shizuoka, plus Tokyo’s Haneda and Narita airports. Overall China Eastern operates 169 weekly departures from Shanghai Pudong to destinations in Japan. Shanghai becomes only the second international destination from Iwate-Hanamaki, with Tigerair Taiwan currently operating a twice-weekly service from Taipei Taoyuan. In 2017, Iwate-Hanamaki handled 432,507 passengers based on data from the Japanese Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism, with this marking a 2.5% increase in passenger numbers versus the airport’s result for 2016.

flydubai India

flydubai launched flights to Kozhikode in India on 1 February, with the airline holding a press conference after the inaugural flight had been performed. A gift giving exchange took place, with proceedings being carried out by Mohammed Shahid, Joint GM, Air Traffic Management, Kozhikode Airport, and Sudhir Sreedharan, SVP Commercial Operations, flydubai. The carrier will operate the 2,675-kilometre route three times weekly using its fleet of 737-800s.

  • flydubai launched flights between Dubai (DXB) and Kozhikode (CCJ) in India on 1 February. The airline becomes the first Dubai-based operator to fly the 2,675-kilometre sector, however it will face direct competition from Air India Express (13 times weekly), Air India (daily), IndiGo (daily) and SpiceJet (daily) on the route. flydubai, which codeshares with Emirates, will operate a three times weekly service between the two airports using its fleet of 737-800s. “As the first Dubai-based carrier to operate direct flights from Dubai to Kozhikode, we expect this route to be very popular for travellers from the UAE to the region. Similarly, passengers from Kozhikode now have easier access to popular destinations on the flydubai network as well as the Emirates network, providing easy access to more destinations when visiting family and friends,” commented Ghaith Al Ghaith, CEO, flydubai, on the new route. Regarding existing services from other Middle Eastern hubs , Qatar Airways operates a daily service to Kozhikode from Doha, while Etihad Airways flies from Abu Dhabi to the Indian city twice-daily. While both of the latter routes are flown by other airlines too, flydubai and Emirates will be looking to attract connecting passengers to Europe and beyond, with Qatar Airways and Etihad Airways being the leading competition providers in this sector. Based on OAG Traffic Analyser data, Qatar Airways’ top connection points for Kozhikode-originating passengers between October 2017 and September 2018 were Kuwait City, New York JFK, Dublin, Moscow Domodedovo, London Heathrow and Birmingham. For Etihad Airways, its top destinations for those travelling from Kozhikode within the same period were Jeddah, Riyadh, Bahrain, Kuwait City, Damman and London Heathrow. These destinations should also prove popular with those booking with flydubai and Emirates from Kozhikode. 

Japan Airlines Manila

Japan Airlines launched a daily connection between Tokyo Haneda and Manila on 1 February. Among those at the launch were Kazuko Yashiki, VP Haneda Airport, Japan Airlines (centre right, back row) and Eduardo Meñez, Deputy Chief of Mission, Philippine Embassy to Japan (second right, back row). The carrier will fly the route using 737-800s.

  • Japan Airlines launched flights between Tokyo Haneda (HND) and Manila (MNL) on 1 February, with the daily link complementing the carrier’s existing twice-daily connection between Tokyo Narita and Manila. The oneworld member will operate the 2,993-kilometre connection between Haneda and Manila daily using its fleet of 737-800s. Direct competition on the airport pair comes from Philippine Airlines and All Nippon Airways, with the former operating twice-daily using its A321s and A330-300s, while fellow Japanese carrier All Nippon Airways offers a daily rotation flown by its 787-9s. As stated, Japan Airlines already operates a twice-daily connection from Narita to Manila, with that sector also flown by Philippine Airlines and Cebu Pacific Air (both twice-daily), along with All Nippon Airways and Jetstar Japan (both daily). Delta Air Lines also provides a daily rotation between Narita and Manila as part of its Honolulu – Narita – Manila service, flown using 767-300s.

Jetstar Asia, Singapore

Singapore welcomed Jetstar Asia’s inaugural arrival from Xuzhou in China on 29 January. On hand to celebrate were: Bara Pasupathi, CEO Jetstar Asia; Xu Donghai, Vice Mayor of the Xuzhou Municipal Government; and Lim Ching Kiat, MD for Air Hub Development, Changi Airport Group. Flights will be operated three times weekly.

  • Jetstar Asia launched services from Singapore (SIN) to Xuzhou (XUZ) in China on 29 January. The 3,903-kilometre connection will be operated by the carrier’s A320s and there is no direct competition. This becomes Jetstar Asia’s fourth destination in mainland China. “As the only Singapore-based airline flying direct to Xuzhou, the service brings greater choice for local and international travellers,” said Bara Pasupathi, CEO, Jetstar Asia, of the launch. “We predict the service will be popular with both leisure travellers keen to explore China’s history as well as business travellers with Xuzhou, known as the most ancient city in China and the centre of the Huaihai economic development zone.” Lim Ching Kiat, MD for Air Hub Development at Changi Airport Group commented: “With the addition of Xuzhou – a new city link for Singapore, we are now connected to 34 cities in China with 16 carriers operating routes between the two countries. This new Xuzhou service was made possible by Changi Airport Group’s efforts in working closely with our industry partners, including charterers, and will bring greater convenience for leisure and business passengers travelling between Singapore and the Jiangsu Province in China.”

Qatar Airways Isfahan

Qatar Airways launched flights between Doha and Isfahan in Iran on 4 February, a route which the carrier will initially operate twice-weekly (Mondays and Fridays). To celebrate the new route, the Iranian airport baked a cake to greet its newest airline. Among those cutting the cake was Hassan Amjadi, Director General, Isfahan Airport (right).

  • Qatar Airways launched its first new route of 2019 on 4 February, the day on which it began a twice-weekly (Mondays and Fridays) service between Doha (DOH) and Isfahan (IFN) in Iran. The MEB3 operator will operate the 832-kilometre route using its fleet of A320s. “With its incredible, age-old architecture and bustling traditional bazaars, we are thrilled to announce Isfahan as Qatar Airways’ fourth gateway into Iran,” commented Akbar Al Baker, GCEO of Qatar Airways. “Isfahan is a city that is not only steeped in history, but one that has also emerged in recent years to combine its rich cultural heritage with modernity, making it one of Iran’s most fascinating, colourful and lively places for international visitors.” No direct competition will be provided on the airport pair, however flydubai, which operates a code-share agreement with Emirates, operates a three times weekly link to the fellow Middle Eastern hub of Dubai. Along with Isfahan, Qatar Airways also serves Mashhad, Shiraz and Tehran in Iran, with the airline in January having increased its weekly frequencies to the latter two destinations from Doha. Currently, the airline only has one more new route confirmed for launch in 2019, with it expected to begin a daily, A320-operated service to Malta on 4 June. 

Thai Lion Air’s inaugural service to Sri Lanka was greeted by a traditional water arch salute in Colombo on 30 January. The LCC will connect the Sri Lankan city to Bangkok Don Mueang on a daily basis and faces direct competition from Thai AiAsia whcih already serves the airport pair four times weekly.

  • Thai Lion Air introduced its first connection to Sri Lanka on 30 January by starting a new service between Bangkok Don Mueang (DMK) and Colombo (CMB). The LCC will operate the 2,382-kilometre airport pair daily using 737s, including a mix of 737-800s and 737 MAX 9s according to OAG. It will face direct competition from Thai AirAsia which operates four weekly flights on the route. Colombo is also served by SriLankan Airlines and Thai Airways from Bangkok Suvarnabhumi with schedule data showing that the two flag carriers combined offer 22 weekly flights on the airport pair during the week commencing 5 February.

Turkish Airlines Istanbul New Airport

Turkish Airlines launched flights between its new mega-hub at Istanbul New Airport and London Gatwick on 4 February. The carrier will initially offer four weekly flights using 737-800s, before all operations are switched from Istanbul Atatürk in March. Gatwick becomes the first airport in the UK to be connected to the new airport.

  • Turkish Airlines launched its newest route from Istanbul New Airport (ISL) on 4 February, with it beginning a four times weekly service to London Gatwick (LGW). The carrier will use its 737-800s on the 2,457-kilometre sector, with flights operating on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. Gatwick becomes the fourth airport in Western Europe to be flown to by Turkish Airlines from its new mega-hub, with it already offering services to Frankfurt, Munich and Paris CDG. The carrier expects to have all of its operations switched from Istanbul Atatürk to the new airport in March, with it currently offering 16 daily departures from the new facility during the week commencing 6 February. With this launch, the carrier is operating four routes from Gatwick this winter, with it serving both of the other Istanbul airports, plus its recently launched service to Ankara. The carrier also offers a summer seasonal service to the UK airport from Bodrum, while a new route from Antalya will begin on 4 April, a link that will operate twice-weekly.

Vietnam Airlines Can Tho

Vietnam Airlines launched operations on a domestic route between Da Nang and Can Tho on 31 January, with the airline choosing to celebrate the new service on the first departure back to Da Nang which took place the next day. data for the weekly flights shows that the route is operated on a Ho Chi Minh City-based aircraft.

  • Vietnam Airlines launched operations on a new domestic connection between Da Nang (DAD) and Can Tho (VCA) on 31 January, a route that the airline plans to operate daily. The carrier will serve the 715-kilometre sector using A321s that are Ho Chi Minh City-based units according to The aircraft will operate Ho Chi Minh City – Da Nang – Can Tho, night-stop at the latter airport, then perform Can Tho – Da Nang – Ho Chi Minh City the next morning, with the aircraft scheduled to spend 12 hours on the ground in Can Tho between 20:00 and 08:00. Competition on the airport pair comes from VietJet Air, with it offering 12 weekly flights (twice-daily except for Wednesday and Thursdays when there is only a daily rotation). Opened in 2011, Can Tho Airport is reported by numerous sources to have handled 830,000 passengers in 2018.


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