Avi­a­tion: More US flights added as de­mand con­tin­ues to soar


car­ri­ers no longer dom­i­nate the Sino-US mar­ket.

But then, air traf­fic across the Pa­cific is en­ter­ing a huge growth pe­riod af­ter a new visa pol­icy was brought in. Ex­pand­ing trade be­tween China and the US has also helped boost the in­dus­try.

At the end of last year, theUS gov­ern­ment started hand­ing out 10-year visas to Chi­nese na­tion­als. The visa ap­pli­ca­tion process has also been sim­pli­fied and this has stim­u­lated air­line growth.

Statis­tics from the US Em­bassy in China showed that 1.84 mil­lion non-im­mi­grant visas were is­sued in 2014, com- pared to 1.5 mil­lion in 2013. This year the num­ber is ex­pected to ex­ceed 2.5 mil­lion.

The Chi­nese gov­ern­ment has also en­cour­aged the coun­try’s air­lines to ex­pand in­ter­na­tional mar­kets.

“We re­ceived sup­port from the au­thor­i­ties over the years and that makes it eas­ier to open­in­ter­na­tional routes,” said a mar­ket­ing man­ager, who re­fused to be named, from a do­mes­tic car­rier, which runs sev­eral routes be­tween China and theUS.

Air China has the largest mar­ket share among Chi­nese car­ri­ers in the in­ter­na­tional sec­tor and is the coun­try’s big­gest player in the Sino-US mar­ket. It has six des­ti­na­tions in the US, but its ca­pac­ity is less than United Air­lines Inc, the ma­jorUS car­rier.

Even so, Air China branched out in the US last year, with new des­ti­na­tions to Hawaii and Hous­ton. The flag car­rier also in­creased flights be­tween Bei­jing and Los An­ge­les to 21 a week.

This year, the air­line will op­er­ate 2,576 flights to the US com­pared to 2,300 in 2014, the Cen­ter for Avi­a­tion said.

Ri­vals such as China South­ern Air­lines have also made in­roads into theUS sec­tor. China South­ern is the only lo­cal car­rier which op­er­ates the 506seater Air­bus 380 pas­sen­ger jet. The su­per jumbo has been used on the Guangzhou-Los An­ge­les route since 2012.

In 2014, China South­ern opened two routes to the US, in­clud­ing Guangzhou to New York and San Fran­cisco via Wuhan. The car­rier is plan­ning to open di­rect flights be­tween Guangzhou and San Fran­cisco. It is also plan­ning to in­crease flights to other US des­ti­na­tions.

China Eastern Air­lines, which runs four routes to the US, ex­pects to ex­pand af­ter adding 20 Boe­ing 777-300ER air­craft to its fleet last year.

“Most of the new air­craft will be used on the Pa­cific routes,” said Luo An­ping, me­dia man­ager from China Eastern Air­lines’ pub­lic re­la­tion­ships de­part­ment.

Hainan Air­lines, which is the small­est and youngest player among the main Chi­nese car­ri­ers, has three routes to the US. But it will open three more in June, in­clud­ing the Bei­jing to San Jose, Shang­hai to Bos­ton and Shang­hai to San Fran­cisco routes.

The air­line has a fleet of 10 Boe­ing 787-8 for the North Amer­ica mar­ket, but plans to ex­pand af­ter or­der­ing 30 Boe­ing 787-9 pas­sen­ger jets in March. The new air­craft will be used on North Amer­i­can routes.

“Hainan Air­lines’ long-term plan is to fly to eight des­ti­na­tions in North Amer­ica,” said Wang Ying­ming, ex­ec­u­tive vice-pres­i­dent of HNA Group, par­ent com­pany Air­lines.

The mar­ket share for Chi­nese air­lines in the Sino-US mar­ket will con­tinue to in­crease in the fu­ture.

“The in­ter­na­tional mar­ket, es­pe­cially theUS routes, is blue ocean­forChi­nese air­lines,” said Li Xiao­jin, pro­fes­sor of eco­nomic man­age­ment re­search at the Tian­jin-based Civil Avi­a­tionUniver­sity of China.

As China’s eco­nomic growth slows, do­mes­tic routes are likely to stag­nate, ac­cord­ing to Li. But there is growth po­ten­tial in the in­ter­na­tional sec­tor.

Last year, the num­ber of Chi­nese out­bound trav­el­ers was about 109 mil­lion. This year that fig­ure is ex­pected to


Hainan rise to 120 mil­lion, the China Na­tional Tourism Ad­min­is­tra­tion has fore­casted.

But US air­lines are fight­ing hard to re­tain their mar­ket share. Amer­i­can Air­lines Inc, the world’s largest car­rier by fleet size, started a daily route fromBei­jing to Dal­la­sonMay8.

It also plans to openupother des­ti­na­tions, ac­cord­ing to Er­wan Per­hirin, Asia-Pa­cific vice-pres­i­dent of the Amer­i­can Air­lines, as well as in­creas­ing flights be­tween Chengdu and San Fran­cisco from June 6. “The en­tire mar­ket is still grow­ing, sowe are as well.” Con­tact the writer at wang­wen@ chi­nadaily.com.cn

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