United fly­ing high on smooth take­off

United Air­lines has its sights set on the dy­namism of the HK and Chi­nese main­land mar­kets, says the car­rier’s Greater China and Korea chief. Emma Dai re­ports.

China Daily (Canada) - - HONG KONG -

and Chengdu, the cap­i­tal city of Sichuan prov­ince and the gate­way to South­west China. The flight is the first-ever non­stop com­mer­cial op­er­a­tion to the US from a sec­ond-tier main­land city.

United de­cided to give the route a go be­cause de­mand has been grow­ing with the na­tional “Go West” strat­egy, which aims to boost the de­vel­op­ment of the in­te­rior re­gions of China through in­vest­ment in in­fra­struc­ture and man­u­fac­tur­ing, among other sec­tors. “It has be­come clear since the 12th Five-Year Plan (2011-15) and is prob­a­bly go­ing to be con­firmed again in the 13th (Five-Year) Plan (2016-20) to be an­nounced next year,” Dias said.

“Multi­na­tional cor­po­ra­tions, mostly from the US, are in­vest­ing in Chengdu,” he said. “Many of our cor­po­rate clients — such as Ap­ple, Texas In­stru­ments and Dell — have fac­to­ries there. They are ask­ing us about it. Look­ing at the lo­cal de­mo­graphic and econ­omy, we be­lieve Chengdu would sup­port the ser­vice.”

Fu­el­ing fur­ther hopes is the Boe­ing 787 Dream­liner, a wide-body air­craft that Dias de­scribed as “a game changer for avi­a­tion”. Able to fly non­stop as far as the Boe­ing 777, cur­rently a main­stream model for long-haul routes, the Dream­liner is said to burn 30 per­cent less fuel and release 20 per­cent less car­bon than its same-sized peer, the Boe­ing 767. It is also smaller with 200 to 260 seats, and thus “per­fect for thin­ner mar­kets like Chengdu”, com­pared with big­ger mod­els.

“We prob­a­bly have the best or­der book for the 787 Dream­liner in the US,” Dias said. “Cur­rently our fleet has 22 Dream­lin­ers, the largest in North Amer­ica, whereas we will have 65 in to­tal when all the or­ders are de­liv­ered.”

Dias is very happy to see con­tin­ued growth of rev­enue from Chengdu dur­ing the past year and a half. “In the peak sea­son, load fac­tor of the route has sur­passed our Asia av­er­age, which ranges from 80 to 90 per­cent. Next sum­mer, we plan to in­crease ser­vice fre­quency to daily. As mar­ket con­tin­ues to grow, we hope to get daily ser­vice all year round in Chengdu.”

The suc­cess of the “Chengdu ex­per­i­ment” has en­cour­aged the car­rier to look into more emerg­ing des­ti­na­tions in China. United an­nounced in Oc­to­ber its plan for non­stop flights be­tween San Francisco and Xi’an — the cap­i­tal city of Shaanxi prov­ince and home of the famed Ter­ra­cotta War­riors.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from China

© PressReader. All rights reserved.