TTG Asia's Sim Kok Chwee navigates readers through the evolving fleet of major Chinese airline groups
THE AVIATION landscape in China is dominated by four main airline groupings, namely Air China, China Southern Airlines, China Eastern Airlines and Hainan Airlines, which have their bases in Beijing, Guangzhou, Shanghai and Haikou respectively.
However, today their subsidiary companies are sprinkled all over China and have begun operating services from each other’s bases.
A few private airlines have also managed to gain a foothold, such as Sichuan Airlines, which has major stakes in Chengdu Airlines and Hebei Airlines; the budget Spring Airlines; Okay Airways; and Juneyao Airlines.
China’s carriers have also become highly sought after by the world’s airline alliances. Air China is a Star Alliance member while Skyteam has snared China Southern Airlines, China Eastern Airlines, Shanghai Airlines and Xiamen Airlines. Oneworld alliance is the odd one out without a member airline from China, although the alliance has a hold in Hong Kong.
Not long ago, China was the engine of growth for aviation, travel and tourism in Asia-Pacific and the world. As foreign airlines made a beeline for Chinese coastal cities and second-tier destinations like Chengdu, Wuhan, Chongqing and Shenyang, Chinese carriers reported sterling financial results.
But by 2011 when the US and European economies softened, Asian economies began to weaken and airlines’ earnings became a barometer of this trend. Asian airlines such as Cathay Pacific Airways, Singapore Airlines and China’s main airlines faced massive decline in earnings.
Despite a hungry domestic market, China’s industrial production is slowing in 2012, and its economy seems to be headed for a not-so-soft landing.
However, CEO of IATA, Tony Tyler, remains confident of China’s role. He said: “With over a quarter of the world’s travellers expected to be Chinese by 2015, and as China’s airline industry evolves, it could be a driving force in global aviation.”
Yet he warned of issues related to airspace control and congestion in the ‘airport golden triangle’, an area bounded by Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou.
Although the weakening economy is a concern, China’s inbound and outbound tourism remain strong. China has also reported a GDP growth of around seven per cent year-on-year, higher than most major trading nations. When China returns to its high-growth trajectory, one can expect to be dazzled by its sheer numbers again.
The following tables represent a snapshot of where China’s big four are headed.
*Aircraft on order
This article was first published in TTG Asia, June 15 issue, on page 14. To read more, please view our digital edition or click here to subscribe.