Air China commercial committee vice chairman Shi Zengqi met with Singapore Airlines VP marketing Li Wenfen on 16-Aug-2012 in which Ms Li expressed a willingness to codeshare with Air China on certain routes. As reported by Carnoc.com, Ms Li also stated the carrier is very willing to share with Air China its experience in the establishment of LCCs. Both carriers expressed the outlook for the aviation industry over the next few years will be bleak and airlines should strengthen exchanges and cooperation.
Air China and Singapore Airlines discuss possible codeshare, SIA willing to share LCC experience
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China: ‘We urgently need to develop LCCs’ – is this the moment for Asia’s ‘last’ LCC market?
When CAAC vice-administrator Xia Xinghua proclaimed “We urgently need to develop LCCs” at a public forum in Beijing on 5-Nov-2013, it became clear that fundamental changes are on the way for low-cost carriers and the overall aviation market in China.
Within the overriding goal of ensuring stability for the Big Three Chinese flag carriers, it will not be a simple process. One thing is very clear however: the CAAC is serious about introducing significant change in the sector. This includes approving new carriers, reforming airport charges, introducing LCC terminals, changing aircraft acquisition processes and taxes, not requiring approval for new routes, and the ever-topical matter of airspace reform (albeit largely outside its control).
The forthright move is part of a wider commercial agenda of China's new leadership, which meets again on 9-Nov-2013, seeking to find the right formulas to allow greater play of market forces, while maintaining appropriate regulatory backstops. Purists will see this as being half pregnant. For example, in Oct-2013 the CAAC abolished minimum pricing requirements in the domestic market, an important step for LCCs; but price caps remain as a consumer protection measure – despite total price freedom being integral to LCC structures.
But China has repeatedly shown the ingenuity to evolve tailored solutions that fit the very different environment in this enormously complex country. There will be a "China solution" and it will allow more LCC operations – but there will be differences….
Sichuan Airlines grows with Chongqing-Sydney service, but European and American expansion awaits
Sichuan Airlines, China's fifth carrier to offer international long-haul services, will increase its presence in Australia with a new twice-weekly Chongqing-Sydney service launching 20-Dec-2013 with A330s. The route complements Sichuan's existing Chengdu-Melbourne service and will more easily allow passengers to visit Australia's two largest cities. Short connecting flights between Chengdu and Chongqing will complete the loop. The service will further expand the massive influx of Chinese capacity Australia has seen in recent years, including China Southern's A380 deployment to Sydney in Oct-2013.
Yet to be realised are Sichuan's bold plans to grow in Europe and North America. While the carrier's largest shareholder is the Sichuan government, all three of China's main airlines – Air China, China Eastern and China Southern – own a stake in Sichuan Airlines, complicating its aspirations. Slower growth may be wise: the Chengdu-Melbourne service in its first five months averaged only a 45% load factor. While China's secondary and western cities have geographical advantages for European services, for Australia it will be some time before they mature. This is not helped by the fact that Sichuan does not have an English language website.