Qingdao Airlines launched (26-Apr-2014) inaugural operations on 26-Apr-2014, transporting 150 passengers on daily Qingdao-Chengdu service operate with A320 aircraft, according to the carrier’s Webo page – see Route Changes Table for more information. The carrier will expand its fleet to five aircraft within the year and further expand to 50 aircraft by 2020 and 100 aircraft by 2025. Qingdao Airlines president Song Zuowen said the carrier will build itself into a “boutique airline” in terms of planning, branding, personnel training, management standards and product design. He said: “Boutique airlines does not mean we offer services to premium passengers only, but it means a higher quality we are pursuing.” The carrier will launch services to Chengdu, Shenzhen, Changsha, Shenyang initially and eventually apply for rights to operate to Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou, as well as establishing overnight bases at Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen, Chengdu and Xiamen.
Qingdao Airlines launches inaugural operations, establishing itself as a 'boutique airline'
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One year ago in Nov-2013 China announced the start of a new framework to cultivate new airlines and specifically LCCs. The objectives were to re-stimulate market growth by introducing new types of airlines into the heavy state-owned, and until-now inefficient, airline secotor. A further objective was to bring the humming aviation scene on China's east to western areas that are centres of economic policy drives.
As part of this, a de facto moratorium on new airlines was formally lifted. This has led to a rush of start-up activity. The number of new passenger airlines that have recently launched, plan to or are in formation has reached 19, according to CAPA's compilation based on public statements. But only two airlines – 9 Air/Jiu Yuan and an unnamed carrier in Zhengzhou – are so far planning to operate as LCCs. This reflects hesitation to innovate but also a policy framework that is not yet entirely conducive to LCCs.
There is a better turnout of airlines forming in China's west as well as previously ignored northeast corridor. But there is still a heavy eastern bent to the start-ups, with some planning to launch passenger service in first tier cities like Guangzhou, Hangzhou, Shanghai and Shenzhen.
China's airline traffic at Xi'an, Urumqi, Chengdu and Chongqing to be boosted by "Silk Road Plan"
China's "Go West" economic drive continues to deliver results as United Airlines becomes the latest international carrier to open service to China's west via a 787-8 service from San Francisco. Much growth is still to be unlocked from the growing economic prosperity of Chengdu and neighbouring Chongqing, but now Beijing is considering a new economic development plan that will boost the economy, and ultimately air services, of other regions.
The so-called "Silk Road" plan focuses on areas outside of China's eastern coast that has seen strong economic growth. Many of the regions under the "Silk Road" plan were former posts on the historic Silk Road. This includes Xi'an, the eastern terminus of the Silk Road, which is already experiencing international and long-haul growth. Xi'an's only scheduled (albeit seasonal) long-haul route is from Finnair, which launched service from Helsinki in summer 2013. China Eastern plans to launch Xi'an-Moscow service while Hainan Airlines will launch a Xi'an-Paris service.
Chengdu and Chongqing are also expected to fall under the "Silk Road" plan, ensuring growth continues there. Urumqi, already a hub for West Asia, will also likely feature in the plan and continue to grow. New regions including Gansu (home to Lanzhou) and Tibet (Lhasa and Xining) will also likely benefit, boosting their international services.