China Eastern Airlines
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- 2550 Hongqiao Road, Hongqiao International Airport
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- Shanghai Pudong Airport
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Shanghai-based China Eastern Airlines is one of China's 'big three' state-owned airlines, with hubs at Shanghai's Pudong and Hongqiao airports, as well as Kunming Airport in southwest China. The airline operates a fleet of Airbus, Boeing, Embraer and Bombardier aircraft to support an extensive network, serving over 350 domestic routes and 40 international destinations, including cities in Australia, Europe, Korea, Japan, North America and Southeast Asia. China Eastern merged with Shanghai Airlines in 2010 and joined China Southern in the SkyTeam Alliance in Jun-2011.
Location of China Eastern Airlines main hub (Shanghai Pudong Airport)
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Northeast Asia's combination passenger-freight airlines are re-fleeting their main deck cargo operations. EVA Air is the latest, announcing at the Paris Air Show its intent to acquire five 777Fs. The 777F has also been used to re-fleet the cargo units affiliated mainland China's big three airlines: Air China, China Eastern and China Southern. The largest in-service 777F fleet in the world is with China Southern, with 10. Korean Air has taken 777Fs in addition to 747-8Fs, which only Cathay in Asia has been the other combination airline to use. There are no known re-fleeting plans from Asiana and China Airlines.
The airlines that have re-fleeted have been optimistic about acquisition costs being offset by operating efficiencies.
Southeast Asia has a different outlook. Thai Airways has exited the main deck freight business and Malaysia Airlines may do the same, although both were small players. Singapore Airlines Cargo is the largest in Southeast Asia but with only eight in-service 747Fs and no plans to re-fleet. As with the passenger business, Southeast Asian carriers are disadvantaged in serving North America, the main freight route for Northeast Asian carriers. To Europe there is large competition, including from Gulf carriers.
Vancouver International Airport charted impressive growth in 2014, leveraging and solidifying its position as Canada’s second largest airport. Vancouver is buoyed by its leading position as the country’s gateway to Asia; but in 2015 it has also secured new service from Air France and Aeromexico.
As it celebrates solid passenger numbers, Vancouver also faces growing competitive pressure from nearby Seattle now that Delta is quickly building the airport into its main gateway to Asia. But a recent expansion of Canada’s transit without visa programme should help Vancouver face the increased competition by giving the airport the potential to eventually connect travellers from Asia to Central and South America.
Overall Vancouver seems well positioned to meet its growth targets, which include handling 25 million passengers annually by 2020, a nearly 29% jump over a record number of customers travelling through the airport in 2014.
China started 2015 with five of its airlines flying long haul. By the end of the year, the number will be seven – the same number of airlines across all of North America that fly long haul. Following Xiamen Airlines' 787 services to Amsterdam and Sydney, HNA's Beijing Capital Airlines plans to open services to Europe in Sep-2015. Limited Copenhagen service is planned to be served from Hangzhou and Beijing while Helsinki will be served from Beijing only. Capital Airlines' 54 Airbus narrowbody aircraft will reportedly be joined by three A330s by the end of the year. More international flying – and domestic services – can be expected to make efficient use of the new widebody fleet.
Capital Airlines has a mixture of scheduled and charter services. Under HNA's complex ownership structure, Capital Airlines is part of HNA Tourism, which could generate group benefits from Capital Airlines' expected quasi-charter flights. Most other HNA-affiliated carriers – from Hainan Airlines to West Air to Aigle Azur – are under HNA Aviation. While flagship group carrier Hainan Airlines focuses on North American flying with 787s, Capital Airlines could be used to explore other markets and ultimately be a test case for long-haul service from other mainland HNA carriers, of which there are many.
China's expansive HNA Group, including flagship carrier Hainan Airlines, is continuing its international acquisition strategy with a USD13 million investment for a 6.2% stake in South Africa's Comair, which operates a full-service brand under a British Airways franchise and a low-cost carrier, Kulula. Uniquely to recent airline acquisitions, Comair is well-run and profitable. The purchase has been made for less than half the cost of a narrowbody jet, making it perhaps relatively inexpensive.
The synergies between the parties are unclear. Comair does not fly outside of southern Africa while HNA no longer flies to Africa – and if it did, it probably would not need an investment stake to work with Comair, which is generally open to partnerships. HNA is an investor in Ghana's Africa World Airlines, but there are no network links (yet) between that airline and Comair.
The investment comes after HNA and Air China are understood to have looked at investing in South African Airways, although this was too politically difficult. Africa is a new theme for Chinese aviation, with growing air routes, airport infrastructure projects and placement of Chinese aircraft to African airlines and governments.
Locally in Hong Kong, Cathay Pacific has been in a rotating series of staff disputes with threats of work stoppages. But elsewhere in Asia competitor airlines have cast a worrying glow over Cathay and its long-haul growth. Cathay in Apr-2015 received its 50th 777-300ER; this in contrast to its previous long-haul workhorse, the 747-400, which numbered only 24 at its peak fleet size.
Cathay is the only Asian airline to have a significant presence in all three of Asia’s core long-haul markets: Australia, Europe and North America. Europe and North America will receive further growth as A350s arrive, while Australia expansion hinges on gaining added traffic rights. Cathay’s geography in the middle of Asia gives it cross-regional reach lacking at competitors, which are often smaller than Cathay.
A likely outcome of these dynamics is the evolution of deep partnerships between Northeast and Southeast Asian airlines. As they further consider endgame scenarios, consolidation becomes a possible future direction. Mergers will not be as integrated as in Europe, let alone North America, but the pressure for some forms of closer relationships is growing. One possible example could be a pairing of All Nippon Airways and Singapore Airlines.
As questions reverberate about China's economy and slowing growth, what are the impacts to Chinese aviation, home to the world's second-largest domestic market?
The good news is 1Q2015 traffic from China's airlines is comfortably robust, increasing 13% and surpassing 100 million passengers for the first time. Domestic growth remained at 11%, with Chinese airlines carrying an additional 9 million domestic passengers in 1Q2015 compared to 1Q2014 – equivalent to an additional 656 737 flights a day.
International growth has picked up giant steam, surging 57% in 1Q2015 – equivalent to an additional 64 A380 flights a day. But overall international traffic remains small for Chinese airlines, accounting for only about 7% of total carriage – the same as in 2008 but higher than more recent years. Regional growth has slowed to 5% as Hong Kong and Macau are not as attractive as they used to be.
More worryingly for Taiwan, that market is starting to show a contraction in Chinese visitors, perhaps as they head to seemingly more exotic regional Asian points like Japan, Korea and Thailand. Those three countries will attract the highest growth from Chinese airlines in summer 2015.