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Spring Airlines is a Chinese low-cost carrier which operates domestic service from its base at Shanghai Hongqiao International Airport. The airline has enjoyed great success in the Chinese market, due to its being the sole LCC operating in the market as well as its association with one of China's leading travel companies (owner of Spring International Travel Service Ltd).
Location of Spring Airlines main hub (Shanghai Hongqiao Airport)
LCCs will continue to evolve into hybrids of the original core model. CAPA and OAG consider Spring Airlines fits the LCC profile and it is included in our reporting on this basis. Please note: when reporting for an airline is changed from or to LCC the historical data is not affected and it can lead to a distortion in the current reported data. Contact us if you have any queries.
666 total articles
Spring Airlines: Japan market has major position in airline, expand Japan presence in next 1-2 years
57 total articles
As Jetstar Hong Kong prepares to launch, Hong Kong Airlines weighs transforming Hong Kong Express into an LCC, Spring Airlines moots a Hong Kong base and other LCCs evaluate Hong Kong as a hub, the market has been left wondering about Cathay Pacific's response. Cathay and its Dragonair subsidiary account for about half of Hong Kong's capacity.
Cathay effectively has no public response. While deep down it is watching the market and undoubtedly weighing possible reactions, from a business perspective it says LCCs will not impact its business while to the general public its push has been to offer a limited number of discounted web-only tickets, "Fanfares", as a reminder that it can offer fares on par with LCCs.
Any airline can cut fares, but few can do so profitably. Fanfares account for less than 1% of seats, relatively isolating Cathay from any pricing detriments, but reminding the carrier this is no response to LCCs either taking existing traffic or creating new demand Cathay will be unable to tap. Structural change is needed.
Shanghai Pudong expects its fourth runway to be completed at the end of 2013 but new slots are unlikely to be available until some point in 2014. It is not clear – not even to Chinese carriers – how many new slots will be available, but an early estimate of 242 additional movements (121 roundtrips) between 07.00 to 22.00 each day could be possible. A more deciding factor will be how much additional airspace is opened by China's military for the runway.
The majority of the new slots at Shanghai Pudong Airport – and even upwards of 75% – will likely be allocated to China's domestic carriers. China Eastern, based at Shanghai, will have to battle Air China, which is based at Beijing but looking to establish a hub at Shanghai. As the national flag carrier, Air China and its lobbying network may do well. Private carriers Juneyao and Spring Airlines will also look to expand their home bases.
A number of carriers, including LCCs, will seek to move midnight services to daylight hours while any number of foreign carriers will seek to expand their presence or enter Shanghai for the first time. Strategic allocation will help Pudong, but the decision will be heavy, almost entirely, political.
Hong Kong is no Singapore for low-cost carriers – in early 2013 LCCs account for 5% of all seats at Hong Kong, compared with 27% of seats in Singapore. But Hong Kong is on the verge of a possible rapid structural change that could see LCCs account for approximately 15% of seats in Hong Kong in 2015.
The spike in LCC presence is predicated on a number of factors, including the successful launch of Jetstar Hong Kong, the continued expansion of mainland China’s Spring Airlines and the mooted re-launch of Hong Kong Express into an LCC. The fast ascent of LCCs will level off around the middle or latter part of the decade when almost all slots at Hong Kong airport will likely become utilised, leading to the possibility of a period of almost no growth until the completion of a much-needed third runway, which will not open until around the turn of the decade. Singapore in contrast has enjoyed many years of rampant LCC growth.
As the Hong Kong slot shortage comes closer into view, airlines are participating in an effective slot grab, growing routes or maintaining unprofitable capacity in order to secure slots and hope the services will later be sustainable.
Spring Airlines is China’s only notable (international) low-cost carrier and a successful one at that, having recently taken delivery of its 35th aircraft. One of China’s few private carriers, it is still a third the size of the AirAsia or Jetstar Groups, but that is largely a result of Beijing’s tight control of fleet growth. No doubt without this restriction Spring would grow even faster.
In 2013, when Spring will carry more than 10 million passengers for the first time, the carrier will look to expand its presence in Hangzhou, 90 minutes west of Shanghai and boasting incomes higher than those in China’s financial capital. Spring’s expansion announcement was quickly followed by competitors Air China and low-cost Juneyao. While the domestic market remains the staple for Chinese carriers including Spring, Spring has expanded regional routes to Hong Kong, international services and is looking to establish a subsidiary in Japan to accelerate growth.
Hong Kong Airlines continues expansion; Jetstar HK appoints CEO & Dragonair to grow closer to Cathay
The previous one-size-fits-all regional market from Hong Kong continues to go through rapid segmentation as competition diversifies. Fast-growing Hong Kong Airlines will significantly expand its frequency over early 2013, especially into mainland China, allowing it to match or surpass full-service peer Dragonair on overlapping cities.
The additional frequency will also elevate its expansion ahead of LCC Spring Airlines, although this is in terms of schedule and not price, where Spring retains the edge.
Further competition at the low end of the market is set to come from Jetstar Hong Kong, which has appointed its first CFO and CEO and formally received Beijing’s blessing, indicating the rejection from Hong Kong authorities that Cathay Pacific hoped for is increasingly unlikely.
Cathay meanwhile is seeking to present a unified premium experience between itself and subsidiary Dragonair, which may grow even closer to Cathay with a re-branding exercise; a proposed “Cathay Dragon” name could be a possibility to have a stronger positioning in a changing market.
Dragonair has taken a backseat in the public limelight since Cathay Pacific acquired the carrier in 2006, despite Dragonair accounting for about a quarter of the group's passengers and its network into mainland China – the largest of any foreign carrier – being a key asset driver.
Dragonair had been allowed to be the less sophisticated brand in a bid to preserve the status of Cathay, but Dragonair will now grow the closest it has ever been to Cathay as it embarks on what will likely be another record year of passenger growth and destinations served.
A new aircraft interiors programme, its first in a decade, will see Dragonair adopt Cathay's interior and service elements while a new staff uniform will be more similar to Cathay's than previous iterations. Driving the change and multi-million dollar investment is a series of messages that Dragonair needs to piggyback off Cathay's high-end premium reputation.
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