- CAPA Analysis
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- IATA Code
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- Xiamen Airlines
22 Dailiao Road
China (People's Republic of)
- Main hub
- Xiamen Airport
- Business model
- Full Service Carrier
- Domestic | International
- Joined Alliance
- Association Membership
- Codeshare Partners
- China Eastern Airlines
China Southern Airlines
KLM Royal Dutch Airlines
Based at Xiamen Gaoqi International Airport with secondary hubs at Fuzhou and Wuyishan airports, Xiamen Airlines is a privately owned company with major shareholders including China Southern Airlines and Xiamen Construction and Development Group. The carrier operates a network of domestic and regional services throughout China and Asia and plans to join the SkyTeam Alliance in late 2012.
Location of Xiamen Airlines main hub (Xiamen Airport)
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Asian airline costs and efficiencies vary widely. Compared to Europe, the region is home to efficient LCCs like AirAsia, which on a stage length-adjusted basis is more efficient than Vueling or easyjet – but perhaps not Ryanair. Thai Airways is the most efficient of the major full-service Asian airlines, but it is not much more efficient than Finnair, one of Europe's leanest carriers. But Thai is certainly more efficient than many of Europe's full-service airlines, which have similar costs and stage lengths, unlike Asia's full-service carriers that occupy a wide spectrum. At the top end is Japan's All Nippon Airways, which rivals SAS' costs – Europe's most expensive major airline.
These are some of the findings from CAPA's examination of Asian airline costs. Geography and local labour costs only partially dictate total airline costs: three Japanese airlines are the most expensive in this sample. Yet Japan's independent LCC, Skymark is cheaper than any Chinese carrier while one of Asia's most efficient full-service airlines – Singapore Airlines – is from a country with a cost of living closer to the West than other parts of Asia. Many of Asia's full-service airlines need to shape up – and LCCs need to maintain cost discipline for when the cost gap is inevitably narrowed.
Privately-owned carrier Xiamen Airlines has regained its position as China's fourth largest airline after a drop in capacity in 2H2012 and early 2013 when measured on available domestic and seat capacity and frequency. This places Xiamen as the world's 27th largest airline by seat capacity – larger than perhaps better-known carriers including KLM, Korean Air and Cathay Pacific. While those carriers eclipse Xiamen when weighing available seat kilometres, Xiamen as the 51st largest on ASKs is still larger than Air New Zealand, Finnair or Vueling.
This strong domestic carrier – 94% of seat capacity is within mainland China – will accelerate growth of its small international footprint by adding services around Southeast Asia following its ascension to SkyTeam in late 2012. But the domestic Chinese market remains its focus, and Xiamen will use many of the 15 737-800s it is receiving this year to grow its presence around its namesake home of Xiamen. Despite the name connection, Xiamen Airlines has more capacity outside of Xiamen than it does to or from the city. In 2013 Xiamen Airlines aims to break the 20 million threshold for annual passengers carrier, and also carry over 200,000 tons of cargo and mail.
The North American market continues to outperform for Chinese airlines, a result of high demand and more limited competition than on European routes. In addition to Air China's forthcoming Beijing-Houston service, the carrier will add another four weekly services to New York JFK. A decade ago Air China had only a three times weekly Beijing-New York service, reflecting the rise of China as both a country and aviation market.
Air China's 2013 capacity to North America will be 183% greater than in 2003 and is quickly closing in on United Airlines' position as the largest carrier between North America and China.
In China it is not just the flagship and government-preferred Air China looking to expand. Hainan Airlines last year announced a Beijing-Chicago service to start in Mar-2013 with Boeing 787s. Following delayed Chinese certification of the 787 – which was stalling well before the aircraft's Jan-2013 grounding – Hainan has pushed the launch back to Sep-2013 and plans, for now, to operate the service with A330-200s.
The route marks the first high-profile long-haul route for Hainan Airlines, which has faced route restrictions as the government seeks to protect incumbents.
There is no doubt that Chinese carriers will be a force to be reckoned with. They are working with the world’s largest population and when travel propensity increases this will quickly make China the biggest market; they have the potential to maintain a low cost base; and they have favourable geography – through hubs in each corner of the country they will be able to route traffic efficiently, their sixth-freedom operations posing a threat to existing hubs in Asia and the Middle East. Realising all of this remains a question of when, how and with whom.
Long-haul aircraft deliveries are scheduled to pick up around the middle of the decade and ensure expansion (the short-term deliveries are mostly single-aisle equipment). The key will be to ensure profitable expansion. Service delivery and international marketing still lags noticeably. Functional non-Chinese-language websites can be a novelty.
The following is an extract from the special China edition of Airline Leader, CAPA’s management journal for CEOs. Click on the side panel on this page to obtain full access to the soft copy.
A proposed regional alliance amongst SkyTeam's Greater China members – Taiwan's China Airlines, China Eastern, China Southern and Xiamen Airlines – may appear to be a niche strategic move in the small but highly profitable and expanding Taiwan-mainland China market.
Yet the alliance is also indicative of the growing trend for North Asian airlines to combine their strengths against imposing competitors, namely Air China and Cathay Pacific.
The alliance would account for about half of the capacity between China and Taiwan, a valuable market which is continuously expanding under tight control and route delegation. Its share on certain key business routes, like Taipei-Shanghai, would be even higher. Further airline strength and capacity will pressure Hong Kong-based carriers, which once had a healthy business of carrying passengers between China and Taiwan via their hub.
The good news for foreign airlines is that Chinese carriers, independently and with guidance from regulator CAAC, will want to expand partnerships and seek closer ties in existing arrangements.
The downside is the typical difficulty in aligning with the Chinese airline nuances: their inexperience with open markets; ambiguity about larger political events that could influence alliances; deeper mistrust if a partner’s partner is a competitor, no matter to what degree; and service on the ground and in the air that is improving, but still lags significantly.
This extract is Part 2 of a detailed review of China's aviation outlook contained in the October-November issue of Airline Leader, CAPA's journal for aviation CEOs. To receive your personalised e-copy of Airline Leader, sign up by clicking the panel on this page.
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