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Air New Zealand to sell Virgin Australia stake to fund expansion: Chengdu could be next after Manila
Air New Zealand has been on a long haul growth streak, opening five destinations since 2015. Manila was most recently announced and Chengdu could be next, once again giving Air NZ two destinations in mainland China after exiting Beijing. Chengdu as a destination – or another city – would mean that Air New Zealand would serve more points in Asia than Qantas.
Globally, Air NZ is catching up to Qantas for destinations outside Australia/New Zealand/Pacific Islands. In 2006 Qantas served 21 points outside the region and in 2016 serves 18, although this is an increase from the situations in recent years. Where Qantas has cut, Air New Zealand has grown, increasing from 10 long haul destinations in 2006 to 16 (if Chengdu is included) in 2016. With Air New Zealand due to receive nine 787-9s through 2019, with only some of those due to replace existing aircraft, the airline could serve more points than Qantas. A sale of Air NZ's stake in Virgin Australia could pay the cost of three widebody aircraft and possibly accelerate Air NZ's growth even more. Qantas will remain bigger for number of flights and seats. Qantas offers upwards of five daily flights to Singapore whereas Air NZ offers just one.
United Airlines San Francisco-Hangzhou route emphasises new focus on secondary China gateway service
United Airlines plans to open three weekly 787-9 flights between San Francisco and Hangzhou from 13-Jul-2016, according to Chinese news site Carnoc. Hangzhou in eastern China will be the third example of United flying to a secondary Chinese city after Chengdu (opened in 2014) and Xi'an (due to open May-2016). No other North American airline serves a secondary Chinese city, so United's growth – with an expectation to open a new Chinese city every year – could influence future decisions. A Hangzhou link could be a partial substitute for United's unsuccessful attempts to secure additional slots at nearby Shanghai Pudong; both KLM and Qatar Airways serve Hangzhou in addition to Shanghai Pudong.
While no other North American airline links the continent with a secondary Chinese city, four Chinese airlines do, and three more Chinese operators could open service later in 2016. Sichuan Airlines was the first with its 2012 Shenyang-Vancouver service. There were no secondary routes in 2013; there were two in 2014 and there was one route in 2015. United's Hangzhou route is the eighth secondary China-North America route that is in some form of proposal for 2016, firmly cementing 2016 as the year of secondary routes from China to North America. The result in 2016 could be that more Chinese cities have service to North America than they do to Europe.
China's CAAC generally only allocates one local airline to an international route, so once a route is flown a Chinese competitor cannot move in. This hub fragmentation risks efficiency. A difficult shake-out is likely in the future. For foreign airlines these developments make route planning more hazardous.
Chinese airlines continue to apply for long haul routes that disrupt the country's tidy plan of having one airline serve a local market. Some routes requested may fit strategically, but they also display an element of tit-for-tat retaliation or pre-empting a local competitor. China Southern took advantage of Shenzhen's home airlines Air China and Shenzhen Airlines, ignoring Shenzhen's long haul market, and opened a Shenzhen-Sydney service. Air China has now applied for Shenzhen-Melbourne service, which China Southern could have served next. Examples are growing weekly.
Naming 12 Chinese cities would be a challenge for most people outside China. Yet that is how many mainland Chinese cities will so far enjoy non-stop service to Australia in 2016. Until 2011, only three Chinese cities had flights to Australia. This doubled to six in 2014, and will double again to 12 – maybe more – during 2016. A rising middle class coupled with Australia's liberal air service regime and low fuel prices have meant a growing prominence of Chinese aviation, and the visitors it brings.
The growth in Chinese airports with service to Australia coincides with growing Australia-China non-stop city pairs: from nine in 2013 to 21 in 2016. These 21 city pairs are just under the 22 between Australia and its far closer neighbour and partner, New Zealand. New Zealand is Australia's largest source of foreign visitors, but China will soon surpass New Zealand. The 12 months to Nov-2015 made the first year that Australia received more than 1m Chinese visitors, making Australia the second largest long haul market for Chinese visitors after the United States.
Chinese airlines have finally kick-started international growth, expanding 37% in the first eight months of 2015. This equates to an additional 7.38 million passengers in 8M2015 compared to 8M2014. This almost equals the 7.39m passengers Chinese carriers added between 8M2010 and 8M2014. The volume growth Chinese carriers used to achieve over four years is now being achieved over just a single year.
With countries continuing to liberalise visas for Chinese nationals, and the Chinese government directing airlines to expand internationally, this faster international growth is the new norm. Although most international Chinese traffic is short haul, the accelerated growth is seen with long haul expansion: Sichuan Airlines launched long haul flights in 2012 and not another Chinese carrier went long haul until Xiamen Airlines in Jul-2015. Beijing Capital Airlines followed in Sep-2015, and 2016 could see two more airlines – Tianjin Airlines and Tibet Airlines – fly long haul. 2016 will see at least 10 Chinese airlines operate widebody aircraft. This report looks at the long haul growth from China's secondary carriers that will increasingly become intercontinental names.
Ethiopian Airlines is planning further long-haul network expansion in 2016 with new destinations in Asia and North America. The expansion is made possible by the delivery of Ethiopian’s first batch of 343-seat A350-900s along with additional 270-seat Boeing 787-8s.
New York is in line to become Ethiopian’s fourth destination in North America in Jun-2016, joining Toronto, Washington Dulles and recently launched Los Angeles. Ethiopian is also looking at Chicago and Houston, which could be launched in 2017.
In Asia Ethiopian is planning to launch services to Chengdu, Ho Chi Minh, Jakarta and Singapore. East Asia has been the main driver of Ethiopian’s rapid expansion in recent years – with two destinations added in 2015 for a total of nine – and will continue to be a focus as Africa’s largest airline doubles its fleet over the next decade.