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One of two administrative regions of China, Hong Kong has experienced an advancing aviation industry for a number of years. Hong Kong's only civil airport is Hong Kong International Airport (HKG), a leading passenger gateway in Asia and one of the busiest airports in the world in terms of international passengers and cargo flights. With over 85 airlines, HKG is the hub for Cathay Pacific, Dragonair, Air Hong Kong, Hong Kong Airlines and Hong Kong Express. Although Hong Kong does not have a national airline, Cathay Pacific would be the closest to such. The Civil Aviation Department is the aviation authority in Hong Kong, responsible for providing air traffic control services as well as reporting to the Government.
Airports in Hong Kong
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The Hong Kong-Japan market will be 16% larger in Mar-2015 than a year prior. The market had experienced relatively flat performance earlier this decade, but a series of factors is changing the market. Japanese tourists to Hong Kong long outnumbered Hong Kong visitors to Japan, but the weakening yen is allowing Hong Kong visitors to Japan catch up to Japanese visitors to Hong Kong. The Hong Kong to Japan market has a leisure orientation, and fares are often lower than those ex-Japan. Growing LCCs can help meet Hong Kong demand and rejuvenate the Japanese market. LCCs are projected to comprise 19% of the Japan-Hong Kong in Mar-2015.
LCC penetration will reach 20% on the largest route between the two, Hong Kong-Tokyo, as Part 1 of this report outlined. This second part looks at the LCC presence in other Japanese markets, growth prospects and challenges. For Hong Kong-Fukuoka, 42% of seats will be provided by LCCs, while for Hong Kong-Osaka 30% of seats provided by LCCs. These are only a few routes and still modest shares compared to other regions, but growth opportunities may be capped by constrained slot availability.
American Airlines continues to maintain a positive outlook on global demand despite capacity creep in certain geographical regions, which is creating revenue pressure during 3Q2014.
American has initiated its own capacity cuts in the trans-Atlantic and Latin America, but other airlines are backfilling some of its supply pull-down on the Atlantic, which is causing concern for the airline.
As it works to attain a rational supply-demand balance in some of its regional entities, American is also offering explanations of how it intends to use its relatively high cash balances in the short term.
That could include keeping a higher than average liquidity balance until some of the toughest tasks of its merger integration are complete.
Alaska Air Group’s robust financial foundation seems unshakeable even as it continues to face short term capacity pressure from Delta at its Seattle hub.
Some of the hype surrounding Delta’s aggressive build-up in Seattle during the past year is fading, leaving the two airlines to devise strategies to effectively compete with one another until the market reaches a new level of stability.
But even with the added pressure, Alaska continues to drive ample top-line profit growth while remaining focussed on lowering costs and sustaining one of the cleanest balance sheets in the US airline industry. Those elements combine to create a strong competitive shield against Delta, which also must wait for its rapid capacity growth in Seattle during the past year to reach maturity.
The Cathay Pacific Group has reported a rise in profit but has only moved from a meagre 2.1% operating margin to a weak 3.1%. The outlook continues to be subdued as Cathay largely banks on time: for the A350's Feb-2016 arrival to reduce costs and Hong Kong's forthcoming runway saturation to limit direct competition. But even then markets will be more competitive and Cathay will be sharing space in North Asia with more airlines, with improving brands, than in the past.
Cathay Pacific managed 5.3% ASK growth but this came at the expense of a 3.5% drop in yields. North America, Cathay's largest market, saw yields decline 4.4%, and this over-capacity market will get worse – possibly well into 2015. Only Europe saw gains across capacity, load factor and yield. Freight continues to be a problem and dedicated freighters are losing emphasis as Cathay carried as much freight in passenger aircraft bellies as dedicated freighters. Increasing costs are also a problem but Cathay is becoming less worried about Jetstar Hong Kong, although Chairman John Slosar repeated vague statements that Jetstar could not have "free use" of Hong Kong rights "without giving up" unspecified interests – possibly Australian bilateral access – in exchange. Nonetheless, Cathay is growing in its third largest long-haul market of Australia through seat density and up-gauging.
Cebu Pacific Air’s long-haul unit is entering a new phase of growth which will also see it evolve to pursue more transit traffic. Cebu Pacific initially envisioned a pure LCC model for its long-haul low-cost unit, relying almost entirely on point to point traffic, but is now looking to build up connections, particularly to feed its new Manila-Sydney route.
In Sept-2014 Sydney and Kuwait will become Cebu Pacific’s second and third long-haul destinations after Dubai, where its performance has improved in recent months following a dismal start in 4Q2013. The carrier’s A330 fleet, which now consists of four aircraft with a fifth to be added by the end of Aug-2014, has until now been primarily used to upgauge short-haul routes.
The upcoming launch of services to Australia and Kuwait will be followed by Saudi Arabia in 4Q2014 and Hawaii in early 2015. Sharjah may also be launched in 2015 as Cebu Pacific considers leasing additional A330s.
Air Canada’s record profitability in 2Q2014 is being undermined by a decline in the airline’s yield performance, resulting in the airline defending its strategy of improving its bottom line by an increased stage length and a higher proportion of economy seating.
The underlying philosophy is that Air Canada is creating a framework for unit cost to decline at a greater level than yields and unit revenues as it works to reduce its unit cost, excluding fuel, by 15% from CY2012 levels in the medium term.
It may take some time for the market to understand Air Canada’s tactics; but the airline’s 2Q2014 results seem to indicate there is merit to the airline’s efforts to meet its goals of long standing profitability.