Tibet Airlines preparing for Jul-2011 launch; CAAC sets limit of three new airline approvals p/a

Tibet Airlines, Tibet’s first airline, on 20-Jun-2011 received its public air carrier's licence from CAAC, after receiving approval from the aviation authority in Mar-2010. Tibet Airlines will be the first and only airline based in Lhasa when it launches operations next month and will benefit from the booming Tibet market.

Tibet Airlines details of public air carriers licence/launch details

Launch details

Key details


Tibet Airlines

Launch date



Lhasa Gonggar

Registered capital

CNY280 million (USD43.1 million)

Business type

Limited liability company

Business scope

Domestic air passenger and cargo transportation

Application status

  • Has received approval from the National Development and Reform Commission to purchase three A319 aircraft;
  • Has signed ground service agreement and operational safety protocols with the Tibet AR Regional Administration;
  • Received approval from Airworthiness Division for its corporate logo and aircraft livery;
  • Has hired 21 flight crew;
  • IATA code: TV.


Will operate services within Tibet and link its capital Lhasa with other cities across China, with an inaugural service on Lhasa-Beijing route. CAAC Tibet Airlines Preparatory Group Deputy Head, Liu Yanping, has stated the start-up will not compete on routes currently being served by other airlines as it is focused on maximising operating capacity for the majority of passengers. The carrier has also stated it has the option to operating international routes in the future


The carrier will operate three CFM56-5B powered A319s to service the high-altitude routes. The carrier is scheduled to will take delivery of one A319 aircraft in Jul-2011, 03-Aug-2011 and 09-Aug-2011, respectively. Tibet Airlines is planning to increase its fleet size to 20 aircraft over the next five years.


Tibet Autonomous Region Government’s investment arm, Tibet Autonomous Region Investment Co (51%), Tibet Sanli Investment Co (39%) and Tibet Ruiyi Investment Co (10%)

CAAC approvals

CAAC approved the airline in Mar-2010 as part of efforts to boost tourism in Tibet


The carrier launched its recruitment for pilot trainees in Dec-2010

Tibet Airlines General Manager Liu Yanping earlier this year stated the carrier plans to launch services to South and Southeast Asia by 2013 and to Europe by 2015. The carrier is also considering destinations in India, Pakistan and Nepal. Mr Liu declined to specify particular destinations, stating it is a long process to receive landing rights. Tibet Airlines will launch operations in Jul-2011 with Lhasa-Beijing service, followed by Lhasa-Konggar service. It plans to expand operations once it takes delivery of two aircraft in Aug-2011.

Also CAAC Tibet Airlines Preparatory Group Deputy Head, Mr Liu has previously stated the carrier would have a distinct advantage over other airlines, which have not based any overnight aircraft at Lhasa Airport due to its unique geographical environment. The proposed carrier would operate in direct competition with Air China Southwest, which currently has a 40% capacity share at Lhasa and around a 50% market share in the region.

Lhasa Airport capacity (seats per week, to/from) by carrier (20-Jun-2011 to 26-Jun-2011)

At present, there are 10 destinations offered from Lhasa, of which eight – to Bangda (Air China), Diqing (China Eastern), Kathmandu (Air China), Kunming (China Eastern), Lanzhou (Sichuan Airlines), Shi Quan He Ali (Air China), Xianyang (China Eastern) and Xining (Sichuan Airlines) - are monopoly routes. Services to Chengdu (Air China, Sichuan Airlines, Xiamen Airlines and China Eastern) and Chongqing (Sichuan Airlines, China Southern, Xiamen Airlines and Air China) are serviced by multiple carriers.

Tibet Airlines signs MoU for three A319s powered by CFM56-5B engines

A day after receiving its licence, Tibet Airlines, the newest start-up airline in China, signed an MoU with CFM International to purchase three A319s powered by CFM56-5B engines. The first aircraft is scheduled to be delivered in Jul-2011 and the engine order is valued at USD60 million at list price

Tibet Airlines fleet (at 20-Jun-2011)

In May-2011, Tibet Airlines selected Quovadis, the flight operations services of Airbus, to implement the carrier’s Required Navigation Performance (RNP) procedures for its operations using the Airbus A319. Tibet Airlines will operate RNP-AR (Authorisation Required) services to and from Lhasa, Ali, Bangda, Shigatse and Linzhi.

In Mar-2011, the carrier also awarded Eaton Corporation a contract to supply engine-driven pumps and AC motorpumps for its fleet of A319 passenger aircraft. In Nov-2010, the carrier also confirmed that its A319 aircraft would feature a suite of Rockwell Collins systems including the company's second generation Digital Programmable Audio Video Entertainment System (dPAVES) IFE, MultiScan Threat Detection System and GLU-925 Multi-Mode Receiver (MMR). The systems will initially be installed on nine of Tibet's new A319 aircraft, with an option for nine additional aircraft. Deliveries will commence in Jul-2011.

CAAC sets limit of three new airline approvals p/a

CAAC Director General Li Jiaxiang in Mar-2011 stated although CAAC has commenced accepting applications for the establishment of new private airlines in China, it will raise the threshold for new airlines. As reported by Yicai, Mr Li also stated CAAC would limit the number of new approved airlines to three p/a.

In 2008, Mr Li stated CAAC would not approve any new airline applications, including the establishment of subsidiary airlines over the coming three years, a strategy confirmed in 4Q2010.  The regulations were part of CAAC’s plans to implement more stringent measures on start-up carriers and public air transport companies in general as part of efforts to improve air transport safety requirements.

Over the past three years, CAAC had approved the establishment of UNI-Top Airlines, SF Express, Joy Air and Tibet Airlines. These carriers have generally previously submitted their applications, getting around the CAAC restrictions and are often associated with one of the "big four" carriers in the market. All of the proposed start-ups are also regional carriers, fitting into CAAC’s objectives of promoting increased regional operations.

UNI-TOP Airlines launches service in Apr-2011

UNI-TOP Airlines, a private cargo airline based in Wuhan Airport, launched service on 11-Apr-2011 with an all cargo service from Wuhan to Chennai.

The carrier, in Jan-2011, received its operating certificate from CAAC Central and Southern Regional Administration. The start-up carrier has a fleet of three B747-200Fs which have been based at Wuhan Airport since the end of 2010. Details of the start-up are as follows:

  • Name: UNI-TOP Airlines Co Ltd;
  • Headquarters: Wuhan;
  • Operating base airport: Wuhan Tianhe Airport;
  • Company structure: Limited liability company;
  • Registered capital: CNY150 million (USD23 million);
  • Business scope: Operate domestic and international air cargo and mail transportation;
  • Fleet: Three B747-200Fs purchased from China Cargo Airlines;
  • Ownership: Shenzhen UNI-TOP Industry Co Ltd (90%) and Shenzhen Daotong Industries Co Ltd (10%).

Beijing Airlines receives operator's licence

Beijing Airlines, a business jet JV between Air China and Beijing Government, received its operational licence from CAAC on 11-Apr-2011 with the carrier previously stating it would commence service in Apr-2011 or May-2011, a launch date which has since passed.

The carrier, with a registered capital of CNY1000 million (USD152 million), will tap into China’s high-end travel market as well as engage in business jet service, aircraft management, aircraft charter and ground handling services.

Beijing Airlines will be in direct competition with the HNA Group’s Capital Airlines. Meanwhile, China Eastern Airlines previously announced plans to increase its fleet of business jets to three aircraft this year while China Southern Airlines is planning to introduce its first business jet.

Yunnan Ying’an Airlines receives preliminary approval from CAAC

Yunnan Ying’an Airlines Co Ltd’s application to establish Yunnan Ying’an Airlines has also received preliminary approval from CAAC Southwest China Regional Administration in Dec-2010, although the carrier has yet to provide a launch date after conducting a trial charter flight between Kunming and Pu’er Simao Airport on 17-Feb-2011. Details of the carrier include:

  • Registered capital: CNY80.7 million (USD12 million);
  • Ownership: Guangdong Ying’an Transport Service Co Ltd (56.5%) and Li Guiying (43.5%);
  • Airport base: Pu’er Simao Airport, Yunnan Province;
  • Business scope: Operate regional passenger and cargo services within Yunnan Province as well as regional passenger and cargo services from Yunnan to neighbouring provinces;
  • Approved aircraft: MA-60 type aircraft.

HNA Group signs agreement to establish Chongqing West Airlines Holdings

Meanwhile, HNA Group and Chongqing Yufu Company in May-2011 signed an agreement to jointly establish Chongqing West Airlines Holdings.

The new Chongqing-based airline company aims to launch all-cargo operations this year as well as commence international operations next year with services to Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan, Southeast Asia, Japan and South Korea. The start-up also plans to have a fleet size of up to 40 aircraft by 2015.

In Aug-2010, HNA Group and Chongqing Municipal Government signed an agreement in which HNA agreed to invest between CNY30 billion and CNY50 billion in the region in areas including air transport, logistics, tourism development and airport management.

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