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USA-Taiwan air services have soared past 2019 levels, with more growth to come

Analysis

With capacity surging in the USA-Taiwan market, competition is set to heat up further as airlines add routes and a new competitor enters the fray.

The United States of America is an important market for Taiwan's airlines, and this is even more true in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Capacity between these two markets has soared well past 2019 levels, dominated mainly by Taiwanese airlines.

EVA Air and China Airlines are still the main players, but they have been joined by the newcomer StarLux Airlines. United Airlines serves Taiwan too, and Delta Air Lines is primed to launch its own direct Taiwan route.

Attention has focused on the Taipei-Seattle route in particular, with three airlines planning to begin service.

The rapid growth in the USA-Taiwan market further highlights the role of the Taipei hub as a connecting point between North America and Asia.

Summary
  • Taiwan-USA seat capacity is up by more than 31% versus pre-pandemic levels.
  • EVA Air is the capacity leader, with 54.4% of seats between these two markets.
  • The US is the second largest market in terms of capacity for EVA Air.
  • Entry of StarLux Airlines has raised competition, and Delta Air Lines is set to enter too.

This market has grown faster than Taiwan's average, and recovery has also been stronger than elsewhere in region

The chart below shows that for the week of 22-Apr-2024, overall seat capacity on Taiwan-US routes was up by 31.6% versus the same week in 2019. Needless to say, few major Asia-Pacific international flows have had capacity gains of this magnitude, compared with pre-pandemic levels.

The increase is set to continue into Sep-2024, with the planned addition of more flights.

In comparison, Taiwan's overall international capacity is still yet to fully recover, and is at 89.9% of 2019 levels.

Taiwan-US: one-way weekly seat capacity, Jan-2019 through to early Oct-2024*

The next chart below shows the breakdown by operator - again, the chart extends scheduled data through early Oct-2024.

For the week of 22-Apr-2024, EVA Air accounted for 54.5% of seats in this market. China Airlines was next, with 24.8%, then United Airlines, with 10.8%, and StarLux Airlines, with 9.9%. Delta Air Lines' entry into the market can be seen in Jun-2024.

Taiwan-US: one-way weekly seat capacity by operator, Jan-2019 through to early Oct-2024*

The US market ranks particularly highly for EVA Air, and is significant for Starlux and China Airlines as well

The US is a reasonably important market for Taiwan, in terms of total capacity operated by all airlines.

The chart below shows that it is Taiwan's sixth largest market in terms of weekly seats.

Taiwan: international departing seats, by market, for the week of 22-Apr-2024

However, the importance of the US market differs between airlines.

For EVA Air, which has the leading share of Taiwan-US traffic, this market is its second most important, behind only Japan.

EVA Air's international departing seats, by market, for the week of 22-Apr-2024

The US represents the third largest international market for StarLux Airlines, and the fourth largest for China Airlines.

For each of these Taiwanese airlines, Japan is their largest market by some margin.

Many of the passengers on US-Taiwan routes would be connecting to other markets in Asia via Taipei.

Seattle features prominently in airlines' growth plans for Taiwan-US market

StarLux Airlines launched operations in 2020 and began serving the US with a route to Los Angeles, starting in Apr-2023. This was upgraded to daily frequency in Jun-2023.

A route to San Francisco was added in Dec-2023, and was increased to daily in Mar-2024.

The airline plans to introduce a third US route - to Seattle - in Aug-2024.

EVA Air has six passenger destinations in the US and intends to increase its Seattle service from daily to 10 times weekly in Jun-2024.

China Airlines operates passenger flights to four US airports, and is adding a Seattle flight in Jul-2024.

Of the US airlines, United Airlines flies between San Francisco and Taipei.

Delta Air Lines plans to add its first nonstop flight to Taiwan with a route from Seattle to Taipei, starting in Jun-2024. The airline previously served Taipei via Tokyo Narita, but ended this route in 2017.

Much of the interest in new service in the USA-Taiwan market involves Seattle, and this route is likely to see a lot of competitive pressure.

Although EVA Air is currently the only airline flying between Taiwan and Seattle, in 2024 there will be three more airlines joining it - as the chart below indicates.

Taiwan-Seattle: route capacity, as measured in one-way weekly seat capacity, 2023 through to early Oct-2024*

Multiple factors likely play into the increase of capacity between Taiwan and the US

The USA-Taiwan market is certainly hot at the moment. One factor contributing to this could be the continuing constraints on direct service between mainland China and the US, which is likely providing some degree of boost to one-stop connecting flights.

And with outbound travel from the Japan and China markets proving slow to recover, airlines are shifting more capacity to other international markets.

The significant build-up in Seattle-Taiwan flights is noteworthy, but some of the traffic will be connecting at either end, rather than point-to-point.

There is one recent entrant to the Taiwan-US market in the form of StarLux Airlines, and another new entrant to that market coming soon. These moves have sparked a competitive response from incumbents that is another factor in the growth of capacity on these routes.

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