China’s LCC sector is still small and struggling with the pilots shortage and other operational and regulatory challenges, but it is nevertheless having an impact on airport planning in the country. Foreign LCCs, particularly from Southeast Asia, are also putting pressure on Chinese airports to deliver facilities and services that are better attuned to the needs of the LCC sector.
Zhengzhou Airport, serving the capital of the central Chinese province of Henan, has been operating its new 3,800 sqm budget terminal – the first in China – for around six weeks, and has reported a good response to date.
The terminal, a renovated temporary international hall, is located to the west of the airport’s new terminal and currently serves Shanghai-based Spring Airlines, although the airport aims to attract more LCCs to use the facility soon.
The terminal was developed at cost of USD286 per sqm – around one fifth of average terminal development costs at second tier airports in China. It provides basic facilities, but does not include the standard VIP lounge and smoking areas synonymous with provincial airport terminals.
Zhengzhou will soon be joined by Xiamen Gaoqi International Airport, the main gateway within the coastal Fujian Province and a major future cross-Taiwan Straits services gateway, in opening a dedicated LCC terminal. Xiamen Airport is investing USD38 million to develop a terminal to serve domestic and foreign LCCs (more than Singapore Changi or Kuala Lumpur invested in their first phase budget terminals).
Xiamen Airport is adapting a former cargo terminal and the facility is expected to open later this year. Airport officials are currently in talks with LCCs from Malaysia, the Philippines and Australia. The needs of these carriers are no doubt being incorporated into the design of the terminal. The Xiamen project accompanies large-scale development of the airport to double capacity to around 25 million passengers p/a by 2015. The airport’s runway will also extended to 3,600 m.
Following the success of the Zhengzhou terminal, Spring Airlines is also lobbying the operator of its home base, Shanghai Hongqiao Airport, to develop a dedicated LCC facility. Specifially, Spring is calling for part of the current 81,600 sqm international hall to be redeveloped into an LCC terminal. A new 250,000 terminal and 3,300 m runway are under development at Hongqiao, to help the airport cope with surging demand.
Another major city airport, Guangzhou Baiyun, is also considering developing an LCC terminal, according to reports in mid-2007, as part of plans to win more foreign LCC business from competing Pearl River Delta airports. The project may be included in the current second phase expansion of Baiyun Airport.
As Chinese and foreign LCCs continue to expand across China, more airports are expected to join the early movers, Zhengzhou and Xiamen, in specifically targeting the sector.