In a country with a very small LCC penetration rate – 3.5% internationally and 6.1% domestically in FY2011 – Spring Airlines, and Juneyao Airlines to a lesser degree, have shown success is possible in China's heavily regulated market that favours the larger, state-owned ‘Big Three’ carriers. While challenges exist, the potential is huge for the nation's LCC market.
LCCs first entered the China market in 2005, with Spring Airlines, Juneyao and Okay Airways all launching operations with the low-cost model, although in less than eight months, Tianjin-based Okay Airways gave up the model. Spring Airlines in particular has had considerably success in carving out a niche, with the carrier maintaining industry-leading load factors and reporting consistent profitability, often while the state-owned carriers have reported losses. Spring and Juneyao are now looking towards their next phase of expansion and both are planning to launch IPOs in 2012 to help fund continued fleet and network expansion.
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