Northeast and Southeast Asian airlines are opening new intercontinental points to increase city pair permutations, but there is increasing competition and sidelining from mainland Chinese airlines. Mainland Chinese airlines have opened more new destinations, from a smaller base, but are now overtaking long-established airlines.
Air China serves more intercontinental points than any other Asian airline, having a network reach previously held by airlines such as Singapore Airlines, Korean Air and Cathay Pacific. China Eastern, China Southern and Hainan Airlines are rapidly developing networks that are just as extensive.
Network reach does not imply competitive overlap. Chinese airlines are still broadly focusing on traffic to and from China, and not via China. Even point-to-point traffic can be better served by intermediate airlines that have stronger frequency and a perceived better passenger experience.
Over the past decade Cathay Pacific has been opening 14 new markets, and All Nippon Airways, nine. Japan Airlines and Hong Kong Airlines could overtake ANA’s growth. In Southeast Asia, despite its having new destinations in recent years, there has been a net contraction from historical connectivity as Northeast Asia and Gulf hubs themselves have been overpowering.