China's Beijing Capital International Airport is the world's largest airport by system traffic (seats) in the current week, according to Innovata, ahead of Atlanta Hartsfield Jackson International Airport. Beijing Capital has 2.12 million seats in the current week, compared to 2.09 million at Atlanta. Tokyo Haneda Airport (2.00 million seats) is ahead of London Heathrow (1.84 million seats), with Dubai International Airport (1.66 million seats) closing in on Europe's largest airport. Rounding out the Top 10 is Chicago O'Hare International Airport (1.60 million seats), Frankfurt International Airport (1.55 million), Paris Charles de Gaulle International Airport (1.49 million), Hong Kong International Airport (1.47 million) and Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (1.44 million). The means that four of the world's 10 largest airports are now in Asia/Middle East, with three in the US and three in Europe.
Beijing Capital International Airport world's largest airport in week ending 26-May-2013
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China-Japan: Peach, Jetstar Japan & China United the latest LCCs to enter Asia's 3rd largest market
Japan-China is the third largest international country pair in Northeast and Southeast Asia. The market has expanded due to Chinese outbound visitor growth, with Chinese visitor numbers doubling from 2.4 million in 2014 to 5.0 million in 2015, and 9M2016 shows a further 30% expansion. LCCs account for approximately 10% of the market, and there are an expected three further LCC entrants in the Japan-China market: Peach Aviation, Jetstar Japan and China United Airlines. Their entry, however, comes after the major boom: eight airlines have entered the market since 2014.
The impact of the additional LCCs will be minimal in network size: Peach's four weekly Osaka-Shanghai flights are in addition to an existing 117 weekly flights. Over the long term there are strong opportunities for LCCs (as evidenced by the first mover Spring Airlines), but in the near future the greatest impact from additional LCCs will be in reminding Chinese full service airlines of alternative business models and their own need to reform. To a Chinese airline a Japanese LCC is almost paradoxical: an airline trying to be low cost in a high cost country with low population growth. Yet the relative success of Japanese LCCs provides a case study – and also market challenges.
Spring Airlines seeks to redefine itself in a more crowded Chinese LCC market
The company folklore of the Chinese low cost carrier Spring Airlines has become entrenched in aviation history, with photos of Spring staff on duty trips sharing hotel rooms while eating instant noodles.
For the Chinese market this thriftiness, and regular candid interviews with billionaire founder Wang Zhenghua, became synonymous with the growing number of budget flights on Spring Airlines. The public became educated about China's only notable LCC, which was markedly different from the cookie cutter format of full service domestic airlines.
But the spectrum of airlines in China is widening and Spring, now under the leadership of Stephen Wang, needs to reassert its position in the Chinese market.
Mr Wang addressed CAPA's Americas Aviation Summit in Orlando in Apr-2017. There are new LCCs and airlines transitioning to LCCs with different service levels, making Spring wonder if it should be an "ULCC". The reality of a government orchestrated market means Spring needs to consider widebody operations for domestic trunk routes, and possible long haul flying. Spring also needs to diversify its presence: its home hub of Shanghai is high yielding but this has invited envy, and an aviation hub overhaul could mean that LCCs are moved to a new and remote third airport in Shanghai.