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US-China open skies: a window in 2019 – alignment of airline partnerships & airport infrastructure
The year 2019 presents a possible opening for China and the United States to sign an open skies agreement. This would principally lift restrictions on flights between the countries – important, since both nations have saturated primary traffic rights and there have been unsuccessful negotiations to expand the allotment.
Most importantly, open skies is a prerequisite for US approval of US-China airlines' joint ventures with antitrust immunity. These partnerships permit airlines to coordinate networks and pricing jointly – which, they say, increases consumer choice, but which other groups worry reduces competition, after experience in the trans-Atlantic market.
Perhaps paradoxically, the lure of a JV will mean that the airlines lobby their governments for open skies that might eventually reduce competition. US airlines will want greater slot availability at Shanghai and Beijing, which could occur in 2019.
Finally, airlines will need to have confidence in a shared future with their partner. China Eastern is close to Delta, while China Southern has a young partnership with American Airlines. Air China, however, does not feel close to United Airlines, which has the highest presence of its own metal in the market. Air China questions whether United actually wants open skies. There is unlikely to be any government deal without the support of Air China, the flag carrier, and a major airline that enjoys a close relationship with the regulator.
China-US air growth slows as Xiamen Airlines flies Fuzhou-New York, making the world a smaller place
The world becomes a smaller place on 15-Feb-2017 with the launch of Xiamen Airlines' Fuzhou-New York JFK service. The route is a not a headline grabber like the ultra long hauls of Singapore-San Francisco or Doha-Auckland. But linking the two cities brings a nonstop flight to what is, by some calculations, the largest unserved trans-Pacific market.
The new flight reflects on current themes in the market between Asia and North America: the growth from China's secondary cities, more Chinese airlines being catapulted onto the world stage, and impacts to one stop competitors.
Fuzhou-New York will initially be only flown three times a week, supporting competitors' retorts that they have a frequency advantage – or at least for now. Competitors have also claimed a better product, but Xiamen's 787-9 is China's fifth widebody to offer direct aisle access business class. Soft service is catching up, and likewise for commercial planning: Xiamen's 787-9s do away with first class. This report looks at the growth of China and the rest of Asia to North America as growth momentum slows with China's bilateral capacity being reached.