China Eastern Airlines president Ma Xulun stated there is “huge potential” for LCCs in China as LCCs account for less than 5% of the Chinese market, compared to a more than 33% market share in the Southeast Asia market and a more than 25% market share in the global travel market, according to a China Securities Journal report. In Mar-2012, China Eastern and Qantas signed an agreement to establish a LCC JV company in Hong Kong.
China Eastern: 'Huge potential' for LCCs in China
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China and Australia remove airline growth restrictions as China cautiously embraces open skies
China has agreed to liberalise passenger flights and remove capacity restrictions with Australia, its largest outbound long haul market after the United States. This is a relief to Chinese airlines, which face bilateral constraints in North America and Europe. The result is already evident as Chinese airlines deploy more capacity and larger aircraft to Australia.
In North American and European markets the local governments hold back on traffic right expansion (let alone open skies). But for Australia it was the Australian government, which signalled some years ago that it wanted to liberalise once China was ready – a time that has now come.
Australia's view was progressive and detached from bygone days of national carrier interest; Chinese airlines hold 90% of the market to Australia. Elsewhere many governments still hold back on Chinese traffic right expansion so their local airlines can continue to grow. There are 15 Chinese airports that have nonstop flights to Australia with a total of 27 airport pairs – figures that should expand in 2017 as the market evolves further with the Virgin Australia-HNA partnership.
Qantas' Asian transformation, relaunching Beijing & Melbourne-Tokyo; highest Asian activity ever
Qantas has been transforming in Asia. Its partnership with Emirates and shift of European stopover hub from Asia to Dubai drove a need for Qantas to restructure its Asia network to support the local market, and not onward connections to Europe. Widebody capacity has become available as Qantas further decreases widebody services in the domestic market, which was overcompetitive and impacted by a decline in the resource sector, which was a key corporate contract focus.
In calendar 1Q2017 Qantas will operate more flights to Asia than at any time this decade, including prior to its Emirates-necessitated restructure.
Seat capacity has reduced slightly, reflecting the use of smaller aircraft (A330s instead of A380s) but Qantas still has more seats for the local market since it no longer sells onward flights to Europe. Qantas' most recent Asian additions are the relaunching of Melbourne-Tokyo (taking the service over from Jetstar, which will instead open new flights to Vietnam) and Sydney-Beijing – an important market for its JV with China Eastern as Virgin Australia signals its intent to fly to Beijing in 2017, in partnership with HNA.