China Southern Airlines announced (04-Dec-2013) it has handled more than 700,000 online boarding through its WeChat platform since launching the service in Jan-2013, according to the carrier’s Weibo page. The number of WeChat users in China has exceeded 400 million.
China Southern Airlines WeChat boarding exceeds 700,000
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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.
Chinese New Year air traffic a boon to airlines but reflects challenges of year-round sustainability
The Chinese New Year travel season, billed as the world's largest migration, once again fills the headlines with astounding numbers of passenger movements. Some airlines set maximums on pricing, for fear of being seen as price gouging if revenue management systems followed their normal pricing curve upwards.
Even the most sceptical investors would be forgiving for contemplating airline ownership during the travel rush. The question, and lurking problem, is what happens the rest of the year.
China's concentrated and en masse travel periods present a challenge for sustainability. Airlines local and foreign are often reduced to hoping that routes will be annually profitable based on a few weeks of travel during Chinese New Year, the brief summer peak, and the autumn holidays. With load factors consistently high, yields are weakened, either on point-to-point traffic or as Chinese airlines aggressively discount connecting/transfer traffic.
On a volume basis, international traffic remains strong, expanding by an estimated 9.3 million passengers in 2016 for 22% growth. Chinese airlines continue to pivot to the international market, and Air China now has more capacity internationally than domestically.