China Southern Airlines reportedly received approval to deploy A380 equipment on the Chengdu-Beijing sector with the proposed service tentatively scheduled to commence in Sep-2012 (Chengdu Business Daily, 31-Jul-2012). As previously reported, the carrier recently confirmed plans to deploy A380 equipment on daily Guangzhou-Los Angeles sector from 12-Oct-2012, marking the carrier’s first international route with the A380.
China Southern receives approval to operate A380 Chengdu-Beijing service
You may also be interested in the following articles...
China Southern to add 20 787-9s in first phase of refleeting as it prepares long-term hub strategy
To Shenzhen, or not to Shenzhen? That is a question facing China Southern Airlines as it prepares its long term hub strategy: whether the Guangzhou-based airline should continue growing in the nearby city of Shenzhen, or should concentrate its southern hub exclusively in Guangzhou.
In the upcoming peak season Guangzhou will account for 85% of China Southern's long haul departures. That includes, for the first time, 20 intercontinental Guangzhou departures in a single day. Shenzhen is part of China Southern's catchment area, but Shenzhen Airlines and its majority owner Air China plan to expand in Shenzhen, and competition continues in nearby Hong Kong.
As China Southern weighs its Shenzhen presence, and awaits regulatory clarity on where it can grow at the new Beijing Daxing airport from 2019, the airline intends to take 20 787-9s in the compact period of 2018-2020. China Southern operates 10 -8s, while its sister company Xiamen Airlines is due to receive its first -9 in Dec-2016. China Southern's 787-9 order puts long haul aircraft back on order at Asia's largest airline. A later aircraft order will provide China Southern with post-2020 growth capacity.
Chinese long haul secondary city air routes: BA's Chengdu exit does not reflect the broader market
The fastest long haul airline growth is not occurring with Gulf airlines but rather, with services to and from secondary Chinese cities. It is not a secret that local incentives and subsidies, generally common in any market, are especially large in price and duration for secondary Chinese cities. An airline might expect over a third of revenues to be subsidised. This drastically alters the business case in a low-margin industry, hence the proliferation of secondary city services. This extreme dependence on subsidies raises the question of how long governments are willing to issue generous subsidies, and how many routes can be sustainable without them.
British Airways' decision to exit its only secondary Chinese route to Chengdu, in Jan-2017, might suggest the music is ending and the secondary long haul bubble is popping. There is added colour given the recent UK-China air service agreement expansion, and Brexit/British pound depreciation overhangs.
BA's exit does confirm market fundamentals: secondary city yields are low, and some routes are ahead of their time. Yet a number of factors unique to British Airways suggest caution in concluding that BA's Chengdu exit could foreshadow other withdrawals.