Hong Kong Airlines president Yang Jianhong said the carrier is considering cancelling its order for 10 A380 aircraft amid growing tension between China and the European Union over the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS). As reported by the South China Morning Post, the airline, 45% owned by Hainan Airlines, said it was under pressure to call off the purchase of the A380 after the Civil Aviation Administration of China told mainland carriers not to comply with the emissions trading scheme, saying it breached international law. "We cannot do something which is against our country's interest," Mr Yang said.
Hong Kong Airlines could cancel order for 10 A380s
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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 and France expand flights for airlines, giving China aeropolitical negotiating leverage
China and France have agreed to a significant expansion of flights between their countries. Chinese airlines, which have no more than 50 weekly flights to France, will be permitted to grow to 126 weekly flights within a few years. This tranche of rights will likely double the number of Chinese airlines in France (currently four) and take Chinese airlines to serving French cities other than Paris.
Air France will likely grow partnerships with SkyTeam's China members, although Air France will need to make concessions on its existing China JVs. It is unclear whether Air France will revisit considerations of investing in China Southern.
Chinese airlines will become France's second largest source of foreign long haul flights, and in the long term China could surpass the US. For China, France could become its third largest long haul market after the US and Australia. France is China's third major aeropolitical expansion in recent months, after the UK and Australia. This could give China leverage to press the US and Canada to expand traffic rights, although these markets are far more convoluted.