China United Airlines
- Airport Investment Details
- CAPA Analysis
- Schedule Analysis
- Cargo Analysis
- Route Maps
- Fast Fact Report
- Airline Status
- IATA Code
- ICAO Code
- Corporate Address
- Yuxiangyuan, Nanyuan Airport, NO.6 Jingbei East Road, Fengtai District, Beijing
- Main hub
- Beijing Nanyuan Airport
- Business model
- Low Cost Carrier
- Airline Group
- Part of China Eastern Air Holding Company
- Codeshare Partners
- China Eastern Airlines
China United Airlines is a domestic low-cost carrier based at Beijing Nanyuan Airport. The carrier converted its business model from full-service to LCC after parent company China Eastern Airlines announced the move on 02-Jul-2014.
Location of China United Airlines main hub (Beijing Nanyuan Airport)
LCCs will continue to evolve into hybrids of the original core model. CAPA and OAG consider China United Airlines fits the LCC profile and it is included in our reporting on this basis. Please note: when reporting for an airline is changed from or to LCC the historical data is not affected and it can lead to a distortion in the current reported data. Contact us if you have any queries.
15 total articles
Japan-China is the third largest international country pair in Northeast and Southeast Asia. The market has expanded due to Chinese outbound visitor growth, with Chinese visitor numbers doubling from 2.4 million in 2014 to 5.0 million in 2015, and 9M2016 shows a further 30% expansion. LCCs account for approximately 10% of the market, and there are an expected three further LCC entrants in the Japan-China market: Peach Aviation, Jetstar Japan and China United Airlines. Their entry, however, comes after the major boom: eight airlines have entered the market since 2014.
The impact of the additional LCCs will be minimal in network size: Peach's four weekly Osaka-Shanghai flights are in addition to an existing 117 weekly flights. Over the long term there are strong opportunities for LCCs (as evidenced by the first mover Spring Airlines), but in the near future the greatest impact from additional LCCs will be in reminding Chinese full service airlines of alternative business models and their own need to reform. To a Chinese airline a Japanese LCC is almost paradoxical: an airline trying to be low cost in a high cost country with low population growth. Yet the relative success of Japanese LCCs provides a case study – and also market challenges.
Growth in Chinese aviation is now well evident in the number of Chinese operators of widebody aircraft. In early 2012 only five Chinese airlines operated widebody aircraft. The Jun-2016 delivery of an A330 to Tibet Airlines increased the number of widebody operators to 10, and by the end of the decade there will be – if all plans are followed through – at least 17 Chinese airlines operating widebody aircraft. This potentially sets up the market for more widebody and long haul airlines within China than in the rest of Northeast and Southeast Asia.
At the Farnborough Airshow Donghai Airlines and Ruili Airlines sought to acquire 787-9s, while Lucky Air will also take 787-9s and become China's first long haul LCC. Shenzhen Airlines will take A330s, while Juneyao, Okay Airways and Shandong Airlines are also considering the type.
There are also possible new entrants like Qingdao Airlines, whose shareholder Nanshan Group now owns Virgin Australia. Widebodies at Donghai, Ruili, Juneyao or others would mean a widebody operation from an airline not affiliated with one of China's four airline groups: Air China, China Eastern, China Southern and Hainan Airlines. The smallest of these, Hainan Airlines, operates more widebodies than all the secondary and tertiary airlines combined.
China, often referred to as Asia's 'last untapped market' for low cost airlines, is experiencing some road bumps on the way to a new marketplace. The Chinese start-up 9 Air has been the first all-new LCC launched since policy reforms to introduce more competition and efficiency. 9 Air made a splash by ordering 50 737s before its launch from Guangzhou, which was long thought to be ripe for competition from local incumbent China Southern, an airline that has a firmer grip on the city than Air China has in Beijing, or China Eastern has in Shanghai.
9 Air was conceived in a new era but born in the old. A political change in Guangzhou, the industry believes, resulted in 9 Air falling out of favour. It holds only four slot pairs at Guangzhou, all at rather undesirable times: departures before 7AM, arrivals after 1AM. Aircraft have been parked and others delayed. 9 Air's fleet of five flies unusual routings to maximise utilisation. One aircraft overnights at another city, a costly proposition for a start-up. 9 Air remains optimistic, believing that it can break even in 2016 and enter international markets, where there is less protectionism. 9 Air seeks a return to the liberalised future.
Spring Airlines orders 60 aircraft, including its first A321s, to accelerate international expansion
Spring Airlines’ purchase agreement for 60 A320 family aircraft is another development in what has been a historic year for China’s largest LCC.
In 2015 Spring has listed on the Shanghai Stock Exchange, surpassed a 50 aircraft fleet, celebrated its 10th anniversary, become the first Chinese airline – and one of the first in the world – to take a 186 seat A320, and become featured on the government travel portal amidst austerity measures.
Along with the IPO, the aircraft order may be a defining event for years to come. 60 aircraft is small fry compared to the multi-hundred blockbuster orders in Southeast Asia from the likes of AirAsia, Lion Air and VietJet, but for China – and a private carrier such as Spring – 60 is significant. Spring’s IPO exposes it to market forces, and Chinese aviation is undergoing an upheaval, caught up in corruption investigations.
Spring Airlines & Juneyao Airlines enjoy post-IPO success while 9 Air struggles as a new Chinese LCC
For much of their existence, China's privately-owned Spring and Juneyao Airlines were in something of regulatory limbo, neither shunned nor blessed. But China in late 2013 actively began to promote LCC Spring as a model of efficiency and declared that China needed more LCCs and cost-efficient carriers; since then its short term prospects have been brighter. Spring and Juneyao were finally allowed to go public just as China's stock market boomed. Full service airlines have also benefitted from the interest in aviation, and China Eastern Airlines issued new shares.
Stock prices soaring on bullish growth prospects can disguise another reality of the Chinese aviation market: it can be heavily protectionist, as seen with 9 Air, China's first all-new LCC since policy changes. 9 Air launched in Jan-2015 after repeated delays but has been unable to secure slots at its home base of Guangzhou, despite assurances from the previous local government.
China Eastern Airlines is taking the lead amongst the country's state-owned carriers in developing an LCC presence. This follows Beijing's embrace and active promotion of LCCs, which it sees as spearheading new growth and being in line with the country's increasing austerity and efficiency targets. China Eastern has converted its subsidiary China United Airlines, based at the smaller Beijing airport of Nanyuan.
China United only flies domestically, and mostly to secondary cities, but in Jan-2015 applied to regulator CAAC to expand its business licence to international services. China United is expected to be given the right to fly internationally from its Beijing home but also Shenzhen.
Shenzhen's international development has been stunted – possibly due to lobbying from Air China partner Cathay Pacific, which feeds on the Shenzhen market – and local carrier Shenzhen Airlines has a minimal international presence. Shenzhen Airlines is majority owned by Air China, meaning China United's international expansion could eventually challenge the Air China group at multiple levels. With time there will also be an impact to the Hong Kong market, although crossing the border is still far from seamless.