Congestion Forcing Chinese Airlines Away from Big Three Airports

 - September 23, 2013, 11:15 AM
Xiamen Airlines Boeing 737-700s operate out of Xiamen Gaoqi International Airport. (Photo: Boeing)

Congestion at China’s three major international airports–Beijing Capital, Shanghai Pudong and Guangzhou Baiyun–has quashed Xiamen Airlines’ plans to offer long-haul nonstop flights from the People’s Republic using Boeing 787s starting in August next year. Increasing demand for slots from foreign airlines and China’s four big carriers to operate point-to-point services from the three big airports leaves smaller carriers such as Xiamen no choice but to look at other Chinese cities as ports of entry into China. Air China, China Southern Airlines, China Eastern Airlines and Hainan Airlines dominate the long-haul routes from Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou to Europe and the U.S., mostly through one of the three big hubs.

According to a Xiamen Airlines spokesperson, the carrier will operate the new planned services nonstop from Xiamen Gaoqi International Airport. The spokesperson said the airline has started the process of applying for landing rights in several cities in Europe, the U.S. and Australia. It has already secured the rights to fly to Amsterdam.

A member of SkyTeam Alliance, Xiamen Airlines holds a firm order for six 787s, scheduled for delivery from July next year to June 2015.

Xuan Xee, an official at the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) in Beijing, said the three major airports have seen increasingly heavy demand for slots from airlines that want to increase frequencies and others that want to launch services.

Beijing Capital (BCIA) saw 557,167 aircraft movements and accommodated 81.2 million passengers last year, up 10.6 percent, while Guangzhou’s (GBY) 48.32 million passengers represented an increase of 7.3 percent and Shanghai’s 44.2 million accounted for an 8.22-percent jump.

BCIA’s volume ranked second only to that of Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, which handled 95.49 million passengers.

BCIA and GBY have exceeded the airports’ design capacity of 76 million and 40 million respectively. The country has started building a second airport for Beijing while construction for a second terminal and a third runway has begun at GBY.

Xiamen Airlines, the first private Chinese carrier, began operations in July 1984. It is 51 percent owned by China Southern, 34 percent by Xiamen Construction and Development Group and 15 percent by Tizhong Energy Group.

The airline operates a fleet of 76 Boeing 737-800s, seventeen 737-700s and six 757s on a network of 62 domestic destinations and 25 international routes covering Japan, Korea and Southeast Asia.

In another development, Hainan Airlines plans to double its twice-daily Beijing-Chicago service in December and switch equipment from the Airbus A340-600 to the Boeing 787.