Hainan Airlines eyes more flights to US
Carrier is striving to get flying rights to launch direct service between Shanghai and major cities in the United States
Hainan Airlines, China's largest private air carrier, said it is interested in launching more China-US direct flights, as more Chinese travelers are visiting the US, further stimulating the vitality of the market.
The carrier also plans to extend its cooperation with US airlines. Next year, it will start code sharing programs with Alaska Airlines and Jet-Blue Airways to strengthen its network coverage in the United States, especially on the east and west coasts.
Pubin Liang, regional managing director of Hainan Airlines in the United States, said to further increase its market share, the carrier is striving to get the flying rights to launch direct flights between Shanghai and major US cities, especially those that already offer direct flights to Beijing.
"We launched a number of direct flights between second-tier Chinese cities and major US cities, following the increasing demand from smaller Chinese cities. North America is one of our most important markets, and we have kept looking for potential opportunities in this market," Liang said.
On Oct 20 and Oct 26, Hainan Airlines launched direct flights between Chongqing and New York and Chengdu and New York, respectively. Those are the first direct flights to New York from western China. It also operates direct flights between these two cities and Los Angeles.
"The successful launch of flights between those two Chinese cities and New York has been a significant breakthrough for us, and we are looking to launch more direct flights between New York and Chinese cities in the future," he said.
In 2008, Hainan Airlines started its first China-US direct flights between Beijing and Seattle. To date, it has become the Chinese airline that operates the most direct flights－12 routes－between the two countries, including flights between Beijing and Chicago, Beijing and San Jose, Beijing and Las Vegas, and Shanghai and Boston.
Between January and September this year, Hainan Airlines achieved sales revenue of 2.59 billion yuan ($390 million) from its China-US flights, up 19 percent year-on-year, and the average passenger load ratio of those flights has exceeded 80 percent, according to the company.
During the busy China-US flight season, from June to October, and during December and January, Hainan Airlines has seen outstanding sales performance. During the low seasons, the airline faces some operation pressures and usually adjusts its business by offering promotions, such as package deals that include tourism destination resort tickets and hotels.
Sun Jianfeng (left), president of Hainan Airlines who is also a crew member of China's first bio-fuel international flight, checks the airplane's condition report at the Beijing Capital International Airport before departure for Chicago on Nov 21. [Photo provided to China Daily]
Earlier, Hainan Airlines cooperated with American Airlines on code sharing and connecting flights, but the cooperation weakened after Hainan Airlines launched direct flights between Beijing and Chicago, as American Airlines offers the same route.
"This has a significant negative impact, especially on our expansion of networks in the Midwest," Liang said. "Now, we face significant challenges in growing our business in this area with Chicago as the hub."
Lin Zhijie, an aviation industry analyst and columnist at Carnoc, a leading civil aviation website in China, said the flights between major Chinese cities and the United States are quite saturated, and airlines are competing to launch direct flights between second-tier Chinese cities and the United States, although operating cost pressures exist.
"There is still demand for more China-US routes, but the possible fluctuation of Sino-US relations should also be taken into consideration," he said.
Timeline of Hainan Airlines' American routes
Hainan Airlines started direct flights between Chongqing and New York, as well as Chengdu, capital of Sichuan province, and New York.
Those two flights became the first direct flights that connect New York and the two western Chinese cities.
Hainan Airlines launched direct flights between Changsha, capital of Hunan province in Central China, and Los Angeles.
Hainan Airlines launched direct flights between Beijing and Las Vegas. This serves as the first direct flight between Las Vegas and the Chinese mainland.
Hainan Airlines launched direct flights between Shanghai and Seattle, as well as direct flights between Beijing and San Jose, California. Meanwhile, the airline established direct flights that connect Shanghai and Boston.
Hainan Airlines launched nonstop flights between Beijing and Boston.
Hainan Airlines initiated direct flights between Beijing and Chicago. It was the first such route operated by a Chinese airline.
Hainan Airlines launched its first China-US direct flights between Beijing and Seattle.