Summer season drives rise in domestic air biz
Domestic carriers are seeing booming business this summer, with airlines using more wide-body aircraft to operate some routes in a small peak of the domestic air travel market.
The period between July 1 and Aug 31 is the summer flying season in China. This summer, Haikou-based Hainan Airlines said it plans to operate about 140,000 flights for more than 18 million passenger trips in total. Both figures are expected to increase 40 percent year-on-year and exceed the level seen in summer 2019, it said.
Particularly, Hainan Airlines will add more capacity to routes connecting major cities with popular tourist destinations in northwestern China, southwestern China and Hainan province, and use more wide-body aircraft to operate flights to and from Beijing, Guangzhou and Shenzhen in Guangdong province, and cities in Hainan province.
"The summer transportation period lasts for two months, and it will contribute significantly to annual sales revenues of carriers. Students from colleges to primary schools all have begun their summer vacations, and many of them have plans to go traveling with parents or friends," said Yu Zhanfu, partner and vice-president for China at consultancy Roland Berger.
"With stagnant international travels due to the pandemic, the domestic air travel market－especially tourism spots in Northwest and Southwest China where boasts top tourism resources－worth further development," Yu said.
"Most travelers come from major cities in eastern China, and the distances for them to travel to western China are long. The journeys are suitable for air travel. Airlines have attached great importance to those routes and tend to use more widebody aircraft to offer more comfortable experiences for passengers," he said.
This summer, Hainan Airlines will launch nearly 200 new domestic routes, including flights between Shenzhen and Lanzhou, Gansu province, Guangzhou and Lanzhou, and Beijing and Yulin, the Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region.
Hainan Airlines also added more flights between Beijing and Guiyang, Guizhou province, Beijing and Manzhouli, the Inner Mongolia autonomous region, and Dalian, Liaoning province and Taiyuan, Shanxi province.
In addition, as this year marks the centenary of the founding of the Communist Party of China, there is a growing red tourism trend among young travelers in China, which has driven the sales of related flights. Hainan Airlines said bookings of flights to red tourism destinations, such as Ganzhou in Jiangxi province and Yan'an and Yulin in Shaanxi province, have been booming.
Guangzhou-based China Southern Airlines also said it plans to enhance its capacity to more than 200,000 flights this summer. More than 11,000 flights, especially popular travel routes from South China to Northwest and Southwest China, will be operated by wide-body aircraft such as Boeing B787 and Airbus A350 planes.
China Southern said sales of flights connecting Guangzhou and Xining of Qinghai province, Yinchuan of the Ningxia Hui autonomous region and Lanzhou have seen fast growth.
China Southern will also add flights between cities in Hainan and some inland cities. Since July 23, China Southern started to operate flights between Beijing Daxing and Guangzhou by double-decker A380s, the world's largest commercial aircraft, to cater to growing passenger flows.
"We put two A380 aircraft into use for flights that connect Beijing and Guangzhou, the only domestic route that uses A380 for now. There are two daily round trips operated by A380 in the morning and in the afternoon," said Qiu Yong, deputy manager of the flying department of the Beijing branch of China Southern.
Yet, the average flight ticket price this year is lower than that of last year and 2019, and the market is foreseen to see some overcapacity. In addition, the COVID-19 that occurred sporadically in some cities in China are expected to have some impact on potential travelers, as they may become more cautious in traveling.
On another front, typhoon In-Fa made landfall in Zhoushan, Zhejiang province on Sunday noon, and it has caused the two airports in Shanghai and Hangzhou Xiaoshan International Airport to cancel all flights on that day.
"Frequent rains and bad weather in summer have caused certain impact on the income of carriers and posed challenges to the air travel market. Some passengers may choose to take high-speed trains instead to avoid risks and possible cancellation of flights in summer," Yu said.