China Southern Airlines Co, the country’s largest carrier by fleet, expects its hubs in Guangzhou and Urumqi to be strengthened by the country’s “One Belt, One Road” initiatives.
The action plan on these initiatives issued late last month calls for international hub airports such as Shanghai and Guangzhou to assume additional functions, said Guo Jianye, director of the marketing committee of the airline, which is listed in Shanghai, Hong Kong and New York.
With its role as a window of westward opening-up, the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region, of which Urumqi is the capital, will become a core area on the Silk Road Economic Belt.
Given the Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region’s proximity to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, an important gateway connecting the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road will be formed, said Guo. That will be another advantage for the Guangzhou-based airline.
Compared with its domestic competitors, China Southern has more flights, destinations and market share in South Asia, Southeast Asia, the South Pacific, Central Asia and the Middle East, Guo said.
It transported 4.5 million passengers last year on routes related to the “One Belt, One Road” strategy, up 15.1 percent year-on-year, and 900,000 passengers on those routes in the first two months of this year, up 26.4 percent.
The airport of Guangzhou, in South China’s Guangdong province, has become a hub for the airline’s transit passengers, The airport served 27.23 million passengers last year. The carrier’s network from Guangzhou extends to 135 cities, including 38 overseas ones.
China Southern Airlines will accelerate the development of routes to Southeast Asia, with the priority going to higher frequencies of flights from Guangzhou to Kuala Lumpur, Jakarta, Manila and Phnom Penh, Guo said.
It plans to launch routes between Guangzhou and Sabah, Malaysia, as well as Vientiane, Laos; Mandalay, Myanmar; Cebu, the Philippines; Nha Trang, Vietnam and Koh Samui, Thailand.
For the African market, it plans to launch direct flights between Guangzhou and Nairobi in June or July.
Flight frequencies will be increased on routes between Guangzhou and Sydney, Melbourne, Perth, Brisbane and Auckland.
From Urumqi, China Southern plans to add flights to the eastern, southern and southwestern parts of China. It will also develop direct routes in Xinjiang to Kashgar, Yining, Kuerle and Hotan.
It will expand its networks in Central Asia, the Middle East, eastern and central Europe, Japan and South Korea, with routes to be launched between Urumqi and Dubai, Tokyo, Tel Aviv, Kabul, Karachi, Kiev, Lahore, Pakistan and Prague. Flights will be added on the routes to St Petersburg and Seoul.
With the Netherlands being a gateway to Europe and one end of the Asia-Europe shipping route, Amsterdam is a key point on China Southern’s global network, Guo said.
The airline is scheduled to deploy the Airbus A380, the world’s largest passenger aircraft, for the Beijing-Amsterdam route in June.
“The domestic aviation industry is set to gain from the major opportunities from the ‘Belt and Road’ initiatives,” said Shen Zhengyuan, a senior researcher at market research firm CI Consulting.
Involving 64 countries and about 900 projects, the initiatives will lead to substantial growth in personal and commercial aviation demand, he said.
The “Belt and Road” strategy will support industrial upgrading in the Pearl River Delta, and that in turn will lead to growth in air cargo, said Zheng Tianxiang, professor at the Center for Studies of Hong Kong, Macao and the Pearl River Delta at Sun Yat-sen University.
Guangzhou’s airport is handling a large share of the nation’s 100 million-plus outbound travelers, a group that is forecast to increase. With the construction of new runways and upgrading of the infrastructure, the airport will have a higher profile, which will be positive for China Southern, Zheng said.
The “Belt and Road” strategy prioritizes the connectivity of facilities and urges efforts to expand the platforms and mechanisms for comprehensive civil aviation cooperation, as well as an improvement in the aviation infrastructure.
“China Southern Airlines will benefit from the strategy in its logistics and e-commerce business,” Guo said.
The economies of the countries and regions along the Belt and Road are valued at $21 trillion, accounting for 29 percent of the world’s GDP.
Those globalizing economies have an “urgent demand” for air logistics services, and there will also be opportunities generated by the just launched free trade zones across the country, he said.
Recording 21.97 billion yuan ($3.53 billion) in output from the airport economic area last year, the government of Huadu district, where the Guangzhou airport is located, will develop sectors such as aircraft maintenance, manufacturing and leasing, air logistics and cross-border e-commerce.
And the city of Guangzhou city is drawing up a three-year action plan to develop airport-related industries.
(China Daily 04/23/2015 page16)