Hainan Airlines to expand global network

Hainan Airlines Holding Co Ltd, China's fourth-largest carrier and the largest private airline, is launching more flights to international destinations from second-tier cities as part of the efforts to expand its network.

The Haikou-based carrier has the largest number of direct flights that connect China and the United States, and the second-largest number of direct flights that connect China and Europe. Its revenue from international flights accounted for one-fifth of the overall revenue, according to its earnings report last year.

So far this year, Hainan Airlines has launched 10 international flights, including flights that connect Haikou and Osaka, and Guiyang and Paris. In July, the airline plans to launch flights that link Xi'an and Osaka. In September, it will start flights that connect Chengdu and Chicago.

"A large number of our international flights are routes that connect first-tier Chinese cities and smaller foreign cities, or routes that connect second-tier Chinese cities and major foreign cities, which helped fuel the potential growth of those new markets," the company said in a statement.

"We have launched multiple direct flights that connect Changsha, Xi'an, Chengdu, Chongqing, Shenzhen and Haikou with international hubs. We will keep seeking potential market growth room in the US and Europe, and pay attention to the growth opportunities emerging in Japan, South Korea and Southeast Asian countries," it said.

On June 18, Hainan Airlines received a "5-Star Airline" award from Skytrax - a UK-based consultancy that runs an airline and airport review and ranking site - for the ninth consecutive year. It also picked up the Skytrax "No 7 of The World's Top 10 Airlines" award, being the only airline on the Chinese mainland that received the prize.

"By 2022, Hainan Airlines will launch more than 40 new international flights that depart from Hainan province," said Chen Feng, chairman of HNA Group, the parent of Hainan Airlines.

By then, Hainan Airlines aims to help the region operate more than 100 international flights and become an international air traffic hub, and attract more than 2 million inbound tourists annually.

Besides Haikou, it will grab the opportunities emerging from Sanya, and launch more international flights that connect Sanya and cities in Southeast Asian countries, which will also contribute to the building of the Hainan free trade zone.

Meanwhile, Hainan Airlines operates more than 100 routes that connect China and the countries and regions involved in the Belt and Road Initiative. For instance, it launched flights that connect Beijing and Prague, as well as flights that connect Shanghai and Tel Aviv. The company said it will look for favorable opportunities to further expand its networks in the region.

On May 15, Hainan Airlines launched direct flights that connect Beijing and Oslo, the first direct flight that links China and Norway, which coincides with the 65th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries.

Chen said the launch of the flights shows the carrier's commitment to further contributing to the Belt and Road Initiative by building rich aerial networks between different economies.

In addition, Hainan Airlines said it will grab the opportunities emerging from the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area, an initiative announced by the Chinese government in 2017 and aims to transform the region.

The carrier said it will further increase its capacity in the region, by cooperating with the local government of Shenzhen and launching multiple international flights that depart from Shenzhen. On May 30, it launched direct flights between Shenzhen and Rome.

"In recent years, Hainan Airlines has launched a large number of intercontinental flights, and its growth rate in the long-haul flights markets is faster than its domestic peers," said Lin Zhijie, an aviation industry analyst and columnist at Carnoc, one of China's largest civil aviation websites.

For years, international flights from a major Chinese city to a major city in the US or Europe, except Moscow, were operated by one Chinese carrier, according to earlier regulations of the Civil Aviation Administration of China. The rule was rescinded earlier this year.

"Restricted by the earlier rule, Hainan Airlines was unable to launch some flights such as the one that connects Beijing and New York, so it found a new and different path to grow and increased its market share," Lin said.

Last year, Hainan Airlines carried 79.88 million passengers and 559,100 metric tons of cargo and mail, up 11.4 percent and 16.7 percent year-on-year, respectively. It had a fleet size of 463 aircraft by the end of 2018.

Currently, 120 million Chinese hold valid passports, meaning 90 percent of the Chinese population has not traveled abroad yet, indicating a significant growth potential for international trips.

Sun Jie, CEO of Ctrip, China's largest online travel agency, earlier predicted that by 2020, around 240 million Chinese citizens are expected to hold passports, which is foreseen to further stimulate the outbound tourism market.

Responsible editor: 陈书敏
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