Chinese airlines are hoping the newly rich in the inland provinces will drive the next phase of their global expansion, Reuters reported Thursday.
The carriers are now offering flights to destinations like San Jose, California, and Nairobi, Kenya, from cities hundreds or thousands of kilometers from the aviation hubs on the Chinese coast.
Air China Ltd., China Eastern Airlines Corp. Ltd. and China Southern Airlines Co. Ltd. are adding flights to New York, Paris and Sydney from thriving inland cities such as Wuhan in Hebei province and Chengdu in Sichuan province.
The carriers are also flying to second-tier cities in North America, Europe and Australia, spurred by a growing penchant for overseas travel.
In the year’s first quarter, revenue passenger kilometers (RPKs) – the number of kilometers travelled by paying passengers — approached record highs, filings by the three airlines showed.
“Historically what happened is strong hub-to-hub,” Andrew Herdman, director general of the Association of Asia Pacific Airlines, was quoted as saying.
“But when the market grows, it makes sense to come up with direct service to non-hub cities.”
Last year, the number of China’s outbound leisure travellers topped 100 million, a new record.
That number is expected to rise 10 percent this year as countries including the United States, France and Australia relax their visa policies.
With the boom in leisure travel, Chinese airlines will be offering more seats on China-US routes than US-based carriers this year for the first time, Mark Clarkson, business development director for the Asia-Pacific at data and analytics company OAG was quoted as saying.
Air China plans to resume services to Africa as the region becomes a must-go for adventurous Chinese travellers. The flag carrier will be flying to Johannesburg in South Africa and Addis Ababa in Ethiopia later in the year.
China Southern will be flying to Nairobi from Guangzhou from August.
Even smaller carriers traditionally focused on the domestic market are joining the fray.
Sichuan Airlines is flying to Vancouver and Melbourne from Chengdu.
Xiamen Airlines, which has ordered six Boeing 787 jets, is set to fly to Amsterdam from Xiamen, Fujian province, in July and possibly to North America later in the year.
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