China’s Xiamen Airlines is expected to become an official member of the SkyTeam global airline alliance by December.
The airline’s application to join the alliance was approved during a SkyTeam council meeting in Singapore in June. The integration process, including a safety audit on the airline, is now being finalised.
Xiamen Airlines Deputy General Manager Zhao Dong says the carrier decided to join a global alliance to boost its presence in international markets. “Gaining membership in SkyTeam is [part of] our aim of turning the airline from a regional player into an international carrier,” Zhao says.
Xiamen Airlines is 60 percent owned by China Southern Airlines, which is already a member of SkyTeam. The remaining 40 percent is owned by Xiamen Construction Development Corp.
Based at Xiamen Gaoqi International Airport, Xiamen Airlines also has a hub at Fuzhou Changle. The carrier plans to launch flights to Europe and the US from Xiamen and Fuzhou in 2014-2015, after it takes delivery of six Boeing 787 twin-aisle twinjets ordered in 2010.
Xiamen Airlines, which was established in July 1984, operates a fleet of 78 aircraft, including eight Boeing 757-200s, 54 737-800s and 16 737-700s. The carrier serves a network of 119 domestic and 20 international destinations. Zhao says that, if all goes according to schedule, the airline’s fleet will be expanded to 130 aircraft by 2015.
Xiamen Airlines received an 810 million yuan (US$127.55 million) capital injection from China Southern in December 2010 to finance fleet expansion. The carrier posted sales of 6.6 billion yuan for the first six months of this year, an increase of 23.8 percent.
Zhao says international operations accounted for only 10 percent of the revenue.
Chinese budget carrier Spring Airlines will launch flights to Sagaken in Japan in November using Airbus A320 aircraft.
Sagaken will be the airline’s second Japanese destination after Ibaraki, which was introduced in July 2010. According to Spring Airlines chairman Wang Zhenghua, the carrier is evaluating ten other second-tier Japanese destinations.
“The Japanese market has tremendous potential and is important for Chinese carriers based in the Yangtze River Delta region,” Wang said.
On average, Spring Airlines’ flights to Ibaraki are filling up 95 percent of their available seats. “This is encouraging and it is a clear indication that there is strong demand for low-cost travel in the Japanese market,” Wang notes.
Wang says the airline is now studying a proposal to start a joint-venture low-cost carrier (LCC) in Japan with a local partner. “We are evaluating the plan seriously, but we have to take into consideration that Spring Airlines, being a foreign partner, is restricted to holding a maximum 33 percent stake,” Wang says.
The carrier is concerned that it may not give sufficient influence over management decisions for the proposed airline. “Japan is very much a protected market, so we have to look at whether it would be feasible having the joint venture with a stake of only 33 percent,” Wang says.
Meanwhile, Spring Airlines says its plan for an initial public offering (IPO) scheduled for the first quarter of 2012 is on track. The company hopes to raise US$1.2 billion from its listing on the Shanghai Stock Exchange, to help finance the purchase of new aircraft.
Based at Shanghai Hongqiao International Airport, Spring Airlines will be the fifth Chinese carrier to be listed. The others are: Air China, China Eastern Airlines, China Southern Airlines and Hainan Airlines.
Spring Airlines, which operates 24 Airbus A320 aircraft, hopes to double the size of its fleet by 2015. Previous plans envisaged a fleet of as many as 100 aircraft.
Philippines low-cost carrier (LCC) Cebu Pacific Air has signed an order for 30 re-engined Airbus A321neo aircraft.
The contract firms up a previously signed Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) in June. With the A321neos, the airline has increased its total orders for the A320 family to 71, of which 16 have already been delivered.
The A321neo will be configured with 220 seats in a single-class layout. Cebu Pacific will make a decision on the engine selection at a later stage.
The new engine types offered for the A320 neo family are CFM International’s LEAP-X and Pratt & Whitney’s PurePower PW1100G geared turbofan.
Cebu Pacific currently operates a fleet of 25 A320-family aircraft, of which nine are leased, alongside eight ATR72-500 turboprops with an average age of 3.5 years. Its network covers 34 domestic and 16 international destinations.
The airline will take delivery of 16 A320s between 2012 and 2014, and plans to launch flights to Tokyo and Nagoya in its winter schedule, starting in October, as part of a plan to expand in North Asia.
As Asian Aviation went to press, the carrier was waiting to receive approval from the Japanese civil aviation authorities. Cebu Pacific will also add flights to Beijing, Guangzhou and Osaka. The carrier is a leader in the Philippines’ domestic market, with a 47 percent share.