Qatar Airways Adds Chengdu to Expanding Chinese Network

Qatar Airways has this week revealed it will launch scheduled flights to Chengdu – its sixth gateway in the People’s Republic of China.  The carrier will introduce a three times weekly link to Chengdu’s Shuangliu International Airport in Sichuan Province in Southwest China from its Doha International Airport hub from March 19, 2013, using a two-class Airbus A330-200 seating 24 passengers in Business Class and 236 in Economy.

Since it made its debut in China in October 2003, Qatar Airways has built up a solid operation in the country over the subsequent years, currently operating 38 flights each week from its Doha hub to Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Chongqing and Hong Kong.  In 2011 it carried an estimated 298,000 passengers into the country with the main O&D traffic flows between Lagos and Guangzhou; Beirut and Guangzhou; Doha and Beijing; Manchester and Hong Kong and Doha and Shanghai.

“China is a market that is growing in stature and Qatar Airways will continue to tap into opportunities to expand our presence and provide more choice for our passengers travelling on business or leisure to or from China,” said Akbar Al Baker, Chief Executive Officer, Qatar Airways.

With a catchment population of 28 million people, Chengdu is one of the most important economic, transportation and communication hubs in western China and deemed among the top 10 cities for investment out of 280 across the country.

Chengdu is the China’s western centre of logistics, commerce, finance, science and technology, as well as a hub for transportation, communication, manufacturing and agriculture.  The city has a strong industrial base, including heavy manufacturing, aluminum smelting and chemicals.  Textiles are an important industry with cotton, wool milling and traditional manufacturing of silk and satin among the key business sectors.

Sichuan Province is also home to one of the rarest animals – the giant panda.  In order to protect wild giant pandas, nature reserves have been established in and around Chengdu, including the Sichuan Wolong Giant Panda Nature Reserve, the largest of its kind in the world.

“Chengdu is another key city in a vibrant economy looking for more air capacity and we are delighted to announce our operations there from March next year,” added Akbar Al Baker.  “We are confident of buoyant business on the route, appealing to vital traffic flows linking South America, Africa, Europe and the Middle East to an important gateway in China – in fact our sixth gateway of Chengdu.”

This is Qatar Airways’ sixth route announcement so far for 2013.  Flights to Gassim in Saudi Arabia, Najaf in Iraq, Oman’s tourist spot of Salalah, Cambodia’s capital of Phnom Penh and Chicago – the carrier’s fourth US gateway – are being launched between January and May with further start-ups planned during the year.  "We look forward to welcoming our sixth new route of 2013 into the Qatar Airways’ family with many more to be announced during the course of the next few weeks and months,” confirmed Al Baker.

The arrival of Qatar Airways represents a key growth for Shaungliu International Airport in Chengdu, which this year hosted the Routes Asia forum.  It already has links to the Middle East with Etihad Airways and to Europe with KLM but this new Qatar Airways service will open up additional connection opportunities across Africa, the Middle East and European markets.  The airport is working hard to attract new long-haul operators to Chengdu, particularly European carriers, and another major announcement is expected in the next two weeks.

Europe is a key target region for Chengdu and in the table below we highlight the largest O&D markets between Chengdu and the continent in 2011.  Although the Netherlands currently has the only direct link to Chengdu, it was only the fourth largest O&D country market for bi-directional passengers in 2011 behind the UK, France and Germany, with sizeable O&D flows from Italy and Russia too.  The UK market accounts for 23.4 per cent of the estimated 116,644 passengers that flew between Europe and Chengdu last year with notable flows from London Heathrow (approximately 14,000 passengers), Manchester (around 5,000 passengers) and Birmingham (about 3,000 travellers).

SCHEDULED O&D AIR PASSENGER DEMAND BETWEEN CHENGDU AND EUROPE (bi-directional O&D passengers; 2011)

COUNTRY MARKETS

AIRPORT MARKETS

Rank

Destination

Estimated O&D Demand

% Share

Rank

Destination

Estimated O&D Demand

% Share

1

United Kingdom

27,297

23.4 %

1

Amsterdam Schiphol (AMS)

15,142

13.0 %

2

France

17,284

14.8 %

2

Paris CDG (CDG)

13,867

11.9 %

3

Germany

15,377

13.2 %

3

London Heathrow (LHR)

13,687

11.7 %

4

Netherlands

15,142

13.0 %

4

Moscow Sheremetyevo (SVO)

7,860

6.7 %

5

Italy

9,098

7.8 %

5

Frankfurt (FRA)

5,625

4.8 %

6

Russian Federation

8,097

6.9 %

6

Manchester (MAN)

4,841

4.2 %

7

Spain

4,010

3.4 %

7

Rome Fiumicino (FCO)

4,157

3.6 %

8

Sweden

3,616

3.1 %

8

Birmingham (BHX)

3,176

2.7 %

9

Switzerland

3,261

2.8 %

9

Stockholm Arlanda (ARN)

3,043

2.6 %

10

Denmark

1,990

1.7 %

10

Milan Malpensa (MXP)

3,027

2.6 %

(Others)

11,473

9.8 %

(Others)

42,220

36.2 %

TOTAL

116,644

-

TOTAL

116,644

-

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