Mongolian carrier Hunnu Air has announced plans to launch a limited schedule of flights between Ulaan Bataar and the French capital, Paris, between June and August this year. This will be the first long-haul service for the company, formerly known as Mongolian Airlines, and will be likely initially be operated using an Airbus A319 with an intermediate technical stop prior to the arrival of a leased Airbus A330-200 in 2015.
Hunnu Air launched operations in February 2012 and until now has mainly focused on serving the domestic Mongolian market. It currently offers internal flights to Altai, Bayankhongor, Choibalsan, Dalanzadgad, Donoi, Hailar, Hovd and Murun using three Fokker 50s and had a 42.7 per cent share of the seat capacity in the domestic market last year, up from 28.9 per cent on 2012, overtaking Eznis Airways as the country’s largest domestic carrier.
International operations commenced in June 2012 with the launch of flights between Ulaan Bataar and Hong Kong and subsequently scheduled operations have been introduced to Bangkok (from June 2013) and Shanghai (from February 2013 , although this route was closed in October 2013). Hunnu Air also offers seasonal charter flights to several Japanese cities and destinations in Russia and this year added a link to Manzhouli, in the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region of the People's Republic of China. The international routes are all served by two Airbus A319s configured in a two-class arrangement with 12 Business Class and 108 Economy seats.
The airline’s long-haul plans are not new as it confirmed at the International French Travel Market (IFTM) in Paris that the French capital would be its first long-haul destination. The opening of reservations this week follows the award of the relevant permissions and clearances to serve this market.
According to schedules, Hunnu Air will offer a twice weekly service (every Monday and Friday) between June 9, 2014 and August 29, 2014. The Amadeus GDS currently lists that this 11 hour service will be operated on a non-stop basis using an A319, however, the carrier is understood to be formalising the lease of a single A330-200. This aircraft is also expected to be used to launch a new link to Singapore in early 2015.
This will be the sole non-stop service between Ulaan Bataar and France and only the second European market to be served directly from Mongolia after Germany, which has been linked to Ulaan Bataar by the flights of MIAT - Mongolian Airlines from Berlin and Frankfurt. According to MIDT data, an estimated 134,000 bi-directional O&D passengers flew between Europe and Mongolia in 2013: approximately 14,000 of these passengers (10.8 per cent) flew from or to destinations in France.
In the analysis below we look in greater detail at the O&D demand between Mongolia and Europe, highlighting the largest markets across the Continent for inbound and outbound visitors from Mongolia last year. This is dominated by the German and Russian markets, although alongside France there is also a notable demand from the UK, which could potentially be a future destination for a Mongolian carrier.