China Southern Airlines is to introduce a limited series of flights into Africa this summer, offering the first direct links into the continent from Shenzhen’s Bao'an International Airport. The carrier will offer a weekly Airbus A330-300 rotation from Southern China's Guangdong Province to the Indian Ocean island of Mauritius from June 27, 2014 until July 31, 2014.
There has been a growing demand for air connectivity between China and the popular leisure destination with O&D demand rising massively over the past ten years from just 8,000 bi-directional passengers in 2004 to around 66,000 in 2013. Demand had grown at modest levels before a major spike over the past two years (43.1 per cent in 2012 and a massive 170.5 per cent in 2013) as connectivity has improved.
Air Mauritius dominates this market with its flights to Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong carrying 83.4 per cent of these passengers in 2013, although Emirates Airline had a notable 14.2 per cent share, a figure that had reached levels as high as 41.1 per cent prior to Air Mauritius’ network growth in China.
China’s investment in Africa over recent years is clear and the Chinese market alongside the Middle East hub carriers could play an important role in air service development across the continent. According to historic schedule data there were only two countries in Africa with non-stop or through services to China at the start of the Century.
Fast forward ten years to the start of the current decade and there were ten, with the amount of available seats trebling in the past five years. The market is dominated by Emirates Airline, highlighting the important role that Middle East carriers could play in the development of air links between China and Africa.
The average annual growth rate of China-Africa trade between 2000 and 2008 was 33.5 per cent and although volumes dropped to $91 billion in 2009 as a result of the international financial crisis, China became Africa's largest trade partner that year for the first time. The following year witnessed further strong growth with trade growth hitting around 50 per cent in 2010.
China’s investment in Africa has largely targeted the oil, gas and mining industries but is expanding into manufacturing, real estate, infrastructure and other sectors such as finance and the country has established special economic zones across the continent to support its focus. Such investment naturally brings air service opportunities both for business and leisure.
In our analysis, below, we look in greater detail at O&D passenger demand between China and Africa. The dramatic growth is clearly illustrated and the rise in demand does not need words to explain.