China's third low-cost carrier, 9 Air, inaugurated passenger operations on December 2, 2014, although local media reports suggest its Boeing 737-800 was not filled with 180 fare-paying passengers but 180 members of the travel media.
The airline, which translates in Mandarin as ‘Nine Bucks Airline’, has initially launched a daily charter service from Guangzhou’s Baiyun International Airport to Zhanjiang, a city in southwest Guangdong province, but plans to rival giant China Southern Airlines from the Chinese metropolis with fares 20 to 30 per cent lower than the industry average.
9 Air was established earlier this year as a subsidiary of privately-owned Juneyao Airlines. It is the third low-cost carrier to operate in China after Spring Airlines and China West Air and plans to offer fares priced at 9 yuan, 99 yuan, 199 yuan and 299 yuan, meaning its cheapest fares will be the equivalent of $1.50.
The airline has ambitious plans to grow not only across the domestic market but to into international markets. In May this year it revealed its ambitions by committing to place an order with Boeing for 50 short-haul aircraft for delivery before 2020, including 737-800s and 737 MAX models.
In a statement to mark its launch, it confirmed its network will cover destinations within a five hour flying time of Guangzhou, including locations in East Asia, Southeast Asia, Northeast Asia , South Asia and even Australia.
9 Air is initially launching operations with two brand-new leased 737-800s and plans to grow to eight aircraft by the end of 2015, with the first of the directly ordered equipment arriving from Boeing from the following year.
However, not everything has gone to plan with its launch and media reports in China suggest it is having issues with its reservations system. “We didn’t sell tickets to any would-be travellers as our online sales platform isn’t ready for operating yet,” a spokesman told local reporters following this week’s launch. “There are always some start-up hiccups for new companies. We’re working hard to fix it and hope to roll out the platform before the end of this month,” he added.
The airline expects to overcome its system issues and open reservations for scheduled flights before the end of the year, at which time it hopes to hear back from authorities about its requests for route licences to serve its initial batch of destinations.
In our analysis, below, we look at the largest operators from Guangzhou based on departure capacity for the current calendar month. China Southern Airlines dominates with a 48.7 per cent share, its closest rival, Air China, having just an 8.4 per cent share of departure capacity in December 2014.
According to World Civil Aviation Resource Net, the airline is set to choose Chengdu as its headquarters in southwest China, citing a statement released by the CAAC Southwest Regional Administration. The statement claims the carrier has selected the fast-growing Shaungliu International Airport for a base and discussions between Wang Junjin, chairman of Juneyao Airlines and the heads of the CAAC Southwest Regional Administration took place in late November to discuss the proposal.