Chinese Airlines Expanding into Africa

Both Air China and China Southern have recently announced plans for new services to Africa to commence in the coming months.

Both Air China and China Southern have recently announced plans for new services to Africa to commence in the coming months.

China Southern has announced plans to launch a nonstop service to Kenya, with a thrice weekly service between Guangzhou and Nairobi. The new operation, which is scheduled to commence on August 5, 2015 will be operated using the airline’s Airbus A330-200 aircraft, on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

The airline will depart China at 00:45am, to arrive into Nairobi at 07:00am, with the return journey to depart Nairobi at 13:35pm, arriving into Guangzhou at 05:50am (+1 day).

Air China will take over the operation of the Beijing – Johannesburg route, which is currently served by South African Airways (SAA). The South African airline will suspend its Beijing service on March 28, 2015, leaving a two-and-a-half-month hiatus before Air China resumes the flights on June 18, 2015.

The route was first launched by SAA in February 2012, but Star Alliance partner, Air China will take over the route and operate it three-times-weekly using its Boeing 777-300 aircraft. Services will depart Beijing’s Capital International Airport every Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday, with return flights departing Johannesburg’s OR Tambo International Airport every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

At the start of the 21st century, China became the second largest trade partner with Africa after the United States and in 2009 became Africa’s largest trade partner for the first time. International trade and commerce is of primary importance to airports throughout Africa and aviation plays a very natural and essential part in both maintaining connections and facilitating growth.

China’s investment in Africa has largely targeted the oil, gas and mining industries, though has expanded into manufacturing and finance, and such investments have obviously brought in air service opportunities. Chinese investment volumes have rocketed in Africa from 2007, when prior to then, Chinese investment ran at similar levels to investment in Europe and North America.

The Pearl River Delta in China generated about a third of all Chinese exports to Africa, and very recently has taken over Tokyo to become the world’s largest urban area in terms of both size and population, according to a report from the World Bank. The megacity – which covers a significant part of China’s manufacturing heartland, includes Shenzhen, Guangzhou, Foshan and Dongguan.

Fifty percent of all trade in China comes from both the Pearl River and around Shanghai, with the majority of activity emerging from coastal cities. With such an increase in trade activity between China and Africa, the requirement for improved and more frequent air services is clearly strong.

In our analysis, below, we look at South African Airways’ performance on the Johannesburg – Beijing route since it made its debut in February 2012. According to MIDT data the airline carried around 47,000 passengers over the eleven month of operation in 2012, falling to just over 40,000 in 2013 and to almost 48,000 last year.


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