Air China will launch a new link between next year’s World Routes host city, Chengdu and the French capital, Paris, this year rather than in 2016, it was confirmed last week, and it will also boost capacity by a third with an additional weekly rotation.
The Star Alliance member will launch a four times weekly link between Chengdu’s Shuangliu International Airport and Charles de Gaulle Airport in the French city from December 12, 2015. It had previously planned to introduce the route from January 28, 2016 and initially scheduled to operate just three weekly frequencies.
The revised operational schedule was revealed at the start of September by our Airline Route blog when reservations were first opened on the city pair. However, it was not until September 29, 2015 that the airline confirmed the expedited launch and frequency growth at a formal press conference.
The route, served using an Airbus A330-200, will be Air China’s third into Paris – adding to Beijing and Shanghai – and second European destination linked to Chengdu, a city that has become a key growth hub for the national carrier in southwest China.
It will complement the airline’s existing Chengdu- Frankfurt route, introduced in 2013, and is likely to be followed by other possible long-haul routes as it reinforces its activities at Shuangliu International Airport from where it now serves eleven regional and international destinations alongside almost 70 domestic points.
Rapid growth has seen Shuangliu International emerge as one of the world’s fastest expanding airports handling 37.5 million passengers in 2014. It is now among the world's top 40 busiest airports, the fifth busiest in mainland China, and the busiest in western and central China. This has supported a double-digit growth in Gross Domestic Product for the city every year over the last 20 years and it ranks first in Forbes’ global list of the fastest-developing cities in the next ten years.
Air capacity from Shuangliu International has risen 24.5 per cent from just over 18.7 million seats in 2012 to a forecasted 23.3 million for this year, based on published schedules. New arrivals include a direct British Airways link to London Heathrow a Qatar Airways link to Doha, and a first direct link to the United States with a United Airlines service to San Francisco.
Over the past two years new entrants to the Chengdu market have included JinAir, SriLankan Airlines, Thai AirAsia and Tianjin Airlines in 2014, while Air Mauritius, Lao Airlines, Nok Air, Orient Thai Airlines and Sky Angkor Airlines introduced flights this year. The construction of a second airport will see capacity rise from 42 million passengers in 2015 to over 62 million passengers in the next five years.
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.
It 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, aluminium smelting and chemicals. Textiles are an important industry with cotton, wool milling and traditional manufacturing of silk and satin among the key business sectors.
Our analysis of Sabre Airport Data Intelligence demand statistics shows that France is the third largest country market form bi-directional O&D passenger demand between Chengdu and Europe. It is behind Germany and the United Kingdom, both of whom already have direct links into the largest airport in the Sichuan province. The introduction of these new flights has helped stimulate the European market further with demand to/from Chengdu more than trebling from an estimated 85,000 annual passengers in 2010 to almost 270,000 last year.