Chinese low-cost carrier, Spring Airlines was the first to bring the low-fare business formula to the Chinese market and now it aims to be the pioneer of budget flights into North Korea after requesting government approval to launch flights between Pudong International Airport in Shanghai and the nation’s capital, Pyongyang.
In its request to the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC), Spring Airlines is seeking permission to introduce a four times weekly schedule on the international route from February next year using an Airbus A320. Like all applications for route licences, the Air Transportation Department of CAAC is soliciting public comments on the application, in this case closing on November 30, 2015.
Subject to final approval and the green light from North Korean authorities, Spring Airlines will be one of only a handful of carriers to provide international flights into the North Korean market. This market has been mainly served by national carrier Air Koryo, although the likes of Air China, China Southern Airlines have offered scheduled programmes into the country with Air China currently linking Pyongyang to Beijing.
Spring Airlines will compete directly with Air Koryo on the proposed Shanghai – Pyongyang route. The state-controlled carrier currently serves this market on a twice weekly basis using a mix of Tupolev Tu-204 and Antonov An-148 equipment.
Alongside operating flights to the Chinese territories of Hong Kong and Macau, Spring Airlines introduced international flights from China in May 2013 with flights from Shanghai to Bangkok, Ibaraki, Saga and Takamatsu and now offers over 1,000 monthly departures from 22 points in China to 22 international destinations (based on OAG November 2015 schedules).
Shanghai’s Pudong International Airport is the main base of its international operations with all but one of these 22 destinations served from the major gateway, with at least daily schedules offered to the likes of Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Ibaraki, Jeju, Osaka and Phuket. This month 58.2 per cent of the airline’s international capacity is from the airport with its second and third largest points being Shijiazhuang Zhengding International Airport and Chengdu Shuangliu International Airport with just 6.3 per cent and 5.6 per cent capacity shares, respectively.
Spring Airlines made its first pioneering steps into the Chinese market in July 2005 with flights from Shanghai to Yantai and Guilin and has been on a growth trajectory since, using its low-fares to help stimulate demand in the local market. From offering just 175,000 departure seats in its first year of operation (2005) it has grown to now offering over 15 million, based on published schedules for the remainder of this year.