United Arab Emirates (UAE) carrier, Emirates Airline has made the surprising announcement that its next growth move into the Chinese market will be through links to the cities of Yinchuan and Zhengzhou. These destinations are certainly not household names, but they mark a consistent pattern by the airline to add capacity to Asia during the closing months of 2015 and will see the carrier pioneer long-haul network services to these markets.
Emirates has confirmed it will introduce a four times weekly link between its Dubai International Airport hub and Yinchuan’s Hedong International Airport from May 3, 2016, with an additional onward leg to Zhengzhou’s Xinzheng International Airport. The flight will be operated by a 266-seat Boeing 777-200LR and will bring its offering mainland China to five points, adding to existing flights to Beijing, Guangzhou and Shanghai.
Although the gateway airports to the Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region and Henan province were only ranked the 40th and 19th largest facilities in China by passenger traffic last year, they are located in two of China’s fastest growing cities and will now be better connected to global markets through the arrival of the Middle Eastern hub carrier.
“We believe the new international air links that we are launching will help create tourism and trade opportunities for Chinese business and leisure travellers that may not otherwise exist.”HH Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum
Chairman and Chief Executive, Emirates Airline and Group.
Yinchuan, the capital of Ningxia, lies to the West of the Yellow River and to the East of Helan Mountain. With a large Muslim population, it serves as a gateway connecting China to Arabic countries, and is positioned as a hub for economic and trade cooperation and cultural exchange between China and the Middle East.
Zhengzhou, the capital of Henan Province and a major transportation interchange for central China, is an educational, technological and economic centre. The second largest city in central China, Zhengzhou’s strategic location has enabled the city to become one of the largest economic hubs in China.
“With the opening of these new strategic routes, Emirates looks forward to contributing to the enhancement of China’s trade links with the rest of the world, in particular with the UAE and Arab world,” said HH Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, Chairman and Chief Executive, Emirates Airline and Group.
“We believe the new international air links that we are launching will help create tourism and trade opportunities for Chinese business and leisure travellers that may not otherwise exist,” he added.
With its established network across Africa, Europe and the Middle East, Emirates will connect Yinchuan and Zhengzhou with many new destinations and help boost trade and tourism flows to the growing central and western parts of China where these cities are located. Although the two destinations are currently linked, strong demand will likely lead to them being separated and served individually in the future.
The two new cities in China are the latest capacity expansion for Emirates in the Asia-Pacific region, where it now serves over 40 destinations. Another new non-stop market next year will be Brisbane, which will be linked directly from Dubai rather than with a Singapore stopover from May 2016.
Earlier this month the UAE carrier began two-class Airbus A380 service to Bangkok and will add capacity on the Dubai - Kuala Lumpur city pair from January 1, 2016 and Dubai – Taipei from May 1, 2016 when it deploys further 615-seat SuperJumbo variants. The two-class aircraft can add as much as 25 per cent more seats to the 489-seat version of the aircraft operating on most routes. Emirates is also adding capacity from Dubai to Delhi, Dhaka, Mashad, Phuket Sailkot and Manila, while this week it launched flights to Sabiha Gokcen Airport, on the Asian side of Istanbul.
But, it is clear that China will continue to see network and capacity growth from Emirates as ties between Dubai and China continue to grow stronger. A growing number of Chinese banks and businesses are establishing branches within Dubai’s business and financial districts and the city is now home to over 3,000 Chinese companies and 200,000 Chinese residents. Growth in visitor numbers to Dubai from China grew by 25 per cent in 2014 and additional routes are under discussion.
“As China's regions continue to open up to the global economy, Emirates remains keen to support this with the further expansion of air services in mainland China. In particular we’re interested in exploring the opportunity of daily services to Hangzhou and Chongqing, and a second daily service to Guangzhou,” said HH Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum.
There has been an increase in long-haul activities into China’s regional cities over the last ten year with notable growth in non-stop links to both Europe and North America. Alongside the big three mainland Chinese hubs, more than 15 destinations are now directly linked to Europe with new services being introduced at Chengdu (since 2006), Nanjing (since 2008), Hangzhou (since 2010), Urumqi and Xiamen (since 2011), Chongqing, Shenyang and Wuhan (since 2012), Xi’an (since 2013), Changsha and Kunming (since 2014) and Ningbo this year.
In North America the first non-stop flights outside of Beijing, Guangzhou and Shanghai arrived in 2012 when Sichuan Airlines commenced flights between Shenyang and Vancouver. In the last two years United Airlines has added a link between San Francisco and Chengdu, and a Xi’an service will also be added from May 2016, while China Southern Airlines now links Wuhan to San Francisco and China Eastern Airlines has regular flights between Nanjing and Los Angeles.
Yinchuan’s new non-stop link to Dubai will actually be Hedong International Airport’s second regular link to the metropolis as Sichuan Airlines introduced a twice weekly service this September using an Airbus A330. This is its only long-haul operation, although international service are also offered to Bangkok, Seoul and Taipei.
Schedule data from OAG shows that departure capacity from Hedong International has risen by an average annual rate of 51.4 per cent between 2005 and 2014 and is forecasted to grow a further 14.0 per cent this year, based on published schedules. China Eastern Airlines is the largest carrier at the airport with a 24.8 per cent capacity share in 2015 ahead of Air China (17.2 per cent), China Southern Airlines (14.9 per cent) and Shandong Airlines (10.1 per cent).
Zhengzhou’s one-stop, but direct, offering to Dubai from Xinzheng International Airport will be a key hub link for the city and will add its growing international network. Since the start of this decade over ten new international destinations have been added and multiple daily flights are now offered to Bangkok, Hong Kong, Seoul and Taipei.
Schedule data from OAG shows that departure capacity from Xinzheng International has risen by an average annual rate of 43.6 per cent between 2005 and 2014 and is forecasted to grow a further 6.2 per cent this year, based on published schedules. China Southern Airlines is the largest carrier at the airport with a 31.3 per cent capacity share in 2015 ahead of Shenzhen Airlines (10.4 per cent), China Eastern Airlines (9.0 per cent) and Xiamen Airlines (6.4 per cent).
(additional reporting from Mike Miller, Head of Content and Industry Relations, Routes)