Calgary secures new Hainan Airlines direct link to China

Hainan Airlines filed an application with the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) in November last year for rights to introduce the first regular flight between China and Alberta. There are already direct links between Beijing and Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver; Guangzhou and Vancouver; Shanghai and Toronto and Vancouver and Shenyang and Vancouver.

Asian carrier, Hainan Airlines is set to begin a direct service between Beijing Capital International Airport and Calgary International Airport in Canada from June 30, 2016.  The airline loaded schedules for the new long-haul link into the GDS late last month but has not yet formally announced the route or opened reservations.

The new link will be flown three times a week, using Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner equipment as the Chinese carrier continues to expand its international offering, taking advantage of the enhanced operational efficiencies of the modern generation airliner to introduce new city pair connectivity. It will help to strengthen ties between the two countries, through both tourism and trade - in 2014, China was Canada’s fifth largest international air travel market, and their second largest single-country trading partner.

Hainan Airlines filed an application with the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) in November last year for rights to introduce the first regular flight between China and Alberta. There are already direct links between Beijing and Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver; Guangzhou and Vancouver; Shanghai and Toronto and Vancouver and Shenyang and Vancouver.

With strong competition in the larger Toronto and Vancouver markets, Hainan Airlines will seek to secure first-mover status between China and Calgary, a sizeable market that can easily sustain a three times weekly operation with current O&D flows.  According to MIDT data, an estimated 20,000 annual two-way passengers are flying on the Beijing – Calgary city pair.  This has been a stable market for the last ten years

These passenger flows had previously attracted Air Canada and Air China to serving the route as part of their alliance on routes between China and Canada.  There were suggestions back in November 2014 that an announcement would be ‘imminent’ as part of a revenue sharing joint venture, but they appear to have cooled their interest due to a general softening of demand in the Alberta market during the past couple of years.

China is part of the Blue Sky policy in Canada, in which the Government of Canada has expanded or concluded new agreements with more than 85 countries to encourage long-term, sustainable competition and the development of international air services. Late last year an agreement was reached to expand the current bilateral deal with China to boost accessibility between the two countries.

Since 2008, China's aviation industry has continued to grow at an advanced rate. The first quarter of 2015 saw China's airlines surpass 100 million passengers for the first time. China has the fastest growing aviation and transportation market in the world, with an ever expanding fleet.

This new route will help to tap into the growing tourism market in China, where the middle class is growing. Chinese tourism growth is on track to reach 200 million outbound travellers by 2020, creating an exponential surge in global tourism, driven by increased affordability, reduced travel restrictions and growing desire to visit new places. In recent years China has overtaken both USA and Germany to become the largest outbound market in the world with Chinese travellers now the top source of tourism cash, according to the UNWTO.

This will be only the second regular non-stop link between Calgary and Asia alongside the flights of Air Canada to Tokyo, Japan.  The airport is also linked to Seoul, South Korea by the flights of Korean Air but on a charter only basis in co-operation with tour operator, Hanjin Travel.

Calgary International Airport reported a record number of passengers for the 2015 calendar year, with 15.48 million people using the facility – a 1.4 per cent increase on 2014. The airport has also built a new terminal with 24 new gates in order to enhance capacity. The airport opened a second runway in 2014, and a two million square feet international terminal is currently under construction.