China Southern has applied to the Civil Aviation Administration of China to begin two new routes to Italy this summer, as well as increasing flight frequency on a third.
The carrier wants to open routes between its home hub in Guangzhou and Milan, the future host city for World Routes in 2020, and between Shenzhen and Rome. Both services would operate three times per week from July 2019.
In addition, the airline plans to add a flight to its three-weekly Guangzhou - Rome service from the same month.
The expansion comes less than four months after Wen Wenxing, the general manager of the Guangdong Airport Authority, announced at World Routes 2018 in Guangzhou that China Southern planned to open a string of new routes from the city.
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Speaking at the time, he said planned destinations included Madrid, Milan, Copenhagen, Istanbul, Calcutta, Islamabad, Chicago, Seattle, Boston, Tel Aviv and Tehran.
Capacity between mainland China and Italy has surged in recent years, largely due to the international expansion of Chinese airlines.
According to data provided by OAG Schedules Analyser, the total number of available two-way seats has grown from 578,597 in 2013 to 1.07 million in 2018.
However, following three years of double digit capacity growth in 2015 (22 percent), 2016 (22 percent) and 2017 (19 percent), growth moderated last year at 1.9 percent.
Six airlines provided scheduled flights between Italy and China in 2018, with four Chinese carriers accounting for 92 percent of the total capacity.
Airlines operating Italy - China routes in 2018 by capacity share (%):
Germany is still China’s largest outbound market in Western Europe, but Italy has overtaken Turkey in the past two years to become the fifth largest. Capacity from China to Italy has increased by 85.8 percent from 2013 to 2018.
Over the same period, the number of departure seats from China to Germany has risen by 27.2 percent; to France by 44 percent, to the UK by 74.5 percent and to the Netherlands by 29.1 percent.
China - Western Europe by capacity (2013-18):