China Southern Airlines is launching six new international routes to destinations in Cambodia, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, the Netherlands, Singapore and Turkey as speculation rises that China may soon ease COVID-related measures on international flights.
The carrier has scheduled two new services from Zhengzhou (CGO), the capital of east-central China's Henan province, as well as additional flights from Shenzhen (SZX) in the southeast of the country and Xi’an (XIY), the capital of the central Shaanxi province.
China Southern also intends to open new routes from Nanning (NNG) in southern China near the Vietnam border and from its home city of Guangzhou (CAN), located northwest of Hong Kong on the Pearl River.
From Zhengzhou, data provided by OAG Schedules Analyser shows that the airline will begin serving Kuala Lumpur (KUL) on Dec. 29, followed by Singapore Changi (SIN) on Jan. 1, 2023. Service on both routes will be once a week using Boeing 737-800 equipment.
China Southern currently serves Kuala Lumpur from Guangzhou and Shenzhen, while it serves Singapore from Guangzhou and Changsha (CSX).
The carrier will be the sole operator of Zhengzhou-Kuala Lumpur flights but will compete with Scoot in the Singapore market. The Singapore Airlines subsidiary serves the sector weekly onboard 787-8s.
From Shenzhen, China Southern will open a route to Amsterdam (AMS) on Jan. 2, initially flying once a week using Airbus A330s. It will be the airline’s second passenger route to the city in the Netherlands alongside flights from Guangzhou, while it also offers cargo flights from Shanghai and Chongqing.
From Xi’an, flights to Almaty (ALA) are scheduled to start on Jan. 6. The nonstop route will be weekly using 737-800s, becoming the carrier’s sole schedule flights to Kazakhstan at the present time. It previously provided regular service to Almaty and Nur-Sultan (NQZ) from Urumqi (URC) until the onset of the pandemic and reintroduced URC-ALA between July and October 2022.
Nanning will see a new route to Cambodia’s capital Phnom Penh (PNH), starting on Dec. 22 and operating twice a week. China Southern will provide competition for three other carriers on the sector as Lanmei Airlines offers a 3X-weekly service, while Cambodia Angkor Air and Spring Airlines each provide one round trip per week.
Finally, China Southern has scheduled the launch of flights between Guangzhou and Istanbul (IST) from early 2023. Reservations are now open for the route, with operations earmarked to start on Jan. 10 operating twice a week using 787-9s. The service will become the airline’s second to the Turkish city alongside its 1X-weekly flights from Wuhan (WUH).
Analysis of OAG data shows that China Southern is operating 43 international routes during the week commencing Dec. 12 and some 25,500 international weekly seats. This compares with 35 routes and about 20,000 weekly seats one month ago. Routes that have returned in recent weeks include Guangzhou-New York John F Kennedy (JFK), while Guangzhou-Nairobi (NBO) will return with two flights per week from Jan. 9.
The latest network additions come amid increasing speculation that Beijing is to relax its stringent international travel measures, following Hong Kong in loosening restrictions. Earlier this month, the Chinese government eased rules on domestic movement, including ending the use of a smartphone tracing app.
This has prompted a rise in domestic airline capacity to more than 1.9 million weekly seats, up from 1.7 million in late November. By early January, the figure is expected to climb to 2.4 million—about 7% higher than pre-pandemic levels.
Meanwhile, overall international capacity from mainland China this week is about 202,000 departure seats, which represents a rise of 20% from early November.
Alongside China Southern’s new routes, Austrian Airlines has announced plans to increase frequencies from Vienna (VIE) to Shanghai Pudong (PVG). Service will rise from weekly to 2X-weekly, starting on Jan. 16 using 777s.
Air China is also launching a 1X-weekly Shanghai-Athens (ATH) route on Dec. 22, operating via Chengdu on the inbound leg, while China Eastern Airlines has started a new Wuhan-Hong Kong route on Dec. 15, also operating once a week.