The airspace over the Pacific has seen an increasing number of flights ever since the China-US Air Services Agreement was signed in 2007. While China is expected to take over the US as the world’s largest passenger market by 2030, both countries will remain at the top by far.
Between 2013 and 2014 there was a 27 percent spike that saw a total of 540,000 two-way passengers between China and the US. This statistic is one of many in the case to liberalize flight regulations between the two countries.
“Is it time for China-US Open Skies?” the Official Airline Guide (OAG) report asks. Given the extension on China-US travel Visas and a simpler, speedier application process initiated last year, the OAG believes so. Instead of constantly amending the current agreement to increase air travel capacity, the OAG suggests that an open skies agreement would be more in line with the way air travel is growing between China and the US.
While Beijing and Shanghai were once the main international flight hubs in China, direct-flight service is spreading to other cities in Nanjing, Chengdu, Wuhan and Guangzhou, allowing city-pairs like Nanjing–Los Angeles and Wuhan–San Francisco that facilitate air travel to and from China’s interiors.
According to AttractChina, in 2006 there were 10 non-stop flights between US and China. That number jumped to 35 last year with more routes planned for 2015.
Delta Expands Network in China
Delta Air Lines CEO Richard Anderson announced recently that he had set his sights on Shanghai as the future international hub of the airline. “As we plan for our long-term future, it becomes more clear every day that China will be a major part of our business,” he said.
To increase its prominence as a global US carrier and expand its network in China, Delta will be moving its passenger operations to Terminal 1 at Shanghai Pudong International Airport later this month where its codeshare partners China Eastern and Shanghai Airlines currently reside.
Adding to its daily service to Beijing from both Seattle and Detroit will be 28 weekly departures to Shanghai and a Los Angeles–Shanghai route that is pending government approval. The new codeshare agreement will give passengers access to Zhengzhou, Guiyang, Nanning and Tianjin from Shanghai.
Marketing to the Chinese
- Delta has been investing heavily in China-US airline and passenger relations. It was the first US airline to accept payment from Alipay, China’s version of PayPal. A Chinese language option is available on its website, at airport self-service kiosks and on its in-flight entertainment systems. Chinese-speaking flight attendants are onboard all flights to and from China and meal choices match local tastes. Delta has even launched an official account on WeChat, China’s most popular social networking service, to provide better customer service to its Chinese customers.
- Brand USA initiated a China Ready Program “to train and prepare US hotels, attractions, retailers for the projected rapid growth in Chinese arrivals…” The organization also says it is “partnering with airlines to encourage new routes from non-traditional gateways in both China and the US but Open Skies will ultimately be the key.”
Marketing to Americans
- Hainan Airlines distributed maps of Boston and Seattle in Chinese at Beijing International Airport to advertise its nonstop routes to those destinations.
- Air China used Facebook to advertise its Beijing–New York route with a giveaway of a model Boeing 747-8, despite the social media platform being banned in China since 2009. The airline also has customized Facebook pages that target key markets including North America.
The first ever China–US Aviation Opportunities Symposium will take place at the Bellagio in Las Vegas this summer.