Chinese airlines will increase the number of long-haul flights

A Juneyao Air plane lands at Shanghai Hongqiao International Airport in Shanghai, October 28, 2023. (Photo/IC)

Domestic airlines are stepping up efforts to launch more long-haul intercontinental routes, with the European market becoming their first choice.

Shanghai-based private jet Juneyao Air will launch two new intercontinental flights next month, ThePaper reported on Wednesday. Direct flights between Shanghai and Manchester in the UK will begin on July 1, while the Shanghai-Brussels route will start on July 3.

This comes after direct flights between Shanghai and Athens, Greece, were launched by the airline on April 2.

According to Juneyao Air’s operation plan during this year’s summer-autumn season, the airline’s European destinations have been further expanded to some countries in Western Europe. The number of long-distance intercontinental routes will increase to six, covering Finland, Great Britain, Belgium, Italy and Greece in Northern, Western and Southern Europe.

The opening of new intercontinental routes can fully enhance the company’s international operations and global services, Cheng Xi, general manager of commercial department at Juneyao Air, told ThePaper.

Since the Shanghai-Athens route was launched in April, the off-season passenger load factor has reached nearly 70 percent, Cheng said, adding that there is still plenty of room for more growth.

“In the coming summer holidays, the occupancy rate for the international market is expected to rise further.”

Juneyao Air is not alone. Several domestic airlines are also planning to develop more long-haul intercontinental routes to Europe during the new aviation season.

Under this year’s summer-autumn season plan, Air China plans to operate an average of 201 international and regional flights per day, recovering to 84 percent of 2019 levels.

For China Eastern Airlines, the number of scheduled international and regional flights weekly is over 1,240, which is back to 90.8 percent of 2019 levels. The number of flights to Europe, Oceania and the Middle East has exceeded 2019 levels.

China is rebuilding the network of intercontinental routes, and the share of aviation capacity to the countries involved in the Belt and Road Initiative, such as Europe and Southeast Asia, will increase, Lin Zhijie, an aviation industry analyst, said , to ThePaper.

Normally, short-haul international routes are more profitable, Lin said, adding that some intercontinental routes are loss-making due to high costs. Currently, international routes are still in the recovery phase, he said.

With summer travel just around the corner, the civil aviation sector is entering its peak season.

Data from Flight Master, a travel services platform in China, shows that the international civil aviation market is expected to recover this year to around 80 percent of 2019 levels. Southeast Asia and East Asia will still be the popular destinations, with flights accounting for 76.2 percent of the total.

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