Chinese carriers have been expanding their trans-Pacific routes at such a pace that in the next decade they will overtake the three major U.S. airlines which traditionally have been the leading players on those routes, the Wall Street Journal reported.
Since September, Chinese carriers have added seven direct flights to North America - including routes from second-tier cities less known abroad including Zhengzhou, Qingdao and Xiamen.
By comparison, U.S. carriers launched just two China routes in all of 2016.
Sichuan Airlines opened a new direct route between Los Angeles the northern Chinese city of Jinan last week. It is the third nonstop U.S. flight the airline has started operating since October.
Hainan Airlines, China's biggest privately owned carrier, by itself launched 13 new long-range routes this year, including a new Beijing-Las Vegas flight initiated last week.
Last year, for the first time, Chinese airlines overtook their American counterparts in the number of scheduled U.S.-China flights. Now the gap is widening: Chinese airlines are scheduled to operate 781 China-U.S. flights this month, compared with 596 by U.S. carriers, according to aviation data firm OAG, the report said.
The expansion is predominantly tourist-driven and China offers subsidies to encourage its airlines to open routes without obvious commercial appeal.
In addition to the launch of several full freighter services by Chinese airlines, the passenger flights have added substantial belly-hold capacity on the routes, which predominantly caters to the continuing rise in e-commerce shipments.
Nol van Fenema