It is sometimes hard to keep up-to-date with how many carriers now actually operate domestically and internationally from Chinese airports.
The rise in Chinese air traffic during the past decade alone has been mind-boggling.
Worldwide expansion is the name-of-the-game
Air China, China Eastern, China Southern, these are just the three main carriers among a multitude of newcomers on domestic and international sectors in- and outside of China.
Airlines listed within the Chinese mainland are sometimes hard to pin down.
However, latest figures show that passenger carriers registered within China amount to almost 50 different airlines.
Fifteen of those are the larger airlines which operate both domestically and internationally from various bases, many of which are situated along the eastern Chinese coast.
Add to this a further 32 Chinese domestic operators - then the number is staggering.
To round the figures off - one has to add also the eight all cargo carriers based in China, some of which are official cargo arms of their passenger airline colleagues.
How much freight do they all carry?
We’ll leave that to someone else to figure out!
Chinese carriers must force overseas expansion
Well - this is nothing new as we have seen a steady global reach being in action, especially by the larger of the Chinese airlines, for many years now.
Many years ago, the first steps were expansion into Europe and the USA along with a growing presence in South-East and Northern Asia.
The next step was Africa.
A difficult market to get a firm or even profitable foothold in.
The countries situated along the East Africa coastline along with South Africa were the first targets.
Much of the expansion here was tied in with China’s interest in the African mineral wealth. The Chinese government has followed a policy of strong investment in the African continent and to this effect has based many thousands of Chinese workers and engineers there.
Latin America is next on the list
The focus from Beijing is now on countries within the Latin America region.
This in order to boost China’s global presence and also to take advantage of the various regional mineral wealth deposits, where Beijing has cast its eyes open.
Air China already operates to Brazil (Sao Paulo) and to Cuba’s capital Havana
But the real focus is now on other countries.
The Chinese HNA Group already holds a financial stake in Brazilian carrier, Azul Air, and is said to be on the outlook for more.
Mexico City seems to be the first new destination laid down by Beijing to its international carriers.
China Southern started services to Mexico city during April and China Eastern is considering the same by looking at direct Shanghai - Mexico City flights and onwards to other South American destinations,
It is interesting to note that Delta Airlines, one of the U.S. carriers lobbying Mr trump to curtail Middle Easter carriers, has a financial stake in China Eastern and also Mexico’s Aeromexico. It is said that Delta’s management is steering the above, thereby supporting strong Chinese presence on the South American continent.
The Chinese carrier expansion won’t stop at Mexico City.
This seems to be the start of a new continent strategy which through financial participation and possible manpower support such as is given in Africa, will strengthen China’s global presence even further.
Cargo flights will surely play an important role in the coming years also.
John Mc Donagh