Airline Insight: Chengdu Airlines

Each day this year, The Blue Swan Daily uses the extensive insights available to CAPA – Centre for Aviation members to deliver a data snapshot on the world’s largest airlines and airports. Today, we feature Chinese carrier Chengdu Airlines (IATA:EU; ICAO:UEA).

Don’t let the airlines ‘EU’ IATA flight code confuse you, Chengdu Airlines have no links into Europe, but with the dramatic growth that is continuing in both the Chinese domestic and international markets you just never know what is in store. Operating from the fast-expanding  sub-provincial city in western China from which it takes its name, Chengdu Airlines is a subsidiary of Sichuan Airlines and part of the China Southern Air Holding Company.

Originally formed as United Eagle Airline (UE Air) in 2004, it launched operations the following year, later rebranding under its current title in 2010 after first Sichuan Airlines and later Chinese aircraft manufacturer Comac and Chengdu Communications Investment Group acquired stakes in the business. These deals meant the airline beaome the launch customer for the ARJ21 regional airliner, a type for which it remains the sole commercial operator with a fleet now consisting of four aircraft.

NETWORK: According to flight schedules from OAG for the week commencing 08-Jan-2018, Chengdu Airlines serves 54 destinations, exclusively operating domestically within China. The network is concentrated across western China, but spreads from Hulunbuir Hailar Airport right up in northeastern Inner Mongolia to the the north down to Haikou Meilan International Airport and Sanya Phoenix International Airport, the southern most point of the country. Its main base at Chengdu’s Shuangliu International Airport accounts for 21.3% of its system seats and nine of the airline’s ten biggest routes by movements. Its largest other markets are Changsha Huanghua International Airport (5.9% share) and Guiyang Longdongbao International Airport (4.8% share).

FLEET: Chengdu Airlines launched operations in Jul-2005 with a single Airbus A320 formerly operated by Air Jamaica and has remained loyal to the Airbus family to support its growth. According to the CAPA Fleet Database its ‘In service’ fleet currently comprises 30 A320 Family aircraft, including three smaller A319s that complement the A320. These are supported by the indigenous Comac ARJ21 regional jet for which Chengdu Airlines is the sole commercial operator. It is due to receive up to 30 aircraft but to date has introduced four aircraft into its fleet, the latest example arriving in the final days of last year. The fleet has an average age of 5.4 years and the majority of aircraft (54.9%) are leased.

CAPACITY: Chengdu Airlines boosted its system capacity to over 5.7 million annual seats in 2017 following a year over year rise of +15.6% versus 2016. It has more than doubled (+122.8%) its inventory since 2012 and reported annual gains throughout this period thanks to China’s aviation boom.  Last year was actually its slowest rate of growth since 2013 (+6.0%) and compares with a +17.0% rise in 2014, a +28.0% growth in 2015 and a +21.3% increase in 2016. A return to these higher rates of growth may be seen in 2018 with published schedules across the first 13 weeks of 2018 showing a +24.1% year over year capacity upsurge compared to the same period last year.

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