Australia-China market booms with 35 nonstop routes and 10 airlines this December

A record 35 routes will be operated in Dec-2017 between Australia and China, an indication of the staggering growth experienced by the Australia-China market in recent years. China has more international routes from Australia than any other country; New Zealand is second with 21 routes.

There will also be a record 10 airlines operating nonstop flights between Australia and China in Dec-2017, including eight Chinese carriers and two Australian carriers. Qantas and Jetstar Airways, which resumes services to China on 9-Dec-2017, represent the Australian side. China Southern, China Eastern, Air China, Xiamen Airlines, Hainan Airlines, Beijing Airlines, Sichuan Airlines and Tianjin Airlines represent the Chinese side (in order of largest to smallest based on number of seats in the Australian market).

A year ago, in Dec-2016, there were eight airlines operating nonstop flights between Australia and China. Five years ago, in Dec-2012, there were just four airlines – the “big three” from China (Air China, China Eastern and China Southern) and Qantas. Sichuan launched services to Australia in 2013, Xiamen in 2015, Beijing Capital in 2016 and Tianjin in 2017. Hainan resumed services to Australia in 2016; it previously served Australia on a couple of occasions.

Total one-way capacity from Australia to China will exceed 50,000 seats for the first time in December. A year ago, in Dec-2016, there were approximately 42,000 weekly one-way seats from Australia to China. The previous high mark for Australia-China capacity was during the Chinese New Year in early 2017 with approximately 48,000 weekly one-way seats. For Chinese New Year in 2018 there will be approximately 56,000 weekly one-way seats, according to CAPA and OAG data.

Based on December figures and using the second half of the month as a baseline, Australia-China seat capacity will be up approximately 25% year-over-year. Compared to Dec-2012, capacity will be up almost 150%. Therefore, over the five years the average rate of capacity growth in the Australia-China market has been approximately 30%.

Using the off-peak month of October, year-over-year capacity growth this year was even higher at approximately 37%. However, over the five-year period October capacity growth increased a relatively more modest 105%.

Australia-China total one-way seat capacity: Sep-2011 to Feb-2017

Source: CAPA – Centre for Aviation & OAG

Australia-China passenger traffic was up 24% in the fiscal year ending Jun-2017 to 2.81 million passengers, according to BITRE data. Growth was 108% compared to FY2012, when there were only 1.35 million passengers in the nonstop Australia-China market.

New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland have been the biggest beneficiaries of the rapid growth in the Australia-China market.

Sydney will be linked with 15 cities in China in Dec-2017 and Melbourne will be linked with 12, according to CAPA and OAG data. The other eight Australia-China routes include four for Brisbane and two for Cairns, giving Queensland a total of six. There is only one China route from Perth and Adelaide – both to Guangzhou.

Guangzhou has six Australia links and accounts for over one third of total Australia-China capacity. The fact Guangzhou Baiyun International is the most popular Chinese airport for Australia flights is hardly surprising given that it is the main hub of China Southern, which is by far the largest Chinese airline in Australia. A large portion of China Southern’s Australian passengers connect beyond Guangzhou onto its vast domestic network and, increasingly, onto international flights, particularly to Europe.

See related report: China Southern celebrates 20 years in Australia with more capacity expansion

Beijing and Shanghai both have just three links to Australia, a rather modest number given the massive size of these cities. Shenzhen, located near Hong Kong in the heavily populated Pearl River Delta, is actually the second most popular Chinese city for Australia fights after Guangzhou, with four routes. Shenzhen is another hub for China Southern Airlines.

A total of 16 cities in China will have nonstop flights to Australia in Dec-2017. Alongside the four main cities of Beijing, Guangzhou, Shanghai and Shenzhen, 12 secondary Chinese cities will have links to Australia. This includes seven cities with two Australia routes (Melbourne and Sydney) – Changsha, Chengdu, Chongqing, Hangzhou, Qingdao, Xian and Xiamen. The remaining five secondary cities have just one Australia route– Fuzhou, Kunming, Nanjing and Wuhan and Zhengzhou. Fuzhou, Kunming, Nanjing and Wuhan are linked with Sydney while Zhengzhou is the recipient of Jetstar’s new service from Melbourne.