Two US airlines cut China routes as Beijing rivals turn up heat

American Airlines, the largest US carrier by passengers, said it would drop a route between Chicago and Shanghai. (Reuters)
Updated 22 August 2018

Two US airlines cut China routes as Beijing rivals turn up heat

  • ‘The two China routes ... have been colossal loss makers for us’
  • Chinese passengers arriving at US airports are expected to nearly triple to 12.8 million in 2024 from 4.3 million this year

DENVER/SHANGHAI: Two US airlines on Tuesday cut routes between China and the US, underscoring increasingly tough competition from state-backed Chinese rivals as they aggressively expand their fleets with cut-price tickets.
American Airlines, the largest US carrier by passengers, said it would drop a route between Chicago and Shanghai, canceling the second direct flight from the US city to China in four months. It had canceled a flight to Beijing in May, although it still operates daily flights to the capital from Los Angeles and Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas.
“The two China routes ... have been colossal loss makers for us,” said Vasu Raja, vice president of network and schedule planning, adding that high fuel costs had also made the route unsustainable.
Hawaiian Airlines said it would from October suspend its thrice-weekly nonstop service between Honolulu and Beijing, which it opened in 2014, citing slower-than-expected growth in demand.
Competition from Chinese airlines is expected to grow with the anticipated easing of China’s near-decade-old “one route, one airline” policy, which would allow more local airlines to fly long-haul international routes.
“US airlines are at a severe disadvantage,” said Mike Boyd, president of aviation forecaster Boyd Group. “The majority of demand is China-generated, and that gives Chinese carriers the advantage.”
Chinese passengers arriving at US airports are expected to nearly triple to 12.8 million in 2024 from 4.3 million this year, and the profile is shifting from groups to independent travelers, according to Boyd Group.
United Airlines President Scott Kirby said Shanghai and Beijing had rebounded for the airline after several years of weakness, although revenue per available seat mile (RASM) was below levels of two or three years ago.
“We’ve had several years of weakness as there was an awful lot of capacity growth out of Beijing and Shanghai,” Kirby said on the sidelines of the International Aviation Forecast Summit in Denver.
American and Hawaiian said the route cancelations were unrelated to demands placed by China’s civil aviation regulator on foreign airlines to amend the way they referred to Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan on their websites.
Chinese state media had earlier this month singled out the two companies and other US airlines as being among the last firms to comply with China’s demands.
“That issue of how Taiwan was displayed on our website had absolutely zero impact on this decision,” Hawaiian’s chief executive, Peter Ingram, said. “Our economic evaluation was well underway long before that issue arose.”


Abu Dhabi carrier Etihad launches more fuel-efficient Boeing 787 Dreamliner

Updated 12 min 39 sec ago

Abu Dhabi carrier Etihad launches more fuel-efficient Boeing 787 Dreamliner

  • Etihad’s CEO Tony Douglas described the aircraft as a flying laboratory for testing that could benefit the entire industry
  • This year, Etihad flew the world’s first passenger flight using sustainable biofuel made from a plant that grows in saltwater

DUBAI: Abu Dhabi’s flagship carrier Etihad Airways announced on Monday it is launching one of the world’s most fuel-efficient long-haul airplanes as the company seeks to save costs on fuel and position itself as a more environmentally-conscious choice for travelers.
Etihad’s “Greenliner” is a Boeing 787 Dreamliner that will depart on its first route from Abu Dhabi to Brussels in January 2020. Etihad’s CEO Tony Douglas described the aircraft as a flying laboratory for testing that could benefit the entire industry.
With fuel costs eating up around a quarter of airline spending, Douglas said the goal of the Greenliner is to be 20 percent more fuel efficient than other aircraft in Etihad’s fleet.
“This is not just a box-ticking exercise,” he told reporters at the unveiling of the initiative at the Dubai Airshow alongside executives from Boeing.
Douglas said the aircraft “not only makes sense economically from a profit and loss account point of view, but because it also directly impacts the CO2 because of the fuel burn.”
Etihad has reported losses of $4.75 billion since 2016 as its strategy of aggressively buying stakes in airlines from Europe to Australia exposed the company to major risks.
Despite its financials, the airline continues to be among the most innovative.
This year, Etihad flew the world’s first passenger flight using sustainable biofuel made from a plant that grows in saltwater. It also became the first in the Middle East to operate a flight without any single-use plastics on board to raise awareness of the effects of plastic pollution.
Aviation accounts for a small but rapidly growing share of greenhouse-gas emissions — about 2.5 percent worldwide. But forecasters expect air travel to grow rapidly in the coming years.
Etihad says it plans to make the Greenliner a “social media star” to bring under sharper focus its developments and achievements worldwide. Douglas said anything that Eithad learns with Boeing from this aircraft’s operations will be open domain knowledge “because it’s about moving the industry forward in a responsible fashion.”
“We’re like a millennial and like all good millennials, they’re really focused on the environment and the sustainability agenda,” Douglas said, referring to Etihad’s 16 years in operation.
The Greenliner will be the only aircraft of its kind in Etihad’s fleet of Dreamliners. The company currently has 36 of the 787s in its fleet with plans to operate 50.
“This is a small step today, but in a very, very long journey,” Douglas said.