Last updated: 10:02 AM ET, Thu October 29 2015

Upstart Chinese Carrier Plans Flights to the US and Canada

Airlines & Airports | Josh Lew | October 29, 2015

Upstart Chinese Carrier Plans Flights to the US and Canada

Photo via Wikipedia

Yet another Chinese carrier is expanding its international presence. Upstart Xiamen Airlines (also known as XiamenAir) has announced that it will be flying its new Boeing 787 Dreamliners across the Pacific starting in 2016. 

Despite not having the name recognition enjoyed by China’s “Big Three” (China Southern, China Eastern and Air China), XiamenAir is a well established brand in the Middle Kingdom. Its first flight took off in 1984, and it is the main carrier for Fujian Province in Southeastern China. China Southern is actually the majority shareholder of Xiamen, and both airlines are full members of the Skyteam Alliance along with the likes of Delta, Air France/KLM and Alitalia. 

Connecting China’s lesser-known cities

XiamenAir’s hub is located in its namesake city at Xiamen Gaoqi International Airport. The carrier also flies out of the other main metropolis in the Fujian Province, Fuzhou, and it has regular service to regional hubs like Hangzhou, Changsha and Tianjin. All these places are major population centers and important players in China's economy, but they lack the worldwide name recognition enjoyed by China's headliners, Beijing and Shanghai. 

There is obviously demand for international air links to the lesser-known cities in China, otherwise airlines would not consider launching new routes. Xiamen Airlines has already started its first transcontinental service. It now flies between Xiamen and Amsterdam, and there are plans to add flights between the airline's hub and Sydney, Australia in late November. 

An air link to the homeland

If its transpacific plans are approved by the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC), XiamenAir’s Boeing 787-8s will be headed for North America in July of next year. The first flights will be between Xiamen and Vancouver. The following year, the carrier will use newly delivered Boeing 787-9s to fly from Fuzhou and New York City. 

These North American routes are not arbitrary. There is a significant reason that these destinations were chosen by XiamenAir. Like nearby Guangdong Province (formerly known as Canton), Fujian Province has a long history of emigration. Immigrants from Xiamen ended up settling in Vancouver, while New York City has a large and still-growing population of first and second generation immigrants who came from Fuzhou. 

These communities will provide a steady stream of passengers who want to travel back to their now-booming hometowns. This will undoubtedly supplement the regular flow of tourists and business travelers (Xiamen does attract quite a bit of foreign investment). 

A profitable airline

Here is why you will most likely be hearing more about Xiamen Airlines in the future. This is one of the few carriers in the entire world that is profitable year after year. It has finished in the black every year since 1988. That is a success rate that few airlines operating in the world today can match. The uncanny ability to remain profitable has also helped Xiamen survive in a country dominated by three huge carriers. Savvy steps like choosing to fly routes that connect immigrants with their homeland have undoubtedly played a role in the airline's continued success. 


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