These findings are in line with what we already know -- most seat capacity growth in China is for domestic flights, and the growth happening for international routes are for routes within Asia as those are destinations most in reach of the average Chinese outbound tourist.
With the number of Chinese outbound tourists at more than 100 million this year, it is important to assess which are the fastest-growing markets for this country of one billion-plus people.
U.K.-based airline data firm OAG’s new Chinese aviation report analyzes which markets have seen dramatic increases in seat capacity and which airlines are carrying the most outbound Chinese travelers to the top 15 markets, including Japan, Thailand and the U.S. According to OAG, last month there were 298,353 scheduled flights leaving Chinese airports for destinations in China or internationally. That equates to 47.6 million airline seats a month and 9,945 aircraft movements every day, and the average aircraft size is 159 seats.
Vietnam has emerged as the fastest-growing market for Chinese outbound travelers, more than nearby Japan, Thailand or Australia. And there are some major differences in terms of where new routes are being added for international flights. Japan-bound flights have seen impressive growth at secondary Chinese airports, compared with U.S.-bound flights, which mainly originate in only three Chinese megahubs.
The following charts outline how the different markets stack up against each other and where seat capacity is coming from.
Chart 1: Chinese airports had 47.6 million available seats in November, with 89 percent of capacity on domestic routes within China, including Hong Kong and Macau. There were 3.1 million more seats available on domestic routes in China in November compared to a year ago (an 8% increase). There were also 900,000 more seats on international routes in November 2015 versus November 2014, a 20% increase over the previous year.
Chart 2: Vietnam is China’s fastest-growing outbound market. Capacity is much smaller than Japan at just over 200,000 seats from China to Vietnam in November but has grown by 75% compared with November last year.
Chart 3: Japan is China’s third fastest-growing international market, with seat capacity up 48% year-over-year for November 2015. According to OAG, airlines have added 1,516 new frequencies from China to Japan over the past year (November 2014 versus November 2015), as well as 264,116 seats. Of these, about 40% provide additional capacity on existing routes and the remaining 60% (893 frequencies) are on 48 newly operated routes or secondary airports in China (not Beijing, Shanghai or Guangzhou).
Chart 4: In contrast to what’s happening with Japan, all but 36 of the more than 1,000 frequencies in November from China to the U.S. are from just three airports in China: Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou.
Chart 5: There were 22% more airline seats in November than there were in November 2014 on flights from China to the U.S. Also, Chinese carriers operated just nine more frequencies than U.S. carriers in November, making the share close to even for carriers of both countries.
The Daily Newsletter
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Photo credit: Air China planes pass each other at Beijing International Airport. David Gray / Reuters