Chengdu adds nine more long-haul routes in World Routes signing

International air connectivity in and out of Chengdu and the wider Sichuan province will be significantly enhanced in the coming months after a formal signing ceremony alongside this year’s World Routes air service development forum confirmed the addition of nine further routes to the network of Shuangliu International Airport.

A mix of existing and new airline partners officially signed-up to serve the fast-expanding Chinese gateway during a behind closed doors meeting on the opening day of business at World Routes and it is our understanding that there is more news to follow, with at least one other airline set to announce its expansion into Chengdu in the coming days.

The new routes include three additional long-haul connections from locally-based Sichuan Airlines which is adding to its recently launched flights between Chengdu and Vancouver with up to three times weekly links to Dubai, United Arab Emirates; Moscow, Russia; and Auckland, New Zealand this winter. The Dubai and Moscow (an extension of the route into the winter schedule and which will be flown twice weekly during the period) flights are expected to commence from November 1, 2016 with Auckland following from next year.

Sichuan Airlines last week signed an agreement with two leasing companies to acquire four new Airbus A350 aircraft - three from AerCap and one from ALC, with the first aircraft due to be delivered in 2017. It becomes the third Chinese carrier to order the aircraft, following Air China and China Eastern Airlines and will enable further long-haul growth.

“It is our goal to further grow our international network from Chengdu, particularly in terms of long-haul routes," said Wei Zhang, commission for discipline inspection, Sichuan Airlines Group at World Routes. "We will make more expansion into Europe, North America, Southeast Asia and the Middle East," she added.

At the same time as Sichuan Airlines grows, rival Air China will also launch the airport’s second regular air link into Australia from November 11, 2016 with a three times weekly service to Sydney using Airbus A330-200 equipment. The airline opened reservations for the new service last month, which will complement an existing Sichuan Airlines flight to Melbourne which has been flown since March 2013.

Hainan Airlines will introduce a second and third direct flights from Chengdu into the United States of America with links to Los Angeles and New York. These will be its first non-stop flights outside of Asia from Shuangliu International Airport and adds to the United Airlines service from San Francisco that was introduced in June 2014.

The Los Angeles link will begin from the end of December on a twice weekly schedule, growing to three times weekly in summer 2017. Meanwhile, New York will also be served twice weekly in winter and three times weekly in summer, albeit a launch date has yet to be confirmed.

There will also be further links from Chengdu into Europe with confirmation from the airport that Capital Airlines starting a twice weekly service to Madrid from November 16, 2016. This route has been on sale since last month and is due to operate a Hangzhou – Chengdu – Madrid routing.

Tibet Airlines is launching long-haul from Chengdu with a three times weekly Airbus A330 link to Sochi in Russia. But it is not just Chinese airlines that are seeing the potential for growth from Chengdu and African carrier Ethiopian Airlines plans to link the city to its Bole International Airport hub in Addis Ababa from next year with four weekly flights.

The confirmation of these new routes highlights the success of the airport’s air service development strategy and it will hope the visit of over 3,000 delegates at World Routes, including numerous foreign arrivals, will enable it to further sell the value of Chengdu as an inbound market, balancing its growing potential for outbound traffic.

Our AirlineRoute schedule updates show further enhanced connectivity for Chengdu within Asia. South Korean carrier Jeju Air is offering a twice weekly charter route from Cheongju and Cambodia Angkor Air a weekly link from Sihanoukville during October. Over the past couple of days China Eastern Airlines started a four times weekly link to Cebu and three times weekly link to Manila in the Philippines.

Richard Maslen

Richard Maslen has travelled across the globe to report on developments in the aviation sector as airlines and airports have continued to evolve and…