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China Southern begins Heathrow flights

6 Jun 2012 by ScottCarey7

China Southern, China’s largest airline by passenger numbers, operated the first ever flight between London and Guangzhou today (Wednesday June 3).

The carrier will operate a three times-weekly service out of Heathrow’s Terminal 4 to China’s third largest city using A330-200 aircraft fitted with four classes (to see a seat plan, click here).

John Holland-Kaye, commercial director at BAA told Business Traveller that, “We all know where the world economy is migrating to. Unless Britain has trading links throughout China we are going to miss out on the huge possibilities there.”

China Southern has already operated flights to Paris for eight years and Holland-Kaye laments the fact that the French capital has not had to deal with the same slot constraints. “The French economy has benefitted for eight years at our cost, and it’s about time that we do something about it,” he says.

He continued that, “[China Southern] has such a strong domestic operation based out of Guangzhou, so the hub is the Heathrow of China in many ways, being the gateway for Chinese travellers wanting to go on elsewhere. So for British business people looking to get in to China it’s going to be a really excellent offer, and has many strengths over Hong Kong, which is more of an international hub.”

Holland-Kaye added that the carrier has stated that it is interested in bringing its new Boeing 787 Dreamliners on to the route when delivery is taken in September/October. This would “be a great boost for them, in establishing the route, because a lot of people will want to fly on the 787 and this will be one of the first chances they will have to do so” according to Holland-Kaye.

He also added that the carrier will hope to build up the route sufficiently to offer a daily service from next winter and perhaps even use some of its new A380 aircraft to serve the route, if demand matches expectations.

While this is a promising move for the UK it does highlight the fact that airports such as Frankfurt, Amsterdam and Paris already boast flights to ten Chinese destinations, as opposed to the three served out of the UK (Shanghai, Beijing and now Guangzhou). China Southern already operates flights to Amsterdam and Paris, codesharing with fellow Skyteam members KLM and Air France.

China Southern hopes to make the southern city of Guangzhou a transfer hub between Heathrow and Australia by offering flights to Sydney, Melbourne, Perth and Brisbane out of Guangzhou. However the London flights are not currently daily and are served by A330 aircraft, as opposed to Qantas, Singapore Airlines and Emirates which predominantly operate A380’s with a fully-flat business class product on similar routes transiting through Singapore or Dubai.

Mr. Si Xianmin, president of China Southern Air Holding Company and chairman of China Southern Airlines Company Limited, said, “The launch of the Guangzhou-London air service marks a bold new step forward in China Southern’s aviation development in the London marketplace. This new air service will play an important role in China Southern’s ‘Canton Route’ strategy and will serve as an air bridge that connects Europe with China and Australasia.”

The flight timings are as follows:

Wednesday and Friday:

•             Departs Guangzhou at 0900, arriving in Heathrow at 1525

•             Departs Heathrow at 2230, arriving in Guangzhou at 1730 the next day

Sunday:

•             Departs Guangzhou at 0900, arriving in Heathrow at 1525

•             Departs Heathrow at 1825, arriving in Guangzhou at 1325 the next day

For an in-depth look at the Europe-Australia route, and the threat to BA and Qantas’s market share from Middle East and Asian carriers, see Alex McWhirter’s In Focus in the December / January 2011 issue of Business Traveller.

For more information visit flychinasouthern.com.

Report by Scott Carey

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