China’s Spring Airlines bucks global trend with 50% year-on-year capacity increase

Spring Airlines ©AirTeamImages

Shanghai-based Spring Airlines (Spring)has announced that compared to 2019, 2020’s September capacity rose by 50%, with the low-cost carrier operating at approaching 90% of seats occupied having redirected planes from closed international routes to meet demand for domestic flights.

Recent operations show that Spring has virtually doubled its share of the market from 2% in 2019 to 4% today. Unlike most Chinese carriers which are state owned, Spring is a private airline. It is anticipated that low-cost domestic flight numbers will recover far sooner than international and corporate flights.

Japan Airlines, which has a joint venture with Spring, will also be bolstering its low-cost operations. According to CAPA Centre for Aviation Data, as quoted by Reuters news agency, low-cost carriers held just a 10% market share in the domestic Chinese market, and 17% in Japan in 2018, compared with a majority share in South Korea, India, Malaysia and Vietnam, according to CAPA Centre for Aviation data.

“We do see low-cost carriers (LCCs) rebounding the fastest out of all airlines across most regions, not just China,” BOCOM International analyst Luya You said. “The reasons are that LCCs can offer lower prices due to lower costs as well as fill their planes more efficiently than full-service carriers.”

Spring is China’s only stock market-listed low-cost carrier, and while its share value has returned to pre-COVID levels, the three principal state-owned carriers have seen their share value drop by approximately 25%. “We can see Spring’s offerings for a lot of their domestic routes are even lower than fares on high-speed railway trains,” Chinese aviation expert Li Xiaojin said. “Flying with them is faster and cheaper, which helped bring in a lot of customers.” Since May, Spring has added more than 60 domestic routes, and will add another 20 in the winter/spring flight season, saving on costs by having a single-type fleet of 103 Airbus A320 family narrow-body jets.

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