China Airport Traffic Reaches New Records

China Airports: Heading For A Billion Passengers.

And It Will Affect Heartland America.

According to just-published Airports:China™ data from Boyd Group International, China will clock in with over 998 million airport passengers in 2016.

There is a message here for futurist planners at US airports and communities. The logical question is, simply how does airport growth in China affect any US airport?

Feb6China1The answer is that China-US travel will be the single strongest new set of traffic flows into American in the next five years, and many of these airports in the Middle Kingdom will be supporting additional nonstop air access to points across the US. At least half a dozen additional Chinese cities can and will be able to support nonstops to the US in the next 36-48 months, and a similar number of now-domestic Chinese carriers will be spreading their wings to the US during that time.

It’s Second-Tier Airports That Are Now Growing Explosively. Just looking at the top 10 Chinese airports for 2016 – there are several take-aways that are important to airport strategic planning in the US – from large hubs on down to regional gateways. The growth is phenomenal in many cases… Kunming, for example has exploded over 25% since 2014.



Getting Toward The Billion Mark. Official CAAC data will not be out until April, but in the meantime, our data indicate that China’s airports handled between 988 and 996 million passengers in 2016.  As with US airport data, these are basically enplanements and include connecting traffic. However, the current structure of the Chinese air transportation network is very highly focused on point-to-point travel.

That’s the nature the demand base in China – the population centroids are so large, there is strong demand that doesn’t require the level of traffic aggregation that is seen at the majority of US markets. It also contributes to high levels of airside congestion.

Volume. Volume. And More Volume. Indeed, Beijing alone has approximately the same passenger volume as ATL and LAX combined – 92 million, and again a much higher percentage at PEK is local traffic.  From there, the next six Chinese airports handle more passengers than any US facility.

Capacity – Not Just Airports, But Seats. The Airports:China™ data indicate that the top 50 Chinese airports – which account for 92% of all traffic – had an average of an 86% load factor in 2016.  Indication: plenty of demand for more seats and more aircraft… particularly to the US and the EU.

Year 2017 growth is unclear, but it is likely that the growth will be in Second-Tier cities, with the expansion of several Chinese airlines into international markets coming into play.

Boyd Group International, in its consulting work assisting airports and communities in competitively preparing to attract service from emerging international Chinese airlines, has identified at least half a dozen potential new nonstop-US destinations in China. The good news is that they’re are all in the Second Tier category, which makes route approvals much less of a barrier compared to PEK, PVG and CAN.

Don’t Get Sidetracked By Political Posturing. Sorting through the new trans-Pacific political rhetoric, the fact is that the economies of both the US and China are now joined at the hip. They need our markets, and we need their goods. That won’t change. Nor will the enormous demand generated in China to visit the USA.

China respects strength. What is being developed, despite the political dancing, is a new framework for the US-China relationship.

Plan For More Chinese Carriers Landing In The USA. As was forecast at the first China-US Aviation Opportunities Symposium in 2015, more the 50% of all traffic between the US and China is now on B-registered – i.e., Chinese – airliners.

Chinese Visitors & Business Travelers Will Be Headed For The Interior. These carriers will be accomplishing more code-sharing agreements with US airlines, both within and outside of alliance partners. This means more access to secondary US points.

As just one example, our forecasts indicate that the code-share between Alaska and Hainan will feed as many as 400 additional Chinese visitors to Spokane.

Not a lot of people, but a whole lot of economic impact for the Spokane-Coeur d’Alene region  – the average Chinese “spend” on a US trip is over $8,000. If they stay in the region just three days – which is likely – that’s a direct spend of nearly half a million dollars to the local economy.

The Traffic’s A Jump Ball. Needless to say, it will be the airports and communities that prepare and have surgical outreach to the China market.

BGI and its partner China NiHao, LLC are working with a number of clients to craft China-Welcome™ programs tailored to their specific situation.

Chinese Don’t Cotton To Amateur Acts. A boiler-plate-appearance airport website (and that’s what seems to be the new trend) with a mechanically-generated Chinese language button is a superb way to tell the prospective Chinese visitor that the community doesn’t care. That’s because these translations tend to be amateur, and unfocused.

Indeed, one of our partners at China NiHao is the #1 generator of Chinese tours to the US, and this – a mechanically, or heaven forbid, a Yahoo Chinese-translated website – is a red flag when planning itineraries to points across America.

Putting In Context.  This is not hypothetical. It is not a passing phase. There will be over 4 million Chinese coming to visit America in 2017, and it’s all of America they will be seeking to see.

Not only is attracting Chinese leisure traffic important, but communities and their airports that prepare will have the competitive edge in attracting burgeoning Chinese business investment.

For more information on how your region and airport can get a higher profile for this traffic, let the team at China NiHao give you a program tailored to your specific situation.