CAAC unveils carrier transfer strategy as Beijing prepares for second airport

Shanghai-based China Eastern Airlines’ cargo affiliate, China Cargo Airlines could gain access to Beijing once Daxing airport is operational.

On 4 January, the CAAC released a “one city, two airports” transfer scheme that further refines airport assignments for Chinese carriers as Beijing prepares to become a dual hub city. Beijing Daxing International Airport (BJB), located 50 kilometers to the south of central Beijing, is set to open in September.

Once operational, Daxing is expected to alleviate capacity constraints at Beijing Capital Airport (PEK), offering carriers greater access to the region. China Eastern Airlines and China Southern Airlines, two of the top-three mainland Chinese carriers by traffic were previously unable to secure landings slots for scheduled freighter flights at Beijing, but will be able to do so at BJB, where the carriers have been assigned.

Guangzhou-headquartered China Southern plans to develop its third cargo hub at the new airport, complementing existing hubs at CAN and PVG. The carrier is building both domestic and international cargo handling facilities which are slated to open with the airport later this year. China Southern’s domestic cargo terminal will have an annual handling capacity of 400,000 tonnes, while the international terminal will be able to process 200,000 tonnes.

A number of other carriers are required to transfer operations to the new airport including Capital Airlines, Spring Airlines, Juneyao Airlines and China United Airlines.  Carriers that will continue to operate out of the existing airport include Air China and its affiliate carriers, most Star Alliance carriers, Hainan Airlines and its affiliate, Grand China Air.

Carriers that have not been assigned an airport, including domestic carriers, foreign carriers, and those based in Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan, will be given the opportunity to select a preferred base, or may choose to operate flights at both airports. China Postal Airlines has already said it plans to relocate most of its operations to Daxing, but has received a special designation as the only Chinese carrier with permission to operate flights at both airports. SF Airlines, which currently operates a hub at the existing airport, has not yet said whether it expects any changes in its Beijing air operations.

The CAAC expects airlines to begin transferring operations to the new airport once it commences operations, likely ahead of the IATA Winter 2019/20 schedule. The regulator added, that all transfers will be required to be completed within five seasons.

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