Chinese Airlines not following the Money Trail into African Skies

China might be throwing management resources at Africa in order to gain from ‘first refusal’ access to mineral resources there, Chinese airlines have been slow on the uptake as far as their own flights into Africa are concerned. Of the ‘big three’ international Chinese airlines Air China currently has no services into Africa, China Southern has one (Lagos) and China Eastern one (Johannesburg).

Of course alliance and code share agreements make indirect access possible but the conclusion must be that the Turkish government is playing the Chinese at their own game quite well; and possibly to greater effect in the long run.

The difference in behaviour highlights the massive advantage that hub carriers like Emirates, Etihad and Qatar Airways have, being able to link multiple city pairs without the need for the sort of long, thin routes that the Chinese airlines would have to operate.

Turkish has an advantage even over the Gulf airlines, as it has substantial origin-destination and domestic markets, in addition to its global network.

Air China has in the past talked about establishing a base in the UAE (which has an open skies policy allowing fifth freedom operations). But this is a strategy that will probably not become viable until airline liberalisation has progressed further. Meanwhile, the power remains with the hub carriers. One option - always in the wings - is for cross-equity airline ownerships and that is perhaps the more probable medium term prospect.
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  1. I think China must pay heed towards operating more flights to Africa but it is great to see the country’s two airlines allowing tourists to travel to Africa. China Southern has long been providing flights which fly to Lagos, the bustling metropolitan of Nigeria while China Eastern has been offering flights to Johannesburg which is the wealthiest city of South Africa.


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