The optimistic mood about the new route appears to have dissipated, but the route may be back next summer.
China Eastern Airlines opened a new route between Shanghai Pudong International Airport and Stockholm Arlanda to great fanfare on June 18. But now the carrier is terminating the link, Check-in.dk cites the Swedish travel site Flygtorget as reporting.
Arlanda had put the route high on its wish list and it managed to get four departures a week between the Swedish capital and Shanghai. The first flight was warmly celebrated on arrival, but interest in it appears not to have been so embracing.
After just three-and-a-half months with the new route, the SkyTeam airline says it is being suspended at least for the winter months, from late October to next March. The news comes just days after Cathay Pacific decided to close its Hong Kong-Copenhagen route.
No specific reason has been given for the closure of the Shanghai-Stockholm winter flights, which had been set at three departures weekly.
SAS has a route between Copenhagen and Shanghai, while Finnair also flies to the Chinese metropolis from Helsinki. Both operate daily, providing stiff competition from the wider region to Shanghai.
China Eastern doubts that over the winter it can fill 1,048 seats a week in each direction on its A330-200 aircraft, even though seasonal business travellers have flown the route regularly during the summer.
“We see that the development has been good both in terms of passengers and freight, so we expect the route to be back again in the spring,” the airline’s positive message reassures.
There is an estimated market of around 200,000 annual travellers between China and Sweden, and at the route’s opening ceremony there was an optimistic mood.
“There are several factors that brought the establishment of the route,” Elisabeth Axtelius, director of aviation business at the airport operator Swedavia, told Flygtorget at the time.
“We also see a good balance between inbound and outbound passengers, with 50% of business travellers and 50% leisure travellers.”
Swedish businesses export goods worth up to SEK 60 billion (€5.75 billion) a year to China, and the Swedes import about the same amount. About a third of the Chinese companies doing business with Sweden have facilities close to Shanghai.
China Eastern’s decision means that Air China will be the only carrier flying between the two countries this winter. It flies daily to Arlanda in summer with slightly fewer departures in winter. Both Air China and SAS are Star Alliance members, making them direct competitors of SkyTeam member China Eastern.