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Photo: China Southern Airlines

China’s biggest airline looks to Nordics

China Southern has received permission to fly to the north-eastern edge of the EU. But it might need a partner airline.

China Southern Airlines, China’s biggest airline by passengers carried (126.2 million in 2017), has been given permission to open a daily route between its Guangzhou hub and Helsinki.

Although no specific details have been announced for the route, it would certainly be part of a trend for Chinese carriers showing increasing interest in the Nordic region.

The Civil Aviation Administration in China granted China Southern permission to launch daily flights from Guangzhou to Helsinki from July 1 next year.

It is not apparent which type of aircraft the airline might use on the route, but China Southern operates up to 100 long-haul flights divided into four aircraft types – the Airbus A330 and A380 and the Boeing 777 and 787.

It is most likely to be one of the airline’s 49 Airbus A330 aircraft or perhaps one of its 17 new Boeing 787 Dreamliners, of which it has an additional 13 to be delivered by the end of 2020.

Work with Finnair?
The Chinese giant is currently a SkyTeam member, but it recently announced it would pull out of the alliance from the start of 2019.

If the plans for Helsinki are serious, Finnair will be getting some unexpected competition. The Finnish oneworld carrier serves Guangzhou in its summer traffic schedules with four weekly departures.

A daily route from the Chinese carrier would raise this capacity to 11 weekly departures, which the market is arguably not big enough to absorb.

China Southern would need a partner that could carry transfer passengers via Helsinki to other cities in Europe – and because it is leaving SkyTeam, cooperation with Finnair may be an option.

However, this would not be the first time Helsinki has experienced an advertised Chinese route not becoming reality. Lucky Air, a subsidiary of HNA Group, said it would open a triangle between Kunming, Chengdu and Helsinki in January but it was cancelled at the last minute.

The Finnish capital’s airport is not confirming whether the Guangzhou route is a certainty.

“We are constantly negotiating with different airlines on route openings and will publish them once we have confirmed information,” cautions Mari Kanerva, communications officer at the airport operator Finavia.

Hello China
Among the Chinese openings to the wider Nordic region already announced, Juneyao Airlines recently revealed it would fly daily from Shanghai Pudong direct to Helsinki from June 1 next year.
Air China opened a route from Beijing to Copenhagen this year, while Sichuan Airlines will fly between Chengdu and Copenhagen from mid-December.

Earlier this year, China Eastern Airlines opened a seasonal route from Shanghai to Stockholm, and next year Oslo Airport will get its first China route when Hainan Airlines opens a route there from Beijing.

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