The second biggest airline in China is set to launch a new carrier despite the current challenges the airline industry is facing.
China Eastern is working with a host of partners, including Trip.com, China’s biggest online travel agency.
The new airline will be focused on the island destination of Hainan.
Many are skeptical about the announcement considering the global downturn the coronavirus pandemic has placed upon tourism.
No timeframe has been given for the launch of the new airline as of yet.
China Eastern will own a majority 51% share in the new carrier, according to the BBC, called Sanya International Airlines.
Other companies backing the move include Juneyao Airlines and a unit of Trip.com, as announced by the Hong Kong Stock Exchange on Sunday.
Greg Waldron, Asia managing editor at FlightGlobal magazine, said: “The airline’s official launch will likely depend on the continued recovery of Chinese domestic traffic and the Covid-19 situation in both China and regionally.
“It takes time to build an airline, however, so a great deal of work needs to take place in terms of equipment and personnel before the airline takes to the air.”
Hainan has become a popular holiday destination for Chinese tourists and is about 30 times the size of Hong Kong. Partners will be hoping to capitalise on this.
Chinese president Xi Jinping is also planning to turn the island into the nation’s largest free-trade zone.
Shaun Rein, founder of the China Market Research Group, said it was actually a good time to start a new airline focused on Hainan.
“Even before Covid, 2020 was the year of domestic Chinese tourism as China wants to focus more on seeing their own country, especially hot spots like Hainan, Yunnan and emerging ones like Gansu.
“Hainan itself as a destination is hot right now, especially as the government supports duty-free shopping there. Hainan also has no quarantine or other travel restrictions.”
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