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Xiamen Airlines Becomes First Chinese Carrier to Fly to Qatar
Chinese full-service carrier Xiamen Airlines is set to launch flights to Doha from both its hub in Xiamen and Beijing Daxing starting October 2023. The flights from Beijing Daxing, the smaller of the two major International airports of the Chinese capital, will be operated daily, while the Xiamen route will run twice weekly. Both flights will be operated by Boeing B787 Dreamliner aircraft.
Xiamen Airlines will become to very first airline in the Greater China area to fly between Qatar and China, despite there being over 30 weekly flights scheduled between mainland China and Qatar and additionally two daily flights from Doha to Hong Kong. All of the flights are currently operated by Qatar Airways, which is not too unusual as the vast majority of flights out of Doha are operated by the airline.
For Qatar Airway
Qatar Airways aims to strengthen its position in the Chinese market with the new partnership. Its Chairman CEO, Mr Akbar Al Baker, has long stressed the value Qatar Airways places on the Chinese market and has voiced support for reopening during COVID. Prior to the pandemic, Qatar operated flights to Beijing, Guangzhou, Shanghai, Hangzhou, Chengdu and Chongqing. The airline also operated its A380s to Guangzhou.
Qatar Airways will enter a codeshare agreement with Xiamen Airlines on these routes. Qatar already operates a daily flight to Beijing Daxing on their Boeing 777-300ER. Qatar Airways has recently announced the resumption of its services to the Chinese cities of Chongqing and Chengdu in September, which will grow its network in China Mainland to 6 destinations.
Qatar is a member of OneWorld alliance and cooperates with Hong Kong-based Cathay Pacific. It also has a very tight relationship with China Southern, who owns Xiamen Airlines. Qatar Airways owns a 5 percent stake in China Southern and has agreements with the carrier to codeshare and cooperate in various areas. It is also worth noting that China Southern left the SkyTeam alliance in 2019, while Xiamen Airlines, its subsidiary, remained a member.
The move is in line with Qatar Airways’ efforts to bring more foreign carriers into Doha. In past years, American Airlines, British Airways, Finnair, and many other airlines have launched routes to Doha. This is in part due to the aircraft shortage Qatar faces due to supply chain issues, which are expected to last for another few years.
For Xiamen Airlines:
Xiamen Airlines is a growing player in Chinese Aviation scene. Its services were limited to domestic and regional until they acquired the Dreamliners in 2014, which enabled them to fly to North America, Australia, and Europe. The airline had a straight forward strategy up until the Covid-19 pandemic, growing around its central hub of Xiamen and connect passengers to domestic and international destinations though the hubs. The airline flew to Los Angeles, Sydney, Amsterdam, Paris, Vancouver and several other major international destinations around the world, focusing on cities with large demand from Chinese and East Asian travelers.
The airline collaborated closely with its SkyTeam partners though the process of transforming Xiamen into a global hub. Launching a partnership with KLM when both airlines operated on the Xiamen to Amsterdam route.
The move to launch Doha, however, is not in line with the airline’s strategy. Possible reasons could be a product of the close relationship between its parent company China Southern and Qatar Airways or serve to better utilize the free wide body aircraft Xiamen has due to China’s slow recovery of international routes, specifically to North America.
Xiamen has 12 Dreamliners, with six of them being -9 variant and the other six being -8. These aircrafts were fairly busy in supporting Xiamen’s intercontinental network and also flew on popular domestic and regional routes. However, the pandemic brought disruptions, and these aircraft are mostly flying on domestic and regional routes. Xiamen has still yet to resume flying to Seattle and New York and offers reduced frequency to Vancouver and Los Angeles. Placing these aircraft on flights to Doha and using Qatar Airways to market them seems to be the strategy to attain a higher utility rate of these aircrafts.
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