I thought I’d continue the international flavor this week with a post on one of the biggest air travel market openings in ages. Last summer, relations thawed enough for China and Taiwan to allow a very limited number of direct flights between the two with the promise of more to come. On August 31, the real flood began as the first regularly scheduled (non-charter) flights started between the two countries. It’s not often that we see a huge market open up like this, so it’s certainly fun to watch.
Up until the 31st of August, there were 108 weekly roundtrip charter flights permitted between China and Taiwan. Everything else had to go through a third location, usually Hong Kong. On August 31, that number ballooned to 270, and for the first time, they can now be operated as regularly scheduled flights.
The incredible size of this market is hard to grasp. Though Taiwan may seem like a small island, there are nearly 23 million people living on it, and most of them have strong ties to China and its 1.3 billion people. So on one side, we have an island with a population larger than the entire state of New York and on the other side, we have a country four times larger than the US. On August 31, there were 44 flights that operated, but as you can imagine there is going to be room for a lot more in the years to come. Hopefully further liberalization will happen.
Sixteen airlines were given permission to fly between China and Taiwan. Sixteen?!? That’s just unreal. And more than 20 cities in China will have service to Taiwan.
Air China will have 27 weekly roundtrips and they’ll fly from Taipei to Beijing, Shanghai, Chengdu, Chongqing, Hangzhou and Tianjian. Meanwhile, EVA Air and UNI Air will fly 55 weekly roundtrips between three Taiwanese airports and Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Hangzhou, Kunming, Xiamen, Shenzhen, Tianjin, Dalian, Ningbo, Chengdu and Qingdao, Wuhan, and Chongqing. This is just unreal that this is all happening overnight.
Like I said, we don’t see this every day. The next time we can expect to see something close is probably when Cuba finally opens up for travel to the US. The populations are certainly smaller, but the propensity to fly is likely greater.