China has experienced an aviation boom over the last two decades and now has more airlines than the UK, France, Germany, Italy, and Spain combined. Key.Aero reveals the true extent of the county’s air transport revolution
China’s commercial aviation industry has been growing since 1987, when the country’s government separated the airline operations of the aviation regulator, the then-called General Administration of Civil Aviation of China (GACAC), into a number of state-owned enterprises.
The regulatory role was retained by the GACAC, which is now known as the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC), but several regional operators were set up following the break-up of the single state-run carrier, CAAC Airlines (not to be confused the new regulator).
Six carriers emerged from the division with names relating to their geographic location, including Air China, China Southwest Airlines, China Eastern Airlines, China Northwest Airlines, China Southern Airlines and China Northern Airlines. These operators later consolidated into the country’s ‘Big Three’: Beijing-based Air China, Guangzhou’s China Southern Airlines and Shanghai-based China Eastern Airlines.
The 1980s also saw the emergence of four other state-owned operators including Hainan Airlines, Shanghai Airlines, Sichuan Airlines and XiamenAir. All four are subsidiaries of the ‘Big Three’ and most have affiliates of their own. The eighth and final ‘major’ carrier of China is the Air China subsidiary, Shenzhen Airlines, which commenced operations in 1993.
The majority of the smaller carriers in the country are owned by or linked with the Big Three. Chinese conglomerate HNA Group has interests in more than ten airlines, while China Eastern, Air China and China Southern own three, three and one, respectively.
Each operator caters for a specific geographical area – as the country is so large it necessitates the need for so many different airlines.
In total, China has 43 scheduled passenger airlines.
|Non-major Chinese Airlines|
|Juneyao Air||Shangnai||2005||Shanghai Juneyao (Group) Co Ltd|
|9 Air||Guangzhou||2014||Juneyao Air|
|Air Guilin||Guilin||2016||HNA Group|
|Air Changan||Xi’an||1993||HNA Group|
|Beijing Capital Airlines||Beijing||1995||HNA Group|
|Chengdu Airlines||Chengdu||2005||Sichuan Airlines|
|China Express Airlines||Chongqing||2006|
|China United Airlines||Fengtai District||1986||China Eastern Airlines|
|Chongqing Airlines||Chongqing||2007||China Southern Airlines|
|Colorful Guizhou Airlines||Guizhou||2015||Guizhou Industrial Investment (Group) Co|
|Dalian Airlines||Dalian||2011||Air China|
|Donghai Airlines||Shenzhen||2002||Sichuan Airlines|
|Fuzhou Airlines||Fuzhou||2014||HNA Group|
|Genghis Khan Airlines||Hohhot||2019|
|Grand China Air||Haikou||2007||HNA Group|
|GX Airlines||Guangxi||2015||Tianjin Airlines|
|Joy Air||Xi’an||2009||China Eastern Airlines|
|Kunming Airlines||Kunming||2009||Air China|
|Lucky Air||Kunming||2006||HNA Group|
|Okay Airways||Beijing||2005||Okay Airways|
|OTT Airlines||Shanghai||2020||China Eastern Airlines|
|Qingdao Airlines||Qingdao||2014||Nanshan Group|
|Ruili Airlines||Kunming||2014||Yunnan Jingcheng Group Co|
|Shandong Airlines||Shandong||1994||Shandong Aviation Group|
|Spring Airlines||Shanghai||2004||Spring Airlines|
|Suparna Airlines||Shanghai||2003||HNA Group|
|Tianjin Airlines||Tianjin||2007||HNA Group|
|Tibet Airlines||Lhasa, Tibet||2010||Air China|
|Urumqi Air||Urumchi||2014||HNA Group|
|West Air||Chongqing||2010||HNA Group|