Air China cuts international capacity but plans no deferrals.
Air China is cutting its international capacity owing to the market downturn but will not go so far as to defer any aircraft deliveries this year, MD Lou Yongfeng told ATWOnline at this week's IATA annual general meeting in Kuala Lumpur.
Lou noted that the Beijing-based carrier´s international load factor dropped 3.5 points in the first four months of 2009 from the year-ago period, although he did not reveal the exact figure. "And we are having a difficult time in May and now owing to swine flu, so we have to cut some international capacity," he explained. CA expects a recovery in the international market before year end and does not plan on opening any new routes for the rest of the year.
It has replaced 747s with A330s on some long-haul routes but has no intention to alter its fleet plan. "We will take delivery of more than 20 short-haul aircraft and medium-haul aircraft as scheduled this year and won´t cancel or defer aircraft orders," Lou said firmly. Regarding the delay in the 15 787s it has ordered, CA said it is still negotiating with Boeing on compensation. Chairman Kong Dong said last month that the airline plans to purchase more widebodies starting in 2011 (ATWOnline, May 5).
Compared with the international market, CA´s domestic operation is faring much better. "Our load factor on domestic routes jumped 11 points from January through April over the year-ago period," Lou said. CA expects domestic passenger boardings in 2009 to increase 10%. It transported 28 million total passengers last year.
Its flights across the Taiwan Strait are another source of growth. He said loads are averaging 78%. CA currently operates 57 weekly cross-strait flights from Beijing, Shanghai, Hangzhou, Chengdu, Chongqing and Tianjin.
Separately, Lou revealed that its Wuhan Branch Co. has been approved by CAAC and preparation for launch is underway. It has recruited about 600 employees from Wuhan-based East Star Airlines, which is under bankruptcy.