The largest Chinese airline not under government control, Spring Airlines Co., is now considering ending its routes to Japan as the ongoing territorial dispute between the two countries results in empty flights. Wang Zhenghua, the airline’s chairman, said in a recent interview that Spring Air hasn’t made a decision yet on its 12 weekly China-Japan flights, but with more than half of the seats empty, the situation is creating a serious impact on finances.
Wang said that before the outbreak of tensions in September over the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands, Spring Airlines was looking to expand its services to Japan, making the country its largest overseas hub, even though it only account’s for 2% of the airline’s capacity. While flights to other destinations see a 92% capacity, Spring Air’s existing routes to Japan are less than half full. Wang notes that his supporters in Japan are asking him not to drop their services, but he adds that they’ve never had so many empty seats in the airline’s history.
The Spring Air chairman hopes the tensions between China and Japan will be eased quickly, for while Japan’s auto industry sales have been seen as quickly bouncing back, it’s not clear when the travel and airline markets will similarly recover. Spring Air certainly isn’t the only one taking a hit, however, as even All Nippon Airways (ANA), Japan’s largest carrier, saw 46,000 seat cancellations between September and November alone. A number of low-cost carriers in China also discontinued their services in the weeks following September, and those that tried to keep their business by offering promotions such as discounted flights were hounded by online protestors accusing them of being unpatriotic.[via Bloomberg]