If you’ve been looking to fly to Europe for that much-needed break, ladies and gentlemen, that time is now. Air fares to Europe are at all-time lows and have never been cheaper in the six years that we’ve been here. Lufthansa leads the pack with the eye-popping offer of a return flight to Germany from Beijing at RMB3,760 and from Shanghai at RMB4,880. Air France has the very special web deal of a return tic to the UK from both Beijing and Shanghai from RMB4,040. KLM is also flying to the UK from RMB4,040 and elsewhere in Europe via Amsterdam from RMB4,470. In the meanwhile, new kid on the block Air Berlin flies direct from Shanghai to a host of destinations in German-speaking Europe including Berlin, Hamburg, Duesseldorf, Nuremberg, Stuttgart, Munich, Vienna and Zurich. We found a one-way ticket to Duesseldorf for about EUR300 (incl. taxes) — not a bad price at all, if you’re not thinking of coming back to Shanghai that is!
Fons Tuinstra of China Herald surmises that the latest price cuts at a time when oil prices are at all-time-highs are due to the restrictive visa policies which have hurt inbound travel to China. That theory does hold water because air fares from Beijing appear to be much cheaper than air fares from Shanghai (which is more of a centre of business and finance which makes demand here slightly more inelastic, makes sense?). As far as we’re concerned, the airlines have been making waaaay too much money off us in the past anyway, so it’s payback time.
For those of you looking to travel around Asia instead, check out this list of budget airlines that we compiled earlier this year. The list is still pretty up-to-date save for the closure of Oasis Hong Kong.
In other air travel news:
- Chinese carriers are cutting flight capacities to trim losses. Apart from totally suspending routes from Guangzhou to Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi, Angkor, and Phuket, China Southern is also reducing capacity on its flights to 11 international destinations, including Los Angeles, Paris, Sydney and Singapore. Loss-making Shanghai carrier China Eastern is set to follow suit, citing weak demand on long-haul international routes.
- With cross-strait charter flights flying from Beijing, Guangzhou, Shanghai and Xiamen to Taipei for the Dragon Boat Festival, and regular cross-strait flights about to become a reality thanks to a change in government in Taiwan, Xiamen Airlines is already planning hourly flights to Taipei once the related departments approve of the flights.
- In the meanwhile, the Hong Kong International Airport is already breaking out in cold sweat because direct travel links between the mainland and Taiwan could cause it to lose 6% of its traffic. Hong Kong would also stand to lose up to HK$3 billion in travel revenue each year, and if Chinese airlines decide to trim their flights to the territory, Hong Kong’s losses would be compounded.
- We’ve also heard that Hainan Airlines (the airline that has got lots of George Soros money in it) is set for a massive rebranding exercise that will see them renamed as the Grand China Airlines. They have also just inaugurated a non-stop service between Seattle and Beijing. Hainan Airlines is one of the more entrepreneurial Chinese airlines around. Check out their in-flight yoga when you next fly long-haul with them.
- It’s official. China Southern is now China’s largest airline and the world’s fourth largest. In fact, it is the only Asian airline among the world’s top five airlines measured by the number of person-trips made.
- Starting June 1, Chinese airlines have stopped issuing paper tickets in answer to a 2006 call by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) to use e-tickets instead.