Xiamen Airlines, China's sixth largest carrier and the world's 27th largest by available seat kilometres, is gearing up for more forays into the international market. Xiamen is predominately a domestic carrier with only 5.7% of available seats allocated to international services. Xiamen in May-2011 ordered six Boeing 787s for services to Europe and North America after their 2014/15 delivery dates. But international expansion, albeit medium-haul and not long-haul, can commence earlier with the carrier retrofitting its 757s with a three-class configuration, including having lie-flat beds in first class. 

Xiamen's fleet of six 757-200s operate in a two-class configuration primarily on domestic trunk routes (such as to Beijing) but are being retrofitted to a three-class configuration, including lie-flat beds in first class. Such a premium configuration for the domestic market is uncommon in China. Only two of the 757s have so far been retrofitted, and while Xiamen has not announced its strategy for the retrofitted aircraft, which are the largest in its fleet and have the longest range, they could be used to open international services before the 787 arrives. The fleet would largely be confined to regional Asia and not facilitate opening its planned routes to Europe or North America, or even possibly Australia.

Amongst its peers, Xiamen Airlines has the second-least proportion of international capacity, just ahead of Sichuan Airlines. Sichuan plans to this year deploy A330s to Europe, North America and possibly Australia.

See related article: Sichuan Airlines expanding network from Chengdu with Australia, Europe & North America routes

Source: Capa, centre for aviation


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