A Boeing 737-800 operated by China Southern Airlines at Guangzhou airport. Photo: Shutterstock

A Boeing 737-800 operated by China Southern Airlines at Guangzhou airport. Photo: Shutterstock

Instead of flying via Paris or Amsterdam, China Southern Airlines (CSA) will be offering one direct flight a week to Luxembourg from 21 December--and for much less. Behind this development is HNCA, which has been a shareholder in Cargolux (35%) and CSA for ten years.

The first direct flight between Zhengzhou and Luxembourg, scheduled for 21 December, starts at just over $711, according to the Chinese airline’s booking platform. Prices are similar for later flights, too--currently they are scheduled until the end of March. Flight time is between 10 and 11 hours, depending on the direction.

The rotations will begin on a weekly basis: on Thursdays the plane will depart for Luxembourg, on Fridays it will return (which suggests that CSA will be dedicating one of its 904 aircraft, mainly Boeing 737s and Airbus A320s, to the route).

Until now, the Chinese airline had offered flights between Luxembourg and China--generally for around €2,000--but via Amsterdam or Paris. This arrangement may have benefitted Luxair, which ran the intra-European leg.

Pirate party MP Marc Goergen has wasted no time in putting a parliamentary question to find out whether this was a private initiative or whether an administration was involved in the development of this new air link.

The real birth of this deal is thanks to the Henan Civil Aviation Development and Investment Company (HNCA), a Chinese state-owned enterprise. In September 2014, nine months after it had taken over 35% of Cargolux, HNCA acquired a stake in CSA. Currently the biggest airline in Asia according to IATA statistics, CSA was founded in 1988 and is oriented more towards passengers. HNCA thus completed its offering, able to promote both personal travel and cargo transport along the modern version of the Silk Road. The enterprise held a 40% stake in Zhengzhou airport and CSA held the remaining 60%. The airline now operates over 3,000 daily flights to 224 destinations.

CSA has huge ambitions. Despite a dip in 2022, it intends to finish 2023 with sales close to $20bn. In the third quarter, it posted profits of $530m on revenues of over $6bn. As for its international flights, the number of seats offered increased by more than 500% compared with the same period last year--a bad year--and with an increase in its load factor, the company recorded a staggering +700% in its “revenue passenger kilometre,” one of the industry’s favourite indicators for measuring performance.

This article in Paperjam. It has been translated and edited for Delano.