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Foreign airlines quit South China market

US Northwest Airlines (NWA) has pulled out of its representative office in Guangzhou, and laid off the entire staff. It no longer sells round trip international tickets departing from this location.

Foreign airlines quit South China market
Foreign airlines quit South China market

The number of international airlines departing from Guangzhou has steadily shrunk over the last six months, China Business News reported Monday. In addition to Northwest's Guangzhou to Tokyo flight, United Airlines' Guangzhou to San Francisco and Finnair's Guangzhou to Helsinki flights have also been cancelled.


"Northwest's Guangzhou representative office was in charge of the company's business in the South China region", said He Ying, an NWA official who was recently transferred from Hong Kong. But as of March 1 2009, NWA has suspended all its international services to/from Guangzhou. The company's remaining international service in China is limited to flights such as Beijing-Tokyo, Shanghai-Tokyo, Shanghai-Detroit, and Shanghai-Atlanta.


Last July, NWA cancelled all Guangzhou-bound cargo services, and this means the airline company has completely abandoned Guangzhou, established in 2004 as a global destination.


Affected by the high oil price, NWA suffered severe financial troubles last year. Not only did it cancel several flights, but also it removed the paint on the fuselage of its aircraft to reduce planes' bodyweight in an attempt to save fuel.


Last October NWA merged with Delta Airlines. According to an official at the booking office of, the decision to cancel the Guangzhou-Tokyo airline was shared with Delta management.


Delta and Finnair's cancelling of direct flights from/to Guangzhou effectively represents a withdrawal from the South China market. Currently, international airlines still operating Guangzhou services number only 10, including German Lufthansa.


CITIC analyst Li Lei told China Business News that demand in the domestic aviation industry is recovering, but international services remain weak.


Guangzhou airport has far fewer international airlines than Beijing and Shanghai. The official explains that this is because Guangzhou is close to Hong Kong, where airport taxes are lower than the mainland. Thus, Hong Kong is often a better option for international airlines considering where to locate their operations.


( by Maverick Chen, March 18, 2009)