By Kai-Chin Shih/ 14 JUL 2014/ ANNARBORMICHIGAN/ talkairlines.wordpress.com
EVA Air may overtake China Airlines to become the largest airline in Taiwan? According to China Times, one of the major media companies in Taiwan, due to EVA Air’s long-haul expansion, there is a possibility of this situation coming true. Whether it becomes a fact or not depends on both airlines’ financial results for this year’s summer season. Currently, China Airlines is trying its best to maintain the status quo by starting up to 7 new routes to China and more frequencies than ever to Northeast & Southeast Asia.
For decades, China Airlines, the de facto national carrier of Taiwan, has been the largest airline in the country in terms of fleet, revenue, number of routes, passenger volume, and RPK. However, with its primary rival EVA Air quickly expanding intercontinentally, China Airlines may now, for the first time ever, be beaten in the monthly revenue category. Long-haul-wise, EVA Air took delivery of 3 Boeing 777-300ERs in the past 2 months. The delivery of the new long-haul twin-aisle jets allowed EVA Air to add 22% more frequencies to its North American routes, now with a total weekly frequency of 55 flights. The new services, along with an average occupancy rate of over 80%, contributed significantly to the carrier’s revenues. China Airlines, in comparison, only has 41 flights weekly (including the Hawaiian route) to North America. Furthermore, while EVA Air uses mainly 777s on its intercontinental routes, China Airlines is forced to use the far less fuel efficient & less cargo-capable Boeing 747-400 and Airbus A340-300. This further restricts the national carrier from benefitting from long-haul routes.
China Airlines currently offers up to two times more seats than EVA Air on regional routes. However, short-haul routes don’t make as much revenue as long-haul routes. Despite the fact that China Airlines offers way more total seats per week out of Taiwan compared to EVA Air (China Airlines carried 36% more passengers than EVA Air in 2013. The number should be similar this year.), the national carrier’s revenue is only slightly higher than its primary rival (China Airline’s revenue in June 2014 is only 10% higher than that of EVA Air). This proves the importance of having a well-developed intercontinental network, as it provides way more revenue than regional ones. However, China Airlines is not likely going to further expand its long-haul network, at least in the next 2 years. Even though the carrier is taking delivery of 10 Boeing 777-300ERs, the planes are used as replacements of the Boeing 747-400. The Airbus A350-900XWBs will, on the other hand, be replacements of the Airbus A340-300. Only after the 777 and A350 fully takeover China Airline’s intercontinental network, can the carrier start to add long-haul frequencies or routes. Before then, if the carrier desires to maintain its position as the largest airline in Taiwan in terms of revenue, the only way is to add a ridiculous amount of regional flight frequencies, which is what the carrier is busy doing at the moment.