Hainan Airlines reaches out across Canada

Updated: 2013-11-01 12:00

By Li Na in Toronto (China Daily USA)

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 Hainan Airlines reaches out across Canada

Mi Bo says Hainan Airlines plans to fly the Beijing-Toronto route with a Boeing 787 next year. Li Na / China Daily

When Mi Bo, the general manager of Hainan Airlines in Toronto, shows off his model of the red-tailed Boeing B787 with the upturned wingtips, it looks like a graceful eagle soaring into the sky.

According to Mi, the Boeing 787 Dreamliner is expected to inaugurate Hainan's non-stop Beijing-to-Toronto service in the spring next year, pending approval from the Civil Aviation Administration of China.

Three years ago, Hainan Airlines launched its first Canadian route from Beijing to Toronto with an Airbus 340. It was the first Chinese airline connecting to Toronto, Canada's largest city.

Mi said Hainan's international market strategy was long-term. "We seek opportunity in a new market to leverage our transport capacity to ensure the rational allocation of limited resources," said Mi, who was appointed general manager of Hainan in Toronto in 2011.

For some time, only three Chinese airlines have run routes between China and Canada: Air China, China Eastern and China Southern Airlines. Since all of those routes linked with Vancouver, in the west of Canada, there was a need in the Toronto market.

"Long before Hainan actually flew into Toronto, we had been planning to further explore the North America market beyond the US," he said. "Toronto has one of the largest Chinese communities in North America and it is expanding, the volume alone is sufficient to draw our attention."

Founded in 1993, Hainan Airlines is now the fourth-largest carrier in China in terms of fleet size following Air China, China Southern Airlines and China Eastern Airlines. It runs nearly 500 domestic and overseas flight routes reaching some 90 cities in Asia, Europe, the Americas and Africa.

Hainan Airlines marks its 20th anniversary this year. However, as a young carrier that operated its first international route 10 years ago to Brussels, there were a lot of challenges during the early stages of its development to Toronto.

"Being a newcomer to a competitive market, we had to break the ecological balance of the existing market. The first bottleneck was associated with customers," said Mi, who has a master degree of marketing.

"Our target customers are Chinese Canadians, including Chinese immigrants, Sino-Canadian business people, tourists and international students," he said.

"We need to motivate the team to serve the route really well and offer the best to the flying public," said Mi, who was also a manager in North Africa.

According to Mi, the greater proportion of sales comes from the distribution channel of local travel agencies. For the route between Beijing and Toronto, the share of Canadian sales has grown from 40 to 60 percent over the last three years.

Since China granted Canada Approved Destination Status (ADS) during Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper's first visit to Beijing in 2009, China has become Canada's fourth-largest source of foreign visitors. In 2009, 245,000 Chinese tourists visited Canada; in 2010, 300,000 Chinese tourists; in 2011, the figure rose to 370,000; and last year, the number totaled 410,000 visitors.

"The ADS agreement has enhanced the flow of business and people between both countries. We have already seen concrete outcomes flowing from ADS, and we hope to build the bridge to link China and Canada", Mi said.

"As for the existing routes in North America, an increase in flight frequencies will be adopted to the meet the rapidly expanding passenger volume," he added.

In September 2013, Hainan started non-stop service between Chicago and Beijing, opening the airline's latest American gateway. In the end of this year, the airline plans to change the aircraft on that route from an Airbus 340 to a Boeing 787 Dreamliner.

"The Boeing 787 is a revolutionary product; it is designed specifically for the long-distance route between North America and Asia," Mi said, holding the model of the 787.

"We are looking forward to seeing Hainan's red-tail B787 fly to Toronto in the near future. At that time, the non-stop frequency will be increased from the current three times a week to five times a week and we hope to make it daily by summer," Mi said.


(China Daily USA 11/01/2013 page10)