A Driving Force

As in all things economic in China, Chinese expansion in air transportation is moving rapidly forward. Entities including the Civil Aviation Management Institute of China (CAMIC) help set parameters, provide training and play critical roles in this era of vast Chinese carrier and infrastructure growth.

China's importance as a driving force within the global aviation industry, like other Chinese economic factors, continues to expand rapidly.

Helping cultivate this expansive development are multiple Chinese-government entities — spearheading initiatives and programs to try to ensure that the aviation sector reaches its full potential.

The Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) is the country's primary aviation authority. Under CAAC is the Civil Aviation Management Institute of China (CAMIC), which takes the lead in aviation training as well as research, and functions very strategically in China's civil-aviation development.

Established in 1982, CAMIC basically serves as China's aviation-research center and training institute. Through its civil-aviation information and corporate-management research centers, CAMIC represents a vast and wide-ranging aviation knowledge base.

CAMIC's training facilities accommodate more than 3,500 students, with about 250 fulltime teaching and administrative staff members and some 400-plus part-time professors. Courses include strategic, network and fleet planning; passenger forecasting; aviation safety; and airline-solution evaluation.

Among its underlying philosophic approaches, the Chinese aviation hierarchy places great value on international cooperation. To that end, CAMIC has been involved in successful collaborations with numerous worldwide entities including the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), as well as many globally significant airlines.

Aviation Training In China

CAMIC, founded in 1982, is China's aviation research center and training institute. With its vast aviation knowledge base, it educates high-level aviation professionals, giving them the ability to build long-term strategies and help strengthen the country's airline industry.

China's Burgeoning Aviation Sector

It is not a question of whether China's aviation sector will continue to grow, but rather exactly how fast — and how large — it will eventually become. CAMIC Professor Tian Baohua and Vice Professor Xie Li agree that Chinese aviation's growth rate will depend largely on factors including:

  • Reform and development policies of Chinese government entities,
  • The competitiveness of individual Chinese airlines,
  • China's overall economic growth, which has tended to be staggering in the past decade, though slowed considerably by the global economic downturn.

Prof. Tian and Vice Prof. Xie said they believe it's a critical imperative that policies should encourage greater partnership among countries at both the government and airline levels.

Free-trade zones and multilateral open-sky policies — along with mutual understanding, which should be of prime importance in directing countries' aviation policies and regulation — are in play as potentially major factors that can pave the way for collaboration among airlines.

That collaboration is anticipated to include the capability of Chinese airlines to join alliances, implement staff networking and operate training programs on an exchange basis with a wide variety of countries.

Even though Chinese carriers today collectively rank second by air-traffic volume, the CAMIC professors are of the opinion that Chinese airlines must step up their competitive performance within the greater global aviation market. They believe Chinese carriers could most certainly gain valuable knowledge from airlines that have achieved levels of success within the developed world's transportation equation — particularly in terms of best practices and operational factors.

Other critical developments to watch for in China relate specifically to aerospace and transportation infrastructure.

Currently, the Chinese are investing massive amounts of yuan in the essential area of airport construction. Moreover, Chinese government entities are pursuing a defined goal to reduce airspace regulation — a move that would undoubtedly help free up considerable growth opportunities for Chinese carriers.

Additionally, there is an active and purposeful movement to establish a high-quality Chinese aerospace industry capable of competing globally with Boeing and Airbus.

Collectively, these factors constitute an excellent indication of the direction China intends to go, and they could represent potential game changers in worldwide aviation.

In the meantime — while China's aerospace initiatives continue to incubate — with the current and anticipated surge in China's passenger volume, there is an urgent need for Chinese airlines to:

  • Optimize their networks,
  • Establish new hubs (including, in many cases, the construction of new airports),
  • Launch service to new international destinations,
  • Work toward development of alliance partnerships with other global carriers.

Quite logically, a solid, well-established strategy in these areas figures to accelerate further improvement among Chinese airlines and allow them to compete much more efficiently as world-class carriers. In light of all these factors, it is a foregone conclusion that technology advancements must also be at the forefront among priorities in Chinese aviation.

In fact, it is absolutely critical for each and every Chinese carrier to implement solutions (as well as accompanying processes and procedures) in areas including satellite navigation, flight planning and revenue management.

Information technology is, of course, instrumental in the progress of any industry. The growth of China's aviation industry will depend on many further IT developments, as accompanied by the airlines' eager and forthcoming adoption of that advanced technology.

Today, the top three Chinese airlines — Air China, China Eastern Airlines and China Southern Airlines — use a wide range of technologies from both local and foreign providers. All three airlines' operations centers, along with a variety of other commercial-planning and decision-making systems, are powered by Sabre® AirCentre™ Enterprise Operations and Sabre® AirVision™ Marketing & Planning.

Challenges And Focus Areas

Nevertheless, the challenges to potentially gargantuan growth in Chinese aviation remain formidable.

One of the issues that greatly affects Chinese carriers — just as it does other global airlines — is the problem of wildly fluctuating fuel prices.

Some of the things Chinese airlines can do to combat unpredictable fuel prices involve the same approaches applied by carriers elsewhere around the world:

  • Upgrade fleets to more-fuel-efficient aircraft,
  • Adopt a policy, going forward, of close-in refleeting,
  • Optimize flight routes, using the best and latest routing technology,
  • Adjust cruise speed, with the ultimate objective to optimize fuel flow,
  • Perform a more precise job of load management,
  • Implement use of a ground power unit to reduce any individual aircraft's fuel consumption while on the ground.
Beijing Aviation Training Facilities

CAMIC's training facilities in Beijing have capacity for more than 3,500 students. It has some 650 full- and part-time teaching and administrative staff members. The institution specializes in strategic, network and fleet planning; passenger forecasting; aviation safety; and airline-solution evaluation.

Refining Strategies For Success

Zeroing in on opportunities for continued improvement in marketing and performance, Vice Prof. Xie pointed out that Chinese airlines are exploring and developing strategies and business models with particular emphasis on ancillary amenities, merchandising, mobile performance and alliances. In its annual global airline-trend survey, Sabre Airline Solutions® has identified similar areas of emphasis among Chinese carriers.

China's leading airlines, including Hainan Airlines, are also focusing on expanding their international markets, significantly growing revenue and improving on-time performance.

Tier-two Chinese carriers, on their parts, have been aiming primarily to secure more slots at bigger airports, obtain permits to operate on busy routes currently dominated by larger airlines and reach international markets.

A Highly Promising Future

Regardless of the impetus or primary source of growth in any given area, the aviation industry's future in China is extremely bright. CAMIC, for example, has projected that within the next decade, passenger growth will achieve another milestone peak.

That statistic tends to rivet Chinese carriers' collective attention on continuing improvement in service, playing directly into the overriding objective of China's airlines to capture a greater share of global aviation revenue.

At this year's IATA Annual General Meeting, held in Beijing, CAAC's administrator Li Jiaxiang said Chinese airlines plan to purchase 300 aircraft annually for the immediate foreseeable future.

Within the next four years, the total commercial-aircraft fleet — among all Chinese carriers — is projected to exceed 4,000 planes, which would represent a significant increase from fewer than 2,000 planes as recently as 2011.

Li said that by 2015, China will construct another 70 airports — a crucial plan of infrastructure advancement that, once again, can be characterized as an illustration of just how far Chinese aviation has come from its much lesser-developed stages just a few years ago. It also shows how far China's aerospace initiatives still have to go.

Yet by any measurement, momentum is essential in sustaining massive growth over a lengthy timeframe. In addition, momentum definitely remains on the upswing in Chinese skies, which are only going to get much busier in the coming years.

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